The joint press statement issued by International Partners of Somalia yesterday reconfirms the principle of genuine democratic elections, the free (but currently indirect) expression of whose will provides the basis for the authority and legitimacy of government.
The statement reaffirms that "... the 17 September Agreement remains the sole acceptable basis for the 2021 elections. [That] There can be no re-opening of the 17 September Agreement or the creation of an alternative or parallel process." It also upholds the need for "Broadly inclusive understandings on its implementation ... to ensure the credibility of this process."
In line with previous initiatives by IPs, this statement refocuses our attention on the need to "resolve outstanding issues of implementation through dialogue and compromise, so that a credible electoral process can proceed as soon as possible."
Am I not stating the obvious when I remind people that Mr. Farmaajo truly does not have a good history of real engagement in 'dialogue and compromise' with his political opponents? There's also no evidence that he has mellowed with time, now that his time is almost at an end.
The obvious question must be, what is he going to do now? He may feel that any signs of backing down from his current strategy could be interpreted as weakness. This situation might push his regime closer to its tipping point and, as it becomes more desperate, turn it toward even harsher authoritarian measures, including more intensive repression at home and provocation beyond its borders.
His unwise Gedo militarism must be carefully watched. One of the simplest but riskiest strategies for a hard-pressed authoritarian leader in a post-conflict country like ours is to try to shore up his prestige at home by seeking victories abroad. We must all speak up to warn Mr. Farmaajo that Somalia is not (and should never be) in the business of having military engagements against a neighbour.
The FGS (I mean the new post-election government) must simply focus on the following four coherent and interdependent strategies for transforming the conflict:
1. from zero-sum confrontations laden with incentives for continued violence into systems of governance where competition for power can be conducted through nonviolent means;
2. from contexts dominated by armed groups willing and able to use violence into demilitarized communities where paramilitary formations have either been subordinated to legitimate authority; reintegrated into society, or defeated;
3. from lawless and repressive areas and communities where political and criminal elites enjoy impunity into systems of justice that serve the public, preserve order, protect basic rights, and apply the law equitably; and
4. from political economies where grey and black markets predominate and illicit wealth determines who wields power into functioning formal economies where the integrity of revenues required for essential state services is protected.
For now, Mr. Farmaajo must accept that only through genuine democratic elections, on basis established by law, shall we be able to settle the question of who shall have the legitimacy to govern our country in the name of the Somali people and in their interests, come 9th February 2021. To this end, the International Partner's statement rightly upholds that "the spirit of dialogue and compromise which led to the signing of the 17 September Agreement must be sustained to move the electoral process forward."