Somali prime minister Mohammed Abdullahi Farmayo resigned last Sunday after 10 days of protests on the streets of Mogadishu. He is the latest victim of the power struggle between the president and the speaker of the Somali national assembly, suffering the same fate as his predecessor, Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke, who quit in September. His resignation came as part of the Kampala agreements against which a crowd of Somali citizens, tired of the ongoing drama in the country, demonstrated. The protesters gathered in Mogadishu on Friday looked for all the world like those who'd crowded Maghreb and Mashreq Squares. However, the Somali capital does not in any way resemble Cairo, Tunis or Damascus because Somalia lacks any framework to even imagine change, let alone usher it in. Almost a year has passed since the African Union Summit it was hoped would improve the handling of the Somali crisis. However, the country remains stuck in the same morass. Militia sympathetic to Al Qaeda continue to control the centre and south of the country, while Puntland and Somaliland staged de facto secessions 13 and 20 years ago respectively. Piracy on the high seas has become a global threat with the perpetrators taking refuge along the southern coast of Somalia. Last but not least, there is a destabilising power struggle between Sharif Sheikh Ahmad and president of the national assembly, Sharif Hassan Sheick Aden, who clashed for months over the renewal their =mandates which they had arbitrarily extended for one and three years respectively. In fact, despite the fact that new elections were planned for August when the transitional federal government's mandate expires, the president extended his mandate by a year. Having attacked Ahmad, Aden then decided that he and the other members of parliament would remain in power for a further three years.
The agreement, which was negotiated with huge difficulty on June 9th at talks in Kampala attended by the Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni and the UN envoy and Tanzanian diplomat Augustine Mahiga, will see elections pushed back to August 2012. Both president and speaker will therefore have another year in which to consolidate the cronyist networks they've been building up in the meantime. The prime minister's enforced resignation comes against this backdrop and brought the Somali people, infuriated by endless cosmetic manoeuvring, out on to the streets. On Friday the 10th, the protesters attempted to storm the hotel in which members of parliament were ensconced. Three people died in the clashes that followed. The fact that members of the security forces took part in the fighting makes the issue even more worrying, however. Not forgetting either the parallel games being played by Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya and Sudan, which all have their own agendas, and are pulling their own strings in the Somali crisis. For instance, Ahmad's most powerful ally, Museveni, forced the extension of Ahmad's mandate simply by threatening to withdraw his soldiers who account for almost the entire NATO-AMISOM mission, which has thus far achieved little. The government remains in control of certain districts of Mogadishu but cannot even guarantee the safety of the city's main market, Bakara. It has been infiltrated by militia who mix with ordinary citizens and fire mortar rounds from there at the government troops and buildings. Bakara is one of the many symbols of a normality that now seems lost forever.
Chronic uncertainty reigns. According to the World Health Organization's May bulletin, 1,600 people were wounded by gunfire that month, an 80% increase on April (5,000 have been wounded since the start of the year). Deaths no longer make the news. Between Friday and Saturday last, for example, 25 people were killed in fighting between Al Shabaab insurgents and pro-government Ahlu Sunnah militia in the central region of Hiraan. There have been many high profile Al Qaeda infiltrations too, although the quality of the operations has been questionable. To take just one example, the day before the Kampala agreement was signed, Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, one of Al Qaeda's top men in the Horn of Africa, was killed in Mogadishu. This is the man Washington maintains was one of the masterminds behind the attacks on the American embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in 1998. However, his death wasn't the result of any sophisticated intelligence operation but the fact that he ended up at a checkpoint by mistake and tried to escape. A few days later, the minister for the interior in the transitional government, Abdi Shakur Sheikh Hassan, was killed in a suicide blast at his own home. The bomber turned out to be his niece, further evidence of the institutional weakness reigning in Somalia.
translated by Mary Hegarty