The past week has seen turmoil in Mogadishu. We’ve seen fighting in areas of the capital between militia groups and the security forces of the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) which has cost lives and damaged public property. We have seen main roads blockaded with makeshift piles of sand and debris. Images and videos of militiamen with weaponry initially circulated, with footage of them being chased by the heavy armaments of the Federal security forces circulating around soon after.
The most heart-breaking of images were of Somalis fleeing the capital. Regardless of blame, such events are a dark reminder of the callous and cruel nature of war. A nature Somalis are all too familiar with.
The high tensions were immediately cooled when leaders of Galmudug, Hirshabelle and the Prime Minister Rooble made a statement which set back the political stalemate to the 17th September Agreement. A decision endorsed by the President in his state speech that very night and voted on by Parliament today.
However, after so many years of peace in the capital, what has caused this uproar and violence? Who was behind these militia groups which infiltrated the city and attacked security forces? Let’s take a look at the series of events which led to this catastrophe:
Tensions between the ‘Coalition of Presidential Candidates‘ and the FGS
The tensions between the opposition group calling itself the ‘Council of Presidential Candidates’ (CPC) and the Federal Government reached high levels when the FGS refused to incorporate the group into talks between the FGS and FMS regarding the signing of the 17th September Agreement. The CPC claimed that President Farmaajo was a candidate for the Presidency. Therefore, he could not participate in the meetings as a representative of the Federal government anymore but rather is a Presidential candidate with equal rights to the other aspiring candidates. Consequently, the CPC argued it has an equal right to participate in the talks.
Upon further inspection of such an argument, it is evident that it is flawed within its crux. The President was elected as the leader of the FGS and was the main signatory of the 17th September Agreement for the Federal government last year. The agreement has already been endorsed by all signatories and was legalised under Law 30. Therefore, there is not a need for the CPC to sign an already agreed upon legal text.
The concept of the President holding office during periods of elections is a standard procedure in other countries with Federal systems. For example, former US President Donald Trump remained as President during his campaign to be re-elected. He held office for a further two months after his electoral defeat to smoothen the transition of power.
Indeed, the demand by the CPC has no legal basis as the question of the elections on a federal level and state level are only the responsibility of Federal and State officials and not Presidential candidates as said in the Somali Provisional Constitution. Additionally, the fact that they were not original signatories of the agreement meant that there was no need for their presence for FGS and FMSs to sign the final implementation.
Events of February 19th
The events of the 19th have been shrouded in political smoke and mirrors. For weeks prior to the incident, the CPC had been calling for protests in the capital to challenge the President regarding his term expiration. This was during a period of high levels of COVID-19 contraction in Mogadishu which resulted in the government introducing restrictions to reduce transmission and to tackle the security issue posed by Al-Shabaab infiltrating protests. The security issue was particularly of concern because the CPC requested no state security be present, including police. Rather, the CPC would have its own militia to protect themselves, a request the FGS vehemently rejected.
The morning of the 19th was a frightful one in Mogadishu. The rebel former general Indha-Cadde infamously declared on a radio that government had been toppled in the early hours of that morning. This was followed by a series of gun fights and explosions which rocked the city. By the morning, the city was in relative peace and it appeared that the FGS security forces had repelled the attack by rebel forces. However, heavy damaged was sustained at the airport and opposition leaders Hassan Sheikh and Sheikh Sharif reported to have been attacked by government forces at their hotel in the capital. Something adamantly denied by the FGS.
This very incident would spark a mistrust between opposition politicians and the government. This would also be used by leaders of Puntland and Jubaland as a political card to continue their stalling to sign the 17th September agreement which they had been doing during the eight months prior.
This would be the birth of the CPC’s political coalition with Jubaland and Puntland against the FGS and the implementation of direct elections.
The formation of ‘Madasha Badbaado Qaran‘ or ‘Somali National Salvation Forum‘
By the end of March, the President had called for five meetings regarding the signing of the 17th September agreement including Garowe, Mogadishu and Samareeb which were all rejected by leaders Deni and Madobe. Instead, Deni and Madobe began a game of cat and mouse, first requesting the meeting to be only Mogadishu, then rejecting Villa Somalia and requesting specifically Xalane which the President eventually accepted. This meeting occurred at Afisyooni which leaders of Puntland and Jubaland initially refused to attend despite their request being fulfilled. It is important to note that during their arrival to the capital, both Deni and Madobe came to Mogadishu with weapons which they would leave behind on their departure.
It is during this period, that the leaders Deni and Madobe joined forces with the CPC and leader of the Upper House to form the group named ‘Badbaado Qaran‘. A group claiming to save the country from political collapse. This group would have regular meetings to address and discuss political responses to both the political impasse at home and abroad. It engage in acts that could be deemed a national security threat. For example, it condemned Turkey for training Somali armed forces in the fight against Al-Shabaab.
The group was represented by Deni and Madobe at the Afisyooni talks which would eventually begin after the UN security council statement. Within three days, the talks would collapse. This was mainly due to the FGS’s rejection of conditions set out by the leaders of Puntland and Jubaland. This included included the sacking of most military commanders and disbandment of all Federal institutions. Indeed, such requests are unconstitutional and are in fact detrimental to Somali political stability and state security. No government would accept such terms which definitively proved the lack of appetite and rejection to hold elections by leaders of Puntland and Jubaland (Badbaado Qaran).
The April 12th vote and the Declaration of War
In a major turn of events, Golaha Shacabka voted to extend the terms of Federal institutions including the Presidency and Parliament for up to two years. They also voted to give the Federal Electoral Implementation Team (GDHF) the task of creating and implementing a political strategy to hold an effective 1P1V election system and create a deadline for elections within the two years.
The CPC declared the vote a hijacking of the elections by President Farmaajo despite the majority of the Lower House voting in favour freely. Presidential candidate Hassan Ali Khaire accused the President of being “responsible” for the deadlock, arguing the President is “ruling illegally with a gun“. He went on to accuse Golaha Shacabka of illegally extending their own mandate and that of the President which “had expired“.
This was followed by a large scale fake news campaign as many users of Twitter and other social platforms are aware, there has been an upsurge in misleading or inaccurate disinformation including videos and tweets being shared. This included several MPs including Mahad Salaad claiming that the former police chief Saadaq Joon was under attack in Shiirkole, with some claiming an uprising and protest in Mogadishu with fake images and footage. Over multiple nights, we saw claims of attacks which led to unfortunate death of an innocent mother named Hinda. She left behind 12 children.
There remains no justice for her.
In a matter of a week, the opposition politicians called for a meeting of supporters under the pretext of Hawiye clan affiliation claiming an attack on the Hawiye. Tensions reached boiling point when the group declared a state of war and a “return to 1991” if the Federal government did not backtrack on a federal extension to hold a ‘One Person One Vote’ electoral model and return to indirect elections under the 17th September Agreement. This is despite the Somali Provisional Constitution clearly outlining the right of Somali citizen to have right to elect their President, a right that cannot be exercised under the 17th September Agreement.
Clannism and the Somali Armed Forces
The outright rejection by FGS to return to indirect elections and continue with a direct democratic election infuriated the CPC and its supporters. Many members of the group began to leave their headquarters and travel to areas of Mogadishu affiliated with their clan of origin. It is during this period that some leaders of the CPC began to call for soldiers in the armed forces to discontinue service to join their own clan and “own people“. This was underpinned by false accusations of President Farmaajo using the army for his own selfish interest. At the same time, we saw a surge in fake news and an disinformation campaign depicting Somali special forces such as Gorgor and Haramcad being redeployed from the frontline against Al-Shabaab to “attack” opposition leaders and “their people“.
The narrative became clear, divide the armed forces and people of Mogadishu along clan lines. A disease that has divided Somalis for centuries. From its independence in 1960 to its collapse in 1988 and the thirty years of raging war that followed, Somalia has been plagued by clannism which has cost the lives of so many Somalis and divided the country to miniature confederation of states easily exploited by foreign countries that see the rich resources and values of Somalia. The creation of a fragmentated Somalia in the form of a Federal republic demonstrates just that. A nation that can be set against one another to serve the interest of another.
It is during this period that opposition leaders began to purchase large amounts of weapons and vehicles while amassing a militia of fighters based on clan allegiances with the support of some clan elders. The black market in Mogadishu was booming with purchases of RPGs, Technical pick-up trucks and machine guns.
April 25th and the all out Attack
By Sunday, April 25th, the opposition group was ready. The group had amassed a militia led by the Rebel leader Indha-Cadde. Residents of Mogadishu witnessed a stream of poorly equipped militiamen enter the outskirts of capital in areas such as Shiirkole and other areas where opposition leaders were stationed. By the afternoon, a battle rage between security forces and these militiamen causing hundreds of Somalis to flee residential areas which were engulfed in the fighting with some unfortunately losing their lives.
This ground attack was coupled with disinformation campaign online depicting militiamen freely roaming the streets with few people out in support as evidence of the toppling of the government. Of course, that was completely inaccurate.
Certain international news outlets began reporting Mogadishu in chaos, claiming the FGS had lost control of the capital. Again, inaccurate statement. Some outlets portrayed President Farmaajo as a dictator, spouting the same propaganda constantly repeated by opposition leaders. Yet, his concession to hold direct elections as set out in the Constitution, his concession to hold talks at Afisyooni, his concession to sign the 17th September Agreement despite his manifesto to deliver a direct election all demonstrate his true intentions. The greater good of the Somali people.
The international partners of Somalia refused to condemn the militia and opposition, rather blaming the violence on the government. The opposition leaders blamed the violence on the government. It seemed everybody was blaming the Somali government but the Somali people.
However, unlike these vocal groups, the Somali people are voiceless. The insistence of the indirect elections in the form of 17th September Agreement by both international partners and opposition alike demonstrates their common interest they have: oppressing the Somali people.
So Who is to blame?
The answer to the question is very clear, yet it is disputed. I will let History decide.