While everybody was eyeing on the prospects of the new dawn of the 2021 year and what the election/selection fervour season of Somalia holds, Puntland (PL) hosted an annual conference dubbed as Forum for Ideas that began at the end of 2017, run by the Heritage Institute for Policy Studies (HIPS) in Djibouti. Even though every individual who opposes the incumbent government got invited, the summit enjoyed the wide-ranging Somali elites including speakers of both houses, deputy prime minister, ministers, electoral commissioner, three presidents of the federal member states, and dozens of presidential hopefuls (aka Forum for presidential candidates) and other known figures.
Plausibly, however, the 2020 summit under the ‘annual research conference’ Ala-Sheikh group, under the covert in HIPS; Puntland (PL); and Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s (HSM) Damujadiid (DJ) group were able to ditch other opposition groups and established a political alignment from Garowe/HIPS-2020 Conference. The new alliance aims to a balance out Farmaajo, who is favoured to win the upcoming selection/election, by all means: direct public vote or indirectly. Moreover, it is not uncommon for the presidential aspirants to look for a foreign financer or backer in contemporary Somali politics, especially in the selection/election era. Hence, the new alignment’s backer has come to surface, and this piece argues, is UAE.
Thus, before unpacking the new coalition’s matrimonial ceremony and how it potentially would influence political groupings, this piece briefly introduces each part of the mentioned tripartite. Puntland is one (and first) of the five federal member states of the Federal Republic of Somalia (FRS). It is mostly called the ‘mother of federalism’ and enjoys the largest geographical size and regions. Besides, it also had had a successive transfer of power since 1998 when formed. Also, according to most of the literature, PL administrates five regions: part of Mudug and Nugaal regions (both central Somalia); Bari region (Northeast), Sool and part of Sanaag region (North) and Buuhoodle district of Togdheer region (Northwest). Resulted from Somalia’s post-conflict state of affairs, which perfectly fits what Sisk and Paris (2009) described the dilemma of statebuilding. In this theory, local elites (peripheries) try hard to shift the power away from the centre and centre to hold most state powers. Under this premise, PL has excelled in, as Ahmed Sooldaad put it, severing ties with the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS). Besides, it is also widely understood that PL cut ties with the Villa Somalia whenever the sitting president and his/her premier did not hail to their clans. That was the case in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2018 and 2019 when PL officially cut ties of the FGS (the mother federal).
Ala-Sheikh is a group affiliated to a Muslim Brotherhood religious discipline originating Sheikh Mohamed Moallim Hassan. It compounds four sub-institutions including a provisionally registered political party (Daljir), HIPS, City University in Mogadishu, and Goobjoog Radio. Sheikh Mohamed is renown as revolutionary to Somalia’s Islamic movements. Hence, before the reintegration of the religious activities through ideology, influence from foreign financer and clannish lines, the Moallim has a reputation of being an umbrella that shades all of what later turned out to be the future religious movements, and all of them were learning Quranic commentaries and adhering to him. However, after Al-Islah, Wahdah and Al-Ittihad formed bodies in the late 1970s with the outside world’s affiliations, the Sheikh felt the status demise. According to Abdurahman M Abdullahi (2011), the Sheikh was under confinement when the Nahda, an apolitical religious group but affiliated to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and was a member, transformed into a political body and formed Al-Islah. Hence, this may translate into why the Sheikh was not included in Islah’s structure and caused his disappointments. Subsequently, some of the Sheikh Mohamed’s disciples felt the same and thus stayed away, yet remained close-knit informal society, from joining religious fragmentations. That is the reason why this group until now nicknamed as Ala-Sheikh or the disciples of the Sheikh. It is also worth noting that this piece could not locate any record indicating that Sheikh Mohamed Moallim has ever been a member of this group.
Like Ala-Sheikh, Damujadiid (aka fresh-blood) is a new fragmentation from Al-Islah religious order which crumbled after the Ethiopian incursion to Somalia on the 2006 Boxing-day. Al-Islah, as her mother organisation of the Muslim Brotherhood, was adherent to transmuting the public peacefully (Abdullahi, 2011) and getting the power through that transformation. However, when the Ethiopians invaded Somalia, under the pretext of helping Somalia in 2006, a new reality came into being. The group varied on the observance to a traditionally peaceful approach. Hence, this new dawn has compelled disintegration of Al-Islah group and the creation of Damujadiid.
Similarly, Damujadiid is a combination of individual politicians and some parliamentarians; a political party (Peace and Development Party); the SIMAD University, and several clinics and private schools all located in Mogadishu. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud (HSM), The former president, leads the group and has followers broaden to the national and local elites including Said Abdullahi Deni, the Puntland regime’s head. However, corruption, nepotism and delay of the elections to take place on time associated with his presidency and the group have overshadowed Somalia’s image during the HSM tenure. Many Somalis remember him with that.
Having introduced the background of the three-parties centred at Garowe/HIPS-2020, the piece argues that the whole gathering was to showcase HSM, DJ and HIPS’ political alliance evidenced in the initial agenda-setting and the aftermath of the conference. That is to say, from day one, the conference demonstrated that the show persisted it is serving up the platform for the triple. As expected, after the housekeeping, HIPS opened the meeting, and the welcome word from the hosts (PL) followed. Thence, to call for HSM was an eye-opener to many participants, but as one could argue, HSM was a former head of state, and for that reason, he has such status, there was not a noticeable hullabaloo. However, HSM was not the only former head of state present in the conference. Sharif Sheikh Ahmed (ShShA) was also one, and the chair of the presidential candidates’ Forum to which HSM is a member. There was also a former premier, two former FMS heads and more than a dozen presidential candidates.
Nevertheless, it was not still questionable among the opposition until the second day when the conference served HSM again for another opportunity for his campaign. In contrast, other candidates did not get equal chances for the lobbying podium. Therefore, one would ask, how has the conference accommodated the other guests, including the presidential aspirants and what was their reactions? Who shall be the external financier of the new alliance?
Even though most of the Garowe/HIPS-2020 guests appeared to have enjoyed their stay in Garowe, because of the PL people’s overwhelming reception, predominantly community leaders: elders, women and intelligentsia groups, and the freedom of movements, yet the tripartite partnership and subsequent favour of its candidacy, HSM, was apparent. For instance, many including the former prime minister (Hassan Ali Kheyre), though he got a call-up later, was not even mentioned in the program. The former finance minister, Hussein Abdi Halane’s schedule coincided with prayer/lunchtimes, and he was featured on a live television complaining from the empty hall. Former president, ShShA, was only accommodated until the last day, in the closing sessions. Former MP, Abdi Barre, also complained while on a TV interview by saying that the conference had had a pre-planned agenda favouring particular people over others.
Puntland authority and elite groups hailed and made even more exposure for the DJ leader, HSM, and campaign bid in the post-conference. These include special arrangements with clan leaders, paying inundated meeting/receptions among the local elite and giving talks at a locally owned think-tank, the Puntland Development and Research Centre (PDRC).
Therefore, one could speculate that the financer of the new alliance can be the United Arab Emirates. Before embarking from Mogadishu, HSM opined about the UAE’s values for the Somalis, even though many of his assertions were not independently corroborated. Moreover, the talk was more than two hours long, but he cut it two minutes to emphasise the UAE’s importance, and It was also only recently when Said Abdullahi Deni, PL president, paid a length tour to the Emirates.
Having discussed the thoughts and pathways of Garowe/HIPS-2020, the future of the Forum of the Council of the Presidential Candidates and potential other alliances, especially during this election fever, are yet to be seen.
Abdiweli Garad is a PhD Candidate in Political Science and International Studies (POLSIS) at the University of Birmingham, UK.
He is utilising a theoretical framework of security, conflict-resolution, and state-building to discover whether the pervasive Jihadist groups functioning in Somalia are a reverse causal outcome of the international and regional exertions and the War on Terror.
Before the civilian life, he worked for Somali National Army: completed military academy in October 1980; promoted to a 2nd Lieutenant, in reverse chronological order, within the standard procedure for SNA and up to the Lieutenant Colonel. He can be contacted from the following;
Emails: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com