2019 is your last chance, Mr. President – UM

President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo. Photo: Villa Somalia

Mogadishu ( UM) – 2018 has been a very difficult year for President Farmajo’s administration. There have been notable achievements such as Somalia playing a more prominent role in the Horn of Africa’s affairs and notebale an increase in domestic revenue but otherwise, 2018 has been a challenging year. Security remains weak, political infighting is rife, constitutional reform process is not yet complete let alone agreed, and the economy is stagnant with very high unemployment. Issue that need to be resolved for a successful 2019 are therefore many and, while these issues are all priorities in a country with limited capacity and where deep clan and political mistrust persist, strong leadership is needed to go forward in 2019.

The Government of President Farmaajo which is captained by Prime Minister Hassan Ali Kheyre certainly has ambition and a vision of where it wants to go. It is trying to organise the business of government and deliver results. However, these goals have proven challenging because of weak institutions, inadequate human resource capabilities and a lack of effective coordination and partnerships. These long term structural issues will take time to overcome but what is needed most urgently is for the President to take ownership of the national development agenda and lead it personally. The President has said to many insiders that he wants to play a hands off role and empower his Prime Minister to administer the government.  This is how it ought to be in a perfect world but Somalia is far from a perfect place. Somali politics is still built on personalities and President Farmaajo should know because it is how he got to the top post himself. The idea of a unifying President leading a national reform agenda which benefits all Somalis was how he sold himself and was received by the Somali people. Now, these same people, want and need the President to rescue his vision and deliver the results he promised in 2019. It will be his last chance as after this point the country will move on to election planning.

The Regional Cooperation agenda has been successful because the President has led it and champions it. In this specific policy area, the President does not trust the incompetent, dysfunctional and poorly led Foreign Ministry which still continues to politically appoint the worst diplomats in modern history to strategic positions. In other areas of policy like Security, economic reforms and good governance, the President must also take an active role. The Prime Minister and his Cabinet are trying their best but none of them command the respect and authority the President does and this is important for convincing the public of compliance and their support as we go forward in all policy areas. Currently, the President is only wheeled out when disasters occur and when foreign dignitaries visit. Very little is known by the public of what their leader does on a daily basis. The people genuinely miss their President and want to hear and see more of him in the public sphere in 2019. After all, he is the only one they actually directly appointed to lead them through Parliament and he must answer their call.

The President’s almost total absence from public life in 2018 is the cause of much speculation regarding the political infighting that made this year one of the most unstable in modern history. 2018 was a year of Parliamentary division, mismanaged and poorly guided formations of political parties with no real future and the controversial electoral success of Abdiaziz LaftaGareen in South West State. In all of these destabilizing events the public believed the President was using his Prime Minister in an attempt to appear neutral but this backfired: most Somalis believe that the President should come out of the shadows and shape the future of Somalia. And this, he has every right to as the leader of the nation. There is no shame in leading ones army from the front and in 2019, the President must be seen and heard more or he will sign away his future political career and place his legacy in the hands of future opponents.

2019 is the year of delivery. There can be no more excuse or failures: the President must be ruthless in his pursuit of success. 2019 must be the year of accountability and reform where the question goes from where the explosion happen to why it happened. 2019 is not the year for nepotism, mediocrity and failure. 2019 is certainly not the year of the pathetic YES MEN surrounding the President and Prime Minister. 2019 is the year the President will either take the lead or remain invisible and be led out in the upcoming elections of 2020.

Mr. President, fortune favours the brave and you still have enough political capital to make 2019 your year. It is definitely your last chance to secure your future and that of the country. Make it count.