The President is voted in Somalia by a joint mechanism between the Upper and Lower Chambers, by a majority of the 329 appointed parliamentarians. The 15th of May has a symbolic value, linked to the moments of independence. It also has a practical value, because it is close to the May 17th indicated by many in the international community as the deadline before the suspension of important aid, closing a process that is now more than a year behind the schedule initially announced.
Of particular importance is the three-year assistance from the IMF (International Monetary Fund), worth $400 million. Somali authorities have asked for it to be extended for three months, i.e. at least until August.
The interest and intentions of the parties are therefore converging towards an acceleration, which will also close the period of uncertainty, instability and increased insecurity from which no main leader benefits. A week before the vote, however, there is no single candidate: a normal feature of the political game, on which foreign sponsors are grafting. This can have a dampening effect before a consensus profile is identified.
The shortlist of candidates numbers some 20 names, but is not definitive. The aspiration of former Presidents Sheikh Mohamud and Sheikh Sharif to return to Villa Somalia and that of former Premier Khaire is known so far. Outgoing Farmajo – whose star is waning, but who has not formalised his departure from politics and who is seeking support from Qatar – could also run. Puntland President Deni also stands out.
A discriminating element is the management of the Security Forces. The aim has been to dilute the “too heavy” national imprint. This has favoured inclinations towards individual leaders, who may take advantage of this now. The newly elected Speaker of the Lower House, Aden Madobe, has therefore taken over until a new President is elected. This provoked the outgoing President Farmajo’s protests, who ordered that all new appointments be frozen until the vote, so that he be able to count on his own men in those structures.
There were new security events, the most serious of which occurred at the Ceelbaraf (El Barf) base of ATMIS (African Union Transition Mission in Somalia) located in Middle Shabelle, about 150 km north of Mogadishu between Jowhar and Adale. Three VBIED exploded at dawn, followed by a raid by armed commandos. The action was claimed by the Al Shabaab and caused several victims among the Burundian military present.
The Burundi National Command officially reported the deaths of 10 soldiers, 30 according to other statements. In the absence of communiqués from the Somali authorities – who are usually less cautious about these events – much harsher accounts of the raid have been circulated: the terrorists claim to have killed at least 50 soldiers and taken an unspecified number as prisoners.
Other statements taken from third-party sources put the death toll at 173. Beyond the sheer numbers, this is certainly the biggest attack of the last five years, after those against the Kenyan bases of El-Adde (2016) and Kulbiyow (2017), with hundreds of victims. An action of this magnitude needs careful planning even though it is carried out using established terrorist techniques, against which there appears to be no effective defence, especially for outposts in the interior.
This is also the first attack against ATMIS since the official launch of this Mission to replace the former AMISOM. Gathering information from the local population may prevent similar events from happening in the future. For this to be possible, however, a relationship of trust is needed, which has yet to be fully structured.