January 20, 2021
By Faisal A. Roble
Awkward and discomforting stories emerging from Mogadishu of unabashed coziness of Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo with Ethiopia’s Abiy Ahmed symbolizes the erosion of Somalia’s fledgling recovery from collapse to a tutelage state of Ethiopia.
Regrettably, subjecting Somali social psychology to the very force that colonized, humiliated, and massacred their forefathers is a clear vilification of the pride of Somalis; and this will be a poignantly agonizing legacy of Farmajo.
By casting his lot with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed who is pushing an ideology of pax-Ethiopiana, Somalia is at the pinnacle of what the late Somali Historian, Said Samater, lamented “Somalia: too far from Allah and too close to Ethiopia.” Alas, Barkhad Cas’ wailing words “Aan ooye albaabka iixdha!” or when translated, “please give me privacy so I can cry” is a timely phrase for Somalis to invoke.
Before the collapse of the state, Somalia had a clear strategy towards its neighbors. However, since then, Somalia largely became a tributary state of Ethiopia by design. Ethiopia succeeded to access the inner sanctum of Somalia when it created its offices inside the presidential compound in Mogadishu as far back as 2007. In December 2006, the erstwhile dictator of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, invaded Somalia with the tacit approval of the Bush administration and some of its leaders. A surviving member of that group who gave Ethiopia the green light to invade Somalia serves in an advisory capacity to Farmajo.
Both the United Nations and the African Union are culprits in this devious design of condemning future generations of Somalia to cede their hard-won self-determination to Ethiopia, Africa’s only imperial power that has colonized Oromo, Somali, Afar, Benishangul, and other Cushitic nations and nationalities.
The loss of Somalia’s sovereignty had partly happened because of a hastily concocted United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNISOM) which lasted between 1991 to 1995.
Per Resolution 733, 774 et al, what started as a UN mission to safeguard aid to victims of conflict is today morphed into the corrupt African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Besides Uganda, Ethiopian military establishment dominates AMISON’s operations which technically puts Somalia under the heavy hand of Ethiopian military establishment. Ethiopian troops are over 5,000 registered by AMISOM, and another 2,000 soldiers outside the mandate of AMISOM. Combined, this is a mighty force that alters the balance of power in Somalia.
The “war on terror” sponsored by the United States under President Bush is also to blame for subjecting Somalia to this detrimental UN mandate, which gave its two neighbors of Ethiopia and Kenya the chance to come through the backdoor and dominate Somali affairs.
Since Farmajo took office in February 2017, the past intrusive hand of TPLF personified by one colonel Gebre has given way to Prime Minister Abiy’s total yet subtle domination of the Somali state. In the last two years, President Farmajo degraded Somalia to become Ethiopia’s sphere of influence.
In return, Ethiopia helped Farmajo to install the new president of Southwest with the murder of over 11 civilians. To make matters worse, Eritrean commandos serving Prime Abiy’s objectives were authorized by Farmajo to overthrow Jubbaland’s Madobe but to no avail.
Just like the Russian roulette, the Kenyan Major General George Owinow of Kenyan Defense forces passed last week the button to Ethiopia’s Major General Gerbi Reggase Kebada of Ethiopian National Defense Forces. This came at the request of President Farmajo, an indication of his unabashed gravitation towards Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia.
Three interrelated developments during Farmajo’s reign indicate the deterioration of Somalia’s sovereignty and its free fall into the sphere of influence of its historical nemesis:
First was the handing over of a former member of the Somali national army to Ethiopia. Colonel Abdelkarim (Qalbidhagax) who fought against Ethiopia in the 1977-78 war was forcibly arrested by NISA and handed over to the Ethiopian security. In accordance with the president’s authorization of this illegal act, his cabinet also declared the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) as a “terrorist” agent. That rule is still in the books. This act violated Somalis’ national “mythology,” or what a South African (ANC) intellectual and a professor of Literature, Masizi Kunene, called the binding belief system of a people.
Somali belief system until recently held up that all Somalis consider the Haud and Reserved Area and the Ogaden region as their land forcefully annexed into the Ethiopian empire. Farmajo killed that collective psychology for good.
A second troubling move by Farmajo was his unilateral decision to create a pact with Ethiopia and Eritrea which isolated Djibouti, a majority Somali country that has helped Somali in many ways, says Ambassador Donald H. Shinn. Djibouti has a long-standing border dispute with Eritrea.
Not to be outperformed, Ismail Omar Ghele, a veteran of the Horn of Africa geopolitics, threw his net wide enough to coax Ethiopia not to abandon him. To cement an equal if not better relationship with Addis Ababa, President Ghele awarded the highest military medal to General Birhanu Jjula, Chief of Staff of the Ethiopian National Armed Forces, on his victory over TPLF. The letter of citation reaffirmed Djibouti’s desire to “maintain the longstanding cordial partnership with Ethiopia.”
The third folly and most impacting strategic error by Farmajo is to illegally authorize Somali soldiers trained in Eritrea to participate in the Tigray conflict. If confirmed, reports of Somali soldiers being used as cannon fodder in the Tigray theater, which the government has not yet denied, is both a criminal and a treasonous act. So far, several news outlets have reported this with stories carrying interviews given by families of some of the soldiers killed in Tigray.
Following the February 2021 presidential election, the incoming administration must take several steps to help revive the legitimacy of the Somali state and correct wrongs done, while also deterring future misdeeds by any future administration:
1. Consider renegotiating and seeking the removal of all UN and AMISOM resolutions subjecting Somalia to foreign forces. At a minimum, Somalia should be free from frontline countries, including but not limited to Ethiopia, Kenya, and Eritrea. The last country is already egging and elbowing itself to militarily interfere in Somalia’s affairs with or without a UN mandate.
2.Future Somali leaders must consider minimizing at the outset and completely curtailing the undue influence of the notorious campus called Halane. For over 20 years, the activities of Halane have not benefited both the political class and the masses of Somalia. It has also played a culprit role in the erosion of Somalia’s sovereignty.
3.Curtail corruption and governmental waste. Somalia is the 180th country on the corruption index and makes it the most corrupt country in the world. Farmajo promised in 2017 that he will establish an anti-corruption commission. To date, he has not done so. To make a teaching lesson, the new administration must audit the top echelon of the vacating administration and try to retrieve whatever is lost in embezzling the national coffers. A commission of corruption investigation is overdue.
4. Any incoming future administrations should investigate the purported death of Somali soldiers in the Tigre Theater and hold Farmajo responsible for this unprecedented and illegal sale of Somalis soldiers for the highest bid. If possible, a legal step must be considered against whoever authorized it.
Faisal A. Roble
Faisal Roble, a writer, political analyst and a former Editor-in-Chief of WardheerNews, is mainly interested in the Horn of Africa region. He is currently the Principal Planner for the City of Los Angeles in charge of Master Planning, Economic Development and Project Implementation Division.