Around a week ago, Somali opposition candidates united under the Council of Presidential Candidates (CPC) released a letter of desperation demanding the government that President Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmajo” be barred from running for a second mandate.
In the press release, they accused President Farmajo of abusing his constitutional power by sending Somali soldiers trained by Eritrea to fight in Tigray , of deliberately withholding information from the public and ignoring appeals from the soldiers relatives.
Opposition’s bullying tactics
Knowing full well that one of them, Hassan Khayre, was then the prime minister who oversaw the sending of soldiers to Eritrea, and clearly lying about United Nation role and a “head of a foreign country” who supposedly confirmed Somali soldiers were fighting in Ethiopia, they took the liberty of slandering the President Farmajo.
They made once again serious accusations against a sitting president. But did Farmajo say anything about this? No, as usual. What is the government’s response. Radio silence.
However, in another part of the world, they would be sued for libel in a state court or even criminally charged for public disturbance. This kinds of charges usually involve fines and jail time.
Also, an incumbent leader who has these kinds of accusations under his belt would see his chances of being re-elected seriously reduced and failing to respond and allowing those accusations to be circulated endlessly would be career suicide, but not in Mogadishu.
Defamation, fabrication of truth, exaggeration, threats of violence and other unruly behavior unworthy of former leaders and potentially future one, have been used with impunity and surprisingly even worked for these presidential candidates before Farmajo’s May 1st speech.
Later, their disgraceful behaviors have toned down a little after Prime Minister Hussein Roble accepted to meet them and some of their “sane” demands were taken into consideration and included in the May 27 supplement agreement.
The opposition fragility
It is obviously bold for candidates to request another one to give up running for office because of baseless accusations gathered from unverified or unreliable sources. They could make a complaint to the Federal Election Commission if that candidate contravened election rules.
Some of their MPs supporters could also raise the issue to the parliament and make a motion since that institution has the last say in Somalia’s affairs. But, oops! They and their western backers discredited that honorable institution’s ability to legislate after the CPC violently attacked government buildings.
But who are these presidential candidates who act as judge and jury?
They were once in position of power. Among them there are two former presidents, one former prime minister and former cabinet ministers. All in their time were accused of corruption, mismanagement or abuse of power and were all honorably unseated.
In fact, like a crab hiding behind its shell and moving its pincers to ward off predators, presidential candidates commotions demonstrate their anxiety of being exposed and failing the moment of truth.
Let’s see how we got here.
Opposition finds solace in bitterness
Two months after the 2018 direct election agreement was replaced by the September 17 indirect election agreed with regional states after many meetings to accommodate recalcitrant Puntland and Jubaland leaders, the fourteen presidential candidates formed a coalition.
Thirteen former foes, each with their own political party and intention to overthrow President Farmajo, came together on November 2020 to form the CPC whose main goal was to change the game in their favor in a process where political parties are sidelined.
Now the necessity forced them to put together their wealth, their tricks and their local and foreign backers. This smart move paid eventually when they settled in Jazeera Hotel as their HQ to launch their daily attacks against the government and federal institutions.
Many doubted their strategy but their diabolic combination of press release, letters to international bodies and foreign embassies, polarizing speeches, incitement to rebellion made them key figures who couldn’t be overlooked in the long run.
They secured also other opposition figures backing namely Puntland and Jubaland leaders, and the Upper House speaker with who they established another coalition called National Salvation Forum to make common front to pressure on the government.
From February to April, this group and their foreign backers, think tanks and media – including BBC, VOA and Aljazeera – and some western countries, waged a smear campaign against president Farmajo from all angles.
The aim was to pressure the president and his government to resign and a National Transitional Council made up of the presidents of both chambers of parliament, opposition figures from the CPC, regional leaders and civil society groups to lead the country during this period.
Viability of the opposition on Election time
The coalition that made the CPC somewhat relevant is now a handicap for candidates now that the election campaign is in full swing.
What brought them together was pure opportunism, but now reality is catching up with them. There is no point whatsoever in sticking to an adversary if everyone wants to ensure a chance to win the presidential election.
While their common enemy is the outgoing president and their greatest strength, solidarity, is of no use beyond September 20, they might as well disband sooner or agree on one opposition candidate to stand against Farmajo.
In the eventuality they take the latter option, the question is: who is fit to take this role of champion?
Some say Sharif Sheikh Ahmed has the stature, foreign and local support and is less polarizing than the rest to get a chance of winning but as president he was inept and has lost twice in the last two presidential elections.
Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud might have Puntland, Jubaland, Somaliland (under the table though) and other foreign backing but he has had his time, he’s too divisive and regardless the Somali National Army does not want him back for his past embezzlement of ten months of their salary.
Abdirahman Abdishakur is a radical narcissist and too polarizing to get support from his partners in crime, and his own clan would not even trust him, let alone the Somali nation whose sea he sold to Kenya in 2009.
Hassan Khayre would have been a better choice but because he has a reputation for betraying his friends, no one knows what to expect from him. Also, many of his old-foes-now-friends-soon-foes in the CPC still believe he is secretly in cahoots with Farmajo because for far too long he was the face of this outgoing administration.
Desperation in display
The letter the opposition candidates published and all the false claims and pressure on the government in it sound hollow and counterproductive. In fact, it is another display of their desperation and another way to muddy the waters.
This opposition tried everything to get Farmajo renounce to run for his re-election. They tried violence, bullying, fake news, fearmongering, etc. They discredited the Parliament, they rejected the government, they have shunned any legal avenues and they shamed the nation.
In short, the coalition of opposition candidates has now become a basket of crabs as they don’t know how to get out of this mess in which they are sinking.