By Faisal Roble
To: HE Abdi Mohamed Omar (President of the Somali Regional State)
HE Mohamed Rashiid Isaaq, Speaker of the Parliament, Somali Regional State
HE Abdirahman Maadey, Secretary-General, ONLF
Somali Elders, Intellectuals, and Diaspora Groups
The specter of political deterioration, erosion of legitimacy and instability in the self-governing region of Somalis, also known as DDIS, Western Somali region, as well as the Ogaden region, has set in. Conditions and conflict with Oromo militia have gotten out of control as Somalis in Tuli-Guuleed, Welgo, only a few kilometers to the North of Jigjiga, the regional capital, Moyale, Babili, Balbaleyti, Meso, Hudat, Deka-Suuf, and others have resulted in the death of hundreds of innocent Somalis. Sings of controlling slipping out of the hands of the government is rampant. The regional government has failed to protect Somalis.
On July 10, 2018, at the wake of a sweeping report issued by the Human Rights Watch on Somali prisoners in the region, and a subsequent interview given by President Abdi M. Omar, I joined the fry and gave an interview to BBC, Somali program, where I called on the President to institute a peaceful power transfer. Subsequently, on July 14, 2018, I unexpectedly met President Abdi M. Omar at his residence in Addis Ababa through a third party and discussed with him in more detail the need for a timely power transfer. He indicated to me his willingness to transfer power in a more organized system.
I would like to thank him in advance for receiving me without any conditions and engaging me in a frank discussion on the fate of the region. Although I would like to retain some of our discussion in a confidential manner, the three of us frankly talked about the critical period and challenges faced by the people of the region.
It is in that context, without malice, that I developed this proposal to serve as a discussion platform for a transitional government so that the existing institutions can either be retained or reformed as needed. Such institutions include the current parliament and all other governmental institutions so that we can prevent the spectrum of a regional state collapse, or a breakup of the region into incoherent fiefdoms. If things deteriorate to these spectra, the federal state will grab power from the region and more massacre of Somalis in the hands of marauding Oromo militia will be inevitable.
Owing to a serious and disappointing mistreatment of Somalis by the Ethiopian Federal government, because of a real fear that the federal government is out there to loot the recently discovered oil fields in the Somali region, because of a real or perceived threat of land grabbing and expansionist resolve by the victorious Oromos, and because of massive violation of human rights by the local government as well as an ongoing massacre of Somalis in the hands of Oromos without any meaningful intervention by both local and federal government, all legitimacy at the local and federal levels to govern Somalis have completely been eroded; it is self-evident, therefore, that there is an urgent need for a new paradigm of power relationship between the people in the region and its government.
A peaceful power transfer from the current executive office to a new caretaker president must take place as soon as possible. Such a caretaker government to run the executive office for a period of two years until the year 2020 when new federal and local elections are expected.
As challenging as this suggested power transfer is, I propose the following three scenarios in order to invoke a serious discussion on the need for a complete change of leadership at the executive level and prevent from a total collapse of the regional government.
Alternative #1: The current DDIS president, Abdi M. Omar, must prepare a plan of action to transfer his presidential duties to his Vice President, Suad Ahmed Farah, and make the transfer effective in three months.
- Advantages: This alternative will ensure continuity of the existing institutions and ensure that the regionalparliament will fully discharge its duties including approving annual budgets and maintain oversight over development projects. A transitional presidency in Suad Ahmed will usher in a new chapter in Somali history where for the first time a Somali woman takes the mantle of the highest leadership of any state government in the Horn of Africa. Moreover, she will easily maintain relations with federal offices with less disruption and be able to easily arrest the current political and social crisis.
- Disadvantages: Some opposition elements, especially the recently cropped up disgruntled groups who do not show any organizational structure, will certainly and grudgingly show misgivings about this alternative because of the Vice President’s relationship with the vacating president. However, the benefit outweighs the temporary discomfort and misgivings from some opposition individuals.
Alternative #2: A member or a pro-Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), with three competent vice presidents that are regionally diversified, can bring a badly needed legitimacy to the weakened regional government.
- Advantages: The ONLF has struggled against the TPLF/EPRDF misrule and has earned the respect of millions of Somalis. Despite its limitation, ONLF enjoys more legitimacy than any group in the region. The ONLF is the only organized political institution outside DDIS government.
- Disadvantages: The ONLF is engaged in an on-going negotiation with the federal government on its future role in the politics of the region. These talks could take a minimum of 6-12 months or more before an agreement is reached, and this may not align with the urgent need for a transfer of power. ONLF leaders can in the meantime work with Vice President Suad in the event that she becomes the caretaker president. If and when talks with the federal government are finalized, the official role of ONLF in the affairs of the region will clarify and be enhanced.
Alternative #3: The parliament can designate a president for the next two years and hand-pick a non-parliament citizen with an outstanding record for the protection and advocacy of human rights and for equitable inclusive politics.
- Advantages: The new caretaker president, owing to his record and the fact that s/he is an outsider to the corrupt politics of the region, will have more legitimacy and with the right people around him, can restore faith in the regional government. S/he will also be well positioned to rectify the ugly record of human rights.
- Disadvantages: An outsider may have a protracted learning curve and would need more time and muscle to withstand the notorious manipulation of the federal bureaucracy and their exploitation of the region. However, with the right people around this candidate, it is plausible that legitimacy can be restored.
Anyone of these alternatives can and will bring a period of stability, legitimacy, and may help in the long term establish an inclusive and competent regional government. It is incumbent upon any future caretaker government to not only restore safety and protection for the Somali communities that are under Oromo siege, but keep, reorganize and reform all existing institutions.
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.
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