Farmajo and Roble in Somalia: leaders at loggerheads


Bustup: President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, left, and Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble – Copyright AFP STR

When veteran diplomat Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed was elected President of Somalia in February 2017, his supporters hoped he would bring stability to a failed state known for corruption and extremism.

But less than four years later, Somalia was plunged into a political crisis when the president extended his term without holding an election.

He is now locked in a growing stalemate with Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble, who accuses him of “attempted coup”.

Here are the portraits of the two rivals:

– Farmajo: Wily president –

The 59-year-old president is popularly known as Farmajo, a name derived from the Italian word for cheese, although it is not known why he earned the nickname.

He spent several years studying and working in the United States but renounced his American citizenship in 2019.

Farmajo was elected president by MPs in a converted aircraft hangar after a six-month voting process marred by widespread allegations of vote-buying and corruption.

The father of four inherited a deeply unstable nation where al-Shabaab jihadists still hold swathes of the countryside despite their rout of the capital Mogadishu in 2011.

“This is the start of unity for the Somali nation, the start of the fight against Shabaab and corruption,” said a triumphant Farmajo.

Born in Mogadishu to militant parents of the Darod clan, the politically savvy Farmajo was greeted by many Somalis who wanted change after a string of Hawiye presidents in a country where clan divisions dominate politics.

He himself had been Prime Minister for a brief stint in 2010-11 when he notably set up the first monthly allowances for soldiers and set up an anti-corruption commission.

In 2011, after months of internal wrangling over whether to hold a presidential election, an agreement was reached to postpone the vote in exchange for Farmajo’s resignation.

He agreed to step down as prime minister in “the interests of the Somali people”.

The following year, Farmajo and members of his former cabinet formed the Tayo (Quality) party, but after an unsuccessful run for president, he retired from politics for several years.

As president since 2017, he has taken a strong nationalist stance and, at one point, severed diplomatic ties with Kenya – an approach that won him the support of some Somalis, although he also did. many enemies.

A supporter of a strong central state, Farmajo has been accused of interfering in several state elections by trying to put his allies in power.

In April 2021, parliament extended Farmajo’s tenure after the agreement on new election conditions failed, sparking an unprecedented constitutional crisis and street battles in Mogadishu.

A rival described him as a “dictator” who wanted to stay in power by force.

– Roble: political newcomer –

Mohamed Hussein Roble won unanimous parliamentary approval in 2020 to become prime minister despite his political neophyte status, and even won over the opposition with his balanced approach to organizing the long-delayed elections.

Although he lacks the oratory skills of his predecessor Hassan Ali Khaire, the Swedish-trained civil engineer is considered by many to be an outspoken person who understands the complex makeup of Somalia and is ready to openly discuss issues. .

The 58-year-old technocrat, who had worked at the UN’s International Labor Organization (ILO) in Nairobi, first gave way to Farmajo.

But the two increasingly clashed as the prime minister assumed a more prominent role and challenged his boss on several key issues.

After the postponement crisis escalated into violence this year, he pledged to lead the country towards “fair, free, fair and transparent elections.”

“I have no personal interest in this election and I have no one to be allied with – all I work for is justice for all,” was his noble statement in June.

He accused Farmajo of seeking to sabotage the vote, after the president withdrew his mandate to hold an election and announced his suspension on Monday.

Roble appears to have allies within the Somali political opposition and the international community, with the US Department of State’s Africa Office declaring support for his “efforts for a credible election.”

People who know Roble describe him as a man with simple tastes but who likes to do things his own way.

But some say his inexperience and tendency to make hasty decisions could make him vulnerable to exploitation by more powerful players.

bur-str-txw-amu / ri


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