Why technocrats are eyeing Somalia presidency

By ABDULKADIR KHALIF

Somalia’s parliamentary polls are still dragging on, just a few days to the self-imposed-and-extended deadline of March 15.

And one of the contentious constituencies is Garbaharey in Gedo, Jubbaland, where a dispute resolution team was trying to reach a deal on the actual venue for the contest this week.

But with just a few seats remaining to fill up the 275-member Lower House, the presidential contest is also shaping up, attracting old technocrats who had been in previous administrations.

This week, Mr Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke expressed his intention to join the race for the presidency of Somalia.

Sharmarke, twice prime minister (2009-2011 and 2014-2016), says he will invoke that experience to steer the country from current troubles.

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Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke gives a speech following his appointment as Prime Minister in Mogadishu on December 17, 2014. PHOTO | AFP

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“If I am elected president, I’ll employ the vast experience I gained while I served the nation at various capacities to lead Somalia to political, social and economic stability,” said Sharmarke in an interview with a station Hanoolaato TV.

Sharmarke was also an ambassador to the US. And his joining the race means there could be at least two former prime ministers seeking the seat, and competing against their erstwhile bosses. His former boss, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud is in the race.

While President Mohamed Farmaajo is running to defend his seat, former Prime Minister Hassan Khaire who served under Farmaajo also announced the candidature. 

Read: Somalia ex-PM enters race for the presidency

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President-elect Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo (left) and outgoing President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud shake hands at Villa Somalia in Mogadishu on February 11, 2017. PHOTO | ABDULKADIR KHALIF

Under Somalia’s indirect presidential elections, a joint session of the 54 senators of the Upper House and 275 legislators of the House of the People (also known as the Lower House) are assigned to vote for a president in a secret ballot.

The date will be known once all parliamentary seats are taken. But Somali technocrats say they want to take over the politicians and correct their errors.

“I know where the problem lies,” said Jamal Ahmed, a former diplomat who worked at the regional bloc, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad).

Jamal Haji Ahmed.

Jamal Haji Ahmed, a former Igad official, wants to contest for the Somali presidency. PHOTO | COURTESY

“Somalia lacks institutional memory in government so we must listen more to our elders. To reconcile our people, we must look at our mental strength, which lies with our elders. They knew how to resolve differences,” he told The EastAfrican.

“We need to bring good minds to leadership. Somalia’s good guys aren’t volunteering to lead, and it is unfortunate. I am not blowing my trumpet but I have good experience and institutional memory to help resolve our problems,” Ahmed said. He declared the candidature at the start of March.

Read: Former Igad official sets his eyes on Somalia presidency

Another technocrat that has kept eye on the almost ending election season in Somalia is ex-Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdirizak who on Monday held a press conference in his native Galkayo town, 750km north of Mogadishu, to announce his plan to run for the presidency of the country.

Prior to the press conference, Abdirizak who served as Somalia’s foreign minister until November 2021, addressed a horde of elders from his sub-clan, seeking their consent to help him obtain the votes of the 101 delegates that will determine who is to become the MP representing the sub-clan for his constituency seat coded as HOP#199.

Mohamed Abdirizak

Former Somalia Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdirizak. FILE PHOTO | POOL

He told the elders, “I trust you all know my background, educationally and politically, envisaging you can trust me to be your best representative at the legislative house.”

At the press conference, Abdirizak reiterated that in 2016, he was a candidate for the presidency (a contest that the incumbent Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo won).

Read: Somalia election 2016: Candidate profiles

“Since 2016, I have been deeply examining the evils that have been overwhelming our nation, being confident that I can come out with the best solutions to advance our country and people.”

All the 54 senators to the Upper House had been elected by the parliaments of the Federal Member States between July and October 2021 while 220 MPs have been elected since the 1st of November 2021. As of this week, only 55 MPs remain to be elected by the delegates of their respective sub-clans.

Mohamed Mohamud Farey, a political observer in Mogadishu, stated on Tuesday that a large number of candidates will line rendering the field a crowded one and in the joint session, the 329 senators and 275 MPs, will have plenty of aspirants to choose from.

 “I anticipate the list of the hopefuls this time will be even longer,” he said, referring to the 2016 polls when 23 contenders joined the race.

Farmaajo’s immediate challengers, though, are expected to be the members of the Coalition of the (opposition) Presidential Candidates – CPC.

Up to now, the over dozen political heavyweights that include two former presidents, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud, ex-Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire and Former Parliamentary Speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan, are united.

Other potential CPC members include the outspoken Chairman of Wadajir Party Abdirahman Abdishakur and a galaxy of former ministers.

Somalia presidential aspirants.

Sheikh Sharif Ahmed (centre) and other opposition presidential aspirants speak to journalists in Mogadishu, Somalia. PHOTO | COURTESY

Ali Osman aka Limbo, a political lobbyist in the city, bets that the number of days the CPC members remain unified are numbered. Limbo believes that they are only united to collectively challenge Farmaajo and nothing else.

“Every time that election is apparent, it is traditional that opposition figures in Somalia form a group to challenge the incumbent,” remarked Limbo, adding that such coalition disappears when the voting is imminent.

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