by Abdi Ali
May 6, 2021
In the world of disinformation, four “Ds” are important. You first “dismiss” reality and everything that does not suit your chosen narrative. Think of how Farmaajo spent months dismissing he was the obstacle to the elections and harbouring dictatorial ambitions. You then “distort” facts so that it becomes impossible to distinguish between right or wrong, or what to believe or not. The outrageous counterclaims on why the election summits failed; the use of government machinery to silence political opponents explained away as “law and order”; how we are told Farmaajo is always “compromising in the national interest” without doing anything of the sort.
Then comes the “distract” bit in which attention is diverted way from failures. For instance, picking fights with neighbouring countries, including those subsidising the government to create the impression foreigners are stirring unrest; late night press releases to pre-empt emerging events; opening up multiple channels of dialogue to stall progress, knowing none of them will come to fruition.
And finally, you “dismay” everyone by doing something so outrageous, the extreme becomes the new normal. For evidence, look at how Farmaajo is now squatting in Villa Somalia and attention is on what he can be asked to do, rather than why he is there in the first place; the constitutional destruction of the “Upper House” which is now an accepted non-entity; the “Qabiilisation” of security services. Because things are so extreme, people begin to accept previously unthinkable scenarios as the new normal, hence the reason attacks on political opponents are now seen as merely routine events
Farmaajo’s speech in his servile “Lower House of Parliament” was incoherent and dismally familiar. Preferring Farmaajo’s promises to reality will always lead to the wrong consequences and the fact remains that he will never accept fair elections. He is merely indulging in another helpfully-timed political fiction when every other door has closed.
It won’t be long before this unravels again.
Legal Somalia is no “sovereign” Somalia
There has been much nonsensical posturing about “sovereign Somalia” in recent weeks. There is of course a key difference between legality and sovereignty. The former is a country with legal recognition but is otherwise weak or irrelevant; the latter is one that can also defend its territorial and national interests adequately. Somalia is country that can only be stabilised by foreign forces, whereby the president relies on foreign troops to keep him safe and donors’ cash puts food on everyone’s table. This is hardly a sign of sovereignty. Paradoxically, the very things that would have led to sovereignty – peace and stability, self-sufficiency, economic progress and democratic norms and institutions are the ones Farmaajo has done his best to kneecap during his term.
That is why whenever Farmaajo is diplomatically isolated, the cry for “sovereignty” is not far behind. What Farmaajo sees as sovereign Somalia is one in which he is free to rule as he pleases, freeriding on donors’ cash without questions. In reality, Somalia is threatened less by others than by a former president who is now spilling Somali blood in every corner of the country.
Holding the line against Farmaajo
The bravery that we have seen on the streets of Mogadishu against Farmaajo’s tyranny matters much more than many people realise. These soldiers, and indeed some determined politicians, stood up for the country’s constitution and showed Farmaajo the limits of his murderous thuggery.
This is also why, in many ways, it is another disaster delayed. A prime minster, who had shown no credible authority when it really mattered, is now claiming that he can deliver a contradictory task: appease Farmaajo’s demands of fealty but also do what is right for the country. There can only be one winner. If he has waited this long for Farmaajo’s nod to take the lead in a process he was constitutionally mandated to perform long ago, one could hardly think following him blindingly into another rabbit hole will deliver any results.
The reality is that the respite from Farmaajo’s rampage is only short-lived. The irony in all of this is that this latest political fiction which the prime minster is leading makes Farmaajo’s eventual downfall much bloodier than it would have been had the country gotten rid of him today and moved on.
Dig deep to deter and defend democracy
What happened in Mogadishu is another formative trauma that holds lessons for all of us. As much as any war appals us, there is nothing worse than remaining supine in the face of atrocities when your own people’s lives and the country’s future are at stake. The young soldiers who dug in the streets of Mogadishu, putting their lives on the line were the last line defence between defending the country’s constitution and falling into the depths of dictatorship.
Make no mistake: Farmaajo was forced to give up on his extension not by diplomatic wail or empty threats, but by the cold realisation he could not crash the people of Mogadishu to docility. Had it not been for these soldiers and few politicians, we would have woken up with the grim realisation of living in a country where everyone is politically asphyxiated and an emboldened despot rules as he pleases. It puts into context how the country has come close to becoming Eritrea’s twin sister.
Farmaajo is still a threat to democracy and will remain so until he is out of the way. Do not expect any progress while he remains, unconstitutionally, at Villa Somalia.