Why Somali gov’t is unmoved by the Jubbaland leader’s reconciliation efforts

The Somali Federal Government remains silent on the reconciliation between Jubbaland President Ahmed Mohamed Islam, aka Ahmed Madobe, and his main rivals in the region.

The agreement, signed with Abdirashid Hiddig, Abdinasir Seeraar, and Dahir Ahmed Sheikh, three of the most vocal critics of Madobe, in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on 23 April, gives the Jubbaland leader a much-needed boost as he tries to weather the relentless campaign against him by the central government.

The international community, led by the US and UN missions in Somalia, were quick to endorse the agreement.

Influential political figures in the country, such as former Presidents Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, prominent opposition leader Abdirahman Abdishakur Warsame, and a host of other players joined their voice to the chorus of support for the political accord.

When Madobe returned to Kismayo from Nairobi yesterday, it could be said that he had the wind at his back. He hailed the reconciliation with his rivals, called for unity in the country amidst the Coronavirus pandemic ravaging much of the world, and reiterated his call for unconditional talks with leaders in Villa Somalia.

His calls had been ignored, so far, and there is little to show there will be any positive reaction from Mogadishu.

For one, the central government does not recognise the legitimacy of Madobe. It had rejected his re-election in August last year as an unconstitutional “self-appointment”. Thus, any action he takes, the government can easily dismiss.

Secondly, the central government feels it can afford to keep the pressure on Ahmed Madobe. As things stand now, it is the central government that has most, if not all, of the cards.

Here is one of several reasons the federal government is confident about the situation. Jubbaland is made up of three regions, Lower Jubba, Middle Jubba and Gedo.

The government has already wrested control of Gedo from Madobe’s administration. Middle Jubba is controlled by Al-Shabaab. And, if sources are to be believed, Mogadishu is planning to seize Middle Jubba from Al-Shabaab before Madobe’s forces do. That leaves only Lower Jubba for Madobe’s administration.

Villa Somalia leaders are counting on this scenario playing out according to plan and President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo winning re-election. Then, the government would have all the time and resources it needs to bring the Kismayo administration to its knees.

One more reason that President Farmajo and his allies feel confident in this dispute is the involvement of Kenya. Farmajo thrives on nationalism, and the involvement of a foreign country, one that is involved in a territorial dispute with Somalia no less, on the side of Madobe only strengthens Farmajo’s hand.

Of course, there are Ethiopian troops supporting the president in this, but Farmajo and his allies would urge that they have legitimacy on their side. Ethiopia is acting on the behest of the Somali State, alongside the Somali government, while Kenya is actively working against the Somali government of the day.

This is, perhaps, one reason why it has been so hard for the Jubbaland administration to rally the Somali people and the international community against Villa Somalia’s blatant disregard for the constitution and the federal system in the country.

As complicated as Somali politics is, however, and given the sheer number of competing interests in the country, this scenario is unlikely to play out the way the president and his allies wish it will.

Regardless of motive, the current position of the central government is a threat to the hard-earned progress made so far on the country’s peace and state building process. Madobe might not be a saint, but he is ready for reconciliation. Leaders in Mogadishu should seize the chance and make something out of it.