Kenya Speaks on Somalia Electoral Impasse as Pressure Mounts on Mogadishu

A delegate casts her vote in the electoral process to choose members of parliament into Somalia's House of the People in Mogadishu, Somalia, on 6 December 2016.
10 February 2021

Kenya has joined a growing list of international players in urging Somalia to negotiate an amicable electoral programme and save the region from instability.

Commenting for the first time on Somalia's electoral crisis since the two countries cut diplomatic ties, Kenya told the African Union Peace and Security Council on Tuesday that Somalia's elections will be vital for the long-term stability of the Horn of Africa, and asked donors and other partners to ensure all stakeholders take part.

Somalia is currently facing an uncertain political future after the four-year term of President Mohamed Farmaajo ended on Monday without the country holding elections. Farmaajo, by law, is expected to be in office at least until the next head is elected.

Differed with Farmaajo's stay

But stakeholders, including federal member states and political groupings, have differed with Farmaajo's stay.

The Council of Presidential Candidates, a grouping of presidential aspirants, said on Monday they proposed a transitional team led by the two bicameral federal parliament speakers.

The international community seemed to reject that idea, instead calling for dialogue. The UN in Somalia said it will reject any parallel processes or moves that are not reached by consensus.

The Peace and Security Council's meeting on Monday was meant for stakeholders to brief the African's Union's organ that addresses political stability on the way forward.

But Kenya's Permanent Representative to the African Union Jean Kamau used the occasion to defend her country's own reputation in Somalia, saying Nairobi had contributed troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), motivated by its own security interest and that of the region.

"Kenya called for the peace and Security Council to focus on the vital initiatives that must be undertaken to ensure that the historical consensus built between domestic, regional and international actors in Somalia, which included the federal government of Somalia and all its related entities was secured and guaranteed," a dispatch from Kenya's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Tuesday, calling for renewal of the mandate of Amisom which is due to expire in two months.

Rejected Somalia accusation

Mogadishu had accused Nairobi of meddling in Somalia affairs and cut ties in December. In the dispatch, Kenya rejected the accusation and said the African Union must be wary of entities "driving fissures among the various stakeholders, friends, partners of Somalia and of the region."

The AU's Peace and Security Council, to which Kenya is a member, also heard from Amisom and Somalia. But the meeting came a few hours as the UN Security Council, to which Kenya is also a member, planned to meet later on Tuesday to discuss Somalia's situation.

There are fears that a protracted electioneering campaign could provide Somali militant group al-Shabaab with a chance to attack more installations.

On Monday, African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat said the situation was a security "grave concern", warning that "the considerable gains made by Amisom and the Somali Security Forces (SSF), in fighting Al-Shabaab, extending state authority over large parts of the country, and improving security and rule of law for the Somali people, are now being threatened by the escalating political tension."

"The chairperson stresses that the stability of Somalia is at stake and calls on all Somali stakeholders to put national interest first and constructively seek solution to their differences through dialogue and compromise," a statement from his office said.

Political gridlock

Donors including the US said a political gridlock had slowed down the fight against Al-Shabaab, as well as focus on rebuilding the country's institutions.

"Quickly resolving the current electoral impasse is critical to Somalia's future," said US Ambassador to Somalia Donald Yamamoto.

"It is the responsibility and the duty of national and regional leaders to put aside the search for political advantage and instead act in the interests of the people of Somalia, who deserve the best from their leaders. Now is the time to resolve outstanding issues and finish the job of holding elections."

Farmaajo and his opponents ran into a stalemate last week after failing to agree on the date of elections as well as membership of the official polling teams. An earlier list released by his Prime Minister Hussein Roble was termed biased with opposition groups saying it included spies and cronies of the president. The stakeholders have specifically failed to implement the September 17, 2020 Agreement, commonly known as the Dhusamareb III Agreement, named after the capital of Galmudug federal state where the meeting happened in September.

All the donors have asked parties to return to negotiations. But Farmaajo himself told the Lower House on Saturday that opposition groups had kept shifting goal posts.

"I have compromised in order to birth a political agreement for the sake of our solidarity as a nation in line with the aspirations of our Somali people," he said in a speech to the House.

"I made two inputs for the September 17 agreement and were rejected. These included proposal to reduce registration fees for our Somali female candidates seeking elective posts and to retain the initial National Independent Electoral Commission, to hold elections since we had already invested resources and personnel," he added.

Commission rejected

The commission was rejected after it proposed an extension to the term of Presidency, admitting that holding an election by February this year would be difficult. Opposition groups, however, saw that as the president's plan to stay around without elections. In fact, Somalia's original plan of holding universal suffrage fell apart.

The European Union, one of the financiers of Amisom, said an absence of a political deal was "extremely serious."

Josep Borrell, the EU High Representative and vice president all participants should continue to "engage constructively to agree on the implementation of a national electoral process."

"Political leaders should continue their efforts on the implementation of the 17 September agreement. Any parallel or partial process or an extension of the current mandate of the institutions, which is not technical in nature would be considered as a severe setback."

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