Geographically, the southwest region of Somalia, which was previously known as the “Alta-Juba regions,” has now been divided into two states due to political influences. The Digil and Mirifle clans were the first to advocate for federalism in Somalia, but their attempts failed. However, after years of efforts, Somalia initiated the federalization process in 2004 and passed a provisional constitution in 2012.
In 2014, the establishment of a new South West State, consisting of three regions, faced opposition from the majority of the population. Sharif Hassan was elected as the president, and Barawe was designated as the capital. Baidoa has been serving as the interim capital since then.
The political turmoil in the South West State began in 2018 when Sh. Moktar Robow, a prominent candidate for the state’s presidency, was abducted by the Farmajo government. Abdiaziz Hassan Laftagaren was elected as the president in a move described as a bloody coup. However, Laftagaren faced significant opposition from politicians in the state during his tenure.
The parliament voted to unify the terms of the parliament and the presidency, which was opposed by the state’s political opposition. This decision meant that both the parliament’s term and the president’s term would end in 2023.
In Somali politics, presidents often try to retain power for a long time, regardless of the consequences. Laftagaren used various tactics to extend his term through the parliament. However, critics argued that he was only trying to justify a one-year extension beyond the four-year limit set by the South West State constitution.
The parliamentary endorsement had implications for the South West State. As the president’s term ended and an impasse over holding a state election arose, violence erupted in Baidoa. This violence impacted various aspects of life, including the economy, security, and safety of citizens.
Efforts were made to stabilize the situation, and a reconciliation conference was held in Baidoa in January 2023. The conference resulted in an agreement to select new lawmakers and hold elections for the parliament speaker and state president in 2024.
Despite these political developments, Somalia continues to face humanitarian, security, and economic challenges. Climate change, food insecurity, droughts, and a financial crisis have greatly affected the population. Displacement and food insecurity have worsened due to conflict and instability in central and southern Somalia.
The Southwest State, in particular, has been vulnerable to disasters and has experienced challenges affecting millions of people. Recent floods and road travel restrictions have further exacerbated the state’s humanitarian situation. Baidoa, with its large number of internally displaced persons, is particularly impacted.
As the election deadline approaches, the South West State’s political opposition has expressed readiness to participate in the upcoming elections. Meanwhile, a new road map has been agreed upon to reform Somalia’s electoral system starting in 2024, but it has faced criticism from some political figures.
Despite the challenges and political uncertainties, the Southwest State has the potential for agricultural and trade development due to its strategic positioning and resources. It is crucial to address the political issues and prioritize the well-being of the population in order to achieve stability and progress in the state.