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The Geopolitics of Election in Somalia

Ahmed M. Roble
Monday - February 7, 2022


Historical Dynamics

Historically, Somalia’s last direct multi-party election was held in Somalia on 26 March 1969, which was immediately followed by a military coup d'état in October of the same year. The military junta transformed the country into a single-party state making the Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party, the only legal political party led by the late military dictator of Siad Barre. After 21-years in power, barre’s government collapsed after clan-based armed opposition groups overthrew the Barre government in 1991, followed by nine years of chaos, anarchy, and violence.

Starting from the Somalia National Peace Conference (Arta conference) held in Djibouti on May 2, 2000, Somalia had five governments through indirect dispensations a nd the long course of post-conflict reconstruction, developmental support on multiple fronts the country received, it is once again experiencing an indirect presidential election in 2022 which is an important milestone for the country.

The state of the ongoing election is complex, self-serving, illegitimate, and exclusive to the current administration which will likely produce political conflict and grievances from the processes which’ll make it a zero-sum game for the long-term reconciliation and peacebuilding efforts underway in Somalia. Numerous international news outlet including a New York Times reported election mismanagement after the 2017 election, claiming that election-corruption and vote buying reached as high as $20 Million. Similarly, the ongoing election already shows malpractices, illegal efforts to shape election results and mass vote rigging which’ll spell doom for Somalia.  

Election Quagmire

Somalia is facing a political standoff due to the country’s delayed presidential and parliamentary elections. The clash over the sacking of the intelligence chief, suspension of prime minister’s work and take-over of prime minister office. Previous collapse on election gathering, talks, and deadlines, Somalia seems to have taken a path that could end the impasse and see parliamentary elections on Feb. 25 as agreed by Somali Prime Minister and regional leaders after almost a week of intense discussions. This settled date will more likely be passed due to the grievances from the election malpractices, army deployments to the expected election sites and rigging. However, there are sticking points, including allocation of electoral fairness, and 30% seats in parliament to women.

The ongoing election gerrymandering, federal/state violence and assault on democracy have de-legitimized the entire process. The deployment of special federal forces and paramilitary units in certain regions is aimed at hastening the democratic process using state violence and intimidation in bid to install a hand-picked, Villa Somalia/Federal member-states endorsed candidates who are filling up the roster of incoming elected members of the House of the People. These include failed politicians linked to plunder of public coffers, as well as military and intelligence officials, and ex-warlords implicated in human rights abuses, corruption, and murder. On the other hand, Federal Member States’ leaders are bypassing the process by orchestrating the illegal selection of dubious “MPs” to serve their own political agenda.

Geopolitical Prospects

Somalia is an African State for multiple reasons, mainly the geography but it is also an Arab state as it borders in the Gulf of Aden, it is Asian due to commercial relations to the Indian Ocean, it is again influenced by the major western investments and diasporas living in the West. It is an incredibly diplomatic capital which after materialization in the perfect way with proper leadership mindset could alter and bring better conditions than the current.  Somalia was always a melting pot under a hot contest due to its strategic geo-location and marine resources but the lack of commercializing these resources into economic and political means had always been missing. The Somali leaders over the years lacked vision with clear strategy and misunderstood that political legitimacy does not come from foreign endorsement or petrodollar but rather, from genuine reconciliation and democratic elections.

The Military base at Berbera-Port and the deal of UAE’s DP World justifies the magnitude of the contemporary desire and international interest in the Somali waters both by the Emirates, Ethiopians and beyond it. The Ethiopian Premier had also signed a deal to earn four port projects with the federal government (FGS) and launched a pact with the Eritrean and Somali leaders to make an economic zone in the eastern African countries whilst ignoring Djibouti, a base for world powers. On the other hand, the role of Turkey in Somalia, is seen as a contributing force to security, education, and development in the country.

It finally begs no evidence how Somalia with foreign policy/diplomatic doctrine can shape its future and play a significant role in the international platforms, but this comes after assuring that elections and democratic governance is a key pillar for the internal politics. Somalia has achieved many milestones over the years, but no milestone is more important than the nascent democratic institutions built in the face of astonishing constraints. The idea of electing the FGS leaders every four year makes the country’s fragile peace and state-building progresses recognized, while much of the external threats stems from the Somali politicians’ heedlessness of the country’s geo-political importance and national Interest.

The international community must go beyond its call for election transparency and insists on putting in place a robust verification mechanism that reviews the incidents of fraud and embark upon a genuine and recognized elders are selected to herald the remaining political dispensation.

This election must bring out leaders with fresh ideas on where our interests lie, identify Somalis friends from foes, and have a clear understanding on what values are driven by our foreign policy and how can we as a poor, third world country sell, partner, and utilize our resources. Curiously enough, the incoming elections with its leaders must glance back at the faults of our forefathers and try to drive a lesson in correcting all the wrongdoings and avoid repeating strategic diplomatic mistakes done in the past.

Ahmed M. Roble: Ahmed holds MBA and currently pursuing M.A in Peace Governance & Development at the University for Peace. 


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