Somalia: Breakthrough in Dialogue is a Fundamental Step Towards Peaceful Elections

Thursday, 27 May 2021 marked a watershed moment for Somalia. It was the day Somali leaders met under the auspices of the National Consultative Council and announced a breakthrough in dialogue to resolve the impasse over the holding of federal elections. The deal provided an important implementation framework for the famous 17th September Agreement on parliamentary and presidential elections.
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AMISOM Photo/Mokhtar Mohamed
AMISOM Photo/Mokhtar Mohamed

The dialogue was convened by Prime Minister Mohamed Roble and was attended by all the signatories to the 17th September Agreement, in particular the leaders of the Federal Member States of Galmudug, Hirshabelle, Jubaland, Puntland, South West, and Banadir Administrative Region. The talks had the backing of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo and all the opposition Presidential Candidates. It was also endorsed by the Federal Parliament. 

The 27th May Agreement is historic for two reasons. First, the dialogue was convened in Mogadishu and was conducted with the minimum involvement of external actors, making it a genuinely Somali-led and Somali-owned process. Secondly, the deal was reached after only 5 days of talks, a departure from past initiatives that were often protracted and took long to conclude. All these confirm the political maturity of the Somali leaders and the utility of building and nurturing national democratic institutions. 

For IGAD, peaceful and credible elections in #Somalia is an important milestone towards good governance, national, regional and international peace and security @AmbGuyo

The uniqueness of the dialogue is premised on the fact that the facilitative role of Prime Minister Roble was welcomed by all stakeholders, including the opposition and the international partners. The Facilitator displayed astute leadership qualities and admirable diplomatic skills to drive the process to a successful conclusion. 

It would be recalled that the consensus on the security arrangement for Mogadishu and the withdrawal of opposition troops from the city created the requisite atmosphere for the resumption of dialogue. It is therefore fitting to salute all those involved in de-escalating the weeks of standoff in Mogadishu. The backchannel outreach by international partners, including by IGAD, to key stakeholders was useful in building trust and confidence in the run-up to the round of negotiations. Immense efforts were expended towards consensus building and, ultimately, it took a great deal of compromise by the leaders to arrive at constructive outcomes.

The Agreement represents a decisive and fundamental first step towards a comprehensive settlement of the dispute among Somali leaders, and paves the way for the holding of the delayed presidential and parliamentary elections. The Agreement, among others, provides for the holding of indirect elections in 60 days. Crucially, it provides a framework for resolving major contentious issues such as the composition of electoral and dispute resolution mechanisms, election security, dispute over the electoral management committee of Somaliland, and dispute over the conduct of elections in Gedo. It also secures a thirty percent (30%) quota for women in the federal parliament.

The signing of the framework agreement was widely welcomed by all Somali leaders as well as the international community. The significance of the deal would not be lost on observers given the threat of the continued political impasse posed to the hard-won progress and stability of Somalia, and indeed the entire Horn of Africa region and beyond. 

Every election in Somalia has been organised in a particular and sometimes peculiar context. The 2021 elections come at a time of the global COVID-19 pandemic that continues to have far-reaching economic and social impact, with significant ramifications for democratic governance across the world. In spite of these, Somali leaders have displayed unprecedented resilience to ensure that the strong post-1991 tradition of holding largely credible elections in accordance with the electoral calendar is respected.   

Questions have been raised on whether Somalia has registered any progress since the last election and in the electoral process. Well, the deal provides for the indirect model of election in the upcoming vote and postpones, once again plans for holding a universal suffrage election. Universal suffrage is a useful instrument of good governance and citizen empowerment that guarantees a truly inclusive election. As such, its postponement disenfranchises the majority of the people of Somalia. A comprehensive roadmap for the holding of a universal suffrage election in the next cycle should therefore be put in place.  

That said, it would be important to appreciate the painful history of Somalia, the utility of the unique indirect electoral model to the country, and the introduction of various progressive variations to the model aimed at adding value and improving on the management of elections as reflected, for instance, in the 17th September Agreement. This includes the expansion of electoral voting both in geographical scope and eligibility of voters. The voting block has been increased from 51 to 101 to cater for wider participation of key segments of the society. In addition, elections will be conducted at two locations within every state for the purpose of ensuring adequate outreach for wider participation. 

While the signing of the 17th September, 2020 and 27th May, 2021 Agreements provide significant steps towards holding the elections, much work lies ahead in the coming days and weeks to implement the commitments contained in these agreements. Implementation of an agreement is often a multi-stakeholders venture. It requires commitment and dedication of the parties to the agreement, other political actors, and the civil society. In addition, regional and international partners can play a constructive role in accompanying the implementation process by providing political, diplomatic, technical and financial support. Strategic coherence and coordination of internal and external stakeholders is also a vital vehicle for successful implementation. 

The 2021 elections in #Somalia come at a time of the global #COVID19 pandemic that continues to have far-reaching economic and social impact, with significant ramifications for democratic governance across the world @AmbGuyo

It is therefore reassuring to hear the leadership of the Federal Government, the Federal Member States and the Presidential Candidates express their commitment to the full implementation of the Agreement and delivery on the popular aspiration of the Somali people for a free, fair, peaceful and credible elections. This goodwill should be seized by all segments of the Somali people. 

The stakeholders in Somalia ought to be cognisant of the fact that election is a process that involves a whole continuum of intricate coordination of pre-election, election and post-election activities, as opposed to a single event. A sound electoral process is a function of broad public confidence, inclusivity and the eventual outcome. Inclusivity in elections provides true meaning to the management of shades of diversity in the Somali society. So far, the electoral deal in Somalia has created an electoral process in the right trajectory. Enhancing momentum for this process and the successful outcome of the 2021 elections will play a significant role in enhancing the institutions of governance, resolution of political differences, state building, peace building and reconciliation. Overall, the quality of management of election processes often ensures cohesion and harmony between people-to-people relations and state-society relations.

For IGAD, peaceful and credible elections in Somalia is an important milestone towards good governance, national, regional and international peace and security. Given the nexus between politics and security, political stability will contribute immensely to the efforts of the Somalia Security Forces and AMISOM. In addition, the political deal will contribute to the sound implementation of the Somalia Security Transition Plan. Furthermore, the IGAD region, which contributes the bulk of AMISOM Troops, will benefit from the accruing stability and shared prosperity.

IGAD will continue to stand with the people of Somalia and work together with all stakeholders to ensure the full implementation of the new elections deal.

Ambassador Mohamed Ali Guyo is the IGAD Special Envoy for Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Somalia.

ACCORD recognizes its longstanding partnerships with the European Union, and the Governments of Canada, Finland, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, UK, and USA.

ACCORD recognizes its longstanding partnerships with the European Union, and the Governments of Canada, Finland, Ireland, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, UK, and USA.