Mogadishu (UM) – 8th of February 2017 is a special day for President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmaajo. This is the day he was elected ahead of the well-financed incumbent Hassan Sheikh Mohamud in a very late tight election held in an airport hangar in 2017. A year later, the President still appears energetic and determined to achieve his agenda of Nabad and Nolol. Moreover, he remains committed to surprising his opposition and critics with future policy successes. However, his first year in office has been far from the smooth ride he expected given his popular mandate. Indeed, 2017 has been an incredible year of highs and lows for this new administration.
In his first speech, President Farmaajo pledged that his Government was going to improve security, increase opportunities, promote good governance and deliver public services. These are the key pillars of the Nabad and Nolol agenda that the President and his Government seek to advance. However, a year on, what has been achieved within this noble list of endeavours, what remains to be resolved and how will the Government overcome the obstacles in its way?
The Government of President Farmaajo must be recognised for its efforts in reforming the finances of the country. In this one-year period, the Federal Ministry of Finance managed to raise more domestic revenue, pass the IMF Staff Monitored Program and pay the civil service wages and allowances in full for the first time since the civil war. The message of raising domestic revenue and self-reliance appears to be communicated well followed by the implementation of the 5% sales tax which started this week. In addition, the Fiscal Federalism discussions led by Minister Beileh seem to be taking shape and producing results like the harmonisation of taxes on Khat and cigarettes.
The Constitutional review process is ongoing and there appears to be momentum to complete it and hold free and fair elections in 2020. The Political Party laws have been passed and many political organisations are registering to participate in the upcoming elections.
On the military front, for the first time, the Somali National Army is registering soldiers for biometric payment and the new National Security Adviser is determined to implement the National Security Architecture. The Somali Government appears more serious than ever in its commitment to see through the security reforms required to allow for an orderly and successful AMISOM transition.
The process of Federalism and its future direction has been influenced by the successful tour of Galmuduug and Puntland regions by President Farmaajo. This tour emphasised the importance the Somali people attach to government and their support for the President. The tour also provided President Farmaajo with an opportunity to test his own mandate in two turbulent and warring federal member states whose leadership he connected through this visit.
Somalia, under President Farmaajo, has regained its confidence in Foreign Policy. The Somali Government, often merely an observer in international affairs, has now proposed a candidate for the Executive Secretary position of IGAD and Judge Abdulqawi has been elected as the President of the International Court of Justice. While the last administration started the process of supporting the honourable Judge’s campaign, it was on this Government’s watch that the Judge was elected. More impressively, Somalia has managed to remain neutral in the Gulf crisis and win the respect of all actors within this conflict as well as the international community. For the first time, the Somali Federal Government has acted in its own best interest in international affairs.
The above list of noteworthy achievements in the first year of this Government has also left much to be improved upon the coming years.
The biggest failure of President Farmaajo’s year in office was the tragic and unforgivable Zoobe attack which claimed over 500 innocent lives and injured even more. This failing pointed to the weakness of the security services planning and execution of their mandate and, as a result, cost the positions of the Directors of NISA and the Somali Police Force. To this day, the tragedy is relived by many victims who also lost their livelihoods and both senior security positions are vacant.
Ensuring the carnage of Zoobe never again occurs in Somalia requires a well-trained, led, coordinated and financed Somali Security Forces. Yet, the most recent reviews of the National Army and Police readiness assessment highlighted both organisations weaknesses. In addition, the National Security Architecture has been agreed but not yet operationalised due to issues of financing and capacity on the part of the Somali Government. This must be addressed quickly if the Somali Government is to benefit fully from the last remaining sums of European Union support towards its security in the coming years.
On the other hand, Somali foreign policy has a new and more experienced face, but this is no guarantee of any more effectiveness on the international stage. Somali diplomats are still clan-appointees and diplomatic Missions abroad are poorly financed. The government embarked on an ambitious civil service reform when it advertised all the Director General positions within the government. Many months later, there is no outcome of this process despite many people applying.
8th of February 2018 will be a day of reflection and not celebration for President Farmaajo and his Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire. A year on, despite some clear achievements, the challenges if not overcome can undermine all the Government’s progress. This will jeopardise the entire Nabad and Nolol agenda which will be a tragedy for the legitimacy and popularity of the administration. To avoid this, the Government needs to finalise and make public the new Director General’s of the Ministries and they must be the best candidates from those that have applied. This is the only way the public will regain confidence in the government institutions.
Like the Director General’s, the future Ambassadors and Diplomats of this nation as well as the leaders of the security sector that will soon be announced, must be the most qualified professionals and not most connected friends.
There is too much discussion of AMISOM leaving and the pace of their transition. This takes focus away from the capacity and financial support needs of the Somali National army and Police Force. The Somali Government should focus on securing financing for the implementation of the nationally agreed Security Architecture. In Security reforms, planning, financing and implementing security is every bit as important as the soldier’s courage on the front line.
To go forward successfully, the Government must give tangible meaning to Nabad and Nolol. What does it mean? The theme in its entirety must be linked to the government’s policy priorities and their successful implementation. Nabad and Nolol is an aspiration not policy, yet it is the policies that will help the government and public attain Nabad and Nolol.
The success of the administration can also be attributed to the partnership between the President and Prime Minister. This relationship of trust and respect must continue. Both are two very different characters but they have thus far got along well. However, without basic public service delivery, the whole Government’s efforts will be to no avail. The Somali state has long been absent from people’s lives and it is time that the Government truly won the hearts and minds of the population to protect itself and to promote their progress. This is Nabad and Nolol.
Today, there should be no grand parties or speeches to celebrate the first anniversary of this Government. There should be deep reflection on the way forward and perhaps some pride in the success of the reforms that the Government is undertaking undertaken.