On 12 January 2015, PM Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke’s new 60-member cabinet was announced after weeks of speculation about whether there would be fresh faces, or instead, the usual lot of Presidential allies and other personalities on the political merry-go-round.
The latter turned out to be true.
Several close associates of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud are nominated to be back, including:
- Farah Sheikh Abdulkadir – Minister of Justice, the current Karl Rove of Somalia, and one of the President’s closest confidantes and negotiators; he was controversially moved to the political basement by ex-PM Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed, who paid the price in his dismissal after a power struggle with the President
- Abdikarim Guled – Minister of Interior and Federalism
- Abdullahi Mohamed Ali “Sanbaloshe”- Minster of National Security
- Hussein Abdi Halane – Minister of Finance, who has not sufficiently answered questions about financial improprieties involving the President and others in government
The re-appearance of the President’s allies — some with a questionable record of success — reinforces the unconventional norm of the President dominating the process to name the PM’s own cabinet.
The upside is perhaps, as UN Special Representative to Somalia Nick Kay implied, that President Hassan Sheikh has to accept the responsibility of this cabinet’s successes and failures heading into the final two years of his term.
Ministries In Name Only
There has been a general trend that most ministries have served as political spoils to be divided among clans and personal allies rather than functioning institutions. The result is often a redundancy that does not go unnoticed.
With this in mind, it is perhaps more important to focus on a few strategic questions for the newly proposed ministers as they face approval from parliament in the coming days.
1. Will Parliament Go Along With the Nominations?
Before PM Sharmarke announced the proposed cabinet, a faction of parliament upwards of 90 members demanded that the PM refuse any inclinations of his own or efforts by the President to re-appoint failed ex-ministers to the cabinet.
And yet it still happened.
Ex-Interior/Security Minister, Abdikarim Guled, was re-appointed to his former post, even though he was forced to resign in May 2014 after al-Shabaab’s deadly parliament attack in Mogadishu — which was a defining symbol in his failure to tackle insecurity effectively from his ministry.
In addition, ex-National Intelligence chief Abdullahi Mohamed Ali “Sanbaloshe” was also selected as National Security Minister, despite the fact that he was fired by ex-PM Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed over his perceived incompetency — something that President Hassan Sheikh vigorously challenged.
Currently, there does not appear to be sufficient opposition in parliament to prevent 139 or more MPs from voting in favor of the selection.
However, the staunch opposition to PM Sharmarke’s cabinet is a far cry from the unanimous vote that he received confirming his appointment to office in December 2014.
2. Will Puntland Dig Its Heels into the Constitutional Battle?
Puntland may be able to exert more influence on the constitutional review process due to the nomination of former Puntland administration cabinet Minister and current MP Abdikadir Hashi to the Constitutional Affairs portfolio.
Notably, Puntland had previously secured the role of its representative Asho Gelli as chairwoman of the Independent Constitutional Review and Implementation Commission (ICRIC).
Moving forward, it will be interesting to see what stance Puntland takes on how revisions should be made to the provisional constitution since it has criticized the Somali government for years over certain clauses that were changed without proper consultation.
One one hand, Puntland could leverage its strategically placed representatives to ensure that its interests are accounted for in the review process.
On the other hand, there could be further political paralysis if the SFG, regional actors, and Puntland cannot each make concessions and accommodations regarding how to fix the debilitating contradictions and ambiguities in the provisional constitution.
3. Will the Cabinet Effectively Tackle Federalism Disputes?
The proposed cabinet has its work cut out for it in finishing the formation of interim regional administrations that are to become Federal Member States (FMS).
Disputes continue to rise over the effort to form an interim Central State administration (ICSA) with Galgaduud and south Mudug region — which has been a controversial process from Day 1 among local actors, the Somali Federal Government (SFG), the international community, and Puntland.
Recently, the Puntland administration sent signals that it fears the ICSA will infringe on its political authority and borders as defined in the 1993 Mudug Peace deal and Puntland’s own regional constitution.
Puntland sentenced three people to life in prison for “treason” after attending the ICSA proceedings, and eleven others to 10-year sentences for “[voicing] support for the agenda.” These convictions highlight the threat that Puntland senses from the ICSA process and the impact that the conference may have on the regional borders.
Thus, even as the SFG and Puntland reached an agreement in October 2014 to restrict the ICSA to Galgaduud and south Mudug, Puntland seems either dissatisfied or distrustful of the eventual outcomes with the SFG and other regional actors leading the process. (For a more technical explanation about whether Mudug region can be constitutionally split between two regions, see here.)
Along with the central regions qaugmire, the cabinet will have to reduce the likelihood that similar problems arise during the process to form an interim regional administration with Hiiraan and Middle Shabelle — which has not begun in earnest.
Lastly, it is unclear whether Banaadir region/Mogadishu will become a Federal Capital Territory or be given some other special status, since it has been assured that it will not be merged with another region.
This sets up a political battle between the Banaadir administration (which has felt the SFG has not given it sufficient powers or revenue), the SFG, and even regional politicians who may try to exploit the dispute.
The proposed cabinet members tasked with navigating these tricky political waters are the same actors that have been criticized for their ineffective consensus-building and anti-federalism stance in the past.
Will they adjust their approach if given another opportunity at the helm of federalizing Somalia?
4. Will the Cabinet Urge Grander Moves against Shabaab?
Another big question will be whether the cabinet will urge AMISOM and Somali forces to re-start the offensive against al-Shabaab, which has been put on pause for months.
In the past, offensives have been stalled due to the rainy season (which is not in season currently), logistical problems, and political disagreement between AMISOM contributing countries and the SFG. There has not been much official explanation as to which of these factors or others are relevant.
But, as a result of the stalled offensive, AMISOM and Somali forces have not been able to capitalize against al-Shabaab’s recent losses, including the killing of its intelligence chief Tahlil Abdishkaur in a US drone strike.
Though AMISOM and Somali forces are trying to break up al-Shabab’s blockades of towns, lack of broader and coordinated operations is giving the group time to recover from an operational and bureaucratic point of view. This decreases the effectiveness of airstrikes aimed at its leadership and camp positions.
The delayed offensive also hardens perspectives — especially among some Somalis — that AMISOM countries do not want to complete their mission, and rather, want to maintain strategic positions in places like the lucrative port of Kismayo or continue collecting salaries at the expense of donor groups and SNA troops whose salaries pale in comparison.
Lead ministries in the security sector only have so much influence in controlling the tempo of counter-Shabaab operations with AMISOM forces. But cabinet ministers could attract substantial support within the country by publicly urging the offensive to continue and ensuring services are delivered in liberated towns.
Third Time’s the Charm
It is hard to overstate the damages to the chance of a credible transition of power in 2016 that would be incurred if President Hassan Sheikh eventually seeks the ouster of PM Sharmarke — his third — in the next 12 months…A year seems to be the average span of tenure for Premiers who are inevitably gobbled up by Mogadishu’s political jaws.
By submitting to the President’s demands that his key allies be reinstated into the cabinet, PM Sharmarke is showing that he is willing to play the subservient role that Somali presidents expect in an imbalanced political structure that begs for checks and balances.
More important than subservience, however, will be a consensus between the President and PM on their division of powers and how they can cooperate more effectively with regional leaders on security and power- and wealth-sharing.
Perhaps, they can rest easy, knowing that only the fundamental fate of the country as a cohesive state is at stake.
List of Nominated Ministers (via Somali Current)
Mohamed Omar Arte – Deputy Prime Minister
Abikarim Hussien Guled- Minister of Interior and Federalism
Hussein Abdi Halane – Minister of Finance
Mohamed Sheikh Hassan – Minister of Defense
Abdulahi Mohamed Ali – Minster of National Security
Abdukadir Sheikh Ibrahim – Minister for Religious Affairs
Abdikadir Abdi “Gaabane” – Minister for constitutional affairs
Abdirahman Duale Beyle – Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation
Abdulah Ahmed Jama Ilka jiir – Minister of Education
Yusuf Moalin Amin – Minister of Ports and Marine Transport
Mohamud Ali Magan – Minister of Planning
Farah Sheikh Abdulkadir Mohamed – Minister of Justice
Mustaf Ali Duhulow – Minister of Information
Abdulahi Sheikh Ismail – Minister of Air and Land Transport
Mohamed Abdi Hayir- Minster of Power and Electricity
Abdalla Boos Ahmed – Minister of Posts and Telecommunications
Husien Mohamed Shiekh – Minister of Agriculture
Ahmedy Shiekh Mukhtar – Minister of Sports and Youth
Nadifo Maxamed Cusman- Minister of Reconstruction
Abdurahman Abdi Osman – Minister of Industry and Commerce
Mohamed Omar Aymow – Minister of Public Works
Khadijo Mohamed Diriye – Minister of Women and Human Rights
Mohamed Mukhtar Ibrahim – Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources
Daud Mohamed Omar – Minister of Mineral Resources
Abukar Abdi Osman – Minister of Environment and Livestock
Siciid Husien Eid – Minister of Health
Abdulahi Yusuf Alankey- State Minister of Interior security
Khalid Ali Omar -State Minister of Interior and Federalism
Abdullahi Mohamed Nur – State Minister of Finance
Mohamed Aadan Fargetti -State Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation
Mohamud Hayir Ibrahim: State minster of Palace
Mohamed Ali Haga – State Minister of Defense
Hassan Mohamed Jimacle : State minster of constitution
Burci Mohamed Hamza – State minster of Environment
Aadil Shegow Sagar – State minster of parliament Relations
Daud Abdihakim Omar – State Minister of National Security