Somalia: PM Roble and Farmaajo play ping-pong with AU’s Madeira

By Musinguzi Blanshe
Posted on Thursday, 7 April 2022 18:35

Ambassador Francisco Madeira, the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (SRCC) for Somalia, speaks during a press conference about Al Shabaab terrorists masquerading as AMISOM troops planning atrocities on Somali people. The press conference was held in Mogadishu, Somalia on February 10, 2016. AMISOM Photo / Ilyas Ahmed
Ambassador Francisco Madeira, the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (SRCC) for Somalia, speaks during a press conference about Al Shabaab terrorists masquerading as AMISOM troops planning atrocities on Somali people. The press conference was held in Mogadishu, Somalia on February 10, 2016. AMISOM Photo / Ilyas Ahmed

As Somalia’s political season draws to an end, a new dispute between Somalia’s President and Prime Minister has erupted over the expulsion of the country's Special Representative of the African Union Commission Chairperson (SRCC). But the tensions come at a time when the country is hoping to get much-needed funding for the AU's new security mission.

In the wee hours of Thursday 7 April, Somalia’s Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble announced through social media the expulsion of the AU envoy Francisco Madeira. However, President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo was quick to reject the expulsion. Madeira has worked with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) for close to eight years.

The prime minister’s office has declared Madeira a person non grata for “engaging in acts that are incompatible with his status”. In a rebuff to the expulsion, the office of the president noted that “Somalia’s foreign policy is not anchored on emotions and vested interests”.

According to the statement from the president’s office, Farmaajo requested that the ministry of foreign affairs “convey its apologies to [the] AU for the reckless and untimely decision made single-handedly by an unauthorised office”. The president’s office also lauded the AU peacekeeping mission for helping the country deliver peaceful elections.

The expulsion came five months after Madeira’s deputy, Simon Mulongo, was expelled from Somalia for also engaging in activities deemed to be incompatible with AMISOM’s mandate and Somalia’s security strategy. At the time, Mulongo’s expulsion was sanctioned by Farmaajo through the foreign affairs minister.

Somalia politics spills to AU

The political disagreement between the president and the prime minister has been on public display for more than a year. In fact, the president has twice attempted to dismiss the PM.

As the AMISOM mandate wrapped up at the start of April, the AU staff who remained to work for the new mission, ATMIS, are viewed differently by both men.

A diplomatic source tells The Africa Report that some of the AU staff are viewed as supporters of the prime minister while others are seen to be as backers of the president. Madeira, in particular, was among those seen to be close to the president.

When the PM’s office announced Madeira’s expulsion, the SRCC’s special representative was in Nairobi, Kenya attending meetings, a source tells The Africa Report. Roble may have used the opportunity of Madeira’s visit outside Somalia to ensure he doesn’t return to Mogadishu. It remains unclear when Madeira will head back.

Politics affects security

This incident comes at an inopportune moment for Somalia. With AMISOM finishing its mandate and being taken over by ATMIS, the latter began without securing funding, largely from the EU, which had funded 90% of the former mission.

Discussions between the AU and the EU are still ongoing. While the EU is willing to fund ATMIS, it has set out tough conditions, such as:

  • Eliminating police and civilian employees from the new mission
  • Reducing the number of troops by 4,000 before the end of this year.

This means that Somalia’s security forces will play a bigger role in the country’s security as ATMIS will drastically reduce the number of personnel in the next two years. For Somalia to provide the necessary security personnel (soldiers and police), it will require support from the states that make up the federal government. However, states like Puntland and Jubaland do not recognise the authority of President Farmaajo. They argue that his term ended, as per the constitution, on 8 February 2021.

Omar Mahmood, International Crisis Group Somalia expert, told The Africa Report in a recent interview that when political tensions become inflamed, command and control in the army breaks down, undermining its ability to act as a coherent force. Mahmood argued that establishing a strong security force “in absence of a working political arrangement with the federal member states” is an uphill task.

Presidential elections

In Somalia, the president is elected by the senators and parliamentarians. The elections for parliamentarians are 96% complete, the country’s finance minister Abdirahman Beileh told The Africa Report in a past interview, paving way for the presidential election that has been delayed for more than a year.

President Farmaajo is interested in seeking a second term, but the main hurdle could be the PM as he is in charge of elections.

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