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How Somalia Was Made ‘Great Again’

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In recent weeks the confluence of many issues and events of different shades and dangers made Somalia’s political situation more complicated. This being the last year of the current administration, challenges of that nature are not entirely new, but the intensity and volatility of these developments are.

However, this piece is not an attempt to chronicle each one of said challenges and lay the blame on one political actor or another, but to illustrate how the dirty and notoriously impulsive local politics that dominate the discourse has been turning the attention away from Somalia’s national interest and international predators that are elbowing each other for zero-sum booty control.  

The most critical being the American guerilla diplomats’ covert coup against their British counterparts that has been protecting Soma Oil and Gas’ exclusive interests. These diplomats adhere to no international laws and often employ shady tactics that neither the U.K. Foreign Office nor the US State Department would be willing to acknowledge.

Who Didn’t Start The Fire?

On Saturday July 25, the Lower House of the Somali parliament has held an extraordinary session passed a vote of no-confidence motion to oust Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire amidst electoral rancor that kept the federal states drifting away from the center.

Interestingly, the ousting came only a few days after he successfully orchestrated Dhusamareeb Agreement signed by President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo and the federal states and when there was less than six months remaining from the current government’s term.

After the election related items on the agenda were discussed, the Speaker of the Parliament, Mursal Mohamed Abdurahman, literally rammed in a no-confidence motion that was not even part of the agenda, ignored the ‘point of order’ raised by some MPs, and continued the hand counting. Within an hour or so, the surgical removal was complete: 170 ‘yes’ & 8 ‘no’. After ensuing commotion by the objecting MPs, the Speaker gaveled out of the session. Mission accomplished.

 Cold War Beween Partners 

Despite the popular perception that this was solely driven by that all too familiar ‘xilligii kala guurka’ (time to part ways) politics, this was the last phase of the diplomatic cleansing of the U.K. influence- Khaire. He was Soma Oil and Gas’ East Africa man whose initial appointment this analyst has vehemently opposed.

It was the culmination of a systematic, delicately executed overthrow to end UK’s dominance of the Somalia affairs. It started with the recruitment of Qatar to directly counter-balance against UAE and bankroll Farmajo’s election. It was not a hard sell under since Qatar was under a long simmering UAE/Saudi Arabia led aggression since the Arab Spring. Moreover, it may be worth noting that Qatar already had on the ground a network of brokers who in the past provided dark money to former President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s administration for other projects.

Once Farmajo became the president, the systematic process to cut off all advisors, technocrats, security experts, and members of the Council of Ministers who were from or were associated with UK began. In a parallel process, the relationship with UAE had to be suspended. This was critical for mainly two reasons: One, it would get rid of UK’s cash cow of corruption. “Let me call our friends” was the notorious code of reassurance used by British diplomates that UAE embassy will be delivering the cash. This under the radar process kept their hands clean. Two—perhaps more important than the former—it would pull the plug off on the (UAE-funded) ICJ maritime case.

Though locally it is considered a patriotic initiative taken by former president Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud, this was a Soma Oil and Gas project. ICJ rule in favor of Somalia meant another corrupt giveaway to this shady company that illegally owns Somalia’s natural resources. Farmajo is on board with a behind the curtain deal to pull the case out of ICJ and settle for a ‘negotiated’ deal with Kenya that brings in new partners. This may explain why there were multiple postponements of public hearings- something that, contrary to the Somali government’s claim, could not have been unilaterally done by the court. Hence, an official announcement after the extension is secured should shock no one.

 Going back to the first major step; it was followed by the takeover of the command center- UNSOM. Merely two months into his new position, the former Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, Nicholas Haysom, was accused of interfering in a sovereign state’s internal affairs. Tough I was never a big fan of the dubious role that the British diplomatic team and their field commanders at UNSOM played before Haysom, I was critical of the persona non grata charade and I suspected it being a “a cover up”. So Ambassador Haysom was shortly replaced by an American, Ambassador James Swan.

This was followed by pressuring Qatar to drop Prime Minister Khaire from the recipients of the electoral facilitation cash that brought him and President Farmajo to power. Khaire and his network of predatory capitalists spent two weeks in and around Doha meeting with certain elements in the (useful) king-making business. The answer was simple: the game has changed and you are on your own, old partner.

As soon as it became clear to Khaire that he could neither be part of any extension that may be granted to his partner (Farmajo) nor could he expect cash-loads coming from Qatar, he had to resort to a political kamikaze operation labled as a peace process. He reached out to the federal-states, especially Puntland and Jubbaland that lost trust on the central government, as his most viable partners; hence the Dhusamareeb Conference.

Dominance and Its Risks

Farmajo went to participate in the Dhusamareeb conference with his own uncompromising agenda: grant me a term extension of two years so I could marshal the nation to ‘one-person-one-vote electoral system’.  After Dhusamareeb One and Two, the federal-states and the central government reached an agreement: Farmajo will get no extension and a technical committee made of all stakeholders would determine the kind of election and it would be unveiled and ratified at Dhusamareeb Three.     

On Aug 13, with Khaire out of the way and Farmajo seeming to have gained a momentum for his term-extension agenda, Ambassador Donald Yamamoto’s office tweeted this:

@US2Somalia is eagerly waiting for #Dhusamareb 3 Mtg results. The need for wide spread consultations & genuine compromise is key. The election model needs broad based support from FGS, FMS, Parliament, & other stakeholders. Timely elections, no mandate extensions. #Somalia.”

And on Aug 20, as soon one-sided Dhusamareeb Three shenanigan to ensure the extension concluded, the same office tweeted:

@US2SOMALIA has worked for inclusion of all views at the table in #Dhusamareb3, but can’t help those absent. Spoilers withholding participation sacrifice democracy for own ambitions. Parties will need to move forward with timely model agreed.”

Though these statements are reminiscent of a bygone era known as the ‘transitional period’ it supports my last article that Somalia is under a dysfunctional trusteeship, I venture say it was intended to serve, on the one hand, as a reassurance for UK and other donor nations that US is not supporting an extension; on the other hand, to put a thumb on the scale and coerce the federal-states to march behind Farmajo. It is the only way to harvest what was sowed a few years earlier. But, since the term extension appears to be like striking a matchstick over a pool of kerosene, it must be done through a legitimate process- the federal parliament.

Execution Express

Meanwhile, following Trump‘s patented method of appointing care-takers to a number key posts to avoid congressional scrutiny, Farmajo appoints a Care-taker Prime Minister with a free-hand to exercise full authority over the Council of Ministers. This flies in the face of the very constitution that Farmajo often references to underscore the power vested in the federal parliament. So exercise and expedite to the max is what the care-taker did.

Immediately upon assuming his new post, the care-taker Prime Minister, Mahdi Guled, dashed through the approval of a few international projects and appointed the Somali Petroleum Authority without any transparency, without capacity and integrity review of the members of this highly critical body of trustees. This same questionable authority is all of sudden set to make a critical decision that could haunt Somalia for generations. The method, the timing, and the haste should raise a red flag. 

 Who Owns It?

These controversial events of the past three plus years that shook the foundation of Somalia’s political structure confirm a looming danger that some analysts were warning against- a perfect storm emanating from resource curse, geographical curse, and clannism curse.

There are two things that one must keep in mind when conducting any political affairs or developing any strategies for domestic or international end:

One, there is no such thing as ‘spontaneous combustion’ because all things political are driven by an overt or a covert objective, or both. Two, if you are not interested or are not able to assess behavioral patterns or connect the dots, you are better off finding another career to pursue.

2021 is here and not much has changed since the last election. The political situation is in total disarray, drone attacks reached the danger zone and security continues to worsen, corruption still remains a skill in high demand, sovereignty still remains a pie in the sky, and many hands continue to operate inside the cookie jar of resources. So long as the dominant political discourse remains on clans, personality politics, and methods of transitioning power, expect the wheel of exploitation to gain more ground and the predators to get more emboldened.   

Somalia still remains a political prospect that is between a romantic ideal and corrosive reality; between conformity with clannism and the reformation toward statehood; between a living idea and a dying potential; between yearning for liberty and enabling the subjugators; between individual interest and collective benefit.

An enlightened intergenerational movement to reclaim Somalia is needed more than ever; also, leaders with vision and strategy that transcend the clan mentality in order to reimagine a new nation and put the common good and national interest before all others.

Abukar Arman is a former diplomat, serving as Somalia's Special Envoy to the US. As a widely published analyst, he focuses on foreign policy, Islam, the Horn of Africa, extremism, and other topics. Twitter: @Abukar_Arman or reach him via e-mail: abukar_arman[at]yahoo.com

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Africa

SADC Summit Ends With Promises of More Meetings

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The Southern African Development Community (SADC) held an Extraordinary Double Troika meeting on 8th April in Maputo to deliberate on measures on addressing terrorism and its related impact on the current development specifically in the Mozambique and generally in southern Africa. The Cabo Delgado crisis started in 2017 with insurgents taking control of parts of northern Mozambique.

One of the two troikas consists of the current, incoming and outgoing chairs of SADC (namely Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania), while the second is formed by the current, incoming and outgoing chairs of the SADC organ for politics, defence and security cooperation (Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe).

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa and the ministers of international relations, defence and state security attended the meeting. It was also attended by Mozambique, Botswana, Malawi Zimbabwe and Tanzania.

The summit was called in the wake of the terrorist attack of 24 March against the town of Palma in the northern Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado, but the leaders did not pledge any immediate practical support for Mozambique.

SADC Troika heads however said the acts of terrorism perpetrated against innocent civilians in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique, could not be allowed to continue without a proportionate regional response and reported that 12 decapitated bodies have been found behind a hotel in the region.

Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi has called for cooperation in cross-border surveillance as essential to stem the flow of foreign fighters fomenting terrorism in Cabo Delgado, warning of the spread of violence throughout Southern Africa.

Among the measures that the SADC countries should implement to combat terrorism is strengthening border control between Southern African countries, he said, and further added that Southern African police and judicial systems must consistently work to combat trafficking and money laundering that funds terrorism.

Nyusi stressed that the organization should implement practical acts to combat this scourge of terrorism to prevent its expansion and destabilization of the region, and warned of the risk that the actions of armed groups with a jihadist connotation could hinder regional integration.

According official reports, SADC fends off United States / European Union anti-terror intervention in Cabo Delgado. It further said no to another Mali / Somalia / Libya / Syria disaster on the African continent, adding that the global Anti-Terror lobbies are frustrated.

Deeply concerned about the continued terrorist attacks in Cabo Delgado, especially for the lives and welfare of the residents who continue to suffer from the atrocious, brutal and indiscriminate assaults, the leaders decided at their meeting to deploy a technical mission to Mozambique. It’s not clear what action the region will take but the deployed technical mission will report back to heads of state by 29 April.

The final communiqué from the summit condemned the terrorist attacks “in the strongest terms” and declared that “such heinous attacks cannot be allowed to continue without a proportionate regional response” but it did not suggest what such a regional response might consist of.

The Summit expressed “SADC’s full solidarity with the government and people of Mozambique” and reaffirmed “SADC’s continued commitment to contribute towards the efforts to bring about lasting peace and security, as well as reconciliation and development in the Republic of Mozambique.”

The summit ordered “an immediate technical deployment” to Mozambique, and the convening of an Extraordinary Meeting of the Ministerial Committee of the Organ by 28 April 2021 that will report to the Extraordinary Organ Troika summit on 29 April 2021.

The extremely brief communiqué mentioned no other specific measures.

The violence unleashed more than three years ago in Cabo Delgado province took a new escalation about a fortnight ago when armed groups attacked the town of Palma, which is about six kilometres from the multi-million dollar natural gas, according to United Nations data.

The attacks caused dozens of deaths and forced thousands of Palma residents to flee, worsening a humanitarian crisis that has affected some 700,000 people in the province since the conflicts data. Several countries have offered Maputo military support on the ground to combat these insurgents, but so far there has been no openness, although reports and testimonies are pointing to security companies and mercenaries in the area.

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African agriculture is ready for a digital revolution

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Authors: Akinwumi Adesina and Patrick Verkooijen*

After a dark 2020, a new year has brought new hope. In Africa, where up to 40 million more people were driven into extreme poverty and the continent experienced its first recession in 25 years, a brighter future beckons as the economy is forecast to return to growth this year.

Africa now has an opportunity to reset its economic compass. To build back not just better, but greener. Particularly as the next crisis—climate change—is already upon us.

Africa’s food systems must be made more resilient to future shocks such as floods, droughts, and disease. Urgent and sustainable increases in food production are needed to reduce reliance on food imports and reduce poverty, and this is where digital services come into play.

With mobile phone ownership in Sub-Saharan Africa alone expected to reach half a billion this year, digital services offered via text messaging can reach even the most remote village. And at least one-fifth of these phones also have smart features, meaning they can connect to the internet.

We can already see how digital services drive prosperity locally and nationally. In Uganda, SMS services that promote market price awareness have lifted the price farmers receive for bananas by 36 percent, beans by 16.5 percent, maize by 17 percent, and coffee by 19 percent. In Ghana, services that cut out the middleman have lifted the price for maize by 10 percent and groundnuts by 7 percent.

But digital services don’t just raise farmgate prices, they are the gateway to farm loans, crop insurance, and greater economic security, which in turn enables farmers to increase their resilience to climate change—by experimenting with new, drought-resistant crops, for example, or innovative farming methods.

Text messages with weather reports help farmers make better decisions about when and what to plant, and when to harvest.

In Niger, a phone-based education program has improved crop diversity, with more farmers likely to grow the cash crop okra, while an advisory service in Ethiopia helped increase wheat production from one ton to three tons per hectare.

The data footprints phone users create can also be analyzed to help assess risk when it comes to offering loans, making credit cheaper and more accessible.

Phones and digital services also speed up the spread of information through social networks, helping farmers learn about new drought-resistant crops or services that can increase productivity. Free-to-use mobile phone-based app WeFarm, for example, has already helped more than 2.4 million farmers find certified suppliers of quality seeds at fair prices. They can also connect farmers to internet-based services.

Examples of digital innovation abound, sometimes across borders. In Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria, equipment-sharing platform Hello Tractor is helping farmers rent machinery by the day or even hour, while in Ethiopia, AfriScout, run by the non-government organization Project Concern International with the World Food Programme and the Ministry for Agriculture, provides satellite images of water supplies and crops every 10 days so problems can be spotted quickly to aid remedial action.

Transforming food systems digitally has demonstrably excellent results: the African Development Bank, which has allocated over half of its climate financing to adaptation since 2019, has already helped 19 million farmers in 27 countries to lift yields by an average 60 percent through applying digital technology, for example.

This is why the Global Center on Adaptation and the African Development Bank have launched the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program (AAAP) to mobilize $25 billion to scale up and accelerate innovative climate-change adaptation across Africa.

Once developed, the digital nature of these services often makes such projects easy to replicate elsewhere and scale, even across large rural areas with little existing infrastructure.

Further, adaptation projects are proven to be highly cost-effective, often delivering value many times the original investment and so helping African economies grow faster and create many more much-needed jobs.

This makes it imperative that the global resolve to rebuild economies in the wake of Covid-19 is harnessed in the most effective way. We must not simply replicate the mistakes of the past. We must build back stronger, with a more resilient and climate-smart focus.

Funding and promoting disruptive business models in which digital technologies are embedded to increase productivity without using more land or more water will create a triple win: increased production, a more resilient climate and more empowered farmers.

We have the means and the technical capability to put Africa well on the way to achieving food self-sufficiency and greater climate resilience. In doing so, we can help millions move out of food poverty. We must not squander this opportunity to create truly historic and lasting change.

AfDB

*Patrick Verkooijen is CEO of the Global Center on Adaptation.

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Towards the Second Russia-Africa Summit

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Following the instruction of Russian President on the preparation of the second Russia-Africa Summit in 2022, a working meeting between Adviser to the President of the Russian Federation and the Association of Economic Cooperation with African States (AECAS), the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum and the Roscongress Foundation was held in Moscow.

Among the participants of the meeting were Adviser to the President of the Russian Federation Anton Kobyakov, Ambassador-at-Large of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Head of the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum Oleg Ozerov, Chairman of the Board, Chief Executive Officer of the Roscongress Foundation, Head of the Coordination Council for Russia-Africa Partnership Forum Alexander Stuglev and Head of AECAS Alexander Saltanov.

They discussed the prospects for further development of relationships with African countries in accordance with the decisions of the first Russia-Africa Summit that was held in Sochi in October 2019, as well as the key aspects of preparation for the next top-level Russian-African meeting in 2022, including the need to establish efficient information cooperation with African countries.

Adviser to the President was presented with the interim results of the work done by the Secretariat that was created in 2020 for coordination and preparation of events within the Russia-Africa format, as well as advances made by AECAS, the establishment of which is an important achievement on the way to efficient and fruitful preparation for subsequent events of the Russian-African track.

The day before Russian President Vladimir Putin informed the participants of the International Inter-Party Conference Russia-Africa: Reviving Traditions about the preparation for the second Russia-Africa Summit in a telegram and noted that the first Summit «gave a strong momentum to the development of friendly relationships between our country and countries of the African continent.»

Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov, who took part in the Inter-Party Conference, said that the Summit is already being prepared and filled with meaningful content, and roadmaps of Russian-African economic, scientific and humanitarian cooperation are to be drafted in the near future. Minister also noted that African issues are supposed to be included in the programme of the upcoming St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. These topics will be further discussed at the next meeting of foreign ministers of Russia and the African Union trio that is scheduled for 2021.

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