BY ABDULKADIR KHALIF
Besieged Somali Premier Ali Mohammed Ghedi returned from a second trip from Addis just over a fortnight ago and abruptly handed in his resignation.
This immediately cooled tempers, dramatically ending a standoff that threatened to push the war torn country finally over the precipice.
But even more significant, it gave some hope to many who were worried about the infighting in the weak and fractitious Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG), where the battle for supremacy between the elderly President Abdullahi Ahmed and Ghedi was getting more vicious by the day.
In his earlier trip to Addis Ababa, he returned on October 21 and set about a number of events that observers say quashed any hope for a solution and further widened the gap in the TFG.
He invited his supporters to Bakiin hotel in Baidoa, the temporary seat of the Transitional Federal Parliament, for lunch where he bitterly spoke of his differences with President Yusuf, hinting that the latter’s “dictatorial style” had caused the constitutional crisis.
He denied that the government had failed to implement a federal system in the country, something his political rivals had harped on. They cited this and cabinet inefficiency as enough reasons to force a vote of no confidence and fire him.
“According to section 9 of article 11 of the Transitional Federal Charter, the government ought to seek a fresh mandate from parliament if it fails to implement the federal system in the country within two and a half years,” said Ismael Hurre Buba, the Minister for Education, a former ally of Ghedi but now bitter foe.
We must have the courage to face the legislators’ hammer,” added Buba who represented a group of ministers who opposed Ghedi’s reluctance to face parliament.
Mr Ghedi insisted that his problems arose from fabrications by his political adversaries, starting with the president to all others eyeing his position.
According to Ghedi, the Cabinet had achieved a lot despite the country being in a war situation. Supporters of this position cheered him on.
“The president approved the commission for federal affairs in June 2006, hence, our government still has 14 months to implement the system,” argued Moulid Moane Mohamed, the Sports and Youth Development Minister and a steadfast supporter of Ghedi.
The prime minister’s predicament worsened when 24 ministers of the 31-member Cabinet rebelled against him.
In retaliation, he described the ministers’ and deputies’ meetings in his absence as illegal and their hostile statements as showing off.
This incensed the MPs who then stopped all business — especially a debate on petroleum bill and the questioning of the government for accountability — and turned their full attention to the stalemate between Yusuf and Ghedi.
Somewhat desperate, Ghedi dropped his urban academic facade to seek support and loyalty of his clan. All along he had cut for himself the image of a technocrat who cared less about traditional, clan-based politics that many Somalis practice.
“The fact that Ghedi is seeking the partnership of former warlords, kingpins and hatemongers shows his desperate attempt to cling to power,” remarked a resident of Baidoa.
But Ghedi shocked everybody when he hinted that the country would revert to the situation of the early 1990s (when the civil war was at its worst) if his government collapsed.
“Ghedi is a new warlord in the making,” wrote Abdulrehman Hassan on Hiiraan Online, a largely Somali news website, “How can he lead a government of reconciliation if he himself is prepared to dive into a civil war?”
The fight between Yusuf and the premier was the biggest test facing the TFG as an institution. On October 13, John Yates, the US Special envoy to Somalia joined other diplomats urging the TFG leadership to employ the Transitional Federal Charter to clean up their house. Ethiopian, Kenyan and Arab leaders have all raised similar concerns.
Ghedi’s second hasty trip to Addis Ababa also kept the country in suspense. But the suspense did not last long.
The president expressed relief and hoped that the legislators will now turn their attention to pressing national matters.
“We are equally thankful that there is no need for a vote of confidence on the constitutional crisis, which would have created the biggest tension among the MPs,” remarked a lawmaker who sought anonymity.
Observers moved to interpret Ghedi’s exit as one that gave the president a bigger stature than he had hitherto enjoyed.
Yusuf can now form a new Cabinet to accommodate a broader section of Somalia’s political representation, including opponents of the TFG into the system,” said Omar Agey Abdallah, a former senior military officer in the Somali army.
“Before then, parliament must endorse the recommendations of the reconciliation conference held in Mogadishu, Yusuf is the right person to persuade the MPs to act,” added Agey, who took part in the July/August talks.
“The president’s three achievements are that he succeeded in crushing the fear that a national conference could not be held in violence-ridden Mogadishu, that the elders endorsed that only state security apparatus could have powers over weapons (meaning that if all arms were not peacefully surrendered, the government could forcibly confiscate them) and that the members in the transitional government could be drawn from outside parliament,” remarked Agey.
Within hours of Ghedi’s resignation, Prof. Salim Aliyow Ibrow was named interim prime minister.
The TFG will take the first step having a democratically elected government by 2009.
“The first to react to the sudden development is the Somali shilling which gained against other currencies. Criminals and freelance gangs were running scared as the security apparatus is recovering from the leadership confusion of the past few months,” a university lecturer in Mogadishu said.
“Even the US navy has come closer to the Somali coast to take on the vicious pirates and save mv DI Honga Dan, South Korean cargo ship hijacked off the coast of Mogadishu, good news for seafarers, business community and the coastal nation along the Indian Ocean,” he added.
Abdulkadir Khalif Sh. Yusuf
E-mail: [email protected]