When President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo ascended to the presidency and took over at Villa Somalia, there was massive celebration across Somalia. For some, the election of the former Prime Minister, who is considered a patriot by many, heralded a new dawn, and the country was on course for greatness. Almost a year and nine months down the line, his government has for many lived to its expectation and is making great strides domestically and on the diplomatic front, despite a litany of challenges.
Presiding over a recent Cabinet meeting, the President was confident that his government still enjoys the support of the Somali people, urging his ministers to make them proud by working for them. In his speech, the President was equivocal that under his leadership, the country will pursue a Somalia-first policy abroad, without yielding to lack of self-esteem in the eyes of the international community. Any engagement, he said, will be based on mutual respect perhaps underlining the principle of reciprocity in international relations.
The recent visit by Foreign Affairs ministers of Ethiopia and Eritrea to Mogadishu is a sign of growing relations and great impetus for regional peace and stability. Somalia is playing an active role in bringing Djibouti to the fold. A region that is at peace with itself is critical to an improved global peace and security. In this regards, it is important for the regional leaders to sustain the momentum. The ministers, who delivered a message of goodwill from their respective leaders, vowed to support and urged the international community to rally support behind the Federal Government of Somalia.
The steady relationship in the region is not just the government foreign policy achievement. In October, Somalia was overwhelmingly elected to serve in the United Nation Human Right Council. Next year, the country will assume the leadership of the Arab Foreign Ministers Council. The council’s session will be held in Mogadishu. This is signal and vote of confidence that Somalia is taking its rightful place in the community of nations and reclaiming its lost glory. All this will not be possible without the national leadership led by Farmaajo.
At home, the government is doing well to address insecurity. It has invested a lot of time and energy in having a well-organised command and the control for the Somali National Security Forces (SNSF), a break from the past where there has been duplication of roles. The President has been a champion of these reforms spending considerable amount of time at the Ministry of Defense headquarters where he has an office. Under Farmaajo’s watch, the insurgents are on the back foot, and the government’s amnesty deal has seen dozens of fighters within the ranks of al Shabaab defect to the government.
However, the recent wrangles between the Federal Government of Somalia and the federal member states is a big setback for Somalia’s embryonic federalism. Despite efforts to address their concerns, the leaders of the states have continued to undermine the federal government. Somalia nascent federalism requires patience. It is very ironical for the federal member states to accuse the central government of interfering with their affairs. Farmaajo efforts to address their recent concern seem to have fallen on deaf ears. Now with Hirshabelle President mending his relations with the Federal Government of Somalia, it is only matter of time before the rest follow suit.
There is no doubt that to be at the helm in Villa Somalia is a herculean task. For the first time in so many years, Somalia has a working Executive as the perennial wrangles between the President and the Prime Minister, which have paralysed previous governments, are now a thing of the past. Under the new leadership, the international financial institutions are engaging with the Federal Government of Somalia opening doors for possible debt relief, an achievement that has evaded the previous regimes. The International Monetary Fund has hailed the government revenue generation efforts. In the first quarter of this year, the government collected $42.5 million domestically, the highest ever in a single quarter. This a big achievement. The success abroad is also replicated domestically. For the first time, the government has successfully paid the salaries of civil servants through their own bank accounts. In the past years, civil servants will go home without a pay for months.
Those castigating the government of the day may have a reason to do so, but their argument is a big disservice to their assertion that they want a better Somalia. However, while the country has made so much progress under the Farmaajo presidency, challenges still remain.
Abdilatif Maalim is a strategic communication specialist