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Somalia’s Galmudug, battered by political crisis, elects new leader

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Ahmed Abdi Kariye, a former state minister for public works, has been elected president of Somalia’s central state of Galmudug in an election that saw multiple delays and political wrangles.

Kariye, also known as Qorqor, who was backed by President Mohamed Farmajo and Prime Minster Hassan Kheyre, received 66 votes out of 77 votes cast by members of Galmudug State Assembly.

Kariye’s main rival, Abdirahman Odowaa – fronted by two former presidents – Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, withdrew from the contest and rejected the outcome, citing interference from the federal government in Mogadishu, which he said was planning to manipulate the election. Two other main contenders also withdrew from the race.
Galmudug parliament has 89 members, 20 of whom are drawn from Ahlu Sunnah wal Jama’a, a Sufi paramilitary group.

Galmudug’s election, which was to take place in July last year, has been postponed for months due to political wrangles among local political actors and the federal government and ‘technical challenges.’ The bone of contention was the composition of the local electoral commission, which the opposition parties including Ahlu Sunnah, said was handpicked by Mogadishu, a move they said was undermining democracy and could open the door for manipulation.

The election of Kariye indicates the seriousness of the Villa Somalia duo; President Farmajo and Premier Kheyre, of making sure their preferred candidates win in Somalia’s regional elections. Last week, another Villa Somalia-backed candidate won Galmudug parliamentary Speaker.

Somalia has five state governments, created under the country’s federal constitution, each maintain its own police and security forces, and have a degree of autonomy over their affairs, but are subject to the authority of the federal government.

The states and the federal governments have been engaged in disagreements, with the former announcing the suspension of ties with the government in Mogadishu.

In December 2018, Abdiazizi Mohamed, commonly known as Laftagaren, a former Water and Energy Minister, also backed by Villa Somalia, was elected leader of South West State after Mukhtar Robow Abu Manusr, a former al Shabab deputy leader and spokesman, seen as favourite to win was barred from running and later arrested. The government said Abu Mansur was a security threat and was subject to UN Security Council sanctions. Eleven people, including a parliamentarian, were killed in a protest violence that followed his arrest.

Kariye’s victory is seen as a boost for Farmajo and Kheyre who are seeking reelection in 2021. Three out of the country’s five state governments are seen as allies of Mogadishu.

In 2019, Villa Somalia failed to install or get its preferred candidates elected in Jubbaland, a southern state, and Puntland, in the northeast. In August 2019, Jubbaland state in southern Somalia reelected Ahmed Islam, popularly known as Ahmed Modobe as its leader, but the government in Mogadishu and the local opposition rejected the result, saying it was manipulated. Mogadishu was backing Madobe’s main rival who later withdrew from the contest.

The legitimacy of the new Galmudug administration is in serious jeopardy and a prolonged conflict is potentially high in Galmudug. The state already has two other opposing administrations, one led by Ahlu Sunnah, and another led by the region’s former leader Ahmed Gelle.

The election of Kariye could also lead to a political crisis and possibly violence by those opposed to the electoral process, including politicians and clan elders who wield immense influence. It could also result further disintegration of the state into fiefdoms run by sub-clans, who have engaged in armed conflict with one another for long. Galmudug has 11 main sub-clans, more than any other state. Galmudug is the home state of President Famajo, Prime Minister Kheyre, and the former immediate President Hassan Mohamud, and it is the defecto epicenter of Somalia’s politics. The state was established in 2015, but since then it had four presidents.

To avoid armed conflict and anew circle of political crisis, the new administration, with the backing of the federal government, should accommodate others and a power sharing deal could calm the situation, possibly the creation of a premier or chief minister.

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Politics

What does Kenya want in Jubbaland?

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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.

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Political tweets

The top 10 Twitter accounts to follow in Somali politics

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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 Maruf

Handle: @HarunMaruf

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 Abdi

Handle: @RAbdiCG

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 Elmi

Handle: @afyare_elmi

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

Handle: @JustAwHirsi

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 Abdullahi

Handle: @Abdimaleik

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 Hashi

Handle: @AnalystSomalia

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 Maalim

Handle: @FarahMaalimM

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

Handle: @AbdulBilowAli

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

Handle: @SahraCabdi

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 Istiila

Handle: @HassanIstiila

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.

 

 

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Politics

Somalia, Kenya row: What is at stake?

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The relationship between Somalia and Kenya continues to deteriorate, each feeling undermined by the other.

Somalia accuses Kenya of meddling in its internal affairs and warned Nairobi to stop its encroachment in the border areas. Kenya denied the claims as “baseless and invalid”.

On its part, Kenya has accused Somalia of violating its territorial integrity when fighting between a militia group allied to Abdirashid Janan, minister of security in Jubbaland, a regional administration in southern Somalia and Somali National Army in the border town of Buula Hawa spilled into Mandera town on the Kenyan side last week, forcing hundreds of Mandera residents to flee. Somalia blamed Kenya for backing the militia and harbouring Janan.

President Mohamed Farmajo and his Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta spoke by phone and agreed to deescalate the situation, work together to improve border security, and form a joint committee to strengthen diplomatic and trade ties.

Here are issues that are threatening ties between the two neighbours.

Maritime dispute

The two neighbours are engaged in a border dispute in the Indian Ocean, a 100 square kilometres triangle rich in oil and gas.

Kenya has accused Somalia of auctioning part of its oil blocks in the Indian Ocean to Western oil firms during an oil conference in London in February 2019.

Somalia denied Kenya’s allegations, and said the conference was meant to present the results of seismic surveys and showcase possible locations in the country where oil reserves can be extracted in the future.

After the London event, Kenya ordered Somalia’s ambassador in Nairobi to leave the country and recalled its ambassador in Mogadishu.

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.

Somalia wants the maritime boundary to run southeast as an extension of the land border while Kenya says the border should run eastwards following the line of latitude. The ICJ is expected to deliver a judgment later this year.

The case was to be heard in September initially, but was postponed to November following a request by Kenya. The ICJ may also review another request made by Kenya for a 12-month delay of the public hearing.

Jubbaland

Kenya has troops in Somalia under the African Union Mission stationed in Jubbaland. Nairobi backs Jubbaland regional government led by Ahmed Mohamed Islam, also known as Madobe, because Kenya wants Jubbaland to acts as a buffer zone against al Shabab militants and for its regional interests. Despite the ‘buffer zone,’ al Shabab carries out deadly attacks inside Kenya.

In August 2019, Jubbaland held a controversial election in which Madobe was declared the winner. President Farmajo’s administration rejected the result, saying the election was not credible. Kenya backed Madobe’s election and sent delegation to Kismayu during his inauguration.

Somalia wants Kenya to stop interfering in its internal affairs, both at state and national levels. Jubbaland is one of Somalia’s federal member states.

Fugitive minister

Somalia is accusing Kenya of harbouring Jubbaland security minister Abdirashid Janan, who escaped from a Mogadishu prison in January.

Mogadishu accuses Janan of committing grave human rights violations and killing civilians in Gedo province, southwest Somalia. Janan was held for months and was awaiting trial. He is believed to be in Mandera

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