The past few weeks have seen a turbulent moment in the Somali community. In recent months, the opposition, both in Mogadishu and in the regional states of Puntland and Jubaland, has decided to use brinkmanship tactics to put pressure on President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo to agree to their terms on national elections.
The end of the term of the Farmajo administration
This pressure peaked on February 8 when the president’s term officially expired. We expected the worst but the government did not waver as the opposition expected.
Then, the leaders of Puntland and Jubaland, Said Deni and Ahmed Madobe, who were already dragging their feet to reach an agreement with the president on these long-awaited elections, did everything to deny the President the satisfaction of an agreement.
The opposition of the Union of Presidential Candidates (UPC) gathered at the Jazeera Hotel in Mogadishu has hardened their tone even more. They did not hesitate to use firearms and allowed themselves to assemble an armed militia to “protect” them against possible government attacks.
Demonstration and skirmishes around Daljirka Dahsoon Square
The crisis escalated when the leader of the Opposition militia declared that there is no government in Somalia and that he does not recognize the current administration. The militia had taken up position in the vicinity of Daljirka Dahsoon Square where the demonstration was to be held the next day.
On the morning of February 19, the day the UPC opposition called for an antigovernment demonstration, security forces responding to an attack on their barracks stormed the square. There were injuries and deaths on both sides.
The demonstration took place anyway without the presence of the two former presidents, Hassan Sheikh and Sharif Ahmed, who were confined to the Hotel Mai’da located near the square now occupied by the security forces.
The demonstration, led by former Prime Minister Hassan Khayre and UPC members, did not last too long as heavy gunfire was heard and protesters dispersed to take cover.
There were no deaths or injuries but the crisis between the government and the opponents of the Jazeera hotel was such that an escalation of violence was expected which would return Somalia to its darkest time in history.
The worst did not happen and opponents surely did not expect this strong response from the government. The initial anxiety of the population gave way to the general amusement seeing the opposition and their militia in full flight.
Deni and Madobe block the elections
In the meantime, Said Deni and Ahmed Madoobe, who were to meet the president in the company of other regional leaders on the very day of the incidents in Mogadishu, canceled the planned meeting on the pretext of the insecurity that reigns in Mogadishu.
After the stalling of negotiations in Dhusamareeb on February 4 on the thorny question of the Gedo region in the elections, a technical committee bringing together technocrats from the regions was organized on February 15-16 by Prime Minister Robleh in Baidoa.
The committee’s report was to be endorsed by the regional leaders and the President at an umpteenth meeting on February 18 and 19, the day before and the day of the aborted demonstration.
Three days later Deni gives a speech in Garowe to a loyal audience. This speech which was seen live on Facebook shocked many more than one, so much he wanted to set the Benadir region clans against the President and his clan.
The Puntland leader blamed President Farmajo for the failed election talks. He also reproached him for leading the country to disaster. He also accused him of having dictatorial tendencies and of a narrow vision of the management of the country.
The next day, Said Deni and his friend Ahmed Madobe announced that they would only appear before the president under certain conditions, including the holding of the next meeting in the fortified district of Halane which is outside the control of the government, the enlargement talks to members of the UPC and the participation and guarantee of the international community.
The agreement between the Prime Minister and the UPC
The UPC opposition whose self-esteem was injured scheduled another demonstration the next Friday, February 26.
On February 25, the Prime Minister, seeking to defuse tension, organized a meeting with certain members of the UPC at the Décalé hotel.
The two parties agreed on several points: the government’s apologies for the escalations of violence on February 19, the establishment of an enquiry committee on these events, the postponement of the demonstration scheduled for February 26 and the opening of possible talks with the UPC on the organization of the elections.
This agreement, which essentially brought together only some members of the two main Hawiye sub-clans of Benadir, was however well received by the population, politicians of all stripes and the international community because it removed one more obstacle to the organization of the federal elections.