In a few days, and for the umpteenth time, Somalia will miss yet another “deadline” for completing parliamentary elections – a largely sham process and a costly distraction at a time of existential crises. The country is facing deadly climatic events that unleashed years of droughts whose scale and impact is felt in all regions. Millions of displaced families have lost their livelihoods, some dying of thirst in many regions of the country. Thousands more are forced to congregate in makeshift camps on the outskirts of Mogadishu. The fate of millions more malnourished families with children in the countryside hangs in the balance.
Terrorist threat remains elevated and serious as ever, nor is the capital city free from deadly bombing rampages and assassinations. Key economic and financial reforms have been on hold for over two years, reversing the tenuous economic progress of the last decade. The country’s security forces, foreign-trained and armed to take the fight to the terrorists, are constantly airlifted to far-flung regions to kill and intimidate political opponents, thus allowing terrorists a free rein across the country. Repression is everywhere to generate the fear that much worse is to come if one does not do what Farmaajo wants.
A drip-drip election run, in which a handful of seats are released once in a while is now complemented by “political Malxiis”. Election rigging is no longer done through the veneer of the stuffed brown envelope, nor covered by the fig leaf of elder selection. Things are at a point where an already rigged election is being stolen in plain sight through force. The electoral seat “drip-drip” ensures a seamless managed corruption in broad day-light.
Which begs the question: where on earth is the prime minster?
When incentives are seen to be more important than the country
Few responsibilities are more important than saving one’s own country. A clear-sighted prime minster would have appreciated the grave responsibilities of the office he holds, but not Rooble. Too consumed with irrelevant posturing, reckless political drama and selfies from pointless foreign trips when his country is at a tipping point, he is too weak to show any purpose or indeed leadership. His already faltering authority, when asked to take charge of the elections, meant instead of getting a grip and developing political backbone to save his country, he instead made a crude personal calculus, turning a dangerous crisis into a deadly one.
This also explains Roble’s sudden change of heart, turning what many thought were laudable initial steps at leadership into lamentable indifference. By disavowing everything we were told he held dear, including justice for families of murdered and missing children; holding (fairly) credible elections and getting the country out of this mess, he gave way to pusillanimity and political docility. Millions of Somalis who hoped the prime minster understood the gravity of the task in front of him can now see how he is putting personal greed before the country. A distinction between Rooble and Farmaajo, which some mistakenly thought existed, is now moot.
It was always of course a fool’s game to trust a Somali political leader would do what was good for the country. However, Rooble’s sudden change of direction comes at the worst possible moment at a time when his leadership was desperately needed. It also shows us that he discovered there were incentives much larger than saving Somalia. This is the real tragedy and indeed why what is happening in the country today is not merely the issue of Farmaajo’s autocratic envy and murderous rampage, using Rooble as the dependable lackey. For many Somali leaders, putting personal interest before the country is what motivates them and Rooble is indeed no outlier. The only difference this time is Rooble reneged on his responsibilities in a way so sudden that the old Somali adage of “Af Wax Cuney Xishoo” has never been more publicly proven. It is what makes his personal motivation, at time of such profound crises, most reprehensible indeed.
The dangers of pushing people to deadlier options
Rooble’s failure is another bleak lesson for all of us and puts into context why his motivation is much more troubling than a mere failure of leadership or greed. He is sacrificing the country’s political stability by deliberately leaving serious problems to fester – issues with the potential to tip the country into civil war. He is therefore effectively pushing people, already brutalised by years of misrule and at dangerous crisis point, to turn into deadlier options. This is indeed the real unappreciated danger, the consequences of which hardly need to be spelled out. It is why the whiff of civil war is once again in the air, pushing the country into another dangerous cross-road.
For the opposition, more often united in disunity, there is third important lesson here. Sniping from the side-lines or engaging in “Musharixiinta” presidential scavenger hunt is not the answer. What is happening is not an election and they need to be government-in-rescue by putting the country before personal ambitions. It means articulating a coherent political process, setting up a blue-print for a government of national unity, and electing an interim leader that can deliver credible elections through an agreed transition plan. Hoping for the best, or waiting for a foreign embassy to intervene, will not help the country avoid civil war.
Rooble always knew he had a contradictory task – owing fealty to Farmaajo or doing what was best for the country. The outcome was never in doubt. The talk of another civil war may sound like an abstract, if gloomy, prediction, until it is not. The events in April this year showed us things could get out of hand very quickly. What is happening to the election process across the country is indeed a dress-rehearsal of much worse things to come and there is no point in waiting for things to get any worse, they already have.
An interim government of national unity is the way forward.
Aloow dadkeena iyo dalkeena badbaadi.
Aloow dadkeena iyo dalkeena badbaadi.