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HASSAN: Expulsion of UN diplomat confirms Farmaajo's dictatorial tendencies

President Uhuru Kenyatta with Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo, during his inauguration ceremony in Mogadishu, Somalia.
President Uhuru Kenyatta with Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo, during his inauguration ceremony in Mogadishu, Somalia.

I warned before that Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo is slowly behaving like a dictator, and is getting carried away by power. Well, he has just proved me right by unprecedentedly chasing away the United Nations Secretary General’s Special Envoy to Somalia, Nicholas Haysom from the country.

On January 1, the Somalia government declared Haysom a persona non grata in Somalia, effectively banishing the top UN diplomat over flimsy claims of what they termed as "interfering with Somalia’s internal affairs".

In reality, the Somalia government was simply unhappy with the diplomat’s questioning of human rights abuses by African Union peacekeepers from Ethiopia and Somalia in the arrest of a leading candidate and killing of civilians in Baidoa following a sham election in South West State of Somalia in mid-December.

The government action was prompted by a letter the UN Chief wrote on December 30, to Somalia's Internal Security Minister Mohamed Abukar Islow confirming the suspension of the Joint Police Programme support. This programme is jointly funded by the UN, the European Union, the United Kingdom and Germany, which, among other logistical support, pays stipends to Somalia Police Force, including the South West State police as well to 453 military soldiers based in Baidoa who belong to the 60th division of the Somalia National Army.

AID SUSPENSION

The letter confirmed suspension of financial aid support amounting to millions of dollars and demanded an explanation from Ethiopian embassy and the head of African Union peacekeepers over the conduct of Amisom’s Ethiopian contingent’s illegal arrest of Mukhtar Robow on December 13 in Baidoa.

There was another separate letter to the Somalia government over the subsequent conduct of the police forces in South West State, in which 15 protesters were killed and over 300 others arrested, including children in Baidoa on December 13-15.

Robow is a former al Shabaab founder, deputy commander and one-time spokesman who left the group in 2013. He officially surrendered last year after being pardoned by Somalia and the US, which had a bounty over his head. His problems, however, started after announcing plans to vie for the South West State presidential election.

He was arrested by AU peacekeepers from Ethiopia in Baidoa a few days before the vote and handed over to the Somalia government, who are still holding him illegally in Mogadishu without any charges brought against him as required by the law. You don’t correct a mistake with another mistake. The government should be the first to respect the rule of law otherwise their actions will be seen as a rule of the jungle.

DARLING TO DICTATOR

The government was caught pants down by their illegal actions in Baidoa but instead of coming out clean, they have jumped from the frying pan to the fire by banishing the top UN envoy from Somalia. Indeed if the arrest of Robow and the killing of protesters was legal, why would they retort to banishing the human rights defender in Haysom? They would have swiftly responded to the letter instead.

In the wider public eye, President Farmaajo's latest antics is likely to catapult him from a one-time public darling, just two years after his election, to a dictator who has no regards for the rule of law and the wellbeing of his people.

It is not only naive but foolish of a country that is not self-sufficient and one that depends on foreign aid to expel the representative of the head of an agency such as the UN, which bankrolls the government and is the chief humanitarian supporter of the hungrey population. This action must never be accepted for the sake of the poor people of Somalia.

This means the UN as well as the EU, theUK, Germany and other important donors are now likely to suspend their support, which would only further aggravate the already dire humanitarian situation and the ongoing Somalia reconstruction efforts of which they are the primary contributors. This is indeed the worst New Year present Somalis could ever endure.

NEXT HOT SPOT

Let us also note forget that the EU is the chief financier of Amisom Peacekeeping mission in Somalia and they could easily decide to rethink, following Ethiopian forces involvement in the Robow arrest that brings into disrepute the mission’s neutrality. God forbid if this happens, al Shabaab militants will rejoice and will not take long to recapture Somalia from the fractious, ill-trained and divided Somalia forces. This would be a huge setback that will drain all the efforts and millions of dollars spent to stabilize Somalia.

Fearing similar Federal government interference of its election like what blatantly happened in South West State, Puntland has already come out gun blazing against Farmaajo's government by declaring that no central government official will be allowed to visit their area until end of its planned Presidential election scheduled for January 8.

The next possible hot spot likely to lead to an all-out war is the Jubaland State of Somalia Presidential election slated for August. Credible sources say the government is planning to again use Ethiopian forces who are part of AMISOM peacekeepers in Kismayo to prevent current Jubaland President Ahmed Mohamed Islam aka Ahmed Madobe from retaining his seat.

The international community must remain vigilant and stop any attempts to wrest power and the will of people of Jubaland with the help of Ethiopian peacekeepers, whose salaries are paid by the same powers. We don’t want another massacre in Kismayo like what happened in Baidoa.

Madobe and current Puntland President are the two most vocal opponents of Farmaajo and are leading other states in cutting ties with the federal government. The other federal states are Galmudug, HirShabele and South West State, which Farmaajo has already installed his yes msn.

WRONG MOVE

The reason why the Somalia federal government is so determined to install their puppets in all the five federal states is because Farmaajo is sensing defeat in the upcoming Somalia election in 2020. The federal states will play a crucial role as Somalia MPS who elect the President are chosen from these regions. With the current strong opposition in the federal states, Farmaajo’s re-election looks highly unlikely in spite of his dictatorial tendencies.

It is also worth noting that no President in Somalia’s history has ever retained a seat. The first President of Somalia Adan Abdulle Osman lost to Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke in 1967, graciously accepting defeat and made history as the first African President to accept defeat and peacefully hand over power.

Farmaajo himself defeated President Hassan Sheikh Mohamed in February 2017, who also peacefully handed over power to him. We expect President Farmaajo to do so in 2020 should he lose..

He must be aware of this golden rule in Somalia politics and should not allow young, inexperienced political novices to misadvise him. Days of dictatorship are long gone and he must accept opposition and respect it. His decision to chase away Haysom was wrong.

The Somalia President needs to come out clean and explain the human rights abuses committed by his forces and hold all those responsible accountable. He would have done himself good if he would start by first releasing Robow from illegal detention and healing the wounds of the sham election in South West State, which in essence is what the top UN diplomat was simply questioning.