Premier Barre presented his Executive on August 2. Surprisingly (https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/8/5/from-al-shabab-to-the-cabinet-somalias-move-fuels-debate) and with a hint of international disappointment (https://www.gzeromedia.com/what-we-re-watching-somalia-s-new-cabinet-takeaways-from-us-primaries-peru-s-president-in-peril), the team includes as Minister for Religious Affairs the former Al Shabaab militant Mukthar Robow – alias Abu Mansur – who was the jihadist group’s number two and spokesman until 2015 (https://www.agenzianova.com/a/62eee8caeda1c1.30141517/4020997/2022-08-02/somalia-premier-barre-annuncia-il-nuovo-governo-c-e-anche-l-ex-terrorista-mukthar-robow).
Robow then abandoned the cause of terrorism and went into politics in 2017-2018. The Farmajo Presidency had intended to curb his rise and had given him long periods of detention in prison or under house arrest. The will to open channels of dialogue on the part of the re-elected President Mohamud remains subterranean, but it is enriched by a new element, particularly towards the Bakool region where Robow hails from (https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/somalia-names-former-al-shabaab-spokesperson-minister-2022-08-02/).
This affair, however, risks obscuring the complexity in forming the government presented so far. Nor can one not point out the weaving that led, for example, to the appointment of Huruse – from Puntland – to the Foreign Office or Fiqi, from Galmudug, to the Interior. Nur has been confirmed as Defence Minister. Local sources give a neutral reading of the appointments, waiting for the Ministers to be approved and then prove themselves, i.e. the promised reconciliation, fight against famine and decisive economic recovery.
There is however no shortage of criticism too, as is natural, particularly from the papers on which the controversy towards Mogadishu is most heated (https://www.garoweonline.com/en/news/somalia/us-not-happy-with-the-make-up-of-the-new-somalia-cabinet-sources). These sources report ‘irritation’ on the part of the United States, which can be explained by the coincidence with the latest wave of cross-border attacks by Al Shabaab against Ethiopia and in the interior against Ugandan forces framed in the African Union’s ATMIS Mission (https://shabellemedia.com/category/news/). The simultaneous pro-Beijing stance by the Somali government on US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan (https://en.radiodalsan.com/76271/2022/08/somalia-backs-china-in-pelosi-taiwan-visit-diplomatic-row/) is a further wake-up call.
As President Mohamud plans a visit to Uganda (http://www.hiiraan.com/news4/2022/Aug/187282/somalia_president_hassan_mohamud_to_visit_uganda_next_week.aspx), there is also a potentially anti-Ethiopian trait to consider. Robow’s appointment is a step in the direction of Jubaland President Madobe (https://en.radiodalsan.com/76161/2022/08/robow-from-al-shabaab-helm-jail-to-cabinet-minister/), but may displease others – such as South West Governor Laftagaren – who were aiming to avoid Robow’s appointment (https://somaliguardian.com/news/somalia-news/somali-pm-forms-cabinet-former-al-shabaab-spokesman-among-his-appointees/).
Barre must also already deal with the first defection: that of Deputy Minister for Planning Abdulqadir Ali (https://somaliguardian.com/news/somalia-news/a-member-of-somalias-new-cabinet-resigns-over-alleged-breach-of-clan-power-sharing-system/). This shows how the Executive may still needs to see changes, not least to heal still unresolved clan-based rifts.