Whether it is Washington, Manila or Mogadishu; the number of authoritarian regimes is on the rise. Although Somalia in some respect cannot be compared to other countries and is considered a fragile country that is recovering from the disastrous destruction of a civil war that came about as result of a suffocating military regime that have committed countless atrocities, the current regime in Villa Somalia however, does objectively and perfectly fit in the column of authoritarian regimes.
Today, 1th day of the year 2019, the Somalia government declared Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General Mr. Nicholas Haysom persona non grata, after receiving a letter in which the SRSG informed the regime in Villa Somalia that he received a joint letter from the donors announcing the suspension of their support to the South West State Police Force pending further discussion on the significant concerns the donors have in relation to the conduct of the police during the (s)election in South West.
The SRSG, shared these concerns and asked the Federal Government in Mogadishu questions relating to the arrest and illegal detention of Presidential Candidate Robow and the following demonstrations in Baidoa on 13-15 December that have caused the deaths of 15 civilians, the arrest of more than 300 people, most of them children, and their subsequent illegal detention.
It is important to note that Robow is very popular in South West State and unlike the Villa Somalia imposed president, Mr. Laftagareen, Robow would have fairly won the election if he was not arrested just days before the (s)election. The Baidoa fiasco and the blatant manipulation by Vila Somalia, is excellently covered by Rashid Abdi in his article ‘Somalia’s South West State: A New President Installed, a Crisis Inflamed’.
Unfortunately, the Baidoa fiasco is just the latest atrocities this regime committed since it came to power two year ago. Other form of power abuse includes but not limited to: destabilizing and frustrating any development and stabilization in the Federal Member States., the abduction and harassment of members of the opposition. Undermining the legislative branch, illegal ousting of the Speaker, harassing and silencing journalist and independent research institutions.
In the last few months, Villa Somalia -emboldened by the high number of human rights violations, corruption and dictatorial tendencies it got away with- started to intimidate the UN and INGOs. As such, the expelling of the SRSG was a matter of time, as he is not willing to abandon his mandate in order to please Villa Somalia and to keep his job. But the biggest calculation error made by Villa Somalia is to believe that SRSG depends on their courtesy to secure his job and his stay in Mogadishu airport is by their invitation rather than the UN Security Council Resolution 2102, and its subsequent renewals. Why would the successor of Haysom, if it comes to that, deviate from the course of action set in motion by the incumbent SRSG? Does Villa Somalia believe that by this irrational action it can prolong its political reign beyond 2021? Or force the donors into submission?
Irrational and impulsive
This irrational persona non grata declaration comes just hours after seven mortars landed inside the UN compound in Mogadishu injuring two UN staff. Sending a letter of support to the UN and joining Haysom in condemning these attacks is what any normal politician would do. It is also worth mentioning that the attack on the UN compound took place just hours after the National Security Advisor to the President of Somalia, who made his job to intimidate the UN on social media, tweeted the following tweet:
“If you rattle a snake, you must be prepared to be bitten by it.” in what it seems to be a reply to the SRSG letter.
More appalling is the tweet from Prime Minister Kheire staffer stating: “He questioned? They answered precisely. Already I am feeling the new year”.
The United States and Norway
It is widely shared believe that the US Somalia Mission which is over militarized and lacks any form of diplomatic engagement to foster democracy or uphold human rights, instead it is supporting Villa Somalia by looking the other way and by discouraging or in some cases blocking any attempt to issue a joint statement by the donors and the UN. It is a fundamental part of UNSOM mandate to “Further, it is monitoring, helping investigate and reporting to the UN Security Council on any abuses or violations of human rights or of international humanitarian law committed in Somalia, or any abuses committed against children or women.” To better understand the dire situation of the Nairobi based US mission to Somalia, one should google and read the Elizabeth Shackelford resignation letter.
There are two obvious reasons for the United States to adopt this posture and ignore all the signs of the emerging dictatorship in Mogadishu:
1) The United States got entangled in a hazardous competition to keep China away from strategic locations in East Africa. Hence the appointment of Donald Yamamoto as the new ambassador to Somalia. Yamamoto worked in East Africa for more than 20 years. He successfully facilitated the emergence of new politics and alliances in Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea and Djibouti. In his testimony to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Ambassador Yamamoto said “You can’t have peace in East Africa without peace in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Somalia, Tanzania. They’re all interrelated, and I think they can all benefit from a vibrant economic program. And that’s what we’re trying to do, not just for Somalia, but for the whole region.” He also said “We’ve talked to the Chinese and the Russians very closely on a lot of areas. We see a lot of commonality. We also see some competition…” So, it will be naïve not see him for what he actually is. He is not an ambassador but a regional manager for his country and is only interested in finishing the regional assignment he has been working for he past two decades.
A letter from the members of the National Salvation Caucus confirming this widely believe about the role of the United States.
2) the second reason for the deafening silence from the usually vocal and dominant U.S., is the issue of President Farmajo U.S. citizenship and the fact that any mentioning of human rights violations by the U.S. embassy, will widely open the door for any Somali whose loved ones are abducted, killed or illegally detained by Somali forces to sue Farmajo in his hometown Buffalo, New York, using the embassy statement. The Somali constitution identifies the president as the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces.
Other country outside of the region and unconditionally supporting Villa Somalia is Norway, for reasons directly relating to the highly disputed sea border between Somalia and Kenya and possible political leverage to convince Somalia to drop the ICJ case and by extension the SOMA Oil company where Khaire, -who just happened to be a Norwegian citizen- used to work as Executive Director for Africa before being appointed by President Farmajo as the new Prime Minister of Somalia.
There is no easy way out from this mess and the UN and the donors will have to do immediate evaluation of their respective mandate and policies. The best thing that could happen in the coming hours is if Villa Somalia acknowledges this impulsive and irrational decision and withdraw the seven-line declaration the government issued today, which is very unlikely to happen. A second option is for the UN and the donors to stay true to their respective mandate and core believes and refuse to become culprit of human rights violations knowing fully that anyone of the them could be the next PNG victim. Other option is to join the US and Norway, make the UN in Somalia obsolete and turn a blind eye to the escalating political crises and facilitate the birth of the second authoritarian regime in Somali history.
By Abdi Dagal Faahiye