Somalia: Ahead of polls, parliament votes Prime Minister Khaire out

By Morris Kiruga

Posted on Tuesday, 28 July 2020 16:17
FILE PHOTO: Somalia's PM Hassan Ali Khaire addresses the Parliament seating where he was confirmed in Somalia's capital Mogadishu
Somalia's Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire REUTERS/Feisal Omar

Somalia’s parliament impeached the country’s Prime Minister in a surprise vote on 25 July, as the Horn of Africa nation prepares for elections in early 2021.

Speaking at a news conference after the no-confidence vote on Saturday, the legislature’s speaker said Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire’s government had failed to tighten the country’s security and more importantly, provide a proper plan for its first one man one vote elections in five decades.

  • Parliament voted to impeach him in a 170-8 majority vote that the Prime Minister and his allies have termed as illegal. Instead, the PM resigned at a separate news conference.
  • The firing of PM Ali Khaire, a former oil executive, now means President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (better known as President Farmajo) has to appoint a replacement with just months to go before the country’s elections.
  • In the meantime, Farmajo, accepted the impeachment results on Saturday and appointed Deputy Prime Minister Mahdi Mohamed Guled as acting Prime Minister.

Meanwhile, the international civil society group NetBlocks reported extensive internet outages in south and Central Somalia, including in the capital Mogadishu, on 26 July.

“The ongoing incident has nation-scale, non-total impact with indications of an intentional blackout affecting cellular and fixed-line networks,” said the group.

While there has been no official statement on the reason for the outage (and no technical reasons either), the timing of the outage immediately after the Prime Minister’s ousting suggests it was deliberate. It would mirror a similar multi-week outage in neighbouring Ethiopia from late June to mid-July, which followed the murder of a popular musician in the capital.

Why ousted now?

There are still months ahead before the end of term for both the President and parliament, making the upcoming polls particularly more existential for Somalia.

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The move to impeach PM Khaire follows top-level meetings he facilitated in Dusmareb (Dhusamareb), the capital of the Galmudug federal state in central Somalia, where the federal and state governments held consultations on the country’s electoral process and calendar.

But the impeachment was always just a matter of when. According to Voice of America:

  • Four of Somalia’s presidents since 2004 have had at least three prime ministers each during a single term
  • Only two of the 10 PMs the country has had in the last two decades were not been fired.

At nearly four years, PM Ali Khaire actually lasted the longest, mostly by avoiding confrontation with the President. Recently, the two have differed on the timing of the elections, which are set for early next year. President Farmaajo and his allies have said the country is not ready for a one man one vote process, but the main issue is whether that means the elections have to be postponed.

In options presented to Parliament by the electoral chief in June, the country can hold elections in March or August 2021, depending on whether it opts for manual or biometric registration.

Federal and regional politics at play

The mid-July meeting in Galmudug was hosted by regional president Ahmed Abdi Karie, who together with his colleagues, have “ruled out one person one vote system in the next election, [and] called for an alternative, inclusive model that allows the upcoming election to take place within scheduled time,” according to journalist Harun Maruf.

At the same time, political parties in the semi-autonomous state of Somaliland agreed in mid-July to hold local council and parliamentary elections before the end of 2020. The elections have been postponed twice; they were originally slated to be held in early 2019, before being postponed to August 2019, and then to an undetermined date in 2020.

READ MORE Books, Poetry and politics: Somaliland

Somaliland’s elections are of particular interest to regional watchers because of the state’s geopolitical position as well as the political maneuvering of its leaders. In the span of a few weeks in July, Hargeisa hosted delegations from Kenya, Egypt and Ethiopia. The conversations with Egypt included a plan to build a military base in the country, which would give Cairo a foothold in Addis Ababa’s neighbourhood.

  • Ethiopia sent its own delegation led by its Finance Minister, ostensibly to undo the deal with Egypt. Somaliland hosts the Berbera Port, which is co-owned with Ethiopia and Dubai-based logistics multinational DP World.
  • In early July, Somaliland also established diplomatic ties with Taiwan, in a move that has predictably irked Beijing.

Hargeisa also hosted a Kenyan delegation in early July, led by one of opposition leader Raila Odinga’s top lieutenants. That triggered rumours that Odinga was working to push for the Somaliland’s recognition.

  • Odinga’s spokesperson has since denied the rumor, but Hargeisa’s extensive guest list is an indicator of the regional and international interests at play in Somalia’s and Somaliland’s elections.
  • More importantly, Somaliland’s politicians seem to be playing off regional and international adversaries at each other, as they work to get recognition for the semi-autonomous state.

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