The EastAfrican, 28 June 2020: Somalia’s President Mohamed Farmajo has taken a step further to mend relations with federal member states and put the electoral programme back on track.
On Wednesday, President Farmajo invited all the five federal state presidents to Mogadishu to a meeting, set for July, to discuss elections, national security and economic issues.
The invitation followed a series of positive moves by President Farmajo, which included recognising Jubbaland President Ahmed Madobe, and agreeing to restart dialogue with stakeholders.
Abdinur Mohamed Ahmed, the spokesperson of Villa Somalia, the official residence of the Somalia president, said the face-to-face meeting is planned for July 5 to 8.
“His Excellency (Mohamed Farmajo) will host Federal Member States Presidents and Governor of Banadir Administration in Mogadishu to deliberate on a vast of issues significant to the Federal Republic of Somalia,” Mr Ahmed said.
Earlier in the week, President Farmajo held virtual talks with the leaders of Jubbaland, Puntland, South West, Galmudug and Hirshabelle.
The meeting was the first time the Somali President had talked directly with the federal leaders in a year.
PRESSURE AND DIALOGUE
There has been pressure from international partners, especially the UN and the US government, for the president to hold talks.
“[The UN Secretary-General] calls on all stakeholders to continue to engage in dialogue to advance national priorities, which require political consensus and broad support,” Stephane Dujarric, the spokesperson of the UN Secretary-General said this week.
Despite the invitation to the meeting, there are still trust issues between stakeholders.
“The meeting is a good gesture, after nearly two years of no substantive communication and collaboration between the federal government and the federal member states,” said Ilyas Ali Hassan, a Somali senator and foreign secretary of opposition party Himilo-Qaran, which is led by former president Sheikh Sharif Ahmed.
“My worry is if both sides don’t agree on what is important for the country at this critical time, that is, an electoral model and elections to happen on time. We have just three months left,” Mr Hassan told The EastAfrican.
When the virtual meeting ended on Monday, a dispatch indicated that the leaders had agreed to meet face to face, but that parliament will delay debating amendments to electoral regulations until the input of the federal member states is included.
However, on Wednesday, details emerged that the Lower House (House of the People) had already debated and passed amendments. One motion, signed by 130 MPs, agreed to allocate more seats to Mogadishu and Somaliland — two contentious points in the amendments.
In the wake of the debate, Upper House (Senate) Speaker Abdi Hashi issued a statement claiming that up to 27 articles in the regulations drafted by 17-member ad-hoc committee of parliament may have been changed (by unnamed third parties) before they were tabled on the floor of the House.
“What the Lower House has done is to illegitimise the work of the ad-hoc committee. But it is more dangerous, because the issue of those amendments was subject to the virtual meeting where leaders agreed that those laws be considered only after the face to face meeting,” Mohamed Hassan Idriss, a Somali legislator told The EastAfrican.
“The situation may get worse because the Committee’s work may become null and void. And the meeting itself will be at stake,” the Mr Idriss added.
The committee, which had been tasked with drafting regulations for the upcoming elections had earlier submitted their drafts to the Speakers of both houses, awaiting debate and approval.
One of the issues to be agreed on was the electoral model, participants and representation for the Mogadishu metropolitan region of Banadir, currently not a federal state and which has no representation in the House. The regulations also govern representation for breakaway Somaliland, and the quota for women and special interest groups.
One contentious proposal is whether Somalia should continue with the clan-based system in elections. Puntland state, which declared autonomy in 1991, has insisted clans should not be used in the upcoming elections, a position supported by Jubbaland. Yet Somalia doesn’t have time left to register voters, of money to finance the programme.
As it is, a new parliament needs to be installed by the end of November to avoid a vacuum. Yet there are all indications it may not be ready, and may seek an extension. Last week, opposition alliance Forum for National Parties rejected the idea of extending the term of parliament, and effectively that of the President.
President Farmajo has pledged to hold elections on time.