Somalia’s new PM faces big tasks of organising elections, earning trust

A man casts his ballot in Baidoa, Somalia, during the elections on November 16, 2016. 

Photo credit: Simon Maina | AFP

What you need to know:

  • Mohamed Hussein Roble, a Somali-Swedish national, has an environmental engineering background but has no political experience. 
  • In a statement issued on Thursday night by Villa Somalia’s Media Office, President Mohamed Farmajo urged PM Roble to urgently form a cabinet that can handle all essential national services. 


 

Somalia’s new Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble may have no honeymoon to celebrate his new post as the country plans to hold elections on a tight schedule.

Mr Roble, a Somali-Swedish national, has an environmental engineering background but has no political experience.

Born in October 1963 in Hobyo, today’s Galmudug State of Somalia, he has previously worked at the UN’s International Labour Organisation, holding a number of senior positions. He was most recently based in Nairobi.

In Somalia, the father of five will get a loaded in-tray, especially as Somalia’s political leaders jostle for elective posts starting this November.

In a statement issued on Thursday night by Villa Somalia’s Media Office, President Mohamed Farmaajo urged PM Roble to urgently form a cabinet that can handle all essential national services.

“I expect the new prime minister to form a government that can facilitate the elections as well as advance achievements in spheres like security, reorganisation of the armed forces, development of the economic infrastructure, expansion of public service delivery and overcoming the challenges posed by terrorism and corruption,” the statement said.

Experts said Mr Roble’s immediate new role will be to demonstrate adequate loyalty to his boss, something his predecessor Hassan Ali Khaire, seen as a planner to muddle his appointer’s legacy, was accused of lacking.

Dr Abdifatah Ismael Tahir, a Somali Federal MP and chair of the Committee on Ports, Airports, Transport and Energy, said the PM’s first challenge will be to weave out his style of working.

“I know nothing about the new PM but what I know for sure is that President Farmaajo is allergic to autonomy, which is an essential element for the work of this office,” he argued.

“I have my reservations. Like his predecessor, he will just be a loyal servant.”

Mr Roble has had experience working with local communities in Somalia, including implementing some projects for the UN at the grassroots. The politics, however, could be a different kettle of fish.

“Those who worked with him speak highly of him. He is more of a technical person but has no previous political position. Before him is a hectic tenure (politically) and a short term; six - eight months,” Somali researcher Abdimalik Abdullahi said on Friday.

New deal

Mr Roble was appointed moments after Somalia’s President agreed on a revised deal with Federal State leaders to revert to the clan-based voting system, with slight improvements on how delegates are selected.

It means that the PM’s tasks include ensuring adequate resources to help organise Somalia’s imminent elections whose programme is to start on November 1, according to Thursday’s agreement.

President Farmaajo and five Federal State leaders have reached a deal which effectively retained, but improved slightly, the clan-based system of delegates voting in the upcoming elections.

The new deal, reached after a five-day meeting in Mogadishu, revises one reached last month between Farmaajo and three of the five States which chose to have 301 delegates vote for each of the 275 MPs of the Lower House.

The Dhusamareb III agreement had indicated that the 301 delegates would be nominated by clan elders, civil society and Federal State administrations.

But the new arrangement, which must be endorsed by Parliament, means Somalia’s next elections will see 101 delegates vote to choose each of the 275 MPs, who in turn will elect the Federal President.

The deal, endorsed by Federal State presidents of Jubaland, Hirshabelle, Puntland, South West and Galmudug, also means Somalia has shelved its earlier plans to have universal suffrage for the first time in 50 years.

“It is not bad. Neither is it perfect,” remarked Somali Senator Ilyas Ali Hassan, who also chairs the Upper House Committee on National Resources.

Part of Roble’s tasks will be to ensure the appointed electoral body is adequately funded and given facilitation to start running from November 1, as per the proposed timelines.

A fifteen-point communiqué issued on Thursday evening in Mogadishu mandated the federal government, as the country’s central authority, to nominate an election committee to lead the election. It will be assisted by local election committees in the respective States.

Two constituencies

Elections are set to take place in two constituencies in each State, that is, the State capital and the second major town to be identified by authorities.

“Each legislator will be elected by 101 delegates that are selected by the respective clan elders, civil society entities and the States,” the communiqué released on Thursday said of the arrangement.

Puntland’s leader Said Abdullahi Deni and Jubaland’s Ahmed Madobe refused to sign the document.

So far, it has widened the pool of delegates slightly by adding 50 for each MP’s election, compared to the polls in 2016.

In the new deal, the leaders also agreed to retain the 30 per cent inviolable quota for women in Parliament.

Further, the communiqué stated, “The members of the Upper House of the Parliament [Senate] will be elected by each State’s legislative assembly.”

The members representing the breakaway Somaliland will be elected by delegates who collectively represent the region.

“Security during the election will be the joint responsibility of the FGS and FMS,” the declaration also said.

Co-signatories include Presidents Deni, Madobe, Ahmed Abdi Kariye (Galmudug), Mohamed Abdi Ware (Hirshabelle), Abdiaziz Hassan Laftagareen (South West).

Others are the Governor of Banadir Region (Mayor and surrounding areas of Mogadishu) Omar Mohamud Mohamed and acting Prime Minister Mahdi Mohamed Guleid.

Mr Khaire welcomed the deal, urged the country to hold timely elections and announced that he will vie for the presidency.