In Somalia, an ugly political dispute has ended in the resignation of the country’s prime minister. This development came only after street protests backing the prime minister, who initially refused to step down. His ouster has some Somalis, especially in the diaspora, complaining that Uganda is playing too strong of a role in their country’s politics. This in turn fuels sentiments that the TFG lacks any real legitimacy or autonomy.
First, some background:
Recent political infighting within Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) made rifts between President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Speaker of Parliament Sharif Hassan Sheik Aden a cause for regional concern. The dispute centered on whether to hold presidential elections in August 2012 (the president’s preference) or August 2011 (the speaker’s preference, and the original date for the expiration of the TFG’s current mandate). Deadlock on this issue threatened to undermine military progress that the TFG and the African Union Mission for Somalia (AMISOM) are making against the rebel group al Shabab in the capital Mogadishu.
The crisis was resolved with the signing of the “Kampala Accord” in Uganda’s capital on June 9, but resolution came at the price of the resignation of Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, whom the president appointed only eight months ago. The president will keep his job, but the speaker scored a victory in removing an important rival.
The strong role Uganda played in brokering the accord – Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni “will guarantee the implementation of this agreement,” one article reads (full text available here*) – reflects Uganda’s already strong role in Somali politics generally. Uganda supplies the largest number of troops to AMISOM; indeed, Uganda and Burundi supply almost all of AMISOM’s troops. President Museveni, who has been in power since 1986 and recently won re-election in February, is a figure with clout in the region. His influence was on display after the agreement. The New York Times writes, “In the end, according to several analysts, Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, forced him to step aside. Uganda plays a bit of a kingmaker role in Somalia.”
Perceptions of increasing Ugandan influence in Somali politics have prompted complaints in different segments of the Somali political class. Kenya’s Daily Nation reports, “Somalis in the diaspora have continued to stage demonstrations in the US, Europe and other parts of Africa, especially in Kenya and Uganda, supporting Mr Mohamed’s position on the Kampala Accord. Somali MPs meeting in Nairobi took issue with the PM’s resignation terming the Kamapala Accord illegal.” An even more explicit complaint comes from the Somali publication Garowe, which even before Mohamed’s resignation published an editorial rejecting the Kampala Accord. Garowe assigns Uganda a primary role in bringing about the Accord, which Garowe says
in effect, is a new constitution. There is no parliament (as the Accord revokes parliament powers) and there is no president (as the president, similar to a parent-child relationship, is repeatedly given orders and chastised under the terms of the Accord). Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signs the document as a witness, but also as an enforcer.
Whatever one’s position on the desirability of the Accord or the role Uganda plays in Somalia, I think these complaints about Uganda are significant. President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed is already perceived in many quarters as illegitimate. His success in delaying elections and remaining in power will, indeed, heighten that perception, as will the feeling that Somali politics is subservient to the calculations and interests of outsiders. In many ways, there is nothing new in this: the TFG and its predecessors have long been widely seen as illegitimate transplants dominated by the diaspora and by outsiders. But the Kampala Accord and its aftermath seem to have left a particularly sour taste in many mouths, and the anger over this deal may persist for some time to come, targeting Somali as well as foreign leaders.
*I am not familiar with the site that hosts this document, but I believe the document to be credible.