Uhuru and Farmaajo

President Uhuru Kenyatta (right) during a meeting with Somali president Mohamed Farmaajo in 2019.

| File | PSCU

What Janan’s surrender means for Jubaland and Somalia-Kenya relations

On Thursday evening, fugitive and controversial former Security minister of Jubaland, Abdirashid Hassan Nuur, alias Janan, together with federal ministers, and allegedly, the powerful director of the National Intelligence and Security Agency (Nisa), Mr Fahad Yasin, touched down at the Aden Abdulle International Airport in Mogadishu, Somalia.

This came after a few months of horse-trading between Mr Janan and the Federal Government of Somalia, that led to his surrender. In response, Jubaland’s President Ahmed Mohamed ‘Islam’ Madobe, who is in the capital for the ongoing electoral discussions with the centre, relieved him of his duties after news of his defection circulated on social media.

Escaping prison 

The former minister, who was last year in the custody of the federal government in Mogadishu before escaping from prison, was given a hero’s welcome in Beled Hawo town. 

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch accused him of committing atrocities and war crimes in Dolow and other towns in the Gedo region.

The government’s engagement with Mr Janan stirred up heated debate in the public. Some lamented about what they termed a “politically motivated” decision at the expense of the rights of the families of the people he had killed.

Amnesty International urged the Somali government to bring Mr Janan to Justice and hold him accountable for the carnage and human rights violations he committed in Gedo. The European Union’s Special Representative to Somalia, Mr Nicolas Berlanga, has also expressed concern about the matter, labelling the government’s decision to reconcile with Mr Janan “short term gains”.

On the government side, Deputy Information Minister Abdirahman Yusuf Omar “Adala”, said in televised remarks that, Mr Janan was key to the security of Gedo.

Mogadishu has continuously blamed Kenya for hosting and arming Janan and his militia, which had frequently launched attacks against Somali forces to recapture the strategic Gedo region, and it eventually severed diplomatic ties with Nairobi on December 20, last year.

However, many have been left with the question of how Mr Janan managed to pull this off without the knowledge of his benefactors?

Mr Omar Shiekh Farah, a senior investigative journalist based in Mogadishu, believes that the Federal Government of Somalia and Mr Janan have been engaged in top secret talks for the past seven months.

“The Somali intelligence network outmanoeuvred their Kenyan counterparts,” added Mr Omar.

Mr Janan’s surrender to the Federal Government of Somalia has the following four implications.

The security of Gedo region

The Gedo region has been a thorny issue for the Federal Government of Somalia and Jubaland state relations, to a point where Kismayu’s administration was virtually non-existent. The Somali government has frequently deployed troops to the region, sparking military skirmishes that have resulted in civilian casualties and displaced many.

Mr Janan’s decision to change sides potentially rules out any prospect of military clashes between the government forces and Jubaland. Therefore, the federal government leaders can now shift their focus from providing humanitarian aid to the people severely affected by drought and diseases to liberating areas that are still under control of al-Shabaab fighters, particularly the regional state’s capital city, of Bu’ale.

The Ogaden-Marehan power tussle in Jubaland

President Madobe’s Raskaambooni Movement liberated the port city of Kismayu from the al-Shabaab with the backing of the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) in October 2012, and subsequently established the regional state of Jubaland. The trust-defect among the complex clans in Jubaland has long been an issue, especially between President Madobe’s Ogaden clan and the Marehan.

The Marehan clan, who inhabit the Gedo region and Kismayu, were dissatisfied with the power-sharing of Jubaland and felt that they were not getting what they deserved. They are also unhappy with the status quo.

With Mr Janan, who hails from the Marehan clan, and is additionally a very influential figure in Gedo, the Ogaden and Marehan struggle for Jubaland dominance will at least be balanced. Furthermore, it will pave the way for the reconstruction of a more inclusive Jubaland state.

The ongoing electoral negotiations in Mogadishu 

Somalia is currently at a crossroads -- the Federal Government and the Federal Member States are locked in an electoral impasse. Among the outstanding issues is how the elections will be held in the Gedo region, the formation of the Federal and State-Level electoral committees and the electoral management of the Somaliland representatives.

Although the aforementioned issues are very crucial, the Gedo subject is the most contentious. The Jubaland administration wants to manage the elections in Gedo, while the federal government argues that elections in the region should be preceded by reconciliation, since there is a lack of trust between the community and the administration in Kismayu.

Nevertheless, with Mr Janan, who hails from the Marehan clan, now on the Federal Government’s side, Mr Madobe bargaining chip is significantly weakened, giving the government the upper hand.

Somalia-Kenya relations

Relations between Somalia and Kenya have been deteriorating since December, when Somalia cut its diplomatic ties with its neighbour.

Somalia banned miraa -- grown in Kenya, among other Eastern African countries -- and accused Kenya of interfering in its internal affairs and destabilising the Gedo region by supporting militias loyal to Mr Janan. Kenya retaliated by hosting Mr Muse Bihi Abdi, the leader of Somalia’s breakaway region of Somaliland, and promised to open a consulate in Hargeisa, angering Mogadishu.

Recently, Kenya has withdrawn from the court hearing of a maritime boundary case between the two countries, and on Wednesday announced the closure of the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps, which host up to 500,000 people, 250,000 of whom are Somalis.

The Intergovernmental Development Authority (Igad) tried to mediate between the two countries by deploying a fact-finding committee, to no avail.

However, since Mr Janan has switched sides, this might rule out any possible border confrontations between Kenya and Somalia, and the two neighbours can slowly begin mending fences and restoring diplomatic relations.

Mohamed Musa Aden, Freelance journalist and political analyst in Somalia and the Horn of Africa