Jubbaland is a place filled with potential triumph and promise of hope. It is a place with a vibrant river, fertile soils, the beautiful Indian Ocean, and livestock.
Jubbaland is known for its diverse cultures and hospitality. It has the potential to be one of Somalia’s most exceptional, productive, stable, and prosperous states, and Jubbalanders were hopeful that it would soon realize its possibilities.
However, the Jubbaland election’s product is anything but a ‘promise of hope’—an uncertain outlook, divided allies, illegitimate presidency, and alarmed public.
We live in an era where democracy is increasingly challenged, and more and more countries are referred to as competitive or electoral authoritarian. Not all unfair elections are created equal, and a closer look at the Jubbaland election process reveals a range of manipulative practices.
Politicians indeed follow their interests, and there is no such thing in Africa as relinquishing power without being forced. They leave office defeated and stunned. In Jubbaland, the root of the election problem was an incumbent president determined to remain in power combined with a lack of checks and balances.
There were no durable institutions that could provide mechanisms to guide the electoral processes and enforce election outcomes, and no level playing fields exist. Without such arrangements, autocratic leaders perpetuate themselves, and that is what Jubbaland has produced— a dreadful outcome and a traumatized public.
Supposedly, election as a means of perpetuating power is more motivating and exciting to a typical autocrat. This summarizes the essence of fake elections, which are meant to enable dictators to rubber-stamp their continued existence, playing mockery with the concept of democracy itself.
The same incumbents often control all the state machinery, the army, the security forces, the financial systems, etc. This control enables them to remain in power, and the longer these authoritarian leaders remain in power, the more they fall in love with power and that is when they use force to stay in a marriage with the power itself. How do they do it? Well, they carry ballots in one hand and bullets in the other—a clear depiction of Jubbaland election.
This was the first-ever truly contested election in the Jubbaland State, and yes, many heavyweight candidates could easily have won the presidency had the election followed the fair practice. To the contrary, the Jubbaland administration commanded a disgraceful election process that could become a catastrophic role-model not only for Jubbaland but also for the country. This election was assuredly significant and had a much-anticipated showdown between Mr. Madobe, who was determined to stay in power at any cost and the Federal government, which has shown many of his former allies and colleagues out the door.
In Trump-like campaign tactics, Mr. Madobe’s re-election was heavily dominated by division, fearmongering, and misinformation. Mr. Madobe and his team have also played the clan politics forcefully, accusing of President Farmajo clan favoritism and that he was preaching political overthrowing as he invited Ethiopia, which initially installed Mr. Madobe into power to help arm-twist him. Mr. Madobe, on the other hand, was publicly backed by Kenya. Both Kenya and Ethiopia are part of troop-contributing nations to the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
On its part, Kenya broke all diplomatic norms and protocols to keep Mr. Madobe in power. Kenya’s Ministry of foreign affairs publically intruded into Somalia’s internal affairs by publishing official letters in support of the incumbent and the process to re-elect him—at some point, clashing with the UN special envoy over an adverse letter displaying the grave concern of the international community over the manner in, which the election was run. Both Kenya’s foreign ministry and the Majority leader Mr. Duale also congratulated Mr. Madobe after the election. One would wonder why Kenya is publically intervening Somalia’s internal affairs and blatantly backing a ‘Governor’ in Somalia.
Kenya is now in a row with Somalia over the Indian Ocean Maritime dispute. A narrow triangle off the Indian Ocean, about 100,000 square kilometers (62,000 square miles), is the bone of contention between neighboring Kenya and Somalia. Both countries want the area because it supposedly has a large deposit of oil and gas. For Kenya, the boundary is quite clear. It lies line parallel to the line of latitude. That gives Kenya a larger share of the maritime area, and it has already issued oil and gas exploration licenses to international companies. But Somalia disagrees and argues the boundary to extend to the southeast as an extension of the land border.
The Kenyan government has pursued a determined campaign, engaged in outlandish and undiplomatic behavior to pressure Mogadishu to withdraw the case from the International Court of Justice (ICJ). On Feb. 16, 2019, Kenya expelled Somalia’s Ambassador to Kenya Mohamed Mohamoud Nour (Tarsan) and recalled its envoy. It labeled Somalia an enemy state trying to grab its natural resources. On May 21, top Somali diplomats, including ministers and deputies, were denied entry at Jomo Kenyatta Airport for what Kenya described as “lack of visas.”
It also ordered Somali flights to be investigated at Wajer, banning unaccompanied luggage on aircraft arriving from Somalia, disseminating security fears over Somalia’s direct flights. Kenyan media was also complicit in the pressure strategy. The Standard Digital newspaper accused Somalia of putting Lamu oil blocks on sale, a claim which Somalia swiftly rejected.
Kenya’s parliament recently called on President Uhuru Kenyatta to send troops to the disputed area—a clear indication of Kenya’s disinclination of the ICJ ruling, should it rule in favor of Somalia. Kenya has been pushing to have the matter solved through political negotiations. It recently asked the African Union to mediate the two countries. A call Somalia has rejected. Now, the time is running out, and Kenya’s options are dwindling as the ICJ at The Hague prepares for the hearings of the case on September 19.
This is where Madobe comes into play. In Kenya’s last attempt to deter Somalia from pursuing court ruling, Kenya is using Mr. Madobe as a negotiating tool to pressure Mogadishu to come to the table. However, Mogadishu did not blink. Farmajo, the Somali president will commit political suicide if he tries to negotiate with Kenya. Therefore, he repeatedly resisted the call to solve the matter through diplomatic channels. If Mr. Madobe can be of any help for Kenya’s case is to be seen, but for sure, his public image amongst the Somali public is severely destroyed.
To Kenya’s dismay, Mr. Madobe is not the only elected president of Jubbaland. Similar to Mr. Madobe, several other well-known individuals were declared presidents by their supporters. The Federal government of Somalia has also issued a statement dismissing disputed election results in Kismayo. To make matters even worse for Mr. Madobe and Kenya, the international community is said to have put on hold some if not all of its ongoing projects in Kismayo—lucrative employment in the city.
Does the choice of the Jubbaland people matter, or is this messy charade sufficient to endorse perpetually troubled business as usual in Jubbaland? Is the international community willing to invite a replication of similar process—fake elections, in Galmudug and possibly in the Federal elections come 2020? It’s obvious the result of the Jubbaland election is deficient of the broad support required to maintain unity and stability in Jubbaland and thereby strengthen state building—the liberation of areas still held by Al-Shabab, and more importantly, protect the unity and the national interest of the nation. If nothing is done, this electoral role-model will throw Somalia back into new disarray, leading the country into further unrest both in state and federal levels.
What will prevent Galmudug from adopting Mr. Madobe’s messy process? What will deter Mr. Farmajo himself from using a similar process to re-elect himself come 2020/2021? Could the mess created by Mr. Madobe and Kenya be a reason enough to postpone the 2020 elections—no functioning and legitimate leadership in Jubbaland and Galmudug, a perfect remedy to kick the ball down the road and delay elections—sounds scary scenario?
The era of warlords has ended. No one should be able to dictate the will of the people, and absolutely, no one should be able to elect himself in today’s age. Somalia cannot and should not allow this. To prevent the country from sliding back into chaotic unrest, Somalia’s international partners must intervene, and a new election process must be convened in Jubbaland as soon as possible, and the will of the people must prevail.
Isaac Muhammad holds MBA and is a doctoral candidate, writer, and opinion leader. He can be reached at Isaacmuhammad@gmail.com
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Jowhar.com’s editorial stance.