Imperial US pride threatens to drive Somalia to disaster
MOGADISHU, Somalia – Questions over the credibility and fairness of Somalia’s federal elections continue to fuel uncertainty and fears of violence in the country as political actors remain at odds on the way forward. In Mogadishu, the political opposition boycotted the elections, calling the process a sham.
They are not alone. Civil society and clan elders have also joined a chorus of condemnation of a process now widely seen as rigged. Faced with the prospect of delayed elections or a fictitious process, the international community has favored a “quick and dirty” process, whatever its legitimacy.
Such a short-sighted attitude will lead neither to a credible election nor to stability. Instead, it is almost certain to spark a conflict between Farmaajo and his opposition who accuse some members of the international community of pampering a belligerent and undemocratic leader.
In particular, in Mogadishu, clan leaders and the political opposition criticized the United States for choosing Farmaajo over the stability of Somalia. The United States is accused of pursuing conflicting policies in Somalia. Sections of the United States government are seen as complicit with Farmaajo and as tacitly aiding his rigging operation.
The conflicting policies adopted by different sections of the United States are also sending mixed signals to other international partners while emboldening the regime in Villa Somalia precisely at a time when the international community should speak with one voice.
More importantly, the mixed signals from the United States are driving Farmaajo’s obsession with producing a rigged election result in his favor. For the past 4.5 years, the United States has used Qatar as its proxy in Somalia even as the oil-rich kingdom has preferred to hang out with violent individuals like former intelligence director Fahad Yassin.
As a result, democratic space in Somalia was erased during Farmaajo’s tenure, while the independent media were brutally suppressed and former warlords fiercely installed to impose a mafia rule.
Almost 3 years ago, former senior UN envoy to Somalia Nicholas Haysom warned that elections in the southwest were a litmus test for Somalia’s ability to hold meaningful and credible elections. Instead, his warning was ignored as Farmaajo rigged the election and then used Somali and Ethiopian troops to violently quell protesters.
Again, when Haysom warned of the dangerous precedent such tactics would set for Somalia, he was treated with disdain when the government released a Persona non Grata. The United States has supported the government’s decision to help launch a rule characterized by violence and outright rigging.
Perhaps driven by imperial pride, the United States seems to harbor the mistaken view that it can support the fictitious process while forcing the opposition and political actors to accept its outcome. But these are irresponsible miscalculations that will undoubtedly produce the opposite result by reducing the United States to a position of irrelevance and its toothless tools of coercion.
The American experience in Somalia is replete with examples where America is hedging its bets on the wrong horses and failing to take corrective action until too late. Rather than obsessing over protecting Farmaajo, the United States should take a responsible stance by calling for credible and fair elections.
It is in the interests of the United States. Supporting discredited criminals such as Fahad Yassin and other intelligence officials who seek to escape responsibility by forcing their entry into parliament would hurt America’s position in Somalia and beyond.
The United States will do its credibility good by adhering to its own stated goals of promoting democracy and stability in Somalia. US interests in Somalia are best served by upholding the rule of law and promoting democracy.
America today is at a crossroads in Somalia, it can be on the right side of history or it can continue to pamper a reckless minority in Villa Somalia at the expense of the majority of Somalis who aspire to be rule of law and stability. The story will not be kind to her if she has chosen the latter.
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