246 of the 251 deputies appointed so far to the Lower House (out of a planned 275) and 40 of the 50 deputies in the Upper House were officially sworn in on April 14th in Somalia. The brief ceremony took place at Halane base at Mogadishu airport, a fortified compound considered sufficiently safe from feared new acts of terrorism.
On April 18th, Al Shabaab militants fired mortar shells at the Parliament building, where a parliamentary session was in progress – the first since the swearing-in – chaired pro tempore by senior MPs; at least 6 people were injured. During the night of April 13-14th, a similar attack was carried out on a base near the airport.
Despite the uncertainties, PM Roble and President Farmajo hailed the ‘historic’ result. They temporarily put aside their rivalries, which exemplify the much more ramified ones that had cast doubt on the presence of some of the MPs until the very end. 24 names remain to be indicated for the Lower House between HirShabelle and Jubaland. 16 are in Garbaharey alone, Farmajo’s fiefdom, where tensions are most intense.
Nonetheless, this procedural step at least ideally closes the long electoral process, an outcome that began in September 2020 and was expected in early 2021. However, for the process of appointing the Heads of Parliament and then the Head of State to begin, a balance must be struck between the parties that can then close the pending appointments. HirShabelle President Gudlawe arrived in Mogadishu on April 18th for talks to this end. A solution could come from the validation of the seat obtained by Yasin, Farmajo’s advisor and former head of the Somali information and security bodies.
We can therefore rejoice at an initial result achieved. Delays and vetoes still represent, however, a real risk of escalation and institutional chaos. The root causes of political instability remain present, and this casts a shadow over the continuation of the process, so much so that it was decided not to set a date for the appointment of the President of the Parliament, which is the next needed step.
An example of future trajectories is in the return of past statements by Farmajo, while attending an event celebrating the iftar (breaking of the Ramadan fast) with the Army, on the day of its formation. The President did not hesitate to denounce Kenya’s intentions to favour his re-election. In return, Nairobi allegedly had demanded the abandonment of the maritime border demarcation process before the International Court of Justice, which then largely accepted Somalia’s arguments.
Farmajo again sets himself up as a champion of a positive Somali nationalism, appealing not to abandon the course followed so far. This type of dynamic, i.e. sponsorship or the blatant refusal to provide it, will certainly characterise the weeks to come, particularly along the axes that link Somalia to the Gulf countries (UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia), to Turkey and to neighbouring countries such as Ethiopia and Kenya.
These ties are still necessary, however, in terms of security and defence, for humanitarian reasons that have now become more pressing in the face of drought, and finally for the investments needed to further develop the Somali economy and society. The result is an ambiguous mechanism in which, on the one hand, it is difficult or impossible to renounce the different forms of foreign presence, and on the other, national leaders try to make themselves their exclusive interpreters or rejectors, to overcome rivals in a context of continuing weakness and fragmentation.