An article in the Turkish newspaper ‘Daily Sabah’ enthusiastically reports how the female name ‘Istanbul’ is now in common use in Somalia. Turkey’s soft power over Somalia is a contributing factor, with cultural and social elements underpinning renewed political, economic and military ties. President Farmajo, on his return from Anatolia, is a proponent of this.

One of his first moves was a strong criticism (December 26th) of PM Roble’s performance in the elections. The President therefore decided to call a consultative meeting with local authorities to ‘correct the course’ taken so far. This comes on the eve of a meeting between Roble and the opposition, scheduled for December 27th, with the Prez letting slip rumours that Roble might be removed, which the latter denied.

This is the logical conclusion of Roble’s recent strong stance. Roble’s openness to the opposition’s demands for greater transparency necessarily implies a reduction in the frontal tension that Farmajo has been promoting. Greater support from Ankara and the resolution of the crisis in Ethiopia, with the tendency for Premier Abyi’s faction to succeed, will give the incumbent President more leverage and he can raise the stakes again.

It is unlikely that a new head-on clash will now arise. Proceeding towards the vote remains in the best interest of all the leaders of national politics and the regional observers and sponsors of each. However, the tension over who should ultimately be the director and arbiter is once again more open.

It was in this context that Foreign Minister Muse Ali visited Rome, where he met his counterpart Di Maio. The occasion to strengthen the bilateral relationship beyond the traditional cooperation-security binomial was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Somali Republic and the Med-Or Foundation, for initiatives of higher education and teaching of the Italian language, also in the presence of the Somali Minister of Education Haji.

These are small steps towards greater normality. They confirm that Somali society is at least partly detached from the dynamics of its political leadership, from which it is still impossible to disregard. The bloody clashes between armed factions in Puntland testify to the complexity of this path.


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