June 9, 2011

Somalia's Prime Minister Becomes Political Casualty

In an unsurprising development, the BBC is reporting that Somalia’s President and Parliamentary Speaker agreed to postpone a national election after months of political deadlock. Speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden had denied his ally-turned-rival Sheikh Sharif Ahmed an extension to his presidential term, only to extend parliament’s own term by three years. Sharif responded by demanding an extension of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG), mandated by the UN to expire on August 20th.

UN officials have spent the preceding weeks condemning most of the TFG’s behavior. Infighting became so severe that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni threatened to pull his 5,000 troops out of Mogadishu if the UN didn’t grant Sharif’s request. The move backed Somalia’s president to the point that we speculated an early exit for Aden.

Not exactly. In a more surprising turn of events, Sharif and Aden reportedly reached an agreement only after dumping Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi “Farmajo” Mohamed.

On the job for a little over eight months, Mohamed managed to inject much-needed vitality in the TFG through a slimmer cabinet and savvy public relations. Always out in front of the African Union’s ongoing counteroffensive against al-Shabab, the U.S.-educated prime minister organized an extensive campaign in the U.S. media on his way to Somalia’s most successful period in years (relatively speaking). Troop salaries were delivered for the first time in months.

An unabashed critic of his own government, Mohamed has recently expressed legitimate fear that the TFG’s political crisis could jeopardize AU military gains. His efforts earned him a high reputation in comparison to Aden and his parliament, widely viewed as the TFG’s least productive and most corrupt component.

“He (the speaker) is not sincere on the general interest of the country because he running after his personal ends,” Mohamed warned two days ago. “We are at state of war against naughty militants, who are committed destroying our beloved nation, and that made impossible elections to be hold at this time. My government has several occasions attempted to have direct discussions with the speaker to end the internal rift, but all ended in vain.”

Now he finds himself out of power, to the displeasure of what could be a substantial number of protesters. And the question immediately shifts to whether Sharif and Amed’s agreement, assumed to be forced by Ugandan's hand, just threw new fuel on Somalia’s political crisis.

The New York Times has updated, "According to United Nations officials who work on Somalia, the speaker of Parliament wanted to install his own supporters in the upper reaches of the government and insisted that if the president was going to stay for another year, the prime minister had to go. According to the agreement, the prime minister will resign in 30 days. The president essentially sacrificed the prime minister to keep his own job."

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