Somalia’s Jubbaland election: A battle between federalists and centrists

The Somali federal member state of Jubbaland, a state that hosts most of the Somali clans in its regions, will hold elections in the coming two months. Right now, a strong contest is going on in the state between various clans and political alliances. The more intense competition is between State President Ahmed Madobe’s sub-clan, the Ogaden, and Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo’s sub-clan, the Marehan.

Both of these sub-clans are from the larger Darod clan, which dominates politics in the state. The Ogaden sub-clan has 21 votes, Marehan has 19 votes, Harti Darod has 7 votes and Laylkase has 1 vote, giving the Darod clan a combined 48 votes.

The state is also inhabited by the Hawiye, Digil and Mirifle, Dir and others. Most of them, however, are marginalized and have no tangible political voice in the region. Digil and Mirifle has 10 votes, Hawiye has 6, Dir 3 and minorities have a combined 7 votes. Apart from the clan rivalry, Farmajo and Ahmed Madobe are also at loggerheads over the government system in the country. Madobe believes in a federal government system, while President Farmajo prefers the return of a centralized government. The struggle between the two approaches, the bottom up and the top down, started immediately after Farmajo was elected president.

Neighbouring countries’ influence

There are African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops operating in the Lower Jubba Region. Most of the AMISOM troops in the region are from Kenya and Ethiopia, Somalia’s neighbours. It is believed that Ahmed Madobe is supported by Kenya while Farmajo gets support from Ethiopia. Fahad Yasin, the acting director of the National Intelligence Agency and Farmajo’s right-hand man, has in the past few weeks been busy attempting to use Ethiopian military intelligence agents to interfere in the Jubbaland elections, trying to replicate the government’s success in the South West State elections that were held in baidoa. Hassan Ibrahim, former commander of the Ethiopian military intelligence, who is currently under house arrest, is believed to have had close ties with Fahad Yasin. Fahad, whose step-father and wife are both Marehan, had reportedly been bribing Hassan Ibrahim.

President Farmajo’s favoured candidates

For various reasons, it is not easy for Farmajo to push a Jubbaland presidential candidate from his sub-clan. He does not want the contest to look like a race between two rival sub-clans, nor does he wish the Ogaden to be united in this contest. He is putting a lot of effort in supporting a candidate from Ahmed Madobe’s sub-clan to divide the Ogaden vote. As has emerged, it is clear he is supporting four candidates, three of whom are eventually going to drop out and declare support for the remaining candidate. They include Abdirashid Hidig, a member of the federal parliament and former interior state minister, Mohamed Omar, the current Somali minister of air and land transport, Abdinasir Serar, former Jubbaland spokesman, and Mohamed Yusuf Aw-Dahir, who works with FAO.

It is thought that Aw-Dahir is Farmajo’s favourite among the four, because Dahir’s mother and wife are both from the Marehan sub-clan. He is a man Farmajo can pressure into supporting the Marehan. In the event of a loss for Farmajo’s candidate, the president’s plan B is to reject the results of the election, re-starting the whole contest afresh. The Jubbaland election will also be a test for the international community, because Jubbaland is important for an inclusive political process in Somalia and the struggle between the bottom up and top down approaches in the country. Given that the international community has been silently watching Farmajo’s efforts to dismantle the federal system in the country, many Somalis assume he has their blessings in this matter.