Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s Trip to Minneapolis

I had a trip to make last week and another coming up this week, so I’m falling behind somewhat on blogging. But important things have been going on. In particular I’m frustrated that various commitments are preventing me from writing more about Mali. Public commentary on that country’s crisis has begun to really upset me, especially commentary that seems to celebrate violence.

Anyways. Today I have a quick point to make about Somalia, whose (relatively) new President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud visited the United States last week. On January 17 Hassan Sheikh met with President Barack Obama and Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough, and (separately) with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. After the latter meeting, Clinton announced that the US government had official recognized the government of Somalia, the first time Washington has done so for any government in Mogadishu since 1991. Hassan Sheikh also spoke at a forum at the Center for Strategic and International Studies – you can watch the video here.

The US recognition of Somalia’s government was, in one sense, the big news of the trip. But what struck me most was that on January 18, President Hassan Sheikh traveled to Minnesota, where he addressed the Somali diaspora community there (Minneapolis is home to the largest Somali community in the US).

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud called on Somalis living in Minnesota to help rebuild their war-torn homeland.

Mohamud spoke to about 4,000 people late Friday night at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Although most of his speech was in Somali, he said in English that it was, “the beginning of a new foundation.”

Semhar Araia attended the event and collected her reactions and photographs here; I highly recommend reading/viewing them.

The trip struck me not because it is surprising but because it is unsurprising. Two data points don’t necessarily make a pattern, but let’s recall that the previous president of Somalia, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, toured Somali diaspora communities in the US in 2009, visiting Minneapolis and Columbus, Ohio, home to another sizable Somali community. Sheikh Sharif was the first Somali president to make such a trip, and it is noteworthy that Hassan Sheikh is building on this precedent. One reason, of course, is that the Somali diaspora is a critical source of money and minds for Somalia. The relationship between diaspora and homeland is also, it should be stressed, far from simple.

I am aware, in the abstract, that large-scale diasporas are reshaping our world and transforming notions of community and nation. But this emerging tradition of Somali presidents making official visits to Minneapolis makes that trend particularly vivid. In a legal sense, no part of Minnesota is part of Somalia. But in an existential sense, an important part of Hassan Sheikh’s country is in Minnesota. I would be very surprised if this is the last trip a sitting Somali president makes there.

Somalia: Presidential Selection Open Thread [Updated]

Today Somalia’s new parliament will select a new president for the country, marking the culmination of Somalia’s formal political transition.

More than two dozen candidates are vying for the position, including the current president and prime minister, as well as prominent Somalis who have returned from overseas.

If no one candidate secures a two-thirds majority in the first round, and a simple majority in the second the election would go to a third round.

[...]

Some presidential contenders and Somalis have criticized the election process saying it will merely bring in a new government that will look much like previous ones.

A diplomatic source in Mogadishu said millions of dollars were being used to bribe lawmakers to vote for the incumbent, President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed.

Consider this an open thread for election-related news.

[UPDATE]: Somalia has a new president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. See commenter Ahmed and AP for more.

A UN Report on Somalia – And Somali Leaders’ Responses to It

The United Nations Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea is due to release its 2012 report soon, but the report has already been widely leaked. It is available, for example, at the website Somalia Report. Journalists have already begun to analyze it, and Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali have already responded to it. Leaks of such reports, one contact told me, have become relatively common. Members of monitoring groups and panels of experts are sometimes thought to leak reports out of a desire to forestall the possibility that members of the UN Security Council, or governments criticized in reports, will try to censor or block publication of damaging findings. Whatever the case may be, the political storm around the report has started.

The report’s findings are particularly sensitive (though some findings are not necessarily surprising) given that Somalia is currently in the midst of a transition set to culminate with presidential elections in August. This transition has already fallen behind schedule. Critics charge that the transition is hollow: it will produce a government similar in personnel and design to the current Transitional Federal Government (TFG), critics say, and will not solve core political questions regarding corruption, federalism, inclusiveness, and legitimacy.

The BBC highlights ten critical takeaways from the UN report. To my mind, three findings outrank the others in importance. First, the scale of corruption in the TFG, which apparently cannot account for upwards of 70% of its funds. Second, the abuse of diplomatic passports, including passports given to senior pirates. Third, the potential for the rebel movement al Shabab, which is steadily losing territory, to shift its center of gravity to the northeastern region of Puntland. All of the findings the BBC mentions, as well as the report itself, are worth reading.

Below are some excerpts from Sharif and Ali’s responses to the leaked report. In his response, the President attacked the Coordinator of the UN Monitoring Group, Matthew Bryden, whom he accused of being a supporter of Somaliland and of partitioning Somalia. Sharif further accused the Monitoring Group of disrupting efforts toward peace in Somalia. The Prime Minister, meanwhile, focused on rebutting accusations that mentioned him and his office, addressing his criticisms to the media as well as to the report itself. (I am indebted to a reader for passing on these links.)

The President:

President Sharif spent half of his one-hour speech to discuss the recently leaked report by the Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group, and he launched a clear attack against Monitoring Group Coordinator Matt Bryden.

“Matt Bryden is not ashamed to support the division of Somalia into two countries. Matt Bryden has a track record of being against the restoration of peace in Somalia,” said President Sharif to the crowd’s applause.

Responding to Monitoring Group allegations of corruption, President Sharif said: “This government is ready for transparency. If any money is missing, I am ready to resign and to be taken to Guantanamo Bay,” President Sharif joked.

The TFG president expressed his disappointment that the Monitoring Group report was leaked at such a time when Somalia is ending the transitional period for the first time since 2000.

“This Monitoring Group report was timed to coincide with the end of transition period in order to discredit the TFG,” said President Sharif.

The Prime Minister:

The Office of the Prime Minister of Somalia (OPM) condemns allegations contained in news reports appearing in some of the media on a “leaked Monitoring Group’s report” linking The Office of the Prime Minister to alleged corruption and misconduct.

The Office of The Prime Minister maintains that the allegations are absolutely and demonstrably false. This deliberate misinformation is intended to tarnish the good name and integrity of the Prime Minister and also constitutes defamation and libel intended to maliciously harm the hard earned reputation of the Prime Minister.

[...]

H.E Abdiweli Ali Gaas reassures the Somali People and development partners of his personal commitment in ensuring transparent and accountable utilization of donor funds especially at this critical time in the history of Somalia.

Parsing these statements helps show what accusations sting Somali leaders the most (corruption, lack of transparency), but my guess (and it is only a guess) is that the denials and refutations will not substantially diminish the widespread sense of pessimism regarding Somalia’s political trajectory that the report seems bound to reinforce. Of course, some of the TFG’s most powerful backers appear to regard it as the most viable political framework for Somalia, whatever the Government’s flaws, and will continue to back its successor government on that basis, at least for a time. But the combination of the report’s damning conclusions and the missed deadlines in the current transition make the outlook for political stabilization in Somalia (despite recent military successes by the TFG and its allies) look quite grim.

Ethiopia: Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s Illness and Potential Political Changes in the Greater Horn

When Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi missed an African Union summit this past weekend, rumors spread that he was ill. News agencies reported yesterday that Meles was in “critical condition” in Brussels. By late in the day the Ethiopian government had announced that Meles was “in good condition.” Under Article 75 of the 1994 Ethiopian constitution (.pdf), Deputy Prime Minister (and Minister of Foreign Affairs) Haile-Mariam Desalegne will act on the Prime Minister’s behalf in his absence.

Meles, a former rebel leader who took power in 1991, has previously stated his desire to step down when his current term ends in 2015. If Meles leaves office, the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front will almost certainly retain power, but Meles’ absence would represent a significant political change for Ethiopia.

Indeed, Meles’ illness potentially foreshadows a coming period of political change (specifically the installation of new heads of state) for several countries in the greater Horn of Africa. Change could occur in several ways.

First, there is retirement. Meles is not the only leader in the region who has said he will step down in 2015 – Sudanese President Omar al Bashir made the same promise during a small wave of protests in early 2011, and Djibouti’s President Ismael Guellah has stated that he will step down in 2016. Some observers have doubted the sincerity of these pledges, but Meles in particular sometimes seems fatigued and ready to give up the job, an appearance that this illness underscores.

Elections will bring changes in leadership elsewhere in the region. Many observers expect Somalia’s ongoing political transition, which includes presidential elections next month, to produce a government fairly similar in personnel to the current Transitional Federal Government. But in Kenya, presidential elections set to take place in 2013 must produce a new head of state. President Mwai Kibaki, who has reached the limit of two five-year terms, cannot run again, leaving the field open to a number of major politicians, including current Prime Minister Raila Odinga and current Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta.

Other transitions, as Meles’ case reminds us, could come about because of sudden illness or death, a grim possibility but one that must be mentioned. These leaders are not old: indeed, all of them (not counting Kibaki) are short of seventy – Meles was born in 1955, Bashir in 1944, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir in 1951, Somalia’s President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed in 1964, Eritrea’s President Isaias Afewerki in 1946, Djibouti’s President Ismail Guellah in 1947, and Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni around 1944. Yet four of them have been in power for over nineteen years (Museveni came to power in 1986, Bashir in 1989, Meles in 1991, and Isaias in 1993). The high stress of being head of state seems to accelerate aging in some leaders. There remain only six African leaders who have been in office longer than Museveni.

Finally, no leader in the region has faced a monumental threat from mass protests, but significant anti-regime protests have occurred in the last two years in Sudan, Uganda, and Djibouti. If nothing else, such protests add to the pressures these heads of state face in other areas.

It is possible, of course, that in three or four years only Kenya, out of all the countries in the greater Horn, will have new leadership. But a combination of factors could produce transitions in Ethiopia, Sudan, Djibouti, and elsewhere, potentially shaking up, within a relatively short period of time, what has long been a fairly stable roster of leaders.

Somalia: Missed Transition Deadlines, Speculation about the Long Term

This summer, as Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government nears the end of its mandate, the country has a number of deadlines to meet in a political transition meant to culminate in the August 20 presidential election. These deadlines, as originally set, include:

  • By June 20, Somalia must assemble a National Constituent Assembly whose members will meet in Mogadishu by June 30.
  • By July 10, Somalia must adopt a new constitution.
  • By July 20, Somalia must swear in a new parliament with 225 members selected by elders.
  • On August 4, the parliament will elect a speaker and deputy speaker.
  • These MPs will then elect the next president by August 20.

Last week, the International Contact Group (ICG) on Somalia expressed disappointment that Somalia had missed several of these deadlinesVOA provides some more detail on the delays and their causes:

The next step in the so-called “Roadmap Process” is for a group of 135 elders representing the various clans to select the 825 members of the National Constituent Assembly who will vote for a new parliament, constitution, and president.
The constituent assembly is scheduled to convene July 12, but the elders still have not presented the names.
Chairman of the Hawiye clan elders, Mohamed Hassan Haad, says the council first wants a chance to review the draft constitution.

[...]

U.N. Special Representative for Somalia Augustine Mahiga says the elders have a right to express their concerns, but they do not have the authority to make decisions about the constitution, and certainly not to withhold the names for the constituent assembly.

Some Somalis, VOA continues, feel that the draft constitution “is being forced upon them by the United Nations.” Complicating the transition, then, are not only power struggles between Somalis and Somalis, but also between Somalis and external partners.

Assuming that Somalia makes the August 20 deadline for holding presidential elections, some voices are starting to say that the real work – or, some say, the real problems – will begin only after the “transition” is complete. Mahiga recently wrote in an open letter to Somalis that “the end of the transitional period will be an important benchmark, but it is time for us all to begin to look past 20 August and think about the future political dispensation of Somalia.” After August, the draft constitution will be put to a popular referendum, an event that could cause major debate and conflict.

Dr. Michael Weinstein argues that the core unresolved problem in the transition is the issue of federalism and the nature of the state:

What kind of “transition” will occur on August 20 when the very structure of the state has not been determined – whether it will be unitary, decentralized unitary, federal, or confederal? The question of the nature of the state is both the most fundamental and the most divisive political issue in Somalia. The reason why it has not been resolved in the “draft provisional constitution” is that it is so divisive…The T.F.G. was a more coherent structure than the one that will replace it; at least the T .F.G. had a completed charter.

In what seems like an early warning shot in the debate over federalism, the TFG’s minister for home affairs recently made news by stating that the government recognizes none of the country’s many self-declared autonomous regions.

Weinstein goes on to outline other issues, including accountability for the new government, political divisions within parliament, the relationship of Somalia to the donor community, etc. He concludes pessimistically, saying that at best, Somalia faces “a transition to a transition”: “The territories of post-independence Somalia now face a new four-year transition with a presumptive government that replicates the one that it will replace.” He writes that there could be substantial continuity in the new government in terms of personnel. Indeed, current President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed may well win re-election.

What do you think? Is the transition hollow? What do you expect will happen after August 20?

Somalia: A Political Agreement and a Military Offensive

Somalia took an important step this week in its bid for stability. In neighboring Ethiopia, Somali leaders have signed a deal setting August 20 as the date for a transition to a new government (presidential elections must take place before that date). Meanwhile, within Somalia, the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) have launched a new offensive to capture territory from the rebel movement al Shabab, pushing into areas outside Mogadishu, where the TFG-AMISOM forces hope to take the towns of Elasha and Afgoye (map).

As is often the case, we can greet these events optimistically – VOA says that Somalia is “on track to end failed state status” – or pessimistically, noting the challenges that remain.

Culling information from the BBCVOA, and the communique from the meeting published on the site Raxanreeb, here are some facts about the transition framework:

  • The agreement has six signatories: TFG President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, TFG Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, Speaker of the Transitional Federal Parliament Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden, President Abdirahman Farole of the semi-autonomous Puntland region, President Mohamed Ahmed Alin of the semi-autonomous Galmudug region, and Khaliif Abdulkadir Moallim Noor, a representative from the pro-government militia Ahl al Sunna wa al Jama’a (Arabic: “The People of the Traditions of the Prophet and the Muslim Community”).
  • By June 20, Somalia must assemble a National Constituent Assembly whose members will meet in Mogadishu by June 30.
  • By July 10, Somalia must adopt a new constitution.
  • By July 20, Somalia must swear in a new parliament with 225 members selected by elders.
  • On August 4, the parliament will elect a speaker and deputy speaker.
  • These MPs will then elect the next president by August 20.

Now for the potential problems:

  • Establishing the framework could prove to be the easy part; carrying it out could be difficult. A power struggle between President Sharif Ahmed and Speaker Sheikh Aden has already forced a delay of one year (the presidential election was originally set to take place in August 2011). At each step in the process, there is potential for factionalization and deadlock. Additionally, it is possible that the time-frame will prove too short to move through all the steps, at least without rushing and thereby creating problems that will appear later.
  • Despite gains in the military offensive against al Shabab, there have also been costs, particularly massive displacement of civilians. Some critics are also charging that the Kenyan offensive against another al Shabab stronghold, Kismayo, is going too slowly and may be futile. Military progress, in other words, has come in fits and starts, taking a heavy toll on civilians, and the new government will still control only portions of southern Somalia.
  • Reuters wonders whether oil production in Puntland might complicate relations between that area and the TFG (and the TFG’s successor).

So should we be optimistic or pessimistic? I certainly think that the agreement in Addis Ababa marks a positive step. And political progress is critical to solidifying any military gains – if the government at the center is plagued by infighting and confusion, how can it establish a legitimate and continuous presence in newly conquered areas? For once, the politics and the conquests seem to be moving partly in sync. But this summer will put optimism to the test, as we see how papers signed in Ethiopia will translate into realities in Somalia.

Roundup of Reactions to the London Conference on Somalia

Yesterday, the British government hosted the “London Conference on Somalia.” You can read a statement of the conference’s aims here, and view a list of attendees here.

Below I have rounded up statements made at the conference and reactions to it from governments, organizations, and individuals.

British Prime Minister David Cameron (full text of his speech here):

The world had ignored Somalia for too long, said British Prime Minister David Cameron in his opening statement, because the problems were seen as too difficult and too remote.

“That fatalism has failed Somalia and it has failed the international community, too. So today we have an unprecedented opportunity to change that and I believe there is real momentum right now,” said Cameron. “International aid has pulled Somalia back from the brink of humanitarian crisis. Thanks to the extraordinary bravery of African and Somali troops, the city of Mogadishu, once beautiful, now a bullet-hole-ridden city has been recovered from al-Shabab. Crucially, across the country al-Shabab are losing the support of ordinary Somalis.”

Video of Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmad’s speech here.

Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali:

Ali said that he supported international airstrikes against al-Qaida militants in his country because they were “a global problem” that “needs to be addressed globally.”

He emphasized Thursday that he wanted the airstrikes to be properly targeted.

“That’s what we support,” Ali said. “Not necessarily killing innocent lives.”

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

The people of Somalia have waited many years. They have heard many promises, they have seen many deadlines come and go, and it is time – past time – to buckle down and do the work that will bring stability to Somalia for the first time in many people’s lives. The position of the United States is straightforward: Attempts to obstruct progress and maintain the broken status quo will not be tolerated. We will encourage the international community to impose further sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes on people inside and outside the TFG who seek to undermine Somalia’s peace and security or to delay or even prevent the political transition.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon:

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said more money is needed to spread security beyond the capital.

“We need the surge in Mogadishu to show what is possible in southern and central Somalia. We need to reconsolidate military gains, provide the basic social services and contribute to reconstruction,” said Ban. “Sixteen United Nations agencies and our partners are working hard to make progress. But they are underfunded… this is a bold agenda, we have no more time to wait and see. To any donors still wavering, I say get off the fence, help prevent another famine and offer new hope to Somalia.”

Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula:

Moses Wetangula, foreign minister of neighbouring Kenya, told Reuters he wanted to see “a renewed and reinvigorated international commitment to Somalia”.

“We hope it’s not going to be the usual talking shop where we make flowery speeches and get clapped and go away without caring whether it will be followed up or not. I hope we will have a commitment to assist the warring factions in Somalia to instil a sense of peace and working together.”

Oxfam:

While we recognise the huge efforts of the UK Government to make the conference a success, what we had hoped for was a recognition that 20 years of internationally imposed solutions have failed. However, what we’ve seen once again are externally driven solutions that haven’t worked, aren’t working and will not work.

Amnesty International: “London Conference on Somalia hasn’t adequately tackled the dire human rights situation in the country.”

The BBC’s Mary Harper:

There seems to be a bit of a contradiction in the final communique. On the one hand, it states in bold type that decisions on Somalia’s future “rest with the Somali people”. On the other it talks about outsiders taking some control of the government’s budget, with the establishment of a Joint Financial Management Board.

It is also outsiders who have decided that the time for political transition is over; they even say they will “incentivise progress” towards representative government.

Al Shabab:

Al-Shabab said the London conference was another attempt to colonise Somalia.

“They want us under trusteeship and we will not allow that. God willing we will face the outcome with full force and stop it,” said al-Shabab spokesman Ali Mohamud Rage.

Some other Somali criticisms of the conference can be found here.

I unfortunately could not find a statement by Turkey, which is an increasingly important actor in Somalia (see a recent piece on their aid efforts here, and a piece on the praise Turkey won from a Somali businessman here). Turkey will host another international conference on Somalia this June. I also could not find a reaction from Russia, which sent a delegation to the conference.

Please use the comments to post additional reactions and to share your own. Do you think the conference will make a difference in/for Somalia?

Somalia’s New PM Enters Office Already Under Pressure

Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) has a new prime minister. The previous officeholder, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, was forced out as one of Speaker of Parliament Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden’s conditions for allowing his rival, President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, to extend his mandate through August 2012. Mohamed’s replacement is Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, who had served under Mohamed as deputy prime minister and minister of planning and international cooperation.

Ali, like many other members of the Somali elite, is foreign-trained: he obtained MA degrees from Harvard and Vanderbilt, and has taught since 2003 at Niagara University (see his faculty profile, which includes a link to his CV, here). Ali has an extensive record of publications, and with prior experience in government he clearly has strong qualifications to serve. As Jeffrey Gettleman writes at the New York Times, Ali will offer a high degree of continuity with his predecessor, who had a similar resume and was also American-trained: “The president…seemed to be continuing with his preference for Western-educated technocrats by naming Abdiweli Mohamed Ali to the post of prime minister.”
Ali takes office at a delicate time. Mohamed had a following both within parliament and in the streets, and the president’s demand for his resignation evoked days of protests. Ali will likely survive the confirmation vote parliament must hold, but then he will move to the real challenge of building a strong relationship with a body that is still resenting being sidelined during the recent deal between Sheikh Ahmed and Aden. Ali also works with the knowledge that he, like his predecessor, is vulnerable to the political needs of the president. Ali is therefore under pressure to both perform well and keep his head down.
Furthermore, the dispute between Sharif Ahmed and Aden, the legally questionable extension of the TFG’s mandate, and the ouster of Mohamed have all damaged the TFG’s already weak international reputation. Ali will face some pressure to improve that reputation – already the UN has called on the TFG and the new prime minister to “[work] together to implement priority tasks, including finalizing the constitution, reforming institutions, enhancing security and rebuilding the security sector, continuing outreach and reconciliation, improving accountability and rolling out basic administrative and social services to ensure the stabilization of areas recovered from armed groups.” That’s a tall order.

Somalia: PM Mohamed Resigns Amid Complaints about Ugandan Influence

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.

Kampala, Uganda

Kampala, Uganda

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.

Somalia: Cracks in the TFG Widen

When we last checked in with Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and its infighting, a United Nations official was urging President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and speaker of parliament Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden to share power as a way out of their disagreement over when the next presidential elections should occur (the president wants, and has gotten, an arrangement where elections take place in August 2012, while Sheikh Aden preferred August 2011). The two rivals have indeed struck a deal, but the president’s victory on elections came at the price of the forced resignation of Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, who only took office last fall. Reuters writes that Sheikh Aden “covets the top job.” AFP adds:

The president and the parliament speaker have two reasons for wanting to oust the prime minister. Abdullahi Mohamed is an ethnic Ogadeni and they are under pressure from the Puntland region to replace him with a ethnic Darod. Moreover he has gained a degree of popularity and this has riled them.

There’s one hitch, though: Mohamed is refusing to step down, and he possesses a significant constituency that backs him up. Protests have broken out in the streets of Mogadishu, and Mohamed and his supporters in parliament are questioning the legality of the “Kampala Accord” (it was signed in Uganda), saying legislators must ratify the agreement.

The ugly drama playing out in Mogadishu is bound to make international donors to the TFG even more uneasy than they already were. While the agreement between the president and the speaker may have brought temporary sighs of relief, the current crisis threatens to more deeply factionalize the government and further undermine the popular legitimacy of many key players, most of all the president. The New York Times‘ Jeffrey Gettleman writes that Mohamed’s refusal to quit makes the TFG’s future “even more uncertain.” I would add that the political mess makes the recent military gains seem less compelling – although the TFG and African Union soldiers have gained ground in Mogadishu, the TFG’s public dysfunction leaves one wondering whether it can truly rule what it has conquered.