MOGADISHU, Somalia – Somalia’s hopes for timely elections suffered a setback on Monday after international partners said the newly signed agreement was not in line with the goals of Africa’s direct elections.
The agreement was printed in Mogadishu on September 17 in Mogadishu after four days of talks, allowing the federal government and member states to end a possible pre-election crisis that had engulfed the country’s internal policies.
President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, five regional leaders, signed the agreement last week in what was described as a “historic” moment for the Horn of Africa. The agreement has presumably ended the deadlock and had broad support from opposition leaders who have called for timely elections.
However, progress may have little effect after a group of international partners rejected it, further causing confusion ahead of the long-awaited votes. Even after the agreement was reached, the partners were silent and raised eyebrows among experts who questioned their commitment.
While the team acknowledged the meeting between the two factions, however, the team insisted that additional stakeholders could be consulted. The statement, which comes as a shock, was announced by the UN Mission Assistance in Somalia.
They noted that the agreement did not meet the requirements of a free, fair and transparent election, adding that MEPs should vote in a direct election process. The partners had pushed for a one-person-one model, which they claim is “inclusive and democratic” compared to the clan-based system.
“They recognize that this agreement is the result of a Somali – led and Somali – owned dialogue between FGS and FMS leaders, and understand that some details of the agreed process still need to be clarified and further stakeholders can be consulted,” the statement read.
“The partners note with regret that the announced model is not in line with the long-standing Somali goal of direct voting for members of parliament in this election cycle. The partners urge the 2020/21 election process to be free, fair, transparent and inclusive.”
Inside the agreement, stakeholders agreed to implement a constituency Caucus model in which 101 delegates from each constituency elected a Member of Parliament who would later participate in the presidential ballots. Elders must select stakeholders for the election, the agreement noted.
The team had also agreed that elections would be held from November to February 2021 and that senators would be elected in the regional assemblies. In addition, it was also agreed that representatives of Somaliland, the northern breakaway region, would be picked up in Mogadishu.
But that is the role of the National Independent Electoral Commission [NIEC] which could have informed setbacks from the international community as the agreement does not define its role. The team proposed the formation of a National Electoral Commission that will work with regional election agencies to oversee elections and further eradicate the NIEC.
However, the team praised the efforts to transform various independent institutions in Somalia among them, the Judicial Service Commission and the Human Rights Commission. They asked stakeholders to continue to meet regularly in an attempt to unlock the stalemate.
“Looking to the future, we encourage international partners to make rapid progress in establishing other Somali democratic institutions, including the Judiciary Committee and the Commission on Human Rights, together with efforts to promote the review of the Interim Federal Constitution and ensure respect for international human rights obligations,” the statement added. .
“Partners will also welcome a roadmap with clear milestones agreed between Somali political leaders to ensure crucial democratic progress in the future,” they said. “International partners call on FGS and FMS leaders to continue to meet regularly in a spirit of dialogue and compromise to address urgent national priorities, including security and economic reform and inclusive policies.”
This technically means that stakeholders will have to start over or at least make a new compromise, as the partners are directly responsible for financing the whole process. Somalia has often struggled with the economy due to the Al-Shabaab threat and other accidents such as clan conflicts and corruption.
Prior to the signing of the agreement, the NIEC had ruled out a one-person-vote election this year, adding that it could only deliver by March 2021. The statement annoyed opposition leaders, who insisted such a move would lead to an unprecedented period extension for current administration, whose term of office expires in November 2020.
Remarkably, the international community had long been involved in Somalia since the civil war broke out in 1991 and provided financial support, but it never put conditions and pressure on the Somali leaders who failed in their responsibility to finalize the interim constitution and hold a person election with a vote scheduled for 2020-21.