President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo, like Donald J. Trump, is a populist thriving in symbolism, empty slogans on patriotism and revolutionary flavour. Farmaajo became the Prime Minister of Transitional Federal Government under Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed through the lobbying of family connections from Farmaajo’s wife. He was born to a low-income family, unlike Trump, and raised in Mogadishu. His father, Farmaajo Senior, was a gate-keeper at Public Works Ministry in the civilian Somali government before it was overthrown by General Siyaad Barre of the same sub-clan of Mareexaan as Farmaajo. A military dictatorship, practising nepotism and cronyism gave Farmaajo’s family the first break from poverty.
As young adolescent, Farmaajo junior and his playmates ran into legal problems. The family had persuaded the Military Despot to post this youth to Foreign Service in the Embassy of the Somali Democratic Republic in Washington DC, thus allowing him to escape from a criminal liability in Mogadishu. He was granted political asylum in the USA as the Somali Government had collapsed in January 1991.
Farmaajo’s formative years had witnessed public deceptive slogans of Siyaad Barre’s “Kacaan” (Revolution), and under-handed operations of the ruling family, whereby secret family consultations were held at night and decisions implemented during the day – frequently sending pre-eminent and public figures to jail in the wee hours of the night, many never coming back to their loved ones. This was widely and extensively practised throughout the existence of the dictatorship for twenty-one years.Thousands had perished in maximum security jails like “labaatan-Jirow”. Many others were purged and destroyed, while hundreds of thousands fled the country to all directions of worldwide for their own safety. Somalia now, even the under the occupation of thousands of foreign troops disguised as AMISOM, doesn’t send out such huge number of refugees, fleeing from repression by their own government as Siyaad Barre’s. Farmaajo has sympathy and antipathy for certain politicians and sub-clans in the country. This personal characteristic explains also his anti-federalist policies and attitude. Welcome to Confederalism! If that wouldn’t solve his problem for good, then only a psychiatrist could try to help him.
Young Farmaajo grew up in the atmosphere of a dictatorship, where kangaroo courts, hand-picked rubber-stamp parliament and personal fear for life, devoid of any civil liberties, were supreme daily occurrences. Unexplainable in Farmaajo’s strange populist phenomenon includes the fact that many young Somalis in the country and within the diaspora, ignorant of the country’s recent ugly history, are engaged in advocacy for N&N deceptive social media misinformation. The sudden erection and unmasking of nationalistic statues in Mogadishu these days to coincide with the anniversary of Siyaad coup d’etat, while the entire country is in dire situation, are powerful tools and deceptive political symbolisms par excellent by a demagogue. The whole exercise is to misdirect the people’s concerns with what is happening with Somalia-Kenya Maritime Dispute.
Fond of specious mask and using propaganda that he stood for the interest of the common man and country in an uninformed and gullible society, and portraying himself as a different patriotic politician, who was paying soldiers on time and caring for the veterans of 1977-1978 Ogaden War with Ethiopia, he rode on a strange phenomenon of rare populism in Mogadishu, and to some extent, Somalia.
His popularity in Mogadishu became apparent after he was unceremoniously fired by joint decisions of Sheikh Sharif Ahmed and Sharif Hassan Adan as result of what is known as the Kampala Accord.
Surprisingly, certain sections of Mogadishu residents led by Murursade, his wife’s sub-clan, employing the grievances of disabled War Veterans occupying Di Martino Hospital, and hired IDPs in Mogadishu camps, rose up in public demonstrations, decrying the dismissal of Farmaajo as the Prime Minister. Mogadishu politicians had noticed Farmaajo’s popularity phenomenon.
Competing factions within President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud Damul-Jadid Government were on loggerheads as who would replace just fired Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh, with Fahad Yassin and Farah Abdulkadir competing for influence. Farah Abdulkadir had won the battle, but not the war. Fahad’s anti-Hassan and anti-Farah political campaign had ended up Farmaajo’s win of the Presidency in 2017, when on the eve of the election night, nearly 60 MPs close to Daljir Party suddenly switched from Sheikh Sharif’s Presidential candidacy to Farmaajo’s.
Now that Farmaajo is the President of Somalia, all other branches of the government, the Parliament and Judiciary are as paralyzed as they were during the Regime of Siyaad Barre.This had resulted in total political stalemate in the country. It won’t stay that way. Something has to happen soon. We only pray for the better.
Correction: an early version of this essay wrote incorrectly “Farmaajo’s election as President in 2016. “Daljir Party” was said to be the face of Union of Islamic Courts supported by Turkey. It was managed by Ahmed Moallim Fiqi during the presidency of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, with the knowledge of Sheikh Sharif, who hooked them up with Turkey. Ahmed Fiqi briefly got appointed Chief of Staff at Villa Somalia before he was pushed out by Fahad Yassin.