Analysis: Somali power struggle could intensify as premier quits

The 19 June resignation of Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed could prompt an intensified power struggle within the country’s transitional government and negatively affect the ongoing offensive against insurgents in the capital, Mogadishu, observers say.

Mohamed, better known as `Farmaajo’, told the press in Mogadishu he was stepping down “in the interest of the Somali people”.

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“Whatever gains the `Farmaajo’ cabinet made were offset by the bickering between the two Sharifs [President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, and Speaker of Parliament Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden],” an observer in Mogadishu said. “Plainly speaking, he is a casualty of their power struggle [i.e. between speaker and president], but removing him is not going to solve the rift between them.”

According to a Mogadishu-based analyst who preferred anonymity, the rift between President Sharif and his former ally, Speaker Aden, is complicating the work of government and “a new PM will face the same challenges as the last one. He will be a rubber stamp for the two [Ahmed and Aden]”.

Mohamed’s departure was part of a deal, signed on 9 June in Kampala, Uganda, between the president and the speaker, extending the mandates of the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFI) for a year until August 2012.

However, Mohamed’s departure is unlikely to solve the rift within the leadership of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), analysts and observers say.

Mohamed was plucked from the USA in 2010 and was the fourth prime minister since the TFG was established in 2004. It had been hoped Mohamed would breathe new life into the TFG. Since his swearing in on 1 November 2010, he had significant success against Al-Shabab militants and won popular support for his efforts.

“The TFG faces a very uncertain future,” Rashid Abdi, Horn of Africa analyst for the International Crisis Group (ICG), told IRIN. “The TFG is weak, deeply fragmented, saddled with serious structural problems, lacks military muscle, has very little credibility.”

Abdi said the TFG was part of the problem but could become part of the solution if it had good leaders: “As long as you have a group of self-serving leaders in charge of the TFG, it is unlikely we will see any progress.”

The TFG is behind schedule in terms of achieving the transitional tasks it should complete by the time its mandate is over. These include a new constitution and elections in August 2012 when the TFG’s mandate ends.

The TFG is also expected to conduct a national census; organize a national referendum to approve the new constitution; and set up administrations at the state, regional and district levels, among other functions.

“Bonanza” for Al-Shabab?

The infighting not only delays these tasks but, according to a civil society source in Mogadishu, is a “bonanza” for Al-Shabab.

“For the first time, the TFG was making progress against them [Al-Shabab]; the group was on a losing streak with little chance of recovering but this [infighting] has given them a new lease of life,” the source said.

Other analysts said the TFG faces additional problems such as meddling and intervention by regional countries.

“The Kampala accord has many potentially fatal flaws to it, including the insertion of Uganda as the final arbiter of its implementation,” said Laura Hammond, a senior lecturer in the department of Development Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London.

Uganda’s increased oversight will be seen as a deepening of this unwanted intervention, she said, adding, “it is hard to see how Somalis will be able to find the political space to develop the kind of legitimate government that is needed with Uganda playing such a heavy-handed and paternalistic role.”

Another Somali analyst expressed a similar view, adding that whenever Somalia’s cabinet is formed, often it is not representative of Somalis. “Unfortunately, each one of our leaders is tied to a foreign country. They [foreign countries] are patrons and give the orders. No matter how much we shout, it doesn’t amount to much.”

The ICG’s Abdi said Somalis were the primary authors of their own misery.

“International meddling is a reality, but we need to be cautious against heaping all the blame on foreigners,” he said. “IGAD [the Intergovernmental Authority on Development in Eastern Africa] – led by Kenya and Ethiopia – have vested interests and [are] unlikely to help stabilize Somalia in the longer term. AMISOM [the Africa Union Mission in Somalia] is increasingly getting sucked into the conflict, and Uganda is getting more deeply involved. There is also rivalry between these three regional powers.

Dysfunctional

Others see the all the TFIs as dysfunctional and in need of reform, with a parliament of 550 members and an executive that does not work.

“The extension envisaged in the Kampala Accord will do nothing to improve the TFIs,” a Nairobi-based regional analyst who preferred anonymity, said. “What is needed is not extension but to reform, restructure or replace them [TFIs]”.

The Mogadishu-based analyst agrees. “What we have is a bloated parliament, full of self-serving individuals, with little or no sympathy for the plight of ordinary Somalis.”

He said without an overhaul of the parliament “Somalia will remain where it is and the TFG will in all probability die.”

The ICG’s Abdi also sees a less stable TFG in the coming year but not a total collapse.

“Very doubtful we will see greater stability within the TFG in the coming one year,” he said. “The most likely scenario is the breakup of the TFG into two factions each claiming legitimacy.”

Hammond of SOAS also believes the TFG will survive this bout of infighting.

“They have recovered from crises as bad or worse than this, and I think that given the recent military advances and the killing of Fazul [Abdulla, alleged international terrorism mastermind recently gunned down in Mogadishu] mean that the international community will not abandon the TFG but will prop it up to be able to hold on to these successes.”

Source: IRIN