SOOMAL: DISPATCHES FROM A NOMAD

Somalia and Kenya face off in Hague and Kismayu

The ICJ case and a local political duel shaping up in the Galmudug State seem to be the main national conversation in Somalia.

In Summary

• Ahead of the court decision, the two countries have been exchanging punches like in a boxing match. Kenya won the first bout in a hotly contested round of election in Jubaland State last month.

• In retaliation to Madoobe’s win, Somalia immediately threw a weak punch of banning direct flights between Kismayu and Nairobi.

President Uhuru Kenyatta receives new Somalia leader Mohamed Abdullahi at the start of his state visit as Kenya Defence Forces chief Samson Mwathethe looks on, March 23, 2017
President Uhuru Kenyatta receives new Somalia leader Mohamed Abdullahi at the start of his state visit as Kenya Defence Forces chief Samson Mwathethe looks on, March 23, 2017
Image: PSCU

Kenya and Somalia are trading political punches in Kismayu and the Hague, two cities with nothing in common except only connected by the national interests of the two countries through Jubaland State and the International Court of Justice.

Jubaland State, whose capital is Kismayu, coincidentally happens to be home of the disputed maritime border area that the ICJ is deferred to November on Kenya's request, owns the 100 square kilometres of an oil and gas-rich boundary between the two countries.  The case was to start on Monday.

Ahead of the court decision, the two countries have been exchanging punches like in a boxing match. Kenya won the first bout in a hotly contested round of election in Jubaland State last month.

Their ally, Ahmed Mohamed Islam aka Ahmed Madoobe or Blackie, won it again, even though the Somalia government funded his closest relatives and friends to disrupt his reelection in vain.

WEAK PUNCH

The people of Jubaland say the national government’s counter-reaction was tantamount to fuelling war in Kismayo which, thanks to God, did not materialise. They even tried to use Ethiopian forces in Jubalandm, but Blackie outsmarted them.

In retaliation to Madoobe’s win, Somalia immediately threw a weak punch of banning direct flights between Kismayu and Nairobi. In reality, that ban only affected its own poor citizens because it is now more expensive to fly between Kismayu and Nairobi after flights were forced to pass through Mogadishu first.

Many observers say this is similar to an under the belt punch. In professional boxing, this is unacceptable and can lead to deduction of points.

The decision is also a nuisance and does not bode well with the Jubaland electorate who are likely not to vote for the current leadership if national elections are held today.

Instead of punishing Madoobe, the decision hurts ordinary citizens. But then instead of knocking him down, that economic punch is likely to aide Madoobe’s popularity because it is viewed as a jab directed at Kenya but which hits hard the poor people of Jubaland. All flights flying to Kismayo are registered in Kenya.

 

Last week’s arrest in Mogadishu of Jubaland’s Security Minister Abdirashid Janan, a close Madoobe aide, is also seen as part of that ongoing political fistfight between  Somalia and Kenya.

DELAYING TACTIC

The battle then moved to The Hague. Kenya is trying to slow the ICJ case by postponing after it claimed it needed to recruit a new defence team.

As expected, Somalia quickly responded with their letter dismissing Kenya’s deferment request of the case, but ICJ derred it in Kenya's favour.

In yet another move seen to favour Nairobi, controversial Ugandan lawyer David Matsanga tried to question the impartiality of ICJ President Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, who is a Somali native, but that move seems to have hit a snag because only State parties or UN agencies can file such a complaint against a judge.  

The ICJ case and a local political duel shaping up in the Galmudug State seem to be the main national conversation in Somalia.

In yet another lobbying, Kenya succeeded in convincing the African Union to try to sweet talk Mogadishu to accept settling the matter the African way through dialogue. Somalia evaded that friendly punch and insisted it has full confidence with the Hague-based ICJ court.

OIL AND GAS SPONSORSHIP

Away from the oil and gas-sponsored political games played by Somalia and Kenya – and their corresponding international brokers on matters Kismayu and The Hague, many political observers say back home in Somalia it is not as cosy as it seems on the surface.

There is a strong rumour that Prime Minister Hassan Ali Kheyre is likely to vie for Ptresident in 2020.

President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo’s recent hand over of his US citizenship was seen as a calculated move to reinvigorate his own fading bid for reelection.

However, there are growing voices that Farmaajo is internally being overshadowed by PM Kheyre, who seems to be preparing himself for the bumpy road of the heavyweights in the ultimate boxing ring of Somalia’s presidential election.

SOMALIA DEMOCRACY

In this duel, often apart from the incumbent, the man with the deepest pocket from the chasing pack normally emerges the winner. But then, the sitting President ends up losing in the third or final round of voting against the candidate who gets the second most votes after him. No woman candidate has ever reached that far.

There is a silent gentleman’s agreement in place amongst losers in Somalia’s national polls, which unlike Kenya, is decided by MPs who elect the President. Millions of US Dollars is normally exchanged under the table in any election.

The marauding pack – those seeking the seat for the first time – often end up striking a deal to give all their votes in exchange for money or plum state job to the one who comes second and that is how the incumbent is defeated by the system and the sheer Somali unity of purpose in defying power.

Somalis just can’t stand incumbents. Can someone please say it loud for Farmaajo to hear? Blame this trend to Somalis nomadic attitude of ganging up against the stronger!

TIME WILL TELL

Some critics say the PM’s current outlook reflects what kind of a President he is likely to be and that his image has somehow been damaged by the many political blunders his current administration has committed.

But his supporters say he is the perfect match for Somalia. Time will tell.

Kheyre, is a political novice who emerged from nowhere on February 23 2017 to become PM. He is not the first and will not be the last.

He is currently facing a crisis in his Galmudug State backyard, where a powerful Sufi political union called Ahlul Sunnah Wal Jamaaca, which, in reality, has a clan face bogging it down from jostling for supremacy, with their other clan causins on one side and Kheyre’s government on the other. It is a three sided political battle.

HIGHLY CHARGED PEOPLE

The central regions in Somalia are a highly politicised region. People from Galgudug and Mudug, which makes up Galmudug State, are often very active and animated when it comes to politics. Could they be hyper from radioactivity because of the uranium deposits in the Galgudud region? Can Kheyre handle these nuclear-powered people? I doubt but I also hear money is coveted in that part of Somalia as well!

People are closely observing Galmudug and how the PM handles or mishandles Galmudug is likely to determine his chances even though there are some rumours that he intends to sweet talk Madoobe in a bid to win favours come 2020. It is a small world; don’t be surprised to hear this because in reality, politicians have no loyalty.

The Somali public are also keenly following the ICJ case and depending on its outcome, it is likely to either be a lifeline or a red card for the current administration in which Kheyre is the Premier irrespective of his smooth demeanour away from the strongman tendencies already exhibited by some of his hard-line political decisions like the choosing of favourable clan elders to his political ambition.