After two years paying salaries is not enough – UM

President Farmajo speaking at annual justice conference in Mogadishu. Photo courtesy: Villa Somalia

Mogadishu (UM) – Tomorrow the Government of President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmajo enters its second year. It is now halfway point between when he was first elected on 8th February 2017 and when he is expected to defend his seat or give way to new political players in 2020. Nabad and Nolol, as this government is known, has made some progress but many more challenges lie ahead for the President to fulfil the commitments he made to the people.

The biggest statement by this Government is that they have paid salaries and that financial reforms are ongoing. The comparison with the last administration of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is constant but they need to move the narrative on. The salaries that are paid are just to civil servants and they must be paid to keep people working. The financial reforms are going strong but they alone will not deliver debt relief. Debt relief has only ever been awarded to governments that are in full control of their country and are able to manage their economy. Somalia’s politics and economy are fragmented and unless these are addressed, debt relief will not be taken seriously by the international community.

When he was first elected President, Farmajo ambitiously stated that he will defeat Al-Shabaab in two years. This was a bold promise that is not near achievement. Al-Shabaab is definitely weakened but the people and businesses are still frightened, car explosions rock the capital regularly and the Security sector reforms are not progressing at the required pace for a country so desperate for stability. To add to this, there are ongoing challenges with the capacity, equipment and financing of the Somali Security forces which are top heavy and led by a constantly changing leadership and advisers that do not inspire confidence among the ranks, people and international community. Amnesty, rehabilitation, surprise ground offensive and American Airstrikes are not resolving the protracted war with Al-Shabaab. Security will be this government’s key failure if the President does not deliver results.

The world is waiting to see what will happen in the proposed Somali leaders meeting in Garowe next month. The 2 year mark should remind the President that if he is not fully in charge and set the agenda, he might as well start packing his bags and looking for a new job. Politics is a game where the leader must eventually take command of his ship or be thrown aboard or just sink it all together. The Political settlement of Somalia is important for everything but it will not come with the new focus on controlling policy from the Prime Minister’s office through the pillar working groups (Tubta) which have no meaning outside Villa Somalia because the Federal member state stakeholders are not there. The public do not understand Tubta. The President realistically only has until the middle of this year to resolve the politics after this everybody else would be too busy campaigning for his seat to remember him or his Prime Minister.

The finalization of the Provisional Constitution has become another never ending project. The Somali people have lost interest in it. This is the same for the promised One Man One Vote 2020 which no one is even talking about. Without these two a fair political settlement is not impossible. Without new energy and focus from the President nothing will change.

Two years on, the government communications and public outreach is as pathetic and ineffective as ever. Igu Sawiir does not mean strategic communications. The Oil and Gas conference in London is a great example of a communications disaster which has turned the whole conference into a secret auctioning of Somalia’s assets and national resources. The management of public policy is also a disaster as the government just seeks to fill Parliament with Bills that have no real understanding of the context. The last two days the Annual Justice conference was held in Mogadishu which the President concluded with his speech. Yet, most Somalis would ask where this justice is. Nabad and Nolol is still not explained and the people are waiting for both. What is better than Igu Sawiir is delivery, national reconciliation and economic development for the people.

President Farmajo has made an effort in regional cooperation. He has even visited Eritrea but with a weak and inexperienced Foreign Minister and politically appointed diplomats Somali global ambitions are going nowhere. To get respect, Somalia must appoint diplomatic heavyweights who can be consistent in their policies and judgement.

After two years, the Somali civil servants thank the government for giving them their salaries regularly,however the Somali people are waiting for the bigger promises of Nabad and Nolol.