EDITORIAL | Somalis have now announced their upcoming election timelines for lawmakers and senators in the next parliament, as well as the new president. All processes will be carried out using indirect voting for the country’s leaders, failed bid for universal suffrage due to political disputes that wasted every chance.
It is a reflection of how fast and smooth things can move when leaders sit down to discuss. More importantly, it is a result of compromise.
This week, President Farmajo referred to compromise when, during an event organized by the RAAS Institute for Policy Analysis, he argued that give-and-take had prevented foreign brokers from intervening in the country’s political discussions. That, he suggested, had prevented a possible interference.
In fact, Somalia’s problems have often been blamed for outside interference either in conditional support or in using certain entities to create chaos.
But Somalia’s real challenge ahead of the election may lie in security weaknesses. Despite the quarrel between the federal government in Mogadishu and the federal states, all levels of government have faced the same problem: Al-Shabaab.
We note that there is some form of communication between these levels of government that can help prevent possible attacks on civilian installations. However, the country must not forget that the Al-Shabaab challenge is precisely the reason why the country has not been able to hold a one-vote election.
Preliminary timelines indicate that parliamentary elections are due in December. It depends on a number of factors. The election needs money, at least $ 50 million. They need continued dialogue between different levels of government, and Somalis hope that no pandemic will prevent them from holding elections.
But the shadow of al-Shabaab dwells on all these. First, for a couple of years now, there have been reports that the group changed tactics to morph and mix with ordinary civilians. There were even reports that some of the elders who would help appoint delegates had been forced to follow Al-Shabaab’s commands. More importantly, Al-Shabaab’s economic muscle was strengthened through the infiltration of government weapons, meaning it could still be candidates to compete for election.
These reports, if true, suggest that al-Shabaab is no longer just the apostate warriors. It could involve very delegated voting. How to prevent Al-Shabaab’s infiltration of this political calendar will be the government’s biggest challenge.
During the Mogadishu event on September 26, President Farmajo told his audience that his government had “inflicted the hardest and hardest losses on al-Shabaab” and regained strategic positions from the terrorist group.
It may be true that the Somali National Army [SNA] had knocked down these places. But it may also be true that Al-Shabaab simply changed tactics to win the war rather than the fighting.
That is why we urge leaders at all levels of government to include security issues at the heart of the electoral plan. There will be more polling stations this year compared to 2016-2017. The new election agreement, approved last week by the Federal Parliament’s joint session, indicates that at least two cities in each state will hold elections.
It could pose more security challenges for the security forces. Mission of the African Union in Somalia [AMISOM]despite its apparent weaknesses has promised to help support the program. But leaders should agree on which foreign entities are welcome to support Somalia’s own security agencies.
Turkey, the United States and the United Kingdom have made significant contributions to the reconstruction of the SNA. Admittedly, Somalia’s military, which was among the strongest on the continent about 40 years ago, has only recently been resurrected from the dead.
The SNA had operated under an arms embargo from the UN and had not been able to re-equip, or the country entered into arms deals with external entities.
This necessitates support received by the SNA. Still, it could be a double-edged sword. External helpers often come with their own interests. Therefore, we urge Somali leaders to sit down and aim through the list of foreign entities and see those who are accommodating to help local security forces.