The National Assembly Majority Leader, Aden Duale, appears to be isolated and the loneliest politician in Kenya, abandoned by his colleagues from Northeastern region and the government he wholeheartedly served, thrusting him to uncomfortable position I-can-do-it-alone.
Duale is the senior-most politician in the Kenyan parliament courtesy of the prestigious post of Majority Leader of Jubilee – the majority party in the National Assembly. He has been the defecto political leader of Northeastern since 2013.
Duale’s political career sprung from the nationwide popularity of Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) in 2007, defeating a long time MP and Minister, Hussein Maalim, to claim Dujis Constituency. In 2013, he sought reelection on a United Republican Party (URP) ticket led by William Ruto which formed a coalition government with Uhuru Kenyatta’s The National Alliance (TNA).
In 2017, both URP and TNA dissolved to form Jubilee party and Duale was reelected for the third term.
Duale, 51, who is also the Garissa Township MP, is one of the few vocal politicians the country has ever had and has defended the Jubilee administration within and without the parliament, attracting praises from State House and Harambee House Annex.
His critics labeled him as a sycophant who says anything to please President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto.
Now everything – from being the darling of the government to being the political leader of Garissa and other Northeastern counties – has changed.
The handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga in March 2018 and the introduction of a Building Bridge Initiative (BBI) meant to change the way Kenya is governed have limited his government engagements and, a growing rebellion from fellow politicians from the region, mostly from young and first time members of parliament, some of whom are calling for his removal as Majority Leader in the National Assembly, has dwindled his influence in Northeastern politics.
Emboldened by the BBI, Wajir County Woman MP Fatuma Gedi and Fafi lawmaker Abdikarim, both first termers, are breathing down on Duale’s neck.
They even called for his removal as Jubilee leader in the National Assembly. They perceive to be political heavyweights courtesy of the BBI.
It is unlikely Jubilee will replace Duale as its parliamentary leader. And if it happens, the position won’t return to Northeastern.
Despite his weaknesses, Northeastern doesn’t have a smart politician as eloquent as Duale who can replace him as Majority Leader in the August House.
Garissa political leadership has abandoned and accused Duale of undermining his colleagues and creating division.
His isolation is seen as the product of his close association with the deputy president, William Ruto. Governors from the region, previously seen as Ruto allies and members of Tangatanga – a political grouping backing Ruto’s 20222 presidential ambition, have now fled his camp, for fear of arrests and prosecution due to mismanagement and theft of county government resources, leaving Duale behind.
Other lawmakers are also backing BBI for selfish gains; most of them do not understand what it entails but believe it will go through because it is backed by the president and Mr. Odinga.
Duale was not seen in recent press conferences by Northeastern politicians, and hasn’t attended a Northern Kenya leaders’ gathering at Kempinski to ‘thank President Kenyatta’ for appointing Ukur Yattani, a fellow northerner, to be the substantive Cabinet Secretary for National Treasury and Planning.
Next week, the region is hosting a BBI rally in Garissa town, but Duale isn’t attending. He says until government fixes the education crisis and insecurity, the region will not support BBI.
The education crisis was as a result of Teachers Service Commission – the teachers’ employer – withdrawing thousands of teachers from the region over what it said al Shabab’s target of non-Somali teachers.
Duale’s support for BBI is unclear. He is trying to earn applause from State House and contrast between himself and Tangatanga movement.
He is in a catch-22 situation, he wants BBI because it proposes the creation of a prime minister’s position, which he believes a lawmaker from smaller community can get.
By supporting his position, he said he ‘wasn’t anyone’s title deed,’ referring to media reports that he had dumped Deputy President William Ruto.
It seems his remark was a rebuke to Ruto, who opposes any form of change to Kenya’s constitution.
The Majority Leader is also positioning himself as Northeastern region power broker in the likelihood that the constitution is changed and regional kingpins will have a say in the formation of the next government. He is taking a risk although he cannot influence how northeastern people vote.
He argues that the president’s and Raila’s initiative will cure the political dominance of the presidential seat by the big tribes.
At the same time, he cannot abandon William Ruto, the man who made him and gave him the position he holds in parliament.
Ruto is opposed to any change to current system of governance, believing any change made to the constitution will deny him any chance of him becoming Kenya’s fifth president.
In not making a clear decision on BBI, Duale has weighed the impact it can have on him, at least for the remaining two and half years as parliamentary leader.
For the 13 years he has been in parliament, he has been trying to reshape the Kenyan political landscape in favour of William Ruto. Now, he has to reshape his future.
Coronavirus or no coronavirus, Somalia opposition wants election
The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted planned events across the world; sporting activities postponed indefinitely, UN climate conference put on hold, and elections in many countries delayed.
But in Somalia, leading opposition parties are demanding for parliamentary and presidential elections to be held on time, without considering whether the country can manage an election in an era of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
The Forum for National Parties (FNP), an alliance of six political parties, including two parties led by former presidents, Sharif Ahmed and Hassan Mohamud, accused the government of ‘overlooking the urgency of implementing the multi-party system in the country, and interfering in the activities of a joint parliamentary committee on elections, leading to suspension of its work drafting and completion of an electoral law, saying those are tactics to delay the polls.’
Somalia is scheduled to hold both parliamentary and presidential elections in late 2020 and early 2021 respectively. Although an electoral law has been passed, it is still unclear whether the country will go for a one person, one vote election or maintain the status quo where clan elders will pick members of parliament who will in turn elect a president.
Should Somalia delay its election?
Kenya is delaying five by-elections because of Covid-19. The country has so far recorded close to 200 cases and four deaths.
Ethiopia announced postponement of its parliamentary elections, and in the US, States have put off presidential primary votes.
Elections have been rescheduled before. In 2018, the Democratic Republic of Congo delayed the presidential poll because of Ebola. In 2001 the UK general election was held off because of the spread of foot and mouth disease across the country.
The most important reason for postponing an election is the health of everyone involved. It will be difficult to hold an election without exposing those involved to the risk of contracting the new coronavirus.
Although coronavirus cases in Somalia stand at seven, people should not take chances, and must abide by government directives and scientific advice in a bid to curb the spread of the virus.
An election is the opposite of ‘social-distancing.’ It is a public event that deliberately bring together people to exchange ideas about the future direction of their country. It involves candidates and their supporters holding campaign rallies and events.
Elections are also supposed to be a time for talking. Simply holding an election is insufficient because citizens should actively consider their interests and the issues; weigh up competing arguments made by candidates; and discuss them around the dinner table, and in coffee shops.
Then, on election day, citizens, in this case, MPs, if Somalia doesn’t hold direct elections, turn up to polling stations (and airport hangars) and are handed a ballot paper. Election staff, who work extremely hard to keep Somalia’s democracy moving, will also be affected.
Elections do bring a lot of people together. Somalia’s election involves people and candidates coming in from Europe and the United States, the current epicenter of the novel coronavirus, unknowingly bringing the virus with them.
However, postponing an election could result in leaders, both at the legislature and the executive, remaining in office longer.
Postponement should be the last resort, but if the coronavirus does not go away in the next few months, political stakeholders in Somalia should reach consensus on a clearly agreed timetable for rescheduling is crucial. Democracy relies on a responsible government and political parties, who should put the lives of fellow citizens first before their interest.
What does Kenya want in Jubbaland?
A row between Somalia and Kenya over Jubbaland region in Somalia is threatening the security situation on both sides of the border.
Earlier this month, fighting between forces loyal to Jubbaland regional administration and Somali National Army spilled over into Mandera town that borders Somalia’s Bulla Hawa. Somali forces say they were pursuing a fugitive local minister in Jubbaland wanted for crimes in Mogadishu. Somalia accused Kenya of harbouring the minister, Abdirashid Janan.
Jubbaland consists of three provinces; Gedo, Middle Jubba and Lower Jubba, but control of Lower Jubba and Kismayu port is the biggest prize. Jubbaland is a potentially rich region, with good seasonal rainfall, year-round rivers, forests, and lush farm- and range-lands, as well as potential offshore oil and gas deposits.
The domestic stakes are high, as clan factions fight over the division of resources.
In October 2011, Kenya entered Somalia to fight al Shabab group, which it accused of abducting foreign tourists inside its territory. Later, it became part of the African Union mission to help Somali government defeat al Shabab.
For long, Nairobi wanted to establish a buffer zone in Jubbaland to prevent al Shabab militants from crossing into Kenya. If it can prevent al Shabab attacks because of the buffer zone, its tourism sector will flourish and a massive project on Lamu Port will go on, as investors will have no fear of attacks coming from Somalia.
Ten years later, Jubbaland remains one of Somalia’s most-unstable regions and it failed to act as a buffer zone to stop al Shabab from carrying out attacks inside Kenya. Since Kenyan troops entered Somalia, the al Qaeda-linked group carried out dozens of attacks in Kenya, killing hundreds of Kenyan citizens in the process.
Kenya’s interest in Jubbaland goes beyond creating a buffer zone and stopping al Shabab from entering Kenya. It sees economic interest in Jubbaland. Some influential Kenyan politicians and well-connected businesspeople want access to Kismayu port to avoid paying taxes at the port of Mombasa.
Though banned by the United Nations Security Council, the harvesting and export of charcoal has become a particularly lucrative industry, and continues to flourish with the help of Kenyan troops who are part of the African Union Mission in Somalia, commonly known as Amisom. Moreover, some within the Kenyan government are benefitting from this illegal trade, according to a United Nations report.
With a weak central government in place, whoever controls Kismayu can have influence over oil deposits in a contested maritime zone. Kenya supported the re-election of Ahmed Mohamed Islam, also known as Madobe, in August 2019, despite opposition from Mogadishu.
Both Kenya and Somalia claim ownership of 100,000 square kilometres triangle in the Indian Ocean believed to have large deposits of oil and gas. In 2014, Somalia sued Kenya at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), accusing Nairobi of encroaching part of its territory. Kenya tried to persuade Somalia to withdraw the case from the ICJ and settle the dispute of the court, but Somalia rejected Kenya’s plea.
“There is nothing ideological that ties Kenya to Madobe, except the fact that he is the best person to guarantee security which is in our interest. It is about the stability of the region, prosperity and security,” says Peter Kagwanja, a University of Nairobi lecturer told Kenya’s second-largest newspaper, The Standard.
Kenya also wants to get rid of Somali refugees, but before it does that, it may want to create some resemblance of stability in Jubbaland so that it could repatriate hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees living in camps in northeastern Kenya, and convince the international community that the region is safe and refugees can return. The Kenyan government says al Shabab elements hide in refugee camps where they plan attacks in the country.
Kenya’s action in Jubbaland may result in a clan warfare not only within Somalia but also in Ethiopia and Kenya, where clans in Jubbaland dispute also live.
The disagreement between Somalia and Kenya could jeopardise the security cooperation between the two – a big boon for al-Shabab – which is a pain in the neck for both countries.
Presidents Mohamed Farmajo and Uhuru Kenyatta are meeting in Nairobi this week to try to resolve their differences. Mogadishu and Nairobi can ill afford to take their eyes off the ball – al- Shabab, their common enemy, and waste their energy on resolvable diplomatic disputes.
Al Shabab has been driven out of major towns in Somalia but it is still capable of conducting high-profile attacks within and outside of Somalia, Kenya being the most vulnerable.
The top 10 Twitter accounts to follow in Somali politics
Twitter is so stuffed full of political news, opinion and analysis that are hard to pick out the worthwhile comments from the rest.
But, if you follow the right accounts, you will enjoy a feed which is insightful, informative, and witty in its coverage of Somalia politics.
The Frontier has compiled the top 10 Twitter accounts to follow if you are interested in Somali politics, so you can keep up with all the latest news, analysis, controversy, surprises, and the latest development as they happen. The list includes journalists, analysts, academics, and others.
This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of the biggest or best known accounts. This is the Twitter accounts that we judged to be the most influential and smartest on all shades of the political spectrum, based on best use of Twitter through frequency, aggregation, interaction, and how useful we felt their content is.
We did not consider the number of followers they have.
Do you think we missed a brilliant Twitter account that should be on this list? Make your case in the comments below.
The list below is in no particular order of rank.
Harun is a VOA journalists and host for Investigative Dossier, a VOA radio program and the first-of-its-kind by Somali media. He tweets breaking news on politics, security, and anything else on Somalia. He is a must-follow for Somalia breaking news.
Rashid is a researcher and an analyst. He tweets on security, migration, stabilisation, political, and geopolitical developments. He is an essential follow for anyone interested in Somalia political analysis. He is a researcher at Research and Evidence Facility. He is a former Horn of Africa project director at International Crisis Group, and a former analyst at BBC Monitoring.
Afyare is an assistant professor of international politics at the Qatar University’s International Affairs Department. He is the author of “Understanding the Somalia Conflagration: Identity, Political Islam and Peacebuilding.” He tweets on Somalia politics, and could be of help if you are interested.
Adam Aw Hirsi
Adam is a former minister in Jubbaland, a regional admnistartion in southern Somalia. He also served as policy advisor to Somalia prime minister. He tweets on politics, and also acts as fact-checker for those he finds tweeting or writing false information on Somalia.
Abdimalik is a researcher and an analyst. His tweets mainly focus on politics, governance, and geo-politics. He was recently appointed as a lead researcher communications officer at Somali Public Agenda. He provides world-class analysis on Somali politics, and sometimes offers recommendations. He is an essential follow if you need to understand Somali politics, both at federal and state levels.
Abdirashid is the director of Heritage Institute, a think-tank based in Mogadishu. He is also former government minister, an analyst at International Crisis Group, and a communications director at Villa Somalia. He is an expert on Somali issues, and would be helpful if you follow him. He provides recommendations in his tweets.
Farah is a former Deputy Speaker of the Kenya National Assembly, and served as a member of parliament for 10 years. He advocates for a stronger, effective Somali central government.
He backs the federal government irrespective of who is in charge of Villa Somalia. He tweets against foreign interference in Somalia and is a vocal defender of the current administration. If you are interested in how foreign countries do interfere with Somalia’s internal affairs, Farah is an ideal follow.
Abdulaziz Bilow Ali
Abdulaziz is a journalist working for China Global Television based in Mogadishu. He tweets everything-Somalia, including breaking news. If you need to catch up with the latest news and development, he is a nice follow.
Sahra Abdi Ahmed
Sahra is a VOA journalist. She has more than 15 years’ experience in journalism, and she previously worked with Reuters. Her tweets focus on politics and social issues.
Hassan is a freelance journalist based in Mogadishu. He tweets breaking news and news reports on Somalia, and other Somalia-related stories. He is an ideal follow.
Ideas3 months ago
The 10 Somalis who shaped the decade
Media4 months ago
Why President Farmajo follows no one on Twitter
Politics3 months ago
Why al Shabab keeps on attacking Kenya?
Political tweets4 weeks ago
The top 10 Twitter accounts to follow in Somali politics
Politics7 months ago
Why Everyone is Afraid of Fatuma Gedi
Politics3 weeks ago
What does Kenya want in Jubbaland?
Politics4 weeks ago
Somalia, Kenya row: What is at stake?
Somalia: Changing the Narrative6 months ago
A Somali Imam is Using Storytelling To Change Society and Political System