The publicity given to the meetings is partly ‘cosmetic’ and aimed above all at reassuring the international interlocutors of Somalia in the run-up to the renewal of the interlocution with the IMF (International Monetary Fund), which has finally been granted (May 19th). However, the impulse to improve the outlook for the economy and the fight against terrorism is quite genuine and responds to an expectation for improvement, which is transversal within the country. The reduction of political tensions is generally confirmed – especially in perspective; this leads one to believe that the goal of stability is within Mohamud’s grasp.
His return coincides with the announced return of US Special Forces decided by the Biden Administration and made public in the aftermath of his re-election. It is a way of underlining the new presidency’s commitment to renewing the fight against a terrorism still capable of projecting its threat all the way to the capital. It is also useful to rebuild collaboration with Washington. US decision-makers seem to perceive Mohamud as a more credible President and more than the return of a few hundred military personnel (around 500 according to rumours) this makes possible a more convinced contribution to both ATMIS (African Union Transitional Mission in Somalia) and the Danab Special Forces – pillars of the use of force in the country. Those units were repeatedly at the centre of political contention and they shall become more federal according to Mohamud.
There is no shortage of criticism, of course, from those who consider an approach based on sheer force destined never to make its way to the common people, and thus to gain their support necessary to permanently eradicate the threat. Hypotheses of establishing a genuine dialogue with the militancy, aimed at closing the decades-long insurgency with an amnesty and a political solution, resurface here. This step is still only prospective, but Mohamud’s election certainly makes it less vague.
The third facet of the new Presidency’s endeavour concerns economic development and greater effectiveness of the institutions, both of which are directly influenced by security and stability.
A first step forward is the release of 400 million dollars from the IMF to which new humanitarian aid from the UAE side has been added, amounting to 9.5 million dollars – essentially the equivalent of what Somalia itself had just released and returned to the UAE at the formal closure of the notorious affair that began in 2018. Indeed, PM Roble travelled in person to Abu Dhabi to offer his condolences on the death of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
The reform project becomes vaguer here, but it is linked to the desire – if not to remove – at least to reduce the tendency towards the formation of a class of ‘political entrepreneurs’ who manage economic power without any real control over their actions. If Mohamud succeeds in weaving new internal alliances like those that led to his appointment and securing external support, then his project can take shape and lead to greater cohesion and stability. In the face of such developments, one can expect a cooling of the relationship with Ethiopia and perhaps Qatar, actors that will remain primary on the Somali political horizon.
A litmus test can already be identified in the resurgent ASWJ (Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama) militia in Galmudug, Farmajo’s fiefdom. Mohamud has good relations with Jubaland President Madobe and his Puntland counterpart Deni, but he promises to reformulate the relationship with all local level powers on a new basis. If the same approach is maintained about Galmudug and ASWJ, this could mean the start of a virtuous process that can release new resources, both federal and local.