Why Jubbaland Deadlock will Define Future Somalia


By: Daahir Sheikh

Somalilandsun – The political tensions between Somali Federal Government and the recently formed Jubbaland State in the deep south of Somalia, is not only threatening the gains made by SNA/AMISOM forces against Al shabaab, but also is igniting clan rivalry both locally and nationally and can reverse back the leaning Somali political process.

both sides, S.F. G. leadership and Jubbaland leaders arguably think they can win zero some game in this battle, which may not be the case as both can lose the battle and Al shabaab can win and recover Kismayu, its environs and else where. As Somali politicians are always uncompromising, it seems Somalia is no where near to recover its favored number 1. failed state status. the Western-forced post-transition system is not working well.

As this tragedy looms the International community is watching, unwilling to intervene. IGAD’s recent fact funding report was inconclusive and the S.F.G , which welcomed the report, seems unwilling to honor the recommendations of the IGAD fact funding mission, instead they are trying, by any means, to organize loyal forces in Kismayu,while the newly formed Jubbaland administration is denying them to have foothold in the Jubbas, again by any means. Because of their weakness the S.F.G is staunchly trying to instigate clashes between the local sub-clans specially Ogaden/Majertain and Marehan ( all are Daarood) , the Jubbaland new leaders are preempting such scenario, whether they will continue to succeed foiling such attempts or not is unknown. It should not be wise for a government to instigate instability in its own borders especially when such actions will give a chance to their staunch enemy, in this case Al shabaab.

The Jubbaland new administration, which S.F.G yet to recognize ,is not alone in the battle they have Puntland in their back at the national level, and Kenya and (Ethiopia to some extent) at regional level, this may give them room to maneuver. it seems Jubbaland leaders are not willing to abandon their long term planned project.

The West, who are the donors of both AMISOM forces and S.F.G. seem undecided to intervene and broker a compromise deal, seemingly giving S.F.G space and time to solve the impasse, which it has failed so far. Bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan and suffering from severe economic crisis, the West is no longer as powerful as before, and the farseeing, taller and indispensable nation of Pax Americana (As Madeleine Albright once argued) is leading from behind as far as the greater middle east is concerned- the Russians are more assertive in Syria- yet the West are the donors of the weak S.F,G and AMiSOM peace keeping forces and they can use their leverage if they are willing to do so.

root cause of the impasse

The Jubbaland political deadlock is between two camps, those who support federalism (decentralized Federal System) in Somalia and those who oppose it, the groups ( namely Puntland/Jubbaland and S.F.G./Mogadishu elite respectively) are mobilizing their resources to win the battle. unfortunately the tensions are reigniting clan rivalry in Somalia especially between Daarood and Hawiye, the two major clans in Somalia. It seems after 22 years of state failure and devastating civil war, the Somalis did not learn lessons.

The federalization of Somalia is enshrined in the Somali provincial constitution, but each side have their own interpretation,and they have right to do so since those who wrote the constitution were unable or unwilling to clarify the matter the S.F.G leadership are not fans of federal system in Somalia and some of them oppose it staunchly specially Damu-jadiid members, -the inner circle of President Hassan Sheikh-, however they do not reject it outrightly since the provincial constitution clearly defines that Somalia must adopt federal system. Some of S.F.G supporters have already voiced that Somali people should vote whether they prefer Federalism or not. on the other hand Puntland/Jubaland/Bayland ( Bay, Bakool and possibly Lower Shabeele) and to some extent Galmudug and Hiraan, see Somalia must adopt decentralized federal system especially Puntland which is arguably independent from S.F.G.((Somaliland is another case).

Jubbaland is the battle ground for this fierce confrontation. S.F.G is determined to block Jubbaland project and is trying to dominate South and Central Somalia and contain Puntland and eventually derail federalization project. S.F.G is using local proxies to implement its strategy,interestingly some source claim it has already began its containment policy against Puntland by resonating Puntland opposition groups possibly giving them financial support , (ironically, some of Puntland opposition groups are anti- democracy and oppose democratization process in Puntland) normally political oppositions advocate for democracy , this is not the case in Puntland, (it is the nightmare of Somali Politics). Puntland information minister has accused former Puntland president Adde Muse of being anti -Jubbaland process and instigating insecurity in Puntland itself, an accusation ,if true, is very dangerous as far as Puntland Politics is concerned.

On the other side, Puntland, seemingly knowing the S.F.G’s strategy is strongly supporting Jubbaland process which if successful S.F.G can no longer derail decentralized federal system, they do not want to be victim of what Somalis call three bulls strategy, (in which a lion killed three bulls one by one using divide and kill tactics) in addition Puntland hosts thousands of Jubbalanders who fled the region during the civil war and would like to see them back to their homes there. however Puntland’s role in Jubaland can be controversial and some may see it as clan based politics, keeping in mind that majority of Jubbaland inhabitants and Puntlanders themselves are the same clan of Daarood. but some Somalia Political analysts ( including the distinguished Somalia political analyst Dr.Macheal Weinstein) see Punland’s position as protection of its strategic interests of decentralized federal system in Somalia, an assertion I fully agree.

president Hassan’s no return strategy

According to close sources President Hassan Sheikh has taken a decision not to back down and he is strongly determined to derail Jubbaland initiative by using any means to achieve this goal, even if it is necessary to instigate instability in the region.other source joke he is as staunch as Syria’s Bashar Al Assad and the late Libya’s Gaddafi. but Al Assad has second strongest Arab Army at his disposal and faithful allies like Russia, Iran and Hesbollah of Lebanon, while Qaddafi had ruled oil rich country and was Africa’s strongman ( King of Kings of Africa) and only had given up his clandestine nuclear program few years back. Gaddafi only lost the war in Libya when NATO intervened against him.on the contrary president Hassan rules the number one failed state of the of world ( a divided and fragmented country) and he actually controls Mogadishu and its environs mainly through Amisom forces.

On the other hand Mr Hassan is using his diplomatic recognition to put pressure on Jubbaland and some times diplomatically clashes with Kenya and Ethiopia on the issue. his recent speech in Mogadishu airport (coming back from Addis ababa AU summit) underscores his determination. in a direct referral to Jubbaland leaders and supporters he said, “the time when the Somalis used to seek support abroad is over, Somalia is for the Somalis and they themselves can only solve their differences” explicitly accusing his opponents being puppet of foreign countries, and ironically forgetting that he himself is guarded by foreign troops in his hometown of Mogadishu.Some source confirm that president Hassan requested some western countries to urge Ethiopia not to withdraw its troops from-Somalia when it partially did so two months ago, so the rhetoric of foreign intervention is meaningless and it will be there as long as the Somali leaders are unable to come forward policies and strategies that can put their people together and get the nation stand its feet again and defend its interests.

Some of the opponents of the president leveled him as clan-minded leader who do not have national strategy to save the nation from disappearance. but his supporters can argue that all Somali leaders are the same and the likes of Farole, Siilaanyo and Ahmed Madobe are all clan-minded, however the state level leaders are different from the national leader and they can understandably persuade the interests of their particular states while the national leader should be on the top of that and shows himself as one who represents all of the nation.

The weak S.F.G has its own problems; firstly; it has not enough resources to control Jubbaland what so ever. secondly; its local allies are unable to challenge Ahmed Madobe, the strongman of Jubbaland. it is safe to say to any arrangement relating Jubbaland without Ahmed Madobe is elusive for the time being.

Inside the S.F.G itself, it seems that President Hassan has the upper hand and no one can challenge his plans,. Critics say the Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon, is very weak man and has no say in the strategic planning of his own government although the constitution gives him sweeping powers to dictate the policy planning of the country, while the parliament seem to be paralyzed by clan rivalry and incompetency. President Hassan seems to rely on some of his advisers including his Damu-jadiid colleagues and allegedly some of his clan members, who are more experienced than him in politics, -some of them former ministers-. some source suggest that it is those advisers who lied down his strategy of confrontation with Jubbaland.

Hassan made a clever move when he waited president of Puntland in Joma Kenyata airport in Nairaobi, for nearly 40 minutes (Hassan was in his way to Japan and Farole flow from Garowe to Nairobi), Hassan warmly welcomed Farole but the two men did not have official meeting. it seems Mr. Hassan cleverly tried to preempt Mr.Forale”s intention because Puntland president went to Nairobi to consult with the international partners mainly on Jubbaland issue and some alleged fraud of provincial constitution. however Farole seems unfazed and conducted high level diplomatic meetings in Nairobi.

The distinguished Somali political cartoonist Amin Amir, has recently published a cartoon which shows president Hassan Sheikh sitting side by side with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, at Somalia conference in Japan, the cartoon suggests president Hassan requesting Shinzo Abe ” let us discuss Jubbaland issue” the Japanese prime minister, (surprised) replies “where Jubbaland locates, is it in China or Singapore?” the cartoon reflects how Hassan is obsessed in Jubbaland impasse. it was one of the most laughable cartoons I have seen in recent times.

Jubbaland/Puntland counter strategy

The Jubbaland leaders seemingly adopted defensive strategy, by preempting any attempt to instigate armed clashes in Kismayu ( the big prize of Jubbaland) they successfully managed minor clashes that took place in 23/02/2013, the presumed date that Jubblaand conference would kick start. the then Kismayu interim administration accused S.F.G of being behind the violence, S.F.G denied the accusation, also the Jubbaland leaders mainly overcame some problems of Gedo delegates, although PM Shirdon installed an S.F.G loyal as Gedo governor, an apparent preemptive move. Jubbaland rejected the move and have their own Gedo governor in Kismayu, however they lost sight when Barre Hiraale (former Kismayu warlord) entered Kismayu reportedly by sea from Mogadishu, hidden in the dark of night, this was their first blunder, yet they managed to contain him. after S.F,G tried its last ditch effort to stop the conference through diplomatic pressure, Omar Abdirashid, the former TFG Prime minister,a big supported of Jubbaland warned the Jubbaland presidential competitors that if they do not compromise the conference may fail. it seems his appeal was heard, and Ahmed Madobe emerged the winner just days before the IGAD fact funding mission arrived.S.F.G’s failure to stop the conference and the election of Ahmed Madobe was major setback to them. but Jubbaland leaders were reluctant to stop an S.F.G delegate led by deputy interior minster, this delegate will eventually give Jubbaland sponsors a bunch in the face ( theirs worst setback so far). the S.F.G.delegate entered Kismayu ad waited IGAD fact funding mission, when they came the S.F.G delegate sponsored meeting between Barre Hiraale ( who claimed he is Jubbaland president the same day that Mr. Madobe was elected) among other presidential claimants and some other disaffected locals who appose the Jubbaland process. these people told the IGAD mission that they Utterly appose the election of Mr. Madobe and that they support the S.F.G plans for the region, this was painful blow to the Jubbaland process because it affected IGAD fact finding mission’s report. had the Jubbaland leaders denied the S.F.G delegate to enter Kismayu, the IGAD mission report could be on their favor, IGAD mission should not necessarily meet Barre Hiraale and his supporters and they could not be blamed why they did not meet a former warlord either.the S.F.G delegate in Kismayu did not only manage this plot well, but also continue to do more by trying to get loyal forces in the city,reportedly using money and sub-clan rivalry in the contested city, however Jubbaland leaders who had been, some home shocked by the IGAD fact funding mission’s report, lately understood the plot they dealt with, and tried to minimize the damage by preempting the actions of the S.F.G. delegate and even reportedly ordered them to leave the city, nevertheless the S.F.G. did not succeed to get loyal forces in Kismayu so far.

Puntland is actively supporting Jubbaland and welcomed the election of the new Jubbaland leadership with jubilancy, even President Abdiraxman Farole, the day Ahmed Madobe was elected , said ” those who were opposed Jubbaland process should sleep with sorrow to night” underlining the high stakes involved.some source say Puntland financially supported Jubbaland initiative (which in general costed $3.9 billion according The Strandard of Kenya).Jubilant demonstrators took the the streets of Garowe (the capital of Puntland) celebrating the election of Ahmed Madobe.

Although Jubbaland have the support of Puntland ,Kenya and and Ethiopia (The Ethiopian Somali Region at the worst case), they still have problems to overcome. firstly: they are dealing with post-transition ,some home, recognized government which is very assertive , of course they need to fill that gab , secondly; they are not recognized by S.F.G or the International community yet, but are de facto administration which holds its ground, thirdly,Jubbaland’s newly elected leadership are not high level experienced politicians; Ahmed Madobe held his top public post in 2006 as governor of lower Jubba/Kismayu under Islamic Courts Union, while his deputy Gen. Fartag was militia commander under Barre Hiraale, even their inner circle are less experienced like Sheikh Mohamed Aw Libah , Mahomed Moalim, Abadinasir Seerar and Yasin Raadaar most of them (Ahmed Madobe, Aw libah, Moalim and Seerar) are pragmatic clerics who may be honest people due to their religious duties. unfortunately politics are dirty game and sometimes you should lie, plot and make deception. the Iranian Clerics who rule the Islamic Republic of Iran are very clever in these tactics, even their Leader Ali khamanie issued religious decree prohibiting the acquisition of nuclear weapons, supposedly to fool the West who accuse Iran of persuading nuclear bomb. but the Iranians are Shia/Islam in which you can lie for a reason (Taqiya) while Somalis are Sunni/islam, in whch lie is grave sin, nevertheless Jubbaland leaders are in the game and should know how to play it. but Jubbaland is not short of highly experienced politicians, they have, Omar Abdirashid,former TFG Prime Minister, Mohmed Abdi Gandi , former defence minister, Gen.Mohamed Warsame Darwish, former chief of Somali spy agency and Gen, Ali Madobe former chief of the police among others, what is not known is how much say these top politicians have in the decision making of Jubbaland process, and whether the newly elected leaders are aware of the importance of these top politicians given the high stakes involved.

recent developments

1. S.F.G sent three minister delegate to Kismayu headed by Minister of defence ,but they were denied to enter the city by the Jubbaland administration, they spent three nights at Kismayu airport where Kenyan troops control. they joined S.G.F’s SNA chief of staff and commander in chief who spent nearly one week in the airport after Jubbaland leaders barred them to e enter the city, however, the delegate was allowed to enter the city on 29, May 2013. a Jubaland official told Somalli channel TV that the delegate was allowed to enter the city after Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta contacted Jubbaland president Ahmed Madobe and requested him to do so, because President Hassan Sheikh contacted him and asked for help, if this is true it underlines the importance of Mr. Ahmed Madobe and his good relationship with the Kenyan President. However some of the S.F.G delegates returned to Mogadishu apparently with empty hands.

2. S.F.G minister of interior forwarded a bill to the federal parliament, the proposed law is the one which will define how to federate the country, some observers say the bill proposes very centralized federal system. Puntland and Jubbaland may argue they should have say in such presumed law since it will directly affect them.

3. Puntland president Abdirahman Farole visits Nairobi, as he arrived Joma Kenyatta airport he met with Somali president Hassan Sheikh who was on way his to Japan, the two men did not have official meeting, local media reported that Mr. Farole met some foreign ambassadors including US ambassador to Somalia James Swan, they added that Farole discussed with these ambassadors rang of pressing issues in Somalia including the provincial constitution and Jubbaland impasse.

4. Local media and Kenya’s The Standard reported that some Somali MPs filled motion against the presence of Kenyan forces in Somalia, a desperate move by the F.S.G which also underlines lack of political maturity since the Kenyan forces helped the partial defeat of Al shabaab.

5. Kenya’sThe Standard reported last week that an IGAD official said that they are not against the election of Ahmed Madobe as Jubbaland president ,seemingly dismissing S.F.G claims that IGAD report was on their favor.

6. Puntland president Abdirahaman Faroole met with Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta on 03/06/2013. it is said the two leaders discussed rang of issues including Jubbaland deadlock, it is also reported that Kenyatta reassured Farole that Kenya is committed to federalization and stability of Somalia.

7. On 04/06/2013, the newly elected president of Jubbaland Ahmed Madobe arrived in Nairobi , some reports suggest he will meet S.F.G president Hassan Sheikh in Kenya in addition to Kenyan and IGAD officials.


The outcome of this political stalemate will determine whether Somalia will adopt decentralized federal system or decentralized unitary system (nominal highly centralized federal system like that of Ethiopia ,at the best case). it will also decide whether Somalia will recover from the 22 year old anarchy or it will miss the would- be its last chance to survive as a state . If the Somali leaders fail to solve this impasse it would lead one of two results: 1; clan based civil war which could give Al shabaab new dawn since they will play warring clans and sub-clans off each other and the clans or sub-clans who feel their existence is threatened will join Al shabaab for protection. 2; the country will be further fragmented to challenging States ( Punrland.Somaliland, Jubbaland, Central States, Bayland and Mogadishu and its environs), some may follow suit Somaliland and declare their independence, the regional powers (Ethiopia and Kenya) may encourage such scenario as it is arguably their strategic interests), again, this scenario will also give Al shabaab a chance to recover. a tragedy like that of the 2011-22012 famine , which claimed 260.000 lives may happen either by other drought or by war, and the international could not help because of insecurity. the Somalis are digging their grave with their hands, it is suicide, no one can help somebody who wants to take himself out.

But there is still hope, where the sides can make concessions to each other and compromise to reach a compromise deal, in which Jubbaland would accept to give S.F.G some political influence in the region and an agreed-up-on share of Kismayu port revenue in return S.F.G recognizes Jubbaland especially the election of Ahmed Madobe and abandons its strategy of social engineering allowing these three regions (Gedo, Lower Jubba and Middle Jubba) to have their own State in line of provincial constitution.

Daahir Sheikh is Somalia and Horn of Africa political analyst