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.