The Jubaland state presidential election in southern Somalia slated later this year in August is the next big political duel attracting huge interests locally, regionally and internationally.
The state is currently headed by Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed Islam better known as Ahmed Madoobe or Blackie, who was elected in May 2013
after leading a Somali force to recapture the southern port city of Kismayo from al Shabaab with the help of Kenya.
Already, political realignments and behind the scenes agreements by politicians have started ahead of the election in which locally elected Jubaland MPs will vote.
The incumbent, president Madoobe, is confident of retaining his seat amid frenzy support by his backers and supporters against a growing criticism by his opponents, who accuse him of being totalitarian.
So, why is Jubaland election important for Kenyans? It is seen as a good test to gauge the impact of the Kenya Defence Forces presence in thee state they greatly helped in its formation after jointly capturing the capital city, Kismayo, in 2012 with the help of Madoobe's forces.
For ordinary Somalis, including those in Jubaland, the election is welcomed and is seen as an indication of normalcy returning to their war-ravaged country should election be held and power peacefully transferred in case of a change in leadership.
Official campaigns are yet to start but some politicians are said to be eyeing the lucrative position of Somalia's richest Federal State endowed with fertile farmlands, rich grazing fields and a long and beautiful coastline rich with marine resources. With pristine white sandy beaches, the region has a huge tourism potential.
So far, those said to be interested in the race include a former Somalia Information minister and a Madoobe critic Abdullahi Ciilmooge Hirsi and Sheikh Dahir, a former close ally and a relative to Madoobe who fought alongside him in the recapture of Kismayo. Several other politicians, including some now serving in the national government, are said to be holding secret counsels with their constituents with a view of joining the race.
According to political analysts, Madobe enjoys massive support in Jubaland and is likely to increase his support base and re-election bid with his latest push to recapture al Shabaab held territories in Jubaland. His forces recently captured Hagar town and are said to be marching towards Buale, seat of the Middle Juba region and a strategic town. This is his last card to show off during campaigns.
“If president Ahmed Madoobe is able to enlarge his political territory by capturing more al Shabaab held areas as he is currently doing, then that military success can be transformed into a political success or public support. Thus, the current military campaign is likely increase Madoobe’s popularity and help in his reelection bid,” Prof Hassan Sheikh Ali said.
He teaches International Relations, Political Science and Diplomatic Studies at Mogadishu and Simad Universities in Mogadishu.
Asked what tangible results Madoobe achieved in his first term, Prof Hassan pointed at the increased security and safety in Kismayo, the seaside Jubaland capital as his biggest achievement, which has helped boost trade and expand development opportunities for his people.
“His term faced criticism from different circles. However, many people appreciate his firm and authoritativeness to guarantee order in Kismayo, the third largest city in Somalia,” Prof Hassan said.
Madoobe has also been active meeting Somali leaders at home and in Kenya in his bid to win a second term. In mid-December last year, he held a secret meeting in Garissa, Kenya, with prominent elders and politicians. And just recently, two prominent Kenyan politicians from Garissa met secretly with President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo in Mogadishu to try to diffuse tensions between him and Madoobe, and urged the Somalia President to support Madobe.
As a result of that meeting and a more recent face to face meeting between the two in Garowe, Puntland, during the swearing-in of the new state president, the Somalia government has since released funds to state government to help in the fight against al Shabaab. Sometime last year, the Somalia government donated $250,000 to Jubaland Humanitarian Response following flush floods after river Juba burst its banks.
The central government goodies to Jubaland were capped off with donations of armoured personnel carriers, which were part of the 68 APC’s recently donated by Qatar as a show of their goodwill.
I am sure Madoobe is wary of Farmaajo’s latest camaraderie approach as the President is known to only support members of his “Nabad iyo Nolol” or Peace and Prosperity party — of which he is not — to take over the mantle in the federal states. He recently orchestrated such a move by installing Abdiaziz Laftagaren in South West State of Somalia, who is part of a wider scheme to help him in his own reelection in 2020, when Somalia goes to the polls.
Many Somalis believe the Jubaland election is attracting huge interest from regional states and western powers because of its rich resources and think such external interests are likely to have an impact on the upcoming election.
“Somalia politics as usual attracts external actors who are part of the game and will play a crucial role in different capacities depending on their interests. The Frontline States because of their national security concerns will be active in influencing their choice. Arab states, particularly the wealthy ones, are known to bankroll candidates to buy their loyalty for geopolitical, security and economic reasons. The major powers, including the Americans and European powers, will be there for their so-called war on terror as well as geopolitical and resources interests such as gas, oil and fishing, which are the most important for them,”