President Farmajo’s Election: A Brief Hiatus or Hype in Ethiopia’s Regional Hegemonic Ambition
By Ali [Sheikh] Ahmed ABDI
The paper aims to identify the existing state of affairs and relationships between Somalia and Ethiopia in the era of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, and the multiplicity of other states (Middle East and Turkey) with vested interests in Somalia that might radicalize diplomatic relations following the 2017 election. Rival foreign countries present in the Horn of Africa that sought hegemonic dominance, including the USA, China, Turkey, Russia, and the Middle East, watched the political changes that took place in Somalia after the election of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo. However, upon taking the presidential oath, Farmajo’s leadership and foreign policy turned towards Turkey and Qatar as an alternative power to lean against in the event of pursuing his irredentist ambitions as was constantly outlined in his rhetorical speech before the election is now on the making. Nevertheless, the revolving question is, would it cause a brief hiatus or hype in Ethiopia’s regional hegemonic ambition?
Keywords: Ethiopia, Somalia, Election, Rhetoric, Relation and Hegemony
The socio-political and economic ties between the peoples of Somalia and Ethiopia stretch back to antiquity, and perhaps to a point of common origin. Yet the two countries have experienced centuries of transmissible conflict and violence that have blemished their international, as well as intranational relationships. Since the collapse of Siad Barre’s military rule in Somalia in 1991, the nature of Ethiopia–Somalia relations has been asymmetrical, where the balance of power weighed in Ethiopia’s favour inevitably resulting in a neo-hegemony that dominated the Horn region until 2017, when former Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi, alias “Farmajo”, became the sixth president of post-1991 Somalia. President Farmajo was not Addis Ababa’s preferred candidate during the Somali presidential campaign in 2017. Instead, the Ethiopian Government supported the previous head of state, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. A widely-held hypothesis was that the new Somali president would question the hegemonic role which Ethiopia has played in the Horn region since 1991, given the country’s informal and formal military presence in Somalia. Yet the desperation of Mogadishu’s security issues was a concern that would leave Farmajo’s government with little motivation to disavow Ethiopia. Sine qua non that reversed President Farmajor’s pugnacious anti-Ethiopia campaign rhetoric—a fact that faltered now and lose strength or momentum to any further extent or to listen any more.
At the onset, the six regional state administrations under the Federal Government of Somalia, governed by strongmen, have developed over time and are perceived locally as more imperative and dominant than preceding Somalia Presidents. All of them seemed to prefer other candidates to Farmajo. For example, Ahmed Madobe, the President of the Jubaland Regional State favoured Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, his long-term friend from the days when the Islamic Courts Union reached its peak. Abdiweli Ali Gaas from Puntland arrived in the week prior to the presidential election race in Mogadishu with the intention of sponsoring the then sitting Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, his own kin. It is difficult to ascertain what lay behind this unholy alliance formed at the eleventh hour between both candidates of the 2017 Somalia presidential race. However, speculation appearing in public discourse hinted that President Abdiweli Gaas’ withdrawal from the race to support Sharmarke’s campaign came about through an infusion of substantially unrestricted funds. President Sharif Hassan Sheik Aden of the South-West Regional Administration affirmed his steady support behind the then sitting President of the Federal Government of Somalia Hassan Sheik Mohamud, owing to an Ethiopia-driven compromise. One would contend that Sharif Hassan’s choice to help Hassan Sheikh Mohamud came after he was booted out of the race in the 4.5 voting framework. The 4.5 equation is a clan-quota power-sharing recipe created as a device for political settlement and compromise among the Somalis in Somalia. Still far expelled from the rule of one individual, one vote system, Somalian citizen voters may not have soon the chance to witness the universal suffrage—the right of almost all adults to vote in political elections. President Ali Osoble of Hirshabelle Regional State was irresolute, whether to lend his support to either Hassan Sheik Mohamud or Sharmarke.