Somali leaders’ ongoing dispute, chaos at parliament frustrate citizens
MOGADISHU — Somali citizens said they are feeling anxious and frustrated about the country’s political progress after the parliament devolved into chaos Monday (November 24th) for the third time in two weeks.
A political feud between President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed has triggered unrest, spilling over into parliament on three separate occasions as lawmakers attempted to debate a no-confidence motion against the prime minister.
In the latest attempt Monday, lawmakers supporting Ahmed once again disrupted the session by shouting, chanting and holding placards expressing their opposition to the motion, forcing Speaker of Parliament Mohamed Osman Jawari to walk out.
Jawari later said the no-confidence motion would not be brought back to the floor for debate until lawmakers find a way to resolve their differences without causing widespread disorder in the chamber.
In a statement released after parliament’s session was adjourned, Ahmed called the motion to oust him unconstitutional and an obstacle to the country’s progress towards implementing its Vision 2016 goals.
He said the “minor reshuffle” he announced October 25th was intended to improve the performance of the cabinet and “arose out of a need to resolve the conflict between the judiciary and the ministry of justice as well as other concerns within the finance and foreign affairs ministries”.
“The motion, which is regarded by a majority of parliamentarians and members of the public as illegal and driven by corruption, has brought about deep division within the House and other institutions at a time when it is important to maintain the unity of our leadership, institutions and our people,” Ahmed said.
Progress stifled by political feud
But a month into this conflict, citizens and analysts say it is time for the country’s leaders to set aside their personal and political differences and work together for the benefit of the people.
Omer Ibrahim, a 38-year-old Mogadishu resident, told Sabahi he fears the leadership’s public spat will give al-Shabaab an opportunity to re-group and carry out deadly attacks.
“You can immediately see the security concern that is present,” he told Sabahi. “During the days the conflict has been ongoing, there have been successive assassinations in the city.”
“We are tired of having a president, prime minister and speaker of parliament who are fighting,” Ibrahim said. “It is now time to combat the enemy of Somalia, and to present unity and collaboration.”
Progress cannot be realised when there are leaders who will not work together, said Association for Somali Youth Unity secretary general Mukhtar Haji Kastaro.
“I call on them to fear God and uphold their oaths,” he told Sabahi. “When you look at the causes of the conflict, you see personal and clan interests. It is necessary to move beyond of all that and stand for saving Somalia.”
“Somalia’s nationhood has to be bigger than anything else,” he said. “I am calling on the president and the prime minister to display compromise and have mercy on the public.”
Salaam University student Abdirizak Hassan Shine, 24, called the political situation “unfortunate” and said a prolonged political stalemate at this critical time could endanger the progress the government has achieved to date.
“It is truly shocking to hear about such [conflicts] at a time when you expect the country to be on the path to progress,” he told Sabahi. “Each person will be remembered in history for what he did for this country. I am sure that those who waste their time in office in conflict will one day be held accountable for the time of the Somali people they wasted.”
Shine called on the traditional elders and intellectuals to intervene to help resolve the conflict.
Somalia’s democratic elections ‘at risk’
Political analysts say the ongoing public row between the president and prime minister could derail Somalia from holding its first democratic election since 1967.
Infighting among government leaders will not lead Somalia out of its present troubles but will derail its future, said Mogadishu University political science professor Abdikarim Daud.
“Every time you hear there is a conflict among the top leaders, you immediately see a bad sign for the future of Somalia,” he told Sabahi, adding that problems should be resolved through “understanding and dialogue”.
Commenting on parliament’s role in finding a solution, Daud criticised lawmakers for making the situation worse and not taking the appropriate steps to impartially review the issues before taking sides.
“They accused the prime minister of failing to perform his duties, but no one asked the prime minister any questions and he was not given a chance to defend himself,” he said.
A campaign to impeach the prime minister was initiated immediately after the disagreement, he added, indicating a possible personal agenda on the part of some lawmakers.
“The other [lawmakers] who are against sacking the prime minister have also been engaged in the same kind of organising,” he said. “If they are unable to defend him, they will do whatever they can to accomplish their aims, and this includes the chaos.”
Lawmakers could have set a disturbing precedent in Somali politics, with every group that disagrees with something setting aside the law and using noise and chaos to defeat rival groups, said Somali and American Fund for Education (SAFE) director Abdirahman Moalim Ahmed Ablal.
“The parliament’s leadership should have considered [the differing] opinions before the motion was presented, and once it was presented, it should have used the rules and powers the law gives it,” he said.
“The parliament is the most important institution in a government that can make changes and provide clarity,” he said. “However, I think it will take time for us to learn perseverance and adhere to the laws on the books, considering what we have been through.”
Working together for Somalia
Ablal called on Somalia’s leaders to put aside their personal and political differences and work together to achieve their goals and deliver their promises to the Somali people.
“Conflict is neither in the interest of the nation or the public, and it is not good for the reputation and the honour of the country,” he said.
“If this conflict continues, it will be difficult to extract the country from the current hardship or to achieve and reap the benefits of Vision 2016, because it will be hard for the leaders to do the difficult work before them if there is suspicion between them and a lack of collaboration.”
“I think instead of facing off in a stalemate, the leaders should be cognizant of the current reality and make a unified decision and refrain from using [nonexistent] powers against one another until we can have parties that divide things according to majority status,” Ablal said.