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Somalia: Birth pangs of a new era?

ANALYSIS 29 April 2022 René Brosius

Somali politics is experiencing exciting times. However, they could be the birth pangs of a positive turn of times: With the controversial and long-delayed election of the two parliamentary chambers (just a few seats missing) nearly complete, speakers of the two chambers were elected on April 26-27, 2022, according to the schedule.[1] It was the expected first showdown between the supporters of the controversial President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (“Farmajo”) and the opposition movement.

Time and Space for Save Elections?

Already in the run-up to the setting of these two election dates, there were tangible disputes. The main dispute was over the admission of 16 members of parliament from the Gedo region. What exactly was at stake? The current presidency had been initiating political “hot spots” throughout the country for several years in order to exert influence on the outcome of the elections through an increased military presence.[2] Elders were intimidated, candidates were excluded from the elections and an overall atmosphere of fear was spread.[3] The Gedo region, where the highly disputed president comes from, in the federal state of Jubaland was particularly affected. This region is entitled to 16 of the 275 parliamentary seats in the lower house according to the agreed-upon election procedure. Also, in view of the strong opposition movement and the significant losses of the presidential movement in other federal states, these 16 seats were in the end considered necessary for the survival of the president’s re-election. After elections were not held in more than 1.5 years because the Gedo regional administration, acting on behalf of the presidency, did not want to cooperate with either the Federal Electoral Commission or the Jubaland State Electoral Commission, it was decided to hold the elections not in the agreed town of Garbahaarey/Jubaland but in the Somali/Kenyan border town of Ceelwaaq.[4] Here it was possible to hold the elections under the protection of AMISOM/ATMIS. The Federal Electoral Commission pushed and recognized these elections accordingly, whereas the presidentially-controlled administration in Garbahaarey protested vehemently and rushed to hold its own elections.

Of Politics, Power and Intimidation

After mortar shell attacks already occurred during the constitutive session of the chambers in Villa Hargeisa[5], an area controlled exclusively by Somali security forces, the elections for Speaker of the Upper House and the House of the People were moved to the ATMIS-controlled safe zone of Halane. While the upper house elections were apparently politically abandoned by the presidency in advance, where Senator Abdi Hashi, an outspoken and long-time critic of President Farmajo, was re-elected[6], on April 27, 2022, the day of the election for Speaker of the Lower House, massive disruptions of parliamentary proceedings occurred in advance of the scheduled parliamentary session. Led by Somalia’s now suspended and pro-presidential police chief, General Abdi Hassan Hijar, heavily armed Somali police forces attempted to stop the newly elected MPs from entering the safe zone.[7] In particular, young parliamentarians and MPs without their own bodyguards were stopped and prevented from entering the election zone at force of arms. The reason given for this was the unclear status of the Ceelwaaq MPs. This has led to considerable delays. In the end of the day, however, these attempts at intimidation were of little use. After a delay of several hours, Sheekh Aadan Madoobe, a former minister and speaker of parliament, was elected as the new Speaker of the House of People.[8] Supported by the opposition, he received 163 votes in the 2nd round (139 were needed). With the conclusion of these elections (his deputies were elected on April 28, 2022), Somalia has erected legitimate parliamentary bodies again. This is a true milestone after the country had been on the brink of civil war for some time. 

What will the Future bring?

It remains to be seen whether this also means that a preliminary political decision has been made for the presidential elections. Sheekh Aadan Madoobe comes from Jubaland but belongs to the Rahanweyn clan family.[9] In the sensitively balanced power system of Somali politics, the Darood and Hawiye clans have so far alternated in the roles of president and prime minister. The role of speaker of the federal parliament, on the other hand, has fallen to the Rahanweyn clan family. However, the majority of these clans resides in Southwest State. Their president, Abdiaziz Hassan Mohamed (“Laftagareen”), had therefore put forward his own very young and unexperienced candidate in conjunction with the current presidency and received 98 votes in the first round of voting. The result on April 27, 2022, could therefore upset the existing balance of power. Not on clan side grounds, but because the federal state with the most MPs and the predominant Rahanweyn residence has lost a key position of power. The big losers in these events are President Farmajo, South-West State President Laftagareen, and, representing the police and military circles close to the president, Somalia’s police chief, General Abdi Hassan Hijar. It will be interesting to see who will win the last seats in Hir Shabelle. The seat of former NISA chief Fahad Yassin[10] is still in dispute there, and it will be exciting to see how the new speaker of the lower house deals with the 16 MPs from Ceelwaaq. This is because one of the compromises on April 27, 2022, was that they would not be allowed to vote in the speaker’s elections for the time being. However, these are solvable problems and it can be assumed that there will still be a complete parliament in April 2022. Then it will become clear whether the opposition’s unity is sufficient to defeat the still large number of supporters for the presidency and whether the ruling presidency is willing to accept a peaceful transfer of power.

If this is the case, the people of Somalia and especially the inhabitants of Mogadishu will be the main winners. Because so far, with a great deal of patience and effort, it has been possible to avoid a violent conflict. This speaks above all for the political actors of the opposition, who have always kept a cool head despite the many provocations of the presidency, the shooting of demonstrators, the intimidation attempts, political assassinations, and the aggressive rhetoric of the presidential supporters.


[1] Abdulkadir Khalif, ‘Somalia’s Lower House, Senate set to elect speakers before end of April’ (The East African, 19 April 2022) https://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/tea/news/east-africa/somalia-lower-house-and-senate-set-to-elect-speakers-3786962 accessed 29 April 2022.

[2] Brosius, R. Somalia am Scheideweg. Z Außen Sicherheitspolit 14, 49–55 (2021), 54.

[3] For example the murder of the prominent opposition politician Amina Mohamed on 23th March: Zakariye Ahmed, ‘Somalia: Vocal government critic Amina Mohamed among people killed in Beledweyne blasts’ (Horn Diplomat, 24 March 2022) https://www.horndiplomat.com/2022/03/24/somalia-vocal-government-critic-amina-mohamed-among-people-killed-in-beledweyne-blasts/ accessed 29 April 2022.

[4] Eliud Kibii, ‘Standoff over Jubaland parliamentary elections settled’ (The Star, 22 April 2022) https://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2022-04-22-standoff-over-jubaland-parliamentary-elections-settled/ accessed 29 April 2022.

[5] ‘Somalia: Parliament’s security in need of special focus’ (Garowe Online, 19 April 2022) https://www.garoweonline.com/en/news/somalia/somalia-parliament-s-security-in-need-of-special-focus accessed 29 April 2022.

[6] ‘Senate speaker, Abdi Hashi re-elected in Somalia’ (Africanews, 27 April 2022) https://www.africanews.com/2022/04/26/senate-speaker-abdi-hashi-re-elected-in-somalia/ accessed 29 April 2022.

[7] ‘Somalia: Somali Police Boss Suspended’ (AllAfrica, 27 April 2022) https://allafrica.com/stories/202204270589.html accessed 29 April 2022.

[8] ‘Aaden Maxamed Nuur: Waa kuma Guddoomiyaha cusub ee Golaha Shacabka?’ (BBC News Somali, 28 April 2022) https://www.bbc.com/somali/war-61253550 accessed 29 April 2022.

[9] Mohamed Hussein Mentalist, ‘Somalia’s Federal Parliament Elects New Speaker’ (ModernGhana, 29 April 2022) https://www.modernghana.com/news/1155079/somalias-federal-parliament-elects-new-speaker.html accessed 29 April 2022.

[10] René Brosius, ‘Somalia’s complicated election process ends – result: uncertainty’ (africanlegalstudies.blog, 15 April 2022) https://africanlegalstudies.blog/2022/04/15/somalias-complicated-election-process-ends-result-uncertainty/ accessed 29 April 2022.

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