The Somali opposition is an amalgamation of groups of people in Somalia who are opposed to a centralized form of government, from Puntland in the Northeast of the country to former presidents of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud & Co. They believe they are sidelined by the current regime in the management and administration of the republics affairs; from foreign affairs to security, from the management of donor aid to resource sharing from country’s natural resources. The opposition, especially Puntland seem to think they deserve to be consulted on all matters effecting them. This assumption comes from the post-conflict resolution mechanism where all stakeholders are always involved in the decision-making process. All previous transitional presidents and The Hassan Shiekh Mohamud administration codified that culture into the governance structure of Somalia. President Farmajo sought to dismantle that tradition from his first days in office.
After President Farmajo won a historic election in 2017, and with much fanfare and a great mandate from Somalis from all walks of life. He sat up his administration to challenge and remake Somalia in his image, an autocratic central government. He surprised everyone by appointing Hassan Ali Khaire, A Somali Oil Gas executive and a former regional director for Norwegian Refugee Council. Khaire’s appointment ruffled a few feathers in the political establishment, and everyone gave the new president the benefit of the doubt. His cabinet was unanimously approved by the parliament.
Then came The Qatar diplomatic crisis, in which Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic relations with Qatar and banned Qatar-registered planes and ships from utilising their airspace and sea routes, along with Saudi Arabia blocking Qatar’s only land crossing. True to form, the Farmajo administration blindsided Suadi Arabia and UAE, old reliable partners to the Somali business community, and sided with Qatar. This caused the UAE to lobby the opposition groups in Somalia to directly challenge the Farmajo administration. Farmajo tapped into Somali people’s anxiety toward subvertion of their sovereignty, and suddenly the UAE became enemy number one. Now all problems in the country were UAE’s fault. Any opposition to the president was treasonous, harassing and attacking the opposition was fair game since they were “funded” by UAE. Old enemies (Ethiopia) were now friends and old friends were enemies. The mantra became Somalia doesn’t have permanent friends, only permanent interests. The cognitive dissonance was that Farmajo was only looking after friends cough cough Qatar, rather than the country’s interests.
Farmajo went on to tussle with Jawari, the speaker of the lower house of parliament and replaced him with a lackey. He then goes through Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden, President of South West State and replaced him with a minister in his administration, carries a bare-knuckled campaign against Ahmed Duale Gelle Xaaf and the Galmadug political establishment. He pacified the state in his image. Mohamed Abdi Ware was neutralized with bribes and threats of withholding funds earmarked for his state including Aid money. Farmajo even carries out a brutal and at times tacit campaign against Ahmed Madoobe and to a lesser extent Abdiwali Gas, and almost succeeds.
Admittedly, Farmajo does all this maneuvers from a losing position and the opposition group’s feckless response to his machinations was to cry wolf and complain on social media. Sadly, they have lost the war and are now trying to create some sort of unity to try to unseat an emboldened Farmajo in the next election.
The Jury is still out but farmajo behaves as though he lives for the presidency and will probably die for it, he doesn’t have a businesses or other personal interests in Somalia, If things were to go south, he has the least to lose. He has shown time and time again by how far he is willing to go and escalates situations unfavorable to him, be it the spat with UAE, the Jubbaland embargo and the Mukhtar Robow arrest during the South West state elections.
The opposition is only united in their animosity toward Farmajo rather than common interests or the normal checks and balances an opposition group provide in a robust democracy. Their objectives are divergent, they lack trust among themselves, and sadly have no better vision or plan other than to gut president Farmajo, which appallingly is no better than the armed rebels of 1991.
The Somali public is fatigued about brinkmanship, zero-sum political games and the threats of war and mayhem - the Somali public, to their credit are smart to know the opposition’s incompetence or impotence of when it comes to threats of violence, the average person in Mogadishu is more worried about COVID-19 or where his next meal will come from. The so-called donor fatigue is also about to set in since the international community have been investing in Somalia, and especially with great leeway in the Farmajo administration with nothing to show for it so far. They are paralyzed by their incompetence, hypocrisy, and the general plight of “damned if you do and damned if you don’t”.
Sadly, Farmajo represents change for the average Somali. As much as it pains me to say, and thanks to Farmajo’s PR team, Farmajo is on the right side of every debate in the country, he is against corruption, malfeasance, tribalism, naked self-interest and ambition. He appears honest, sounds folksy and shows extreme care when it’s not even warranted. He is the little guy tackling on all Somali enemies foreign and domestic, anything bad is blamed on Kenya and UAE.
Ironically, Ahmed Madobe’s name-calling of Farmajo as a dictator isn’t the right message, talk about throwing stones from a glass house. As a matter of fact, the Somali public especially older people who grow up during Barre’s heyday actually prefer a dictator-style leadership and actually believe Farmajo’s dictatorial tendancies are warranted and sometimes advocated openly on social media. They believe that Somalis will only respond to a disciplined and highly organized system of governance i.e dictatorship and the style envisioned by “foreigners” i.e democracy will further divide and balkanise the country further.
I could see Farmajo attempting a term extension, since he is unwilling to negotiate and reach a compromise with the opposition. He could also try to only extend the parliament for two more years, ask them to hold a presidential election in which he is more likely to win or he could drag his feat until his position becomes untenable and a lackey takes over, basically do a Putin and come back in four years time. These are some of the scenarios that could happen, but if I was a betting man, I bet he would extend his term.