President does well abroad but is absent at home – UM

President Farmajo arrives in Doha, Qatari capital for official state visit. Photo credit: Villa Somalia

Mogadishu (UM) – President Farmajo has returned from the first ever meeting between the Arab League and the European Union in Sharm El-Sheikh Egypt this week. On the sidelines of the meeting he met with many Arab and EU leaders to discuss Somalia and its situation. From the pictures and communications, the President looked the part of a leader representing his country and people abroad. A day after landing in Mogadishu the President set off again for Doha, Qatar to meet with Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani.

Many have criticised the President for going on too many trips but with a weak Foreign Minister and generally weak institutions, the President’s presence is reassuring for foreign partners. His trips abroad communicate that Somalia is committed more than any statement or visit by any member of his government.

President Farmajo’s performance abroad is in total contrast to his presence at home. Here, he is absent. Instead, his supporters feel that he has left the governing to the Prime Minister and the Tubaha program which is not having much impact on the ground despite taking all of the government’s time with daily meetings. It is clear that the President has made a decision to let the Executive branch do its job. However, with the strained relations between all branches of the government and the public and government as a whole, the President needs to return to the public sphere at home to lead his government.

The much hoped for upcoming March meeting of Somali federal member state leaders and the President is already getting off to a bad start with no confirmation yet from any participant. The leader of Galmudug State Ahmed Dualle Haaf has already started to complain about the Federal Government and its broken promises to hid beleagured administration. Puntland’s leader Said Abdullahi Deni is unhappy with national security financing arrangement. To deal with these serious issues the President must be more active at home and do more outreach nationally.

In all policy areas, the President’s endorsement of government priorities will increase public and international support. It will create more interest and bring in more money for development. This will help Somalis and the Farmajo re-election campaign which is still absent given how close the 2021 elections are. To win this, like he wants to, President Farmajo needs to be a President abroad and at home. He needs to use his political capital and credibility on winning over his people. It is important for the President to not just take international flights but local ones too. He will find that it is the local ones that are shorter and offer more rewards.