Only systematic change can stop Robow from running for office – UM

Mukhtar Robow announced this week his candidacy for presidency of South West state in Baidoa: via Twitter

Mogadishu (UM) – This week the Ministry of Internal Security released a statement to announce that the Somali Government was not going to allow Mukhtar Robow ( Abu Mansour) to contest the South West State of Somalia Presidency because of his former links to terrorism. The statement claimed that the agreement between the Somali government and international community to keep Robow on the terrorism sanctions list and to limit his travel would be broken.

Mukhtar Robow was a senior member of Al-Shabaab and since his defection has been working with the Somali security services very closely. Many in government still feel he harbours sympathy for extremism if not for his former group Al-Shabaab and therefore find the possibility of him running and winning frightening. Yet, today, Robow is one of the front runners for the presidency of South West State and he is likely to be assisted by Al-Shabaab’s threat to kill him issued today.

Whatever Mukhtar Robow beliefs is hard to understand because he is a trained and disciplined man despite his defection from Al-Shabaab. It helped his case that he was on bad terms with them before he defected for years but in any other place, simply defecting would not have given someone as high calibre an extremist as Robow the opportunity to work so closely with the Somali government in live operations. Now, Robow wants more than just to work for the security apparatus; he wants political office and power in one of the most populated areas of Somalia. Again, this would be impossible anywhere else in the world but in Somalia, Robow has a strong claim against the Somali government’s refusal to let him contest because it is hypocritical.

The Somali government has been welcoming defectors from Al-Shabaab and rewarding them with senior positions at the heart of government for a very long time. Often, without much checks, defectors are awarded positions for simply denouncing violence and their former colleagues at the expense of longer serving more loyal and experienced colleagues. It will also not be the first-time religious extremists have attained office in Somalia and it will not be the last.

Instead of wasting precious time on opposing Robow’s presidential bid for South West State, the government should focus on putting together rules and laws to guide who can contest public office and establish an ethical framework for competition. UM, in an earlier editorial, stressed the need for deciding on the process of re-integrating former Al-Shabaab members into Somali society. Yet, the government has taken no action to date.

Mukhtar Robow’s supporters would be right in arguing that if an ethical framework for conduct in public life existed it would be broad enough to cover extremism as well as personal conduct on the part of those seeking office or already in office and catch out almost all Parliamentarians who paid for their seats in the last election. The current holder of the presidency of South West State and all his regional federal member state leader colleagues would also be imprisoned for siding with foreign powers over their national government while also abusing their powers within their territories. With this disheartening reality, how can Mukhtar Robow feel ashamed about standing for office? In fact, he may even feel he is among the most worthy and honourable candidate in the whole process.

Mukhtar Robow is presenting himself as the man of the people and he is succeeding because of the lack of credible opposition. If he wins, with or without the Federal Government’s approval, he will be the President of South West State because his clan will support him. The only way to clean up politics in Somalia in the future is to create clear guidelines for those seeking and holding already political office. There is no other solution to this challenging problem of yesterday’s terrorists and corrupted officials turning into the people champion tomorrow.