Central Somalia state in crisis amid row with moderate Islamist group

Galmudug state was established on 14 August 2006 as local administration in Mudug. However, 11 clans in Mudug and Galgadud regions agreed to unite under Galmudug, a single regional administration, that represents their interests in 2015. From its inception, there have been many challenges facing the fragile state.

One of the biggest challenges came from the Federal Government of Somalia, which refused to work with an administration whose leadership was not loyal to the Farmajo-led government.

Another player is the moderate Islamist group, Ahlu Sunnah Wal-Jama’ah, which controls large parts of Galmudug, including the state capital, Dusamareb.

The moderate Islamist group gained prominence after it fought and defeated militant group Al-Shabaab in central Somalia.

All these political difficulties in Galmudug could be resolved if the proper dialogue is held among the various political stakeholders.

There was hope after the Galmudug state parliament elected Ahmed Duale Haaf as president of the state in May 2017.

Haaf, who was elected in the then interim state capital, Adado, immediately started direct and indirect negotiations with Ahlu-Sunnah to broker a deal that would allow his administration to relocate to Dusamareb and unite the political stakeholders in the state.

In December 2017, Galmudug and Ahlu Sunnah signed an agreement in Djibouti. The agreement created a new executive position, the head of the cabinet, and that position was given to Sheikh Mohamed Shakir, one of Ahlu-Sunnah’s leaders.

The group was also allocated 85 seats in the Galmudug state parliament, who were then added to the previous 85-member parliament.

In exchange, Ahlu-Sunnah was to allow Galmudug state institutions to finally work in Dusamareb.

“I gave up part of my executive powers in order to have a united Galmudug,” President Haaf had said.

However, the federal government in Mogadishu saw Haaf’s move as a new threat amid its attempts to consolidate its power in regional states.

It started supporting a group of politicians who were not satisfied with Haaf’s deal with the Ahlu-Sunnah.

It kept supporting a faction of the Galmudug leadership, such as the state’s vice-president, Mohamed Hashi, and Speaker of the state parliament, who remained in Adado, in opposition to the agreement with Ahlu Sunnah.

This undermined the agreement, but Haaf continued to work in Dusamareb and held up his part of the deal.

Secret understanding

However, when the federal government reached a secret and separate understanding with Ahlu Sunnah recently, convincing the group’s leaders to agree to a fresh presidential election in Galmudug this July,  the political situation in Galmudug worsened.

President Haaf insisted that he wanted to complete his four-year term as president.

Ignoring this, the federal government announced that an election would be held in the region on 4 July 2019. This created a new political crisis in Galmudug as disagreements between Haaf and Ahlu-sunnah leaders intensified.

Haaf, who fled Dusamareb amid increasing hostilities from Ahlu Sunnah fighters, declared the Djibouti accord null and void, announcing fresh elections to be held in Adado town.

The federal government took this opportunity to act as a mediator between the two sides.

The Somali Prime Minister, Hassan Ali Kheyre, was in the region for over a week and is still working to create an environment for elections that would satisfy all parties involved.

He is reportedly trying to convince Ahlu-Sunnah fighters hand over control of Dusamareb to the Galmudug state government and federal government forces.

Political analysts are optimistic about a new agreement between the federal government, Galmudug leaders, and Ahlu-Sunnah.

However, it is hard to predict what such a new agreement will look like and how it will change the structure of the Galmudug administration.

The prime minister of Somalia has indicated that Ahlu-Sunnah agreed to welcome all Galmudug leaders and politicians to the state capital. He also announced that the group had placed all its militias and weapons under the control of the federal government. However, critics say that this method was tried with Ahlu-Sunnah before but it failed.

Ali Mohamed, a political analyst, states that in August 2013, the federal government under President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud signed an agreement with Ahlu-Sunnah and the group declared that it had handed over its weapons and troops to the government, but in actual sense, this did not happen.

“The distrust will continue to exist as long as the group acts as an organized group that refuses to integrate with state and federal government institutions,” Mohamed says.

Any new agreement should address the fundamental issues at stake in Galmudug like the future of Ahlu-Sunnah and its control of the state capital, Dusamareb, allowing federal and state security apparatus to take over control of the city and the reintegration of Ahlu-Sunnah militias into the Somali National Army.