Int’l community urges dialogue to resolve political tension in Somalia
The international community has called for dialogue to resolve political tension in Somalia following a dispute between the prime minister and House speaker.
In a joint statement released on Friday night after security forces took over the country’s Parliament, the United Nations, the European Union and the African Union and foreign embassies called on Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire and Speaker Mohamed Osman Jawari to give way for dialogue to end the dispute.
“The international community urges leaders in Parliament and the Executive to engage in respectful discussions in the coming days and to use constitutional and peaceful means to resolve political differences,” the partners said.
They urged all Somali leaders and politicians to respect the rule of law and the Provisional Federal Constitution in resolving political differences.
“This needs to include preservation of democratic space. Activities that increase tensions leading to possible violence should be avoided at all costs,” the international partners said.
The statement came after Jawari told journalists Friday evening that the House expected to continue sittings Saturday will have to decide on a new venue since the government has deployed forces to take control of Parliament.
“I welcome the motion against me but the proceedings will have to take place in a different place because government forces have occupied Parliament,” Jawari said.
“The Prime Minister will be responsible for anything that happens,” said Jawari who has been the Speaker since 2012.
A motion to remove Jawari from office failed Thursday to garner enough numbers to meet the 92 quorum threshold after 16 lawmakers withdrew their support in the last minute.
The international partners said they are “extremely concerned” by recent political and security developments in Mogadishu that risk derailing hard-earned political, economic, and security achievements and tarnishing the reputation of Somalia.
“The international community commends those groups and individuals who are mediating a peaceful resolution to political differences and stands behind their efforts,” they said.
Jawari who was re-elected in 2017 for the second term in office has blamed the prime minister for being behind a motion of no confidence against him and for ordering security forces to occupy Parliament and vowed to face the motion on the floor of the house if the legal requirements are met.
Somali President Mohamed ‘ready to fight al-Shabab’
Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, known as Farmajo, has told the BBC his government is on course to defeat al-Shabab militants, although many challenges remain.
Mr Abdullahi also said he regretted the loss of life from US drone attacks, but defended the decision to employ aerial assaults.
The president was speaking to the BBC’s Ferdinand Omondi, who began asking him how he would assure the safety of Somalis in the face of constant Islamist attacks.
Somalia calls for accelerated debt relief to fight terrorism
$4bn arrears make it almost impossible for Mogadishu to access new funds
Somalia owes around $4bn, most of it interest and penalties on nearly three-decades-old loans made to the former military government of Mohamed Siad Barre, whose overthrow in 1991 plunged the country in the Horn of Africa into years of lawlessness and civil war.
Those arrears make it almost impossible for Mogadishu to access new funds from the International Monetary Fund or the International Development Association, the soft loan arm of the World Bank that has money earmarked specifically for fragile states like Somalia.
Officials working with the new Somali government, which took office in February last year, describe the administration as the best in decades and complain that lending restrictions are hampering its efforts to fight al Shabaab, a militant Islamist group, and to build a functioning state.
Last year, the Somali government headed off famine in parts of the country with international help. Al Shabaab has been pushed back, but is still able to carry out deadly terrorist attacks, such as bomb blasts in Mogadishu in October in which more than 350 people were killed.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Hassan Ali Khayre, the prime minister, said of efforts to establish a functioning administration: “Now we have turned a page and taken bold steps, we are hoping the world will take a little more risk on Somalia.”
Mr Khayre, a former aid worker and oil executive, said the government had a budget of only $274m, which was not enough to create the social programmes needed to prevent radicalisation of unemployed youth or to address deprivation. He could not confirm an estimate, made by one World Bank official, that al Shabaab had a bigger budget than the government.
“Certainly, ours is a very tiny budget for a country of 10m people,” he said. “Fighting terrorism needs good governance. It means providing services for our people. To do this costs money and that’s why we need the support of the international community.”
Only the Somalis are going to defeat al Shabaab. And if they are going to do it they are going to have to be able to pay for it.
Michael Keating, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Somalia
Kevin Watkins, chief executive of UK-based charity Save the Children, said it was urgent that the IMF accelerate a process to forgive Somalia’s debt under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries initiative that has seen debt write-offs in more than 30 countries, mainly in Africa.
Mr Watkins, who has exchanged letters on the subject with Christine Lagarde, IMF managing director, described what he said was IMF foot-dragging as “inept, misplaced and embarrassingly complacent”.
Mohamed Elhage, who leads the IMF’s Somalia mission, said the country was “marking important milestones on reform and policy implementation”, although it needed to make stronger efforts to improve fiscal discipline and raise tax revenue.
The head of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center in Washington, Peter Pham, said multilateral institutions were right to be cautious before flooding Somalia with money. “It’s déjà vu when the dilettantes in the international community get excited about the Somali government,” he said. “Let’s not flood the country beyond its capabilities to absorb.”
Mr Pham accepted that the new government had made progress but said he was not convinced that corruption had been brought under control. “Huge amounts of aid in cash simply disappears,” he said, adding that he suspected up to half of the 27,000 soldiers being paid to fight al Shabaab with western help were “ghost soldiers”, drawing a salary without doing any fighting.
Of the government’s limited budget, he said: “I’ve yet to figure out what they do with that $250m other than to travel to conferences and to pay parliamentarians whose absentee rate is atrocious.”
Michael Keating, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Somalia, said he thought the new government was worthy of support. “I’m a bit of a cheerleader for Somalia. This government is on a steep political learning curve but has serious agenda,” he said.
“Only the Somalis are going to defeat al Shabaab. And if they are going to do it they are going to have to be able to pay for it,” he added. “That’s the reason why getting to arrears clearance and HIPC debt relief is so important.”