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Somalia’s legislative elections missed a key deadline last week, risking a third delay and raising more serious questions about whether the deeply troubled country will ever make it out of its open-ended transition phase to become a real democracy.

Four of the six federal states completed the election of members of the new upper house of the Somali Federal Parliament. But voting for the more important lower house – The People’s House – which was supposed to start on October 23 and run through to November 10, had not begun.

This raised some doubts about whether or not Parliament would be able to perform its first duty of electing a new president on November 30, who would appoint a new prime minister, who would in turn appoint a cabinet.

The failure of clan elders and others involved to complete the process of choosing an electoral college, to elect the 275 members of the lower house, provoked a strong rebuke from the “international community”. In a rare joint statement, the United Nations (UN), African Union, Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Ethiopia, Italy, Sweden, the UK and the US expressed “grave concerns” over allegations of corruption and the intimidation of prospective candidates for parliament, electoral college delegates and election officials.

Michael Keating, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Somalia, warned this week that “the electoral process is reaching a pivotal moment” and that the continual delays, intimidation and vote-buying “are now raising serious questions about the integrity and credibility of the process”.

It is not the logistical challenges familiar to many other African elections – of getting ballots and other materials to thousands of polling stations scattered around the country – that is causing the delay. Only 14,025 people out of Somalia’s population of some 12-million may vote in this election; and they are to do so in just a few federal state capitals.

Even so, that is an improvement. The Transitional Federal Government, which ran the country from 2000 to 2012, was chosen by just those 135 clan elders. The current Federal Government of Somalia was established after the last election/selection in 2012, but remained, in effect, not much less transitional than the previous one.

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who was elected by an elected legislature in 2012, promised that the next elections, this year, would at last be on the basis of universal franchise.

But that didn’t happen, for several reasons. As ISS researcher Omar Mahmood has pointed out, logistical problems were among these reasons. The country had not completed a census or a voter’s roll. But he suggests the biggest delaying factor was that the violent, extremist Islamist group al-Shabaab still poses a major security threat. It has vowed to disrupt even the limited election proposed. If all eligible Somalis were to have voted in thousands of polling stations across the country, the threat would have been so much greater.

However, Mahmood also cites lack of political will – in effect the reluctance by some politicians who control the country – as another possible factor that kicked universal franchise down the track again.

In the absence of universal franchise, the country’s leadership decided to extend voting rights just a little bit beyond those 135 clan elders by adding another step to the electoral process. The 135 clan elders would choose an electoral college of 51 members for each of the 275 parliamentary seats, providing a total of 14,025 electors who would cast secret ballots to elect the lower house.

So the electorate has increased since 2012, in an attempt “to moderate the perception that is a purely elite-driven process”, as Mahmood says. “But in a country of some 12-million, that’s still just a drop in the ocean.”

And those 135 clan elders still wield enormous power by selecting the electors. The clan elders are still composed on the 4.5 formula that has dominated Somali politics for a long time; meaning the four biggest clans are equally represented and the smaller clans get half that representation.

Mahmood said that while some wanted to drop this system and move towards conventional party-based politics, other clans wouldn’t budge. He added that those pushing for more conventional politics may be doing it because they feel they can gain more from it – and not necessarily from any love of democracy.

Still, as he says, the 2016 electoral procedures are a step in the right direction, making the government a little more inclusive, both politically and geographically. In 2012 the lower house was selected in Mogadishu only. In 2016, it is to be elected in Mogadishu as well the federal state capitals. The upper house, representing the six federal states and selected by their presidents, is an important new institution, Mahmood says.

“The federal states can no longer say decisions made in Mogadishu don’t involve them,” he says. “It adds legitimacy to legislation passed by parliament.”

And increasing the number of electors from 135 to 14,025 should also decrease the opportunities for corruption and manipulation. Those were rife in 2012. And he notes that at least 30% of the lower house MPs are supposed to be women, and some 20% of the electorate for each of the 275 seats should be youths, in an effort to increase diversity. But he adds that the current parliament selected in 2012 was also supposed to have at least 30% women members, but in fact has only 14%.

Mahmood also stated that despite the tight grip that the clan elders still have on Somalia’s politics, the 4.5 formula represents the reality of the country. He cited a recent poll done by the Heritage Institute for Policy Studies in Mogadishu, which found that 79% of respondents believed one-person, one-vote was simply not feasible yet.

“That gives some breathing space,” he says. But the poll also found the approval rating of the current government was extremely low, and that 60% percent opposed any extension of its mandate.

These results put a lot of pressure on the 2020 elections to be significantly more inclusive. And they also put pressure for an end to the seemingly perpetual postponements of this 2016 election.

Mahmood said these delays provide further opportunities for manipulation of the results and raise worrying questions about who was benefiting.

But he also noted that with federal state formation still effectively a work in progress in some areas, despite the last-minute agreement to establish the Hiiraan-Shabelle state, there is a converse risk of rushing to elections and thereby freezing some players out of the process – a recipe for future conflict.

Al-Shabaab, he notes, has successfully recruited members from such disaffected players in the political process before, and could do so again.

He notes that given the continued issues, there is speculation that the 2016 elections might not be completed before 2017. Nonetheless, he says: “Even if 2016 is still something of an elite-driven process, the hope is that there are some capable elites who can still steer the country in the right direction, rather than the election merely being an income-generating activity for those involved.”

Moving in the right direction would certainly be helpful. But whether Somalia can become truly democratic by 2020 is doubtful, especially with al-Shabaab still menacing. The contributors to the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia – which is keeping al-Shabaab at bay – have vowed to start pulling out in 2018 and to be all out by 2020.

That would be on the very eve of the next elections. DM

Peter Fabricius is an ISS Consultant.

Photo: Young girls watch a football game being played outside their school during break time at a centre in the Afgoye corridor, Somalia, on September 25, 2013. AU UN IST PHOTO / Tobin Jones

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20161136361375241682826312016-11-03-iss-today-somalia-elections-banner

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BY PETER FABRICIUS

Somalia’s legislative elections missed a key deadline last week, risking a third delay and raising more serious questions about whether the deeply troubled country will ever make it out of its open-ended transition phase to become a real democracy. Four of the six federal states completed the election of members of the new upper house of the Somali Federal Parliament. But voting for the more important lower house – The People’s House – which was supposed to start on 23 October and run through to 10 November, had not begun.

This raised some doubts about whether or not Parliament would be able to perform its first duty of electing a new president on 30 November, who would appoint a new prime minister, who would in turn appoint a cabinet.

The failure of clan elders and others involved to complete the process of choosing an electoral college, to elect the 275 members of the lower house, provoked a strong rebuke from the international community. In a rare joint statement, the United Nations (UN), African Union, Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, Ethiopia, Italy, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States expressed ‘grave concerns’ over allegations of corruption and the intimidation of prospective candidates for Parliament, electoral college delegates and election officials.

A major delaying factor is that al-Shabaab still poses a major security threat

 

Michael Keating, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Somalia, warned this week that: ‘The electoral process is reaching a pivotal moment’ and that the continual delays, intimidation and vote-buying ‘are now raising serious questions about the integrity and credibility of the process.’

It is not the logistical challenges familiar to many other African elections – of getting ballots and other materials to thousands of polling stations scattered around the country – which is causing the delay. Only 14 025 people out of Somalia’s population of some 12 million may vote in this election; and they are to do so in just a few federal state capitals.

Even so, that is an improvement. The Transitional Federal Government, which ran the country from 2000 to 2012, was chosen by the 135 clan elders. The current Federal Government of Somalia was established after the last election/selection in 2012, but remained, in effect, not much less transitional than the previous one.

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who was voted in by an elected legislature in 2012, promised that the next elections, this year, would at last be on the basis of universal franchise.

But that didn’t happen for several reasons.  As Institute for Security Studies researcher Omar Mahmood has pointed out, logistical problems were among these reasons. The country had not completed a census or a voter’s roll. But he suggests the biggest delaying factor was that the violent extremist Islamist group al-Shabaab still poses a major security threat. It has vowed to disrupt even the limited election proposed. If all eligible Somalis were to have voted in thousands of polling stations across the country, the threat would have been so much greater.

Somalia’s electorate has increased since 2012, but it’s still just a drop in the ocean

Mahmood also cites lack of political will – in effect the reluctance by some politicians who control the country – as another possible factor that kicked universal franchise down the track again.

In the absence of universal franchise, the country’s leadership decided to extend voting rights just a little bit beyond those 135 clan elders by adding another step to the electoral process. The 135 clan elders would choose an electoral college of 51 members for each of the 275 Parliamentary seats, providing a total of 14 025 electors who would cast secret ballots to elect the lower house.

So the electorate has increased since 2012, in an attempt ‘to moderate the perception that is a purely elite-driven process,’ as Mahmood says. ‘But in a country of some 12 million, that’s still just a drop in the ocean.’

And those 135 clan elders still wield enormous power by selecting the electors. The clan elders are still composed on the 4.5 formula that has dominated Somali politics for a long time; meaning the four biggest clans are equally represented and the smaller clans get half that representation.

Mahmood said while some wanted to drop this system and move towards conventional party-based politics, other clans wouldn’t budge. He adds that those pushing for more conventional politics may be doing it because they feel they can gain more from it, not necessarily from any love of democracy.

Still, as he says, the 2016 electoral procedures are a step in the right direction, making the government a little more inclusive, both politically and geographically. In 2012 the lower house was selected in Mogadishu only. In 2016, it is to be elected in Mogadishu as well the federal state capitals. The upper house, representing the six federal states and selected by their presidents, is an important new institution, Mahmood says.

‘The federal states can no longer say decisions made in Mogadishu don’t involve them,’ he says. ‘It adds legitimacy to legislation passed by Parliament.’

Clans pushing for conventional politics might feel they can gain more from it

And increasing the number of electors from 135 to 14 025 should also decrease the opportunities for corruption and manipulation. Those were rife in 2012. And he notes that at least 30% of the lower house MPs are supposed to be women, and some 20% of the electorate for each of the 275 seats should be youths, in an effort to increase diversity. But he adds that the current Parliament selected in 2012 was also supposed to have at least 30% women, but in fact has only 14%.

Mahmood also states that despite the tight grip that the clan elders still have on Somalia’s politics, the 4.5 formula represents the reality of the country. He cites a recent poll done by the Heritage Institute for Policy Studies in Mogadishu, which found that 79% of respondents believed one-person, one-vote was simply not feasible yet.

‘That gives some breathing space,’ he says. But the poll also found the approval rating of the current government was extremely low, and that 60% opposed any extension of its mandate.

These results put a lot of pressure on the 2020 elections to be significantly more inclusive. And they also add pressure for an end to the seemingly perpetual postponements of this 2016 election.

Mahmood said these delays provide further opportunities for manipulation of the results and raise worrying questions about who was benefitting.

But he also notes that with federal state formation still effectively a work in progress in some areas, despite the last-minute agreement to establish the Hiiraan-Shabelle state, there is a converse risk of rushing to elections and thereby freezing some players out of the process – a recipe for future conflict.

Al-Shabaab, he notes, has successfully recruited members from such disaffected players in the political process before, and could do so again.

There is a risk of rushing to elections and freezing some players out of the process

He notes that given the continued issues, there is speculation that the 2016 elections might not be completed before 2017. Nonetheless, he says: ‘Even if 2016 is still something of an elite-driven process, the hope is that there are some capable elites who can still steer the country in the right direction, rather than the election merely being an income-generating activity for those involved.’

Moving in the right direction would certainly be helpful. But whether Somalia can become truly democratic by 2020 is doubtful, especially with al-Shabaab still menacing. The contributors to the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia – which is keeping al-Shabaab at bay – have vowed to start pulling out in 2018 and to be all out by 2020.

That would be on the very eve of the next elections.

 2016113636137525933221573ISS

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WOMEN

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ARABISKA FORWARD OPERATING BASE, Somalia — It was 9:30 a.m., in a desolate corner of Somalia, and Lt. Cpl. Juliet Uwimana was taking her tank for a test drive. She and the rest of Uganda’s Battle Group 18 had been in the war-torn Lower Shabelle region for only a week, but already the battle group was on high alert.

Al-Shabab militants had overrun three similar forward-operating bases in the last year, killing more than 100 soldiers. They had also attacked dozens of other bases, including one just six miles from their post in Arabiska. But this morning was a quiet one — hence Uwimana’s test drive in the T-55 tank. She stood on a metal seat as the machine jerked forward, spewing smoke from its massive treads and rolling through sand so deep it threatened to swallow the vehicle whole.

Uwimana is one of roughly 500 women in the Ugandan contingent of AMISOM, the 17,000-strong African Union force tasked with battling al-Shabab and securing the troubled Horn of Africa nation so that a political process can take root. They serve as drivers, gunners, and technicians in the motorized infantry division — roles that women were barred from in the U.S. military until as recently as last year. But in Somalia, female peacekeepers have been serving in these positions for years.

Somalia has the highest prevalence of female genital mutilation in the world at 95 percent, among the highest maternal mortality rates at 1,600 deaths per 100,000 live births

This is remarkable not only because al-Shabab is among the region’s most dangerous terror groups, but because Somalia is generally one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman, according to various rankings and polls. Somalia has the highest prevalence of female genital mutilation in the world at 95 percent, among the highest maternal mortality rates at 1,600 deaths per 100,000 live births, and, though official statistics are unreliable, anecdotal evidence suggests that sexual assault remains an inescapable threat for most women across the country.

But the fact that AMISOM features so many women in combat roles is neither a matter of oversight, nor desperation. It’s a strategic gambit. The female peacekeepers have an unspoken but very clear mandate: to prevent their male colleagues from perpetrating sexual violence against civilians and to help nurture faint stirrings of gender equality in Somalia.

After a bumpy swing around the base’s green Hesco barriers, Uwimana’s tank gunner, Lt. Cpl. Lehi Chebet, calls down for the tank’s driver to cut the engine, her voice nearly drowned out by its roar. The vehicle lurches to a halt and the fresh-faced tank gunner nimbly maneuvers her way out of its small opening, giving a short nod. The machine is ready.

 

Ugandan Lt. Cpl. Juliet Uwimana takes her tank for a test drive at Arabiska Forward Operating Base in Somalia. (CHRISTINA GOLDBAUM | FOREIGN POLICY)

For nearly three decades, Somalia has been the world’s default example of a failed state. After the collapse of dictator Siad Barre’s regime in 1991, the country fell under the sway of a patchwork of local warlords whose bloody inter-clan fighting destroyed infrastructure and crops and produced one of the worst famines the world has ever seen. Out of this chaos came the terrorist group al-Shabab, which pledged allegiance to al Qaeda and seized control of large swaths of the country, including parts of the capital, Mogadishu.

AMISOM first deployed to Somalia in 2007 under an African Union Peace and Security Council mandate to protect Somali infrastructure and government officials as well as to deliver humanitarian aid. Since then, the mission’s size, mandate, and geographical presence have dramatically increased. AMISOM’s mission is now more counterinsurgency than peacekeeping. Its troops have pushed al-Shabab militants out of most urban areas and into sparsely populated regions like Lower Shabelle, where the two forces are engaged in a deadly game of cat and mouse.

But as AMISOM’s presence has grown, so too has the controversy surrounding it. A 2014 Human Rights Watch report documented widespread sexual exploitation and assault of women and girls by Ugandan and Burundian troops within AMISOM. Since the report was released, AMISOM has created mechanisms for survivors of sexual violence to report accusations against soldiers. But it has also worked to keep new allegations of sexual assault from becoming public. According to U.N. and nongovernmental organization sources working on gender-based violence in Somalia, a 2013 internal U.N. report that alleged sexual assault by AMISOM soldiers was buried after researchers involved in writing it received death threats.

Deploying female peacekeepers has been a part of the U.N.’s official strategy to fight sexual violence since 2000, when the Security Council passed Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security. The logic behind that resolution, which called for greater female participation in peacekeeping missions as well as new safeguards to prevent gender-based violence, was simple: Women are generally more comfortable speaking with female authorities, so deploying female blue helmets should make it easier for women to report cases of sexual violence and enhance the ability of missions like AMISOM to investigate such cases. The presence of female soldiers within peacekeeping battalions is also thought to make sexual violence against civilians less likely.

But beyond the U.N.’s impressive claim, made in a study of Resolution 1325’s implementation last year, that “not a single female peacekeeper has ever been accused of sexual exploitation and abuse on mission,” there is little more than anecdotal evidence to support the idea that female peacekeepers are an effective antidote to sexual violence.

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Tank gunner Cpl. Stella Rose in the turret of her T-55. (CHRISTINA GOLDBAUM | FOREIGN POLICY)

“There is this idea that women are a civilizing influence, that maybe some men would be ashamed in front of their female colleagues to be engaged in that kind of behavior,” said Mary Schwoebel, a professor of conflict resolution studies at Nova Southeastern University in Florida who has trained Ugandan peacekeepers in Somalia. “But unless women are commanders and have the power to do something about it, I’m not sure that makes any difference.”

Sixteen years after the resolution was approved, women still account for only 3 to 4 percent of all U.N. peacekeepers. According to Pablo Castillo-Diaz, a peace and security analyst at U.N. Women, a United Nations agency dedicated to gender equality, “many of them are in support roles, such as clerical support jobs, even if they have been trained to be much more in contact with the population or in protection tasks.”

The proportion of women in AMISOM’s Ugandan contingent is only slightly higher than the U.N. average of 6.6 percent. And Uganda consistently ranks near the bottom of the U.N. Development Program’s Gender Inequality Index. But with more than 30 percent of those women serving in combat positions, the likelihood that they will eventually attain leadership positions is much higher. Many of these women not only aspire to be commanders, they view themselves as pioneers in a new generation of female fighters on the front line.

Ugandan Pvt. Scovia Nagun Mafabo, who drives a tank-like infantry combat vehicle known as a BMP, said there were no female BMP drivers when she arrived at the Kampala Armoured Warfare Training School in 2012. “But when I arrived, they said let us see if these girls can also manage and they selected four of us to train with the men,” she said. “After we successfully finished the course and qualified to be drivers, the school said, ‘From today we are going to be training more girls.’ Now we have trained six more girls in BMP.”

Still, the number of Ugandan women training and serving in combat roles has begun to grow only recently, meaning that it will be a decade or more until they ascend the ranks to positions of power. And even when there are more female officers, many fear it won’t do much to change the hyper-masculine culture that prevails in most militaries that contribute peacekeeping troops.

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Ugandan Pvt. Scovia Nagun Mafabo poses for a portrait. (CHRISTINA GOLDBAUM | FOREIGN POLICY)

“[Military] culture is not being changed by women; it’s changing women,” Schwoebel said. “The culture is a really macho, sexist culture, and it’s not going to change easily. So to succeed as a woman and get promoted to higher echelons, you have to adopt a character or traits that are also macho.”

This might be true in places like Arabiska, the remote forward operating base where Uwimana and Chebet work beside only a few female colleagues. But in Uganda’s main AMISOM base in the Somali capital of Mogadishu, where the largest group of female soldiers is stationed, women have carved out a space where femininity becomes its own form of camaraderie.

“You see this is our place; here we can just relax,” Cpl. Maimuna Kahindo, who drives a non-armored vehicle transporting equipment and personnel, said recently as she and seven other female soldiers kicked back in a women-only dormitory on AMISOM’s massive razor-wired complex at the airport in Mogadishu. Kahindo, who is stocky with a wide, infectious smile, plopped down on a bed made up with green-and-pink plaid sheets in their shipping-container-turned-barracks. She and the other soldiers were debating the merits of a jar of hair cream with a picture of a woman suggestively tilting her head on the label. The consensus was that nothing — not even the contents of the jar — could help their hair in Somalia’s oppressive heat.

Eventually tiring of the conversation, Kahindo turned on the large stereo next to her bed and a popular Nigerian pop song filled the room. She stood and started swaying to the beat, elbows hugging her hips, as the women on the bed cheered her on. One chorus in, Oliver Basalirwa, another driver, joined Kahindo and began crooning along to the song.

Kahindo laughed. “You see,” she said, still rocking her hips to the music. “Here we are just at peace. Mogadishu, it is not too bad, yeah?”

 

The view from inside an AMISOM armored vehicle in Mogadishu. (CHRISTINA GOLDBAUM | FOREIGN POLICY)

Driving through the Somali capital, it’s easy to forget that just a few years ago these streets were the front lines of the war against al-Shabab. These days, humid air from the Indian Ocean wafts over the shiny blue windows of brand-new office buildings and young girls jump around poorly painted but brightly colored playgrounds. The restaurant at the Beach View Hotel, a faded yellow building sandwiched between a wall of Hesco barriers and a white sand waterfront, is packed once again, only four months after an al-Shabab attack there killed at least 20 people.

Mogadishu’s peace is tenuous. In July, two suicide bombers tried to breach the AMISOM base where Kahindo and Basalirwa are stationed, killing 14 people. But for a country that has been at war for a quarter century, the change in the city feels dramatic. It just hosted its second annual international book fair, drawing hundreds of visitors and showcasing more than a dozen local and international authors. Residents can now stroll down the street and grab a slice of brick-oven pizza or watch a 3-D movie at the Pizza House Cinema.

Although most of the country outside the capital remains dangerous, the relative calm in Mogadishu has allowed a national discussion about gender roles and women’s rights that was impossible during the height of the war. The Parliament has drafted and debated — though not passed — a bill that would criminalize sexual violence for the first time, and the National Leadership Forum, which is overseeing preparations for the country’s upcoming general election, has endorsed a 30 percent quota for women in Parliament.

Peacetime has many obvious benefits for Somali women; among the hardships of wartime, they were disproportionately affected by sexual violence and inadequate access to health care. But there are some who worry that the end of war could mean a step backward for women. Women routinely became heads of households out of necessity during the war, and many started businesses in order to survive.

In some areas women of Somalia have been more economically engaged because their husbands are fighting or have died, and women are wondering now if … they will have to go back to being in the house and have to give up their economic engagement

“You can always say conflict is an opportunity for gender roles to change,” said Tanya Chopra, a contractor with U.N. Women in Somalia. “In some areas women of Somalia have been more economically engaged because their husbands are fighting or have died, and women are wondering now if … they will have to go back to being in the house and have to give up their economic engagement.”

Some, including Chopra, are looking to the female soldiers in AMISOM to inspire Somali women to fight to retain their wartime freedoms. They also hope that the presence of female AMISOM officers in the street, in U.N. conference rooms, and in meetings with top Somali officials will change men’s perceptions about gender roles.

“When we say we have a leader who’s coming to meet you, [local leaders] expect to see a male and they are surprised when they see a female. Maybe because of the culture they thought as a female you can’t be a leader,” said Ugandan Capt. Mercy Ruhinda. “But I think that is starting to change, at least they see that women can be in leadership positions, and we are trying to help address the problems here.”

But where many see the presence of female AMISOM soldiers having the greatest impact is in changing the mindset of young Somali girls. According to Schwoebel, “It could have a great impact on young women in Somalia because seeing women, especially from African countries, in these positions, they become like role models to these young girls.”

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A female officer in AMISOM’s police force during a night patrol in Mogadishu. (CHRISTINA GOLDBAUM | FOREIGN POLICY)

Evidence from previous missions suggests that the example set by female peacekeepers can make a difference. In Liberia, for example, an all-female Formed Police Unit from India was credited by the U.N. with inspiring Liberian women to join the country’s police force, increasing the percentage of female officers from 13 to 21 in the five years after the Indian unit deployed in 2007. In Somalia, a similar trend is emerging, perhaps inspired by the women of AMISOM and perhaps by a 24-year-old member of the diaspora, Iman Elman, who as a captain is the highest-ranking woman of the Somali National Army (SNA). Elman was raised in Canada following the slaying of her father, the prominent human rights activist Elman Ali Ahmed, but returned to Mogadishu in 2009 to work at her mother’s center for victims of sexual assault, the Elman Peace and Human Rights Center.

“A lot of girls I talked to believed that they were physically incapable of doing what men could do,” Elman said. “I remember Googling woman bodybuilders and showing them the pictures because I wanted them to see that that wasn’t true.”

Elman soon realized the only way to convince young women of their potential would be to demonstrate it herself — by joining the military. When she enlisted in the SNA at the age of 19, she was one of only two women in her battalion of 350 soldiers. After a year of struggling through intense verbal abuse from her male colleagues, Elman went on to serve on the front lines of the war against al-Shabab, earning national recognition for her accomplishments. Though the number of women in uniform is still very low, she says, more young women are expressing interest in joining Somalia’s nascent military force.

There’s been an influx of girls, young girls, joining the army, and the boys are a bit more accepting of it than when I joined

“There’s been an influx of girls, young girls, joining the army, and the boys are a bit more accepting of it than when I joined,” she said.

But the SNA is still a long way from being considered a professional fighting force. It’s estimated that 16,000 troops are poorly trained and equipped, and they often go months without pay. That poses a host of challenges for female troops like Elman that the women of AMISOM don’t have to contend with. The Somali army doesn’t have proper barracks, let alone reporting mechanisms or disciplinary procedures for gender-based discrimination and abuse.

“We still don’t have a gender department, we don’t have a human rights department,” Elman said. “When I joined there wasn’t a single channel where I could lodge any complaints about how the guys were treating me.”

Somali female soldiers haven’t yet earned the same respect as their AMISOM counterparts, and young SNA recruits still complain about sexual harassment and mistreatment by their male colleagues, Elman said. But as AMISOM prepares to withdraw from Somalia and hand combat operations over to the SNA, perhaps as early as 2018, the role of female soldiers in both forces has never been more important. Gender norms are changing as Somalia inches toward peace, and women in uniform will play an important role in safeguarding what little progress was made toward gender equality during wartime — and leading the charge for full equality during peacetime.

For now, peace and equality seem a long way off. Though some stability has returned to Mogadishu, bombings and targeted assassinations are still commonplace. Outside the capital, al-Shabab still terrorizes huge swaths of the country and clan militias do as they please in the absence of government control. The outlook for women in these areas is grim; one out of every 12 women dies of pregnancy related-causes and nearly half of all Somali girls are married by the age of 18. Whether or not the government can wrest control over these regions will not just be decisive for women. It may be decided by women, since more of them are serving in uniform.

“Women raised this country; they have been mediating peace throughout the war,” said Leila Mohamoud Abdulle, a women’s rights activist in Mogadishu. Now women have a chance to fight for peace on the frontlines and help build a culture of respect and gender equality in the armed forces.

“If we want peace to last,” she said, “we are going to need the leadership from women.”

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By DOMINIC WABALA

A businessman who has been handling the Sh21 billion 100,000-acre agricultural project in Galana for the prince of Saudi is now facing terror charges after being accused of recruiting Kenyan youth for ISIL.

Hassan Babakar Osman, Prince Sultan Bin Nasser Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud’s local agent, is being held at Muthaiga police station on the orders of Milimani magistrate Helen Onkwani as officers investigate.

Although he has not been formally charged in court, police got orders to hold him for 14 days while they investigate allegations of his links to terror groups, days before a criminal case against his business partners was scheduled to be heard.

Abubakar’s lawyer Cliff Ombeta yesterday said his client is being held on frivolous charges instigated by people who want to take over his business interests.He said there is a plot to deport his client to Sudan instead of either Somalia or the country from which he last entered Kenya, as is the norm.

 ”This is a businessman with licences in petroleum, agriculture and transport. He was thoroughly vetted by the Kenyan government before being issued with the licences. How could the government have cleared him if he was a recruiter? The police don’t seem sure about what to charge him with. While on the other hand they claim he is an ISIL recruiter, they claim he forged a letter of attorney from the Saudi Prince yet the Prince has not complained,” Ombeta said.

The lawyer said that senior Immigration officer Abraham Mwaura has confirmed that the Somalia passport being held by Abubakar is genuine and verified by the Somalia government.

Ombeta said he has received deaths threats from people who have warned him to keep off the case. He said two women, one of them claiming to be a police woman from Garissa, have also attempted to dissuade him from representing the businessman.

Under the arrangement, the Saudi Prince in 2010 leased 100,000 acres from the Agriculture Development Corporation on the Galana Ranch, in Kilifi county, for 16 years under a renewable contract. Work had began on the project before court cases were filed.

Abubakar has twice been arrested at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in July and at the Malindi courts in March after unknown individuals told police that he was travelling on a fake Somalia passport. But on both occasions, the Immigration office has confirmed from the Somalia government that the document is genuine.

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Afyare Elmi

Abstract

Due to pressure from the international community, the government, after it failed to stabilize and lead the country to democratic elections, presented an alternative selection process. Under such a process, each of 135 traditional leaders would nominate 51 clan members that would choose each parliamentarian of the first chamber of 275 seats. Moreover, each of the six clan-based state presidents would designate each of the 54-member seats of the second chamber to a sub-clan and then nominate two to four individuals so the parliaments of the regions would pick one for each. The combined members of the two chambers (329 altogether) would choose a president in November 2016. This report explains and analyses the political dispensation in Somalia. It argues that Somalia’s political dispensations are marred by gerrymandering, manipulations and corruption. Finally, the report calls for the international community to safeguard the process and pressure Somalia’s incumbent government to respect it.

Introduction

In his report to the UN Security Council on September 27, 2016, Michael Keating, Special Representative of the Secretary General for Somalia (SRSG), admitted that the “scope for political manipulation of the process remains high.”(1) Yet, while noting potential negative implications of the delayed political dispensation, the SRSG defended the skewed process, arguing that it is “imperfect” but it is still a credible arrangement that will provide the country’s political institutions the “enhanced legitimacy” they need. The SRSG got this wrong.

Gerrymandering the Political Dispensation

Keating’s reading is too optimistic at best, albeit it is consistent with the general narrative the donors want to hear. Obviously, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has comparative advantage because he is in power, and he co-opted the presidents of clan regions by overriding the parliament and replacing it with what he calls “National Leadership Forum (NLF).” (2) He purchased the support of Ethiopia and Kenya with controversial concessions that the Parliament has not ratified. (3) Moreover, his opposition is weak and divided as none of his competitors articulated new and workable ideas. Yet, instead of engaging fair and transparent race, the president, with the help of his “electoral committees” and his fellow-members of the NLF chose to manipulate the process to the extent of gerrymandering his come-back.

 

The so-called “electoral committees” at the national and regional levels are populated with the friends and employees of the president and the forum members who are leading it from behind. (4) Such a body cannot be fair and neutral to all political forces. Thus, nobody trusts them. The tainted “electoral committees” are using delaying tactics and arbitrary selections to benefit the president and his supporters. (5)

Additionally, as part of his campaign to stay in power, the president has recently made many politically motivated appointments (6) (ambassadors, ministers and senior public servants) and through the forum members and his interior minister tampered with the list of the traditional leaders.(7) Moreover, media and opposition groups have experienced repression and intimidation from the security forces. (8) On October 15, the Security forces closed down the Xog-Ogaal newspaper in Mogadishu and arrested its editor, Abdi Guled. (9) Some groups were denied to organize a meeting in public hotels, albeit the president latter re-assured the opposition groups they can meet. Most importantly, the level of corruption in the country has reached the highest for the last four years. (10)

Dashed Hopes

Somalia’s political dispensations came at critical time when the hope for political progress and change is at its lowest among Somalis. Despite the high-level corruption and vote-buying used in the process (11), Somali people have given president Mohamud a great opportunity in 2012. However, besides slow and poor decision-making throughout his tenure, the president has not utilized his time of office effectively. For the first two years, he wasted much needed time in changing prime ministers and blaming previous administration for all that went wrong. Additionally, the president spent a lot of the time touring capitals of the world. Worse, the president spent his last two years of office in campaigning for his return. In other words, there is very little to show for the last four years in terms of political, security and economic progress.

The president’s misplaced priorities led to three results. First, minimal effort was spent on building and/or respecting the constitution or the political institutions. The parliament was the first casualty as the president undermined this institution when he used it, through corrupt means, for removing the prime ministers he appointed. (12)The legislature lost credibility and whatever support it could get from the Somali people and the international community. For the four years, the parliament has passed few legislations. Eventually, with the help of the international community, the president has over-rided the parliament (13) and created the “National Leadership Forum” which is a parallel institution that took over the functions of the legislature and that of the Council of Ministers.

Second, because of the incumbent government’s insensitive, local-mindset (14) and Mogadishu-centric approach, tribalism sky-rocketed for the last four years driving clan emotions very high. From 2012 to present, different communities in different parts of the country felt excluded and marginalized. The widely perceived clannish approach of Villa Somalia has permanently damaged the hope for creating a national and inclusive project. For instance, Jubba region conflict almost led the country to a renewed Hawiye-Darod conflict because the president did not understand the tribal sensitivities and vulnerabilities.

Moreover, recently, the president failed to handle the Somaliland issue sensitively when the president and his fellow NLF members were allocating the poorly conceived seats of second chamber. The question here is not whether Northerners in Mogadishu represent Somaliland or not; it is sending a gesture of goodwill. At the time of writing this report, the politicians from the north that are in Mogadishu have boycotted the selection process until this issue is resolved. Finally, there were also cases where many Somalis questioned the composition of the president’s delegations overseas. Besides the behaviour of the government leaders, other factors such as the adoption of the Ethiopian designed clan federalism project and lack of public participation in constitution-making contributed to the rise of the tribalism and sectarianism in the country.

(1) Finally, the government has missed the mark when it comes to controlling corruption. To the contrary, wide spread corruption has repeatedly been reported. Somalia is still one of the most corrupted countries in the world. (15) More importantly, the government leaders’ search for sources of money to steal ended up in selling public properties to their supporters.

Potential Negative Implications

Understandably, the hope is all-time low. There is a widespread discontent among Somalis with the incumbent government and its forum of clan leaders. Moreover, Somali people do not have a say in the selection of the next government. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and his friends understand this fact and want to exploit this opportunity to their advantage. For many, what is going on in Somalia is not fair political dispensation where all political forces can participate in the process; it is a power-grab because the government controls the committees that are overseeing it and the eight members of the NLF have the final decisions. Moreover, the government leaders control the financial and public media institutions. Perhaps, one clear indication of how the president and NLF members are manipulating the political dispensation is the result of the selections of the representatives of the Galmudug, one of the regions, for the second chamber – almost all of the eight seats went for the president’s friends and allies. Same will happen in some of the other regions such as Hiiraan-Shabeelle.

If the current process is taken to its logical conclusions, the likely scenario is that Villa Somalia will completely hijack the dispensation. Such an outcome might lead to three results. First, inter-communal violence might start again. This is a possibility. Back in 1969, the leaders of the government at the time manipulated the elections. As a result, many people were killed during and after the election, including high profile assassinations. This led to the military to take-over the power. Similarly, when President Siyad Barre refused to share power with the political forces, many groups opted for an armed opposition. In other words, greedy politicians who wanted to maintain power at whatever cost led the country to where it is today. Unfortunately, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud cannot see these dangers as he is determined to stay in Villa Somalia at any cost.

Second, the quota for the representation of women may not be secured. The proposed political process allocates seats of the first and the second chambers to clans and sub-clans. This poorly conceived institutional design does not often produce women as leaders or parliamentarians. The current leadership understands this fact and did not do anything to rectify it. The rhetoric of forcing clans to select women have not taken women’s participation forward in the past political dispensations and it might not do it this time too.

Interestingly, the NLF members established unnecessary 54-seats second chamber that will have the same functions and representations as the first chamber. Then they arbitrarily assigned these 54-seats to sub-clans within the clan-regions and selected their friends and allies to fill these seats. Ironically, only after the UN representative pressured, the members of the NLF selected some women for the chamber they control. Apparently, the presidents of the clan regions are not committed to women’s participation. Can we then expect the traditional clan elders to support women’s participation? In fact, if Somalia’s political class is serious about women’s participation, the 30% quota has to be taken out of the hands of the clans and sub-clans permanently. Perhaps, one way of rectifying this is adding new 100 seats for women where men or clans are not allowed to touch. President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and his friends rewarded themselves with 54 seats, why not also add seats for women?

Moreover, Hawiye and Darod clans dominate the second chamber while some segments of the society such as Banadiri communities are not represented and others like Digil and Mirifle and Somaliland clans are under-represented. Additionally, the clan system does not often produce competency. Instead, clans use different logic and calculations that are not consistent with the modern day citizenship-centred model of governance. While it is imperative to accommodate clan identity within the political system, embracing it and basing all of the seats to clans is misguided approach. This system is not sustainable because it is based on group identity, not equal individuals who are citizens.

Finally, if the incumbent leaders return to power through corruption and gerrymandering, there will not be a political capital post-the-tainted selection process. In the past, dispensations resulted a political change that ejected incumbent governments from power and installed new leaders. These changes have often raised the hopes of the people and created a political capital, at least for the first year or two. Although the leaders and governments have not capitalized on this opportunity, the euphoria that the change brings is good for the system. Unfortunately, the current process is not fair and transparent. There might not be political capital after the selection exercise – may be this is the reason driving the donors’ demand for the current dispensation. This alone, even if there is no violent inter-communal conflict, is sufficient to lead to the failure of next government.

A less likely scenario is that after all of these manipulations, the incumbent politicians might lose. Three rationales are often provided. First, in the past, an incumbent leader has never returned to power in the Somali politics. In 1967, even the well-respected incumbent President, Adan Abdulle Osman, did not succeed to defeat President Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke. In other instances, incumbent politicians were also replaced after dispensations of 2000, 2004, 2009 and 2012. This view points out the 2012 dispensations where some of the leaders at the time (Former President, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, Former Prime Minister, Abdiweli Mohamed Ali and Former Speaker, Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden) who manipulated the system lost the raise.

Second, another view that is prevalent within the political class suggests that the loyalty of those that become parliamentarians is not to individual leaders that helped them win the seat. Instead, the office of the presidency is for sale. Votes were sold in the open market to the highest bidders. So if someone with a large amount of cash is in the raise, the incumbent leadership can be challenged. However, many believe that the incumbent politicians will not lose this raise because of lack money. They have raised a lot of money from various questionable sources. Finally, there are progressive voices that advocate for the disruption of what Professor Ahmed Samatar called the “Hawiye and Darod duopoly.” (16) This means, the president will be chosen from communities outside the Hawiye and Darod clans. This would be a significant development in the Somali politics. But, overall, the scenario of defeating the incumbent leaders in their own game in which they are refereeing is not likely.

Ending the Villa Somalia Manipulations

Somalia is somewhat under indirect trusteeship of the divided international community.(17) Therefore, Somalis expect the SRSG Michael Keating to pressure the incumbent leaders and the forum members he helped create to run a clean race and respect the communities to choose their representatives. The late and half-hearted call to disqualify former warlords is not sufficient. In addition to that, those that are responsible for the corruption and politicized clan and sectarian violence must be named, shamed, sanctioned and disqualified. Defending Villa Somalia and the presidents of the clan regions will send the wrong signal that it is ok to rig the selection process.

In order to improve the chances of success for the process, the government, opposition political forces and the SRSG-led international community should work together to try to achieve three simple but useful tasks. First, all political forces should unite to fast-track the dispensation and complete the selection of the parliamentarians by the end of October – this is not only desirable; it is also possible. Moreover, there must be independent observers and all selection events must be video-recorded so those that choose the parliamentarians can be identified and vetted. Second, since the government does not have mandate, all major political and financial decisions that have been taken after September 10, 2016 (the end of the mandate of the government) has to be revisited. This is necessary given the fact that the government has abdicated its responsibility to govern in a fair and transparent manner. Finally, for the reminder of the period, a care-taker administrator that is not seeking political office should be installed until a new government comes to office.

In short, Somalia’s political forces and the international community have the responsibility to make sure that Somalia does not slide-back to another round of inter-communal conflict. Allowing President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, the presidents of the regions and their “electoral committees” to hijack the process and control the agenda and the forums of the communities can lead to a dangerous path. Let us hope that Michael Keating and the international community he leads will use the influence they have positively.

 


 

Dr. Afyare Elmi
Afyare Elmi is political scientist. He teaches security studies at Qatar University’s Gulf Studies Program.

This article was originally published in Aljazeera  

 REFERENCES
(1) Michael Keating (UNSOM) on Somalia – Security Council, 7778th meeting. http://webtv.un.org/watch/michael-keating-unsom-on-somalia-security-council-7778th- meeting/5143508437001 (Accessed September 28, 2016)

(2) Communique: Consultation meeting between the President of the Federal Republic of Somalia and the Presidents of the regional states of Puntland, Jubbaland and South West Somalia, http://www.villasomalia.gov.so/consultation-meeting- between-the-president-of-the-federal-republic-of-somalia-and-the-presidents-of-the-regional-states-of-puntland-jubbaland-and-south-west-somalia (Accessed September 28, 2016).

(3) The president officially accepted the Ethiopian troops to be part of the AMISOM. Additionally, he is the first president to visit Jigjiga and while there he made controversial remarks that many questioned. For Kenya, there is maritime dispute. Although his government did not sign the controversial Memorandum of Understanding with Kenya it did not fight removing it. More importantly, the president renewed the Joint Commission for Cooperation with Kenya which nobody understands. See – Kenya, Somalia to revive cooperation pact. Available at http://www.capitalfm.co.ke/news/2012/12/kenya-somalia-to-revive-cooperation-pact/; Press Release. Ethiopian troops formally join AMISOM peacekeepers in Somalia. Available at http://amisom-au.org/2014/01/ethiopian-troops-formally-join-amisom-peacekeepers-in-somalia/(Accessed September 28, 2016)

(4) The chair (Omar Abdulle) and the spokesman (Mohamed Kaynan) are both from the President’s office.

(5) BBC Somali Service. (August 7, 2016). Doorashada Soomaaliya oo dib loo dhigay [Elections in Somalia Delayed]. Available athttp://www.bbc.com/somali/cayaaraha-37004884 (Accessed September 30, 2016)

(6) See Abukar Arman. (2016). Chasing Mirages Across Somalia, Huffington Post, October 3, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/chasing-mirages-across- somalia_us_57f273f0e4b07f20daa1105e (Accessed October 15, 2016); There are too many appointments – latest is the minister of telecommunication, Minster of Health and Minister of Education and several ambassadors. Ironically, two of the three ministers replaced two of the three women that were in the cabinet. Moreover, a number of security officials were appointed including the NISA director.

(7) The National Leadership Forum met in Baidoa and publicized the list of the traditional elders – this included a number of new elders. Additionally, the NLF attempted to add a new elder which became controversial and they abandoned it. See Communique. National Leadership Forum, Baidoa. (June 22 -25, 2016. Available at http://doorashada2016.so/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/NLF-Communique- Baidoa_June-2016_English.pdf (Accessed September 30, 2016)

(8) UN News Center. (2016). UN report urges Somalia to ensure freedom of expression as it is critical to political transition. September 4,http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54843#.V_3O9xZf271, (Accessed    September 28, 2016); The president denies that there is a degree that prevents opposition groups to meet. He re-assures that Somali groups can meet. However, media, candidates and opposition leaders still complain from the government forces.

(9) H. Maruf. (2016). Popular Somali Newspaper Remains Closed. Voice of America, October 17, http://www.voanews.com/a/somalia-shuts-down-newspaper/3554558.html (Accessed October 18, 2016)

(10) Katharine Houreld. U.N.-approved weapons imports resold in Somalia, diplomats say. Reuters, October 11, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-somalia-un- exclusive-idUSKCN12B1WF (Accessed October 15, 2016)

(11) Abdi Samatar. (2012). Somalia’s fleeting opportunity for hopeful change? Al-Jazeera Online, September 18, 2012,http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/09/201291612255832176.html  (Accessed October 15, 2016)

(12) The international community warned Somali leaders and the former SRSG renounced the bribery of the parliamentarians. See Reuters. (November 3, 2014). Somalia donors warn spat between president and PM risks recovery, November 3, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-somalia-politics-idUSKBN0IN0ZL20141103,  (Accessed October 15, 2016)

(13) President’s Office. (May 22, 2016). Madaxweynaha oo xeer ka soo saaray hannaanka doorashada dadban ee sannadka 2016-ka. Office of the President of Somalia, May 22, http://www.villasomalia.gov.so/madaxweynaha-oo-xeer-ka-soo- saaray-hannaanka-doorashada-dadban-ee-sannadka-2016-ka/ (Accessed October 15, 2016)

(14) Communities from Jubba region, Banadir, Puntland, Khatumo, Ahlu-Sunna Wal-Jama’a in Galgadud region, Hiran, Lower Shabelle and Bakool and Gedo regions had issues repeatedly with the government.

(15) Transparency International. (2015). Corruption Perceptions Index 2015: Corruption still rife but 2015 saw pockets of hope, January 27,http://www.transparency.org/news/pressrelease/corruption_perceptions_index_2015_  corruption_still_rife_but_2015_saw_pocket (Accessed October 15, 2016).

(16) See A. Samatar’s speech, “Prof. Samatar Waa in laga Baxo Afduubka Siyaasadeed Duopoly (Daarod & Hawiye)”, https://www.youtube.com/watch?  v=3yJssNTKJjU#t=266 (accessed October 16, 2016) 

(17) Afyare Elmi. (2011). Somalia: Manifestation of stealth trusteeship, Al-Jazeera Online, April 4,http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2011/04/20114473855381140.html  (Accessed October 16, 2016)

 

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