June 15, 2011

Looming Political Showdown in Somalia

As reported over the weekend, Somalia’s Prime Minister is taking his resignation exactly has his numerous supporters expected: by fighting back. The freshly signed Kampala Accord temporarily axed Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed after Uganda brokered deal between President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden, Speaker of Parliament. The Kampala Accord exchanged Aden’s demand for a national election with a one-year extension to the Transitional Federal Government’s mandate, due to expire on August 20th.

Realizing the political dishonesty involved, Mohamed was dropped in the process after refusing to cave to Ahmed and Aden’s scheme. Others suspect that he had grown far too popular for Ahmed and Aden’s liking, both of which suffer from low approval in Mogadishu. Buoyed by the largest popular show of support in years and Parliament’s decision to vote on his term, Mohamed declared his intention to remain in office until removed during a Tuesday press conference: "I will respect the wish of the Somali people who want me to stay in office, rather than implementing the Kampala accord.”

“I would resign only after the Somali parliament and Somali people decide to take my post,” he told reporters in Mogadishu... “I decided to wait for the decision of the parliament and to stay in office... I'll continue my work as prime minister.”

Far from a negative development, Mohamed’s pushback is exactly what Somalia needs. Allowing the political system to work itself out could prove empowering to the Somali people, and would retain the TFG’s most effective official for the critical year ahead. However a political stalemate that refuses to budge Ahmed or Aden holds the potential for widespread disaster. None of the men operate under good terms and are unlikely to resolve their power differences. Then two or more rifts would be left unresolved.

The three must either reach a peace and move on, or else, in the more likely scenario, one must be removed.

Aden appears particularly vulnerable after extending his own term, much to the international community’s displeasure, and challenging the popular Mohamed. Ahmed cannot be discounted though, as his governing may have worn out over a brutal two and a half years. Only when Mohamed came into the picture in October 2010 did the TFG begin to right itself from a tailspin.

Ahmed has unwisely condemned the thousands of protesters (students, soldiers, government officials) in Mogadishu, blaming them on corrupt parliamentarians. Many protesters have also been arrested while new protests are being obstructed by government forces. Facing intense popular opposition to his backroom dealings in Uganda, Ahmed recently told reporters during his own press conference, "The political disputes of the Somali leadership had been solved in the Kampala meeting.”

Mohamed and many Somalis now await a showdown of even higher stakes.

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