The ongoing political crisis in Somalia reveals a fundamental problem for American policy

As the foreign policy community continues to reflect on the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan and grapples with the failure of decades-long efforts to support political stability in the country, broad areas of consensus have emerged from the diversity of views on what went wrong. Almost universally, policymakers and analysts agree that part of the problem lay in the delusion that Kabul’s deeply corrupt government was a viable authority or an attractive alternative to the Taliban.

In Somalia, where another internationally-backed nation-building exercise has been underway for many years, recent developments have heightened the urgency of questions about the nature of the federal government that is supposed to represent a responsible and legitimate to al-Shabab. The term of current President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, known as Farmaajo, expired in February, but his machinations to stay in power delayed the electoral process and nearly led to a total breakdown of order in Mogadishu in last spring. The precarious situation was temporarily saved when Farmaajo, under national and international pressure, ceded control of the electoral process and associated security arrangements to Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble.

Safer:

Somalia

Political transitions

future of democracy

The democracy

Elections and Voting

Today, the fragile government is once again on the brink, consumed by the President and Prime Minister’s struggle for control of the National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) – a power struggle compounded by the murder of Ikran Tahlil. Tahlil, who worked for NISA, disappeared this summer. While Farmaajo’s camp claimed she was killed by al-Shabab, al-Shabab itself denies any involvement, uncharacteristic for an organization keen to highlight its ability to strike targets at will. governmental. Rumors abound that Tahlil was killed by her superiors, and Roble insists on a full accounting of her death and the new leadership of NISA; Farmaajo attempts to protect former NISA leaders, keep the organization involved in any investigation into Tahlil’s death, and maintain control of the organization.

Imagining what it all looks like from a Somali perspective is a depressing exercise. Somalia remains desperately poor and its extremely young population has enormous difficulty in accessing education, employment and health care. Insecurity is omnipresent. The political spectacle in Mogadishu does not hold much promise for improving these conditions. Clearly, Somalis have good reason to doubt the integrity of the security institutions that are supposed to keep them safe, and the lack of clarity as to where authority lies only further erodes trust. in government. All of these developments cast a veil over an electoral process that should, in theory, bind Somali leaders to the desires of its citizens.

Afghanistan and Somalia are, of course, countries with distinct and complex social structures, different histories and complicated relationships with their neighbors and foreign powers. But in both cases, the United States has been clear about the forces it opposes while remaining ambivalent about those it ostensibly supports. American leaders have imposed political goals on governments that engender neither loyalty nor optimism for the future and are more concerned with maintaining power and access to loot than improving the lives of their citizens. Many capable Somalis are working hard every day to improve the situation in the country, and the demands for truth and justice in the case of Ikran Tahlil – which have come not just from the Prime Minister’s camp but from ordinary citizens – signal a real desire to be accountable. . External actors must face the reality that these people of good will have not yet been presented with worthy political leadership around which to unite.

This publication is part of the Diamonstein-Spielvogel project on the future of democracy.

Safer:

Somalia

Political transitions

future of democracy

The democracy

Elections and Voting

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