Somalia’s first female Presidential candidate: Who is Fawzia Yusuf Adam?

Marwo Fawzia Adam is one of Somalia’s most senior female politicians. A former diplomat and long-time women’s rights activist, she became the country’s first ever female foreign minister and deputy prime minister in 2012 as well as currently serving as a Member of Parliament.

In a sea of blue suits and ties, Marwo Fawzia stands out as a Presidential candidate. She is the only female candidate to be running for the most powerful seat in Somalia, Villa Somalia.

Since its independence, Fawzia remains the only woman to reach the highest echelons of the Somali state as Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister.

However, who is Fawzia and what does she stand for?

Behind the face

Speaking to VOA, Xil. Fawzia Adam stated that it’s time for a woman’s touch.

“We have been waiting for men for so long to sort out the problems of Somalia but till today we see there are no solutions so I have decided to stand for president and I have no doubt I will do a much better job than men,” Fawzia elucidated.

The lawmaker runs the Somali National Democratic Party (NDP), one of the earliest modern political parties in Somalia which she founded 10 years ago.

However, despite her positive outlook and her historical announcement as a Presidential candidate, Somalia remains to be a difficult place for female politicians in the upper echelons of government.

“I get threats, day in, day out,” Fawzia told Al Jazeera. “Yes, it happens, but I am not afraid about what might happen tomorrow. I am busy with today.”

Those threats mainly come from the terrorist group Al-Shabaab which adheres to a distorted version of Islam. The terrorists are known to murder politicians and public figures they deem as a challenge to their twisted beliefs.

Nevertheless, her withdrawal from public life would be a victory for the terrorists. Her perseverance and candidature will only continue be a victory for Somali society.

Where does Fawzia stand?

While holding high positions in the Federal government in the early 2010s, she has taken a backseat in Somali politics as of late.

Lets recap on some of her positions on key issues in Somalia:

4.5 System

She has vigorously campaigned for the implementation of the One Person One Vote model in Somalia for many years, being a loud voice in Golaha Shacabka.

As a member of the constitutional committee in the 9th Federal Parliament of Somalia, she worked for six months on the completion of a functioning constitution which incorporates a 1P1V system within the election framework in 2015. This constitution was wholeheartedly rejected by the then Federal Parliament and “was not even debate”, according to Marwo Fawzia.

Xil. Fawzia Adam was one of the few MPs that voted against the 17th September Agreement last year, citing the underpinning 4.5 system would be catastrophic to political stability in Somalia in the upcoming elections.

In a recent interview with Saab TV, Xil. Fawzia explained that her withdrawal of support for the 1P1V came as a result of the majority of Presidential candidates and some regional governors rejecting the concept due to the difficulty of holding the 1P1V.

Indeed, such an argument has its own flaws. Presidential candidates are merely citizens of Somalia interested in running for office and do not represent the interests of the Somali people. If Golaha Shacabka (House of the People) voted to hold a 1P1V election within a two year period, then surely she ought to adhere to the majority.

Constitution

In an interview with Voice of Somalia (VOS), Xil. Fawzia explained that it is the of the essence that the next President of Somalia finishes the task of completing a constitution.

“All this bickering during periods of elections, all these disagreement between FMS and the FGS as well as opposition candidates would not be happening every 4 years had we fulfilled one of the six proposed constitutional models throughout the last ten years.”

“Every Federal Parliament simply leaves the task to the next, and this current Parliament is not any different“, explained Fawzia.

As an MP, Xil. Fawzia was part of the Constitutional Committee which proposed completed constitution to the Federal Parliament in 2015 which did not pass through Parliament.

“Somalia needs a firm President that can deliver on a constitution. The Constitution is an agreement amongst every citizen of Somalia. If we are not in agreement, how can we have a representative government?”.

Xil. Fawzia argued that there needs to be a consensus amongst FMS and the FGS before there can be a referendum held on the issue.

Somaliland Question

Xil. Fawzia has been vocal on the issue of Somaliland, which she hails from.

She has recently criticised both the Federal government and the Somaliland administration for their lack of sincerity in the talks.

“The talks between the Federal government and Somaliland has been on-going since 2012, how many times have leaders met to negotiate?”, asked Xil. Fawzia.

She has called for “serious” talks between the central government and Somaliland on how best to resolve the current situation.

Xil. Fawzia has further advocated and called for a referendum in the Somaliland region to allow the people of the region to decide their fate going forward as the only viable solution to the impasse.

“The fate of millions of people should not be decided by few men flying out to Istanbul or Djibouti”.

Somali-Kenyan Maritime Dispute

The maritime dispute with was first raised by Xil. Fawzia when she was foreign minister under the Mohamud Presidency in 2013. She was instrumental in pushing for case against Kenya at the International Court of Justice.

In a meeting with a friend employed at the UN, the then Foreign Minister Fawzia was informed of an application made by Kenya, if successful will led to the chunk of the Somali coast being given to the Kenyan state.

After meeting a series of lawyers and officials in New York, she informed former President Mahmoud who rejected the proposition.

“When I spoke to the President, he was very reluctant to raise the issue in Parliament and rejected my suggestion to seek legal action.”

“After three visits to New York and bringing evidence, I managed to convince President Mahmoud to seek legal action to protect Somali maritime borders”, recalled Fawzia speaking to Kalsan TV.

Xil. Fawzia Adam remains a strong supporter to only a legal resolution to the illegal encroachment by Kenya of Somalia’s maritime borders.

Presidential Material?

The question of whether Fawzia is Presidential material is for the Somali people to decide. Despite an indirect election, a direct election is looming in the horizon with an expected 1P1V election in 2024 if things fall into place.

Xil. Fawzia seems like a genuine politician with fair and accurate judgements on various issues facing Somalia today. While being in opposition, Fawzia has remained distant from the loud noises emanating from Jazeera hotel which makes her the experienced underdog and a interesting yet calculated candidate in this upcoming election.

In a society dominated by older men, a female Presidential candidate is smell of fresh air in Somali politics and opens doors to inspire more young Somali women to take the lead in their communities.

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