Somalia President Mohamed Farmaajo on Monday appeared to yield to mounting pressure, announcing a team to investigate the circumstances under which spy agent Ikran Tahlil Farah vanished and died.
The team which will be led by Attorney-General Sulayman Mahmoud will, however, come into a matter that Prime Minister Hussein Roble had assigned to the Military Court to investigate.
Mr Roble, who had earlier met the parents of Ms Farah, argued there should be no “obstruction” to the investigation, calling for justice.
On Monday though, President Farmaajo said the five-member team will also include the head of the Military Court (Hassan Alinur Shute) as deputy chairperson, an officer selected by Police Commissioner Abdi Hassan Hijar, an officer appointed by the Army Commander Odowa Yusuf Raghe and another member selected by the director of the National Intelligence Security Agency (NISA).
“I hereby appoint a five-member commission of inquiry chaired by the Attorney-General and deputised by the head of the Military Court to expedite investigations on the case of Ikran Tahlil and hand over the findings and evidence to responsible legal institutions for execution of Justice,” Farmaajo announced in a notice.
Ms Farah, an intelligence officer at NISA, disappeared without trace on June 26.
Her parents claimed she said she was to meet a commander of NISA at their officers for assignment. She never returned home.
Earlier this month, the government said she had been killed by al-Shabaab, although it didn’t produce a body or say where it was buried.
Her parents rejected the story, and Somali militant group al-Shabaab also denied killing her.
The incident has attracted mounting pressure, especially from opposition groups and civil society activists demanding a proper investigation.
Farmaajo had dodged the bullet, placing the responsibility on Mr Roble but last week, they fell out in public.
Roble suspended then NISA boss Fahad Yasin, the President’s ally, before Farmaajo cancelled it.
Instead, Mr Yasin resigned a day later and was posted to be Security Advisor to the President.
Farmaajo also appointed his own man, Yasin Abdullahi Mohamud, overruling an earlier acting capacity assigned to Bashir Mohamed Jama. The latter’s fate in the ranks of NISA is now in limbo.
But the matter has attracted international partners.
Last week, the UN, African Union and other partners in Somalia warned the public spat could derail Somalia’s electoral calendar, currently in its second month. If all goes as planned, the country must elect a President by October 10.
Visiting UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J Mohamed on Sunday asked the leaders to address their differences.
“I have confidence in Somalia’s leadership to de-escalate any tensions and avoid action that could lead to violence and further delay the elections or undermine its credibility,” she remarked.
But PM Roble, who is in charge of elections and their security, now faces a crisis he must solve to avoid a fallout among security units over loyalty.
Yet the dilemma is to follow through on what he promises Ms Farah’s family: a full investigation.
Mr Roble had lampooned NISA for providing an “unsatisfactory” response to the family; refusing to say where the body is and how exactly Tahlil ended up in an enemy camp.
Some Somali media were on Monday speculating the President’s team could now undercut the Military Court, weakening the investigation.