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Somalia has a ‘man problem’, and it needs to fix it

Editorial Team

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An all-man group photo of Somalia government director-generals
   

This week, a group photo of director-generals of government ministries appeared on social media. The director-generals were 22, all men. Somalis asked, where are the women? No one in government bothered to answer that question.

While there are an uncountable number of professional Somali women, the photo gave the impression that there are no women who are qualified to hold this kind of work.

Somali women are under-represented in every sector of the society: economic, social and politics. The minimum quota for women in parliamentary representation is 30 percent, but this has not been achieved yet: women have just 24 percent of seats.

Although this is an improvement, women were not involved in the initial stage of the election. Currently, the Somali politics is a clan-based which requires male traditional elders to select delegates which would in turn elect members of parliament. Even if the country goes for a direct election, women will still face the same challenges.

Women rights are some of the many casualties of a three-decade old civil war in Somalia that followed the collapse of the last effective central government in 1991.

Somalia is now ranked the fourth most dangerous country to be a woman and the endless civil war continues to fuel violence against women.

The government has taken positive steps to create laws that guarantee women their rights, doing away all forms of discrimination in employment, politics and education. The problem is it has not been implemented.

For example, in 2016, the cabinet proposed a bill, known as the National Gender Policy, and sent it to parliament for approval. It is still lying there. If passed, we do not know when, women will the legal rights to earn as much as men and to run for political office, including the presidency.

A number of women have declared their interest to stand in the last presidential election, but withdrew their candidacy due to threats from al Shabab group and other sections of the society.

Islamic scholars as well as ordinary Somalis condemned the bill. They said it promoted Western culture by granting “excessive” rights to women, and some even thought it endorses same sex relationships.

Al Shabab, which is fighting to overthrow the government in Mogadishu, has also condemned the gender policy at the time, saying it “promotes Western culture.” A pro-Al-Shabab website Somali Memo reported the policy under the headline: “Somali government passes law legalising same sex marriage.”

The country’s top Islamic body, the Somali Religious Council, reacted to the proposed gender policy bill. “It is a dangerous policy, which has nothing to do with Islam,” said Sheikh Bashir Ahmed, the council chairman.

It is a recipe for rebellion against their parents and husbands; a situation that is likely to weaken Muslim society, the council’s chair said.

In an interview with Radio Shebelle, Ahmed accused the peacekeeping force Amisom – African Union Mission in Somalia – of promoting the policy by helping organise women conferences. This prompted Information Minister Mohamed Mareye that Amisom was not involved in policy making.

Social media users reacted too, with many contributors mistaking the “gender equality” to mean same sex marriage.

The Somali Religious Council later said it supports the bill after consulting the government, although it insisted the policy gives ‘excessive right’ to women.

In 2013, a court in Mogadishu handed a six-month jail sentence to a 19 year-old woman who said members of the country’s security forces raped her. Two journalists who reported the rape were also jailed for “defamation and insulting state institutions.” Reporting on rape is one of the most sensitive topics in the conservative Horn of Africa nation due to culture and social stigmas.

And in 2018, al Shabab killed a woman they accused of being married to 11 women at the same time. They buried her neck-deep and stoned her to death at a public square in southern town of Sablale. Victims of al Shabab brutality do not get fair legal representation at al Shabab “Islamic courts”.

These are just examples, a big number of Somali women continue to suffer the same way.

Until the government changes its behaviour toward women and women in parliament and outside of it speak up for their rights, more than half of Somalia’s population will continue to suffer in injustice.

1 Comment

1 Comment

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    Ibrahim

    July 5, 2020 at 7:55 am

    Advancing women agenda in Somalia is a recipe to chaos. Somalis are extremely politically ignorant and they always wish to exercise their power to the end. With little knowledge and lack of institutional establishment that control power hungry members in the society , giving women space will lead the country into anarchy.

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Politics

How the ambitions of Hassan Ali Khaire contributed to his fall

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In mid-2018, Hassan Ali Khaire assembled his communications team and asked them to build a strong social media presence for his office and create a public image for himself. He wanted his government’s work to be publicised and to show Somalis and the world a new prime ministerial office never seen before in the post-civil war Somalia. He wanted to portray a powerful, superior prime minister.

The immediate-former prime minister was the only government official running three different Twitter accounts. The official account for the office of the prime minister, two personal accounts; one in English (and Somali) and the other in Arabic – to communicate with the Arab world – Somalia is a member of the Arab League, and the Gulf countries play their geopolitics in Somalia. Other politicians did not think of this, but Khaire did. He is a former corporate executive and an NGO manager. Khaire understands the importance of media more than other Somali politicians do. He is the most eloquent politician Somalia has seen in recent decades.

President Mohamed Farmajo and PM Khaire set to finish their first term in office together, run for office again and return to Villa Somalia together, but Khaire had an ambition, a presidential ambition. He wanted to succeed Farmajo, and Farmajo knew it. No one saw their break up coming.

Since 2000, every president had some sort of disagreement with his prime minister. Farmajo and Khaire had disagreements but it was hidden from the public. Because of this, Khaire became the longest serving premier in the post-civil war era.

The debate around Somalia’s election of which no one knows when and how it will happen is what killed the broamance between Farmajo and Khaire. The trust between the two has been broken. Farmajo wants a direct election in which the Somali public can pick their political representatives. The president’s opponents say a direct election will not be possible, and that Farmajo is using the universal suffrage as an excuse to extend his term in office. Khaire was seen as supporting the ideas of his boss’ opponents; he always called for timely polls, although the government never said it would delay elections.

There is no love lost between the leaders of the federal member states (FMS) and Farmajo. Khaire thought this was an opportunity to exploit: get closer to these leaders and alienate the president. When FMS leaders gathered in the central town of Dhuusamareeb in July to discuss the electoral process, Khaire left Mogadishu and joined them to negotiate for clan-based election which would take place as schedule. Days later, Farmajo flew to Dhuusamareeb and joined other leaders, beating Khaire at his own game. It was a battle of tactics won by Farmajo.

FMS leaders accidentally exposed Khaire in his double-dealing between Farmajo and FMS leaders. According to privy sources, Khayre prodded FMSs to reject one person, one vote in private while he pretended to be on Farmajo’s side in public.

In one of those farewell banquets in Dhuusamareeb, one FMS leader told Farmajo to drop the quest for one person, one vote like every other principal. It was like saying, ‘your PM is with us on this.’

One Western country was fond of Khaire to the extent that their diplomats in Halane were openly hostile to Farmajo in favour of his prime minister. To that end, that particular country was indirectly pushing for indirect elections which they thought will favour Khaire. Inside sources say that this particular country pushed the envelope too hard in not only giving Khaire false hope of easy presidency but also made him alienate his boss and the parliament.

The Lower House has passed an election law backing the one person, one vote election, but the Senate isn’t convinced about the possibility of direct polls. Sources within the Senate say Khaire was behind a statement by the Upper House leadership disagreeing with the possibility of holding a direct election, and called for talks between the president and the FMS leaders. On the electoral issue, Farmajo and Khaire have been pulling from different ends, Khaire whispering behind the president’s back silently, according to Villa Somalia insiders.

“We cannot lead a country when the prime minister is working against the president. The president is giving Somalis a chance to elect their leaders direct, and Khaire is against this,” a close ally of President Farmajo told The Frontier.

On July 25, three days after the Dhuusamareeb conference concluded, the Somali parliament voted to withdraw confidence from PM Khaire and his administration. At mid-night, he accepted the parliamentary decision and resigned.

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Politics

US says Somali parliament’s removal of Khayre ‘illegal’

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The United States has expressed regrets over the removal of Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre from office in a vote of no-confidence by parliament.

The US embassy in Mogadishu, in a statement, said there has been ‘irregularities’ in the vote to withdraw confidence in Prime Minister Khayre and his government.  It said the action of the parliament and the president ‘heightened political tensions and undermined the ongoing process of dialogue and negotiation’ between the Federal Government of Somalia, Federal Member States, and other key stakeholders.

“This irregular process is a setback for the reform agenda Somalia has pursued with the support of the United States.  Somalia’s stability, security, and prosperity can only be built through cooperation, coordination, and compromise among Somalia’s leaders; if any individual or institution seeks to dominate the others, it undermines the stability of the entire nation,” read part of the statement.

The embassy said the only path forward to timely, peaceful, implementable federal elections is through broad-based consultation and constructive dialogue among stakeholders.

Developing a workable, broadly acceptable election model is key to preserving Somalia’s security and stability, it said.

The US is one of Somalia’s key donors and supports its military. The United States has provided more than $3 billion in humanitarian assistance for Somalia since fiscal year 2006 to address the problems of drought, famine, and refugees. Since 2011, the United States has provided an additional $253 million in development assistance to support economic, political, and social sectors to achieve greater stability, establish a formal economy, obtain access to basic services, and attain representation through legitimate, credible governance.

Last year, the US reopened a bureau for the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, that has been closed since a civil war began here in 1991.

The US has around 500 soldiers and military advisors based in Somalia that often accompany the Somali army and special operations forces on ground raids against al Shabab group.

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Politics

Somali parliament removes Prime Minister Ali Khayre

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Somali lawmakers voted to remove Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire and his cabinet, a move that is likely to delay elections, deteriorating recent gains in the Horn of Africa nation.

A hundred and seventy members of parliament supported the vote while eight rejected, according to Speaker Mohamed Mursal Abdirahman.

President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo is required to appoint a new premier in 30 days, but may do so in days.

“The rift between the government and the legislature is undermining the progress that has been made, and to that end I have decided to consider the voice of the House of Representatives as the foundation of our nationhood,” Farmajo said in a statement carried on state media.

Khaire, a former oil executive, was appointed in February 23 and approved by parliament in March 2017.

The country is planning to go for elections, but it is still unclear what kind of elections it will have. The electoral commission said it is planning to hold a one person, one vote in a year, while the opposition is calling for a timely election which means it prefers the current clan system where clan elders pick legislators.

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