The year 2018 was marked by headline-grabbing developments ranging from sustained souring of relations between the Federal Government and States to sweeping thawing of relations among countries in the Horn as Somalia, for the first time in 30 years qualified for pre-arrears clearance funding from the World Bank.
The spectre of the Gulf Crisis continued to hang above Farmaajo’s administration like the proverbial sword of Damocles widening the rift between Mogadishu and the Federal Member States culminating into severance of ties and long-running battles which saw states like Galmudug muddied to dysfunction as South West wrestled over the candidacy of former Al-Shabaab number two Mukhtar Robow.
Over 700,000 people were affected by floods with over 200,000 uprooted from their homes as Rivers Shabelle and Jubba burst their banks while regions such as Banaadir suffered deadly flashfloods compounding an already precarious situation for over a million internally displaced people.
The Lower House remained mired in political contests which saw veteran House Speaker Prof. Mohamed Osman Jawari disgracefully hounded out in a palace coup style while in South West long serving political maverick Sharif Sheikh Adan bowed to pressure from Mogadishu, quit the presidency and bundled out of the presidential race.
The U.S ramped up airstrikes against Al-Shabaab and ISIL extending targets to central Somalia as AU/Somali forces denied the militants more space in ground and air offensives. However the two extremist groups managed to wage deadly attacks in various parts of the country with the capital Mogadishu taking the biggest hit in coordinated bomb attacks and targeted killings.
Goobjoog News covered all these events and many more and brings you a selection of some of the stories that dominated the headlines in 2018.
FEBRUARY 18, 2018: BAKARO MARKET CLOSED AS TRADERS PROTEST NEW GOVERNMENT TAX
The Federal Government enforced the new Sales Tax measures which required importers to pay sales tax upfront at the ports of Mogadishu. Traders protested the move resulting into two days closure of the country’s biggest market-Bakaro paralyzing business in the city and neighbouring regions which depend on the ports seaport and airport of Mogadishu.
Finance and Budget Committee and that of Trade declared the taxation illegal but Finance Minister Abdirahman Beileh stood ground noting the taxes were crucial in move to boost domestic revenue to finance the budget. The government carried the day.
April 9, 2018: LOWER HOUSE SPEAKER MOHAMED JAWARI RESIGNS
Month-long political run-ins in Mogadishu that saw the AU force, AMISOM send forces to parliament and the regional bloc IGAD wary culminated into the resignation of Speaker Mohamed Jawari and installation of current Speaker Mohamed Mursal. Despite what looked like a long drawn battle, Jawari surprised the opposition faction when he threw in the towel and later announced his exit was ‘not in exchange for the dollar’.
In his final speech during a joint press conference with President Farmaajo, Jawari said he decided quit for the interest of stability and functioning of parliament. Jawari denied claims he had been given ‘huge sums’ of money to quit. But what was clear is that in the exit deal, Jawari would remain in Villa Hargeisa-the official residence of the Speaker of Parliament.
APRIL 2018: SOMALIA-UAE RELATIONS HIT ROCK BOTTOM
The spill-over from the Gulf Crisis which blew up in June 2017 degenerated into an all-out diplomatic fall-out between Mogadishu and Abu Dhabi. Within a week in April 2018, UAE had ended its military support and training to over 2,000 Somali soldiers and closed its medical facility (Sheikh Zayed Hospital) catering to about 300 patients a day in Mogadishu. This came after authorities in Mogadishu seized $9.6 million at Aden Adde Airport which UAE said was meant for its military support activities in Somalia.
MAY/OCTOBER 2018: CLOSE TO 100 PEOPLE KILLED IN TUKARAQ CLASHES
The deadly perennial clashes between Puntland and Somaliland over the tiny village of Tukaraq in Sool region picked up in small scale in January but would burst into full scale military war between armies of the two regions by May. Over 30 people among them civilians and military died in the clashes attracting rebuke and calls for ceasefire from the international community. A lull would last for five months only before a similar clash erupted in mid-October claiming over 40 lives.
The clashes which displaced hundreds of families happened as humanitarian agencies were battling with floods which had swept through Somaliland and Puntland regions.
September 2018: FEDERAL MEMBER STATES SEVERE TIES WITH FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
The over a year-long row between the Federal Government and Federal Member States which erupted mid 2017 when President Farmaajo announced Somalia would take a neutral stand over the Gulf Crisis hit the crescendo by September when FMS leaders announced they no longer had business with Mogadishu.
The FMS leaders accused the FGS of interference, failure to honour agreements and use of security forces to intimidate political opponents. The move by the FMS leaders under the Council of Inter-State Cooperation (CIC) umbrella paralysed the functioning of the National Security Council chaired by President Farmaajo. The NSC has not convened since then. The impact of worsening relations would reverberate in Galmudug and South West as both levels of government engaged in draining political circus leading to ouster of South West president Sharif Sheikh Adan and disintegration of Galmudug state into factions.
The FMS leaders in a subsequent meeting in October in Garowe proposed the formation of inter- state army but it would shortly run into logistical uphill with the exit of Sharif, the dysfunction in Galmudug as Puntland’s Abdiweli Gaas retreated to secure his stay in power following an election in January. HirShabelle’s Mohamed Warre had earlier bolted out of the CIC to back the FGS.
New UN chief in Somalia Nicholas Haysom warned the long running battles between the federal member states and the federal government risked collapsing the federalism project in Somalia.
September 26: SOMALIA QUALIFIES FOR PRE-ARREARS CLEARANCE and EU approves $100m direct budget support to Government in 30 years.
Despite political challenges the country was undergoing, some good news was coming from one of the Bretton Woods institutions. The World Bank announced late September Somalia would now access funds from the International Development Association, a part of the World Bank which helps the world’s poorest countries by providing grants and low to zero-interest loans for projects and programs that boost economic growth.
The global credit lender also announced $80 million grant to Somalia to support the government offer services and build public finance management capacity.
Days later, similarly good news came from the European Union. The EU bloc honored a pledge to inject €100 million to the budget which would be spread over a four year period.
THE GALMUDUG CRISIS AND POLITICAL DYSFUNCTION
The running battles in Galmudug state which saw President Ahmed Haaf survive a no confidence vote in September 2017 continued into 2018. Galmudug administration and the moderate Islamist group Alhusuna Waal Jama’a signed a new pact in March to expand the state assembly to close to 200 MPs but the matter was never concluded as the number of MPs from Alhusuna remained unclear.
Dogged by internal rifts between the Haaf allied faction and that of speaker Ali Asir on the one side and the hand of federal government on the other, Galmudug State suffered a dysfunction for the better part of 2018. A motion against Haaf proposed by the Asir faction went through only to be countered by a similar one against Asir himself.
The FMS leaders under CIC umbrella who propped up Haaf severally condemned the federal government for interference in the affairs of Galmudug state.
JUNE 16, 2018: HORN DÉTENTE: ABIY AHMED AND SWEEPING CHANGE IN THE REGION
In an ongoing diplomatic wave sweeping through the Horn of Africa, newly appointed Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed makes a historic visit to Mogadishu in what would end 40 years of diplomatic freeze between the two countries. The visit would be followed by President Mohamed Farmaajo’s visit the Red Sea nation of Eritrea also marking an end of a long running enmity between Mogadishu and Asmara. Subsequently the UN Security Council would, November 14 lift the 9-year sanctions against Eritrea. But the merry among the three leaders seemed not to have gone down well with some politicians in Mogadishu who unsuccessfully sought to impeach President Farmaajo in December over what they termed as secret deals with leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea. By close of year, a key partner in the Horn of Africa-Djibouti still remained outside the new found Horn bloc.
NOV/DEC: BATTLE FOR SOUTH WEST AND EXIT OF SHARIF AND ROBOW
Perhaps one of the toughest political battles between Mogadishu and the Federal Member States was fought in Baidoa, the capital of South West state. As the south western state prepared for elections which would later be put off three times, Villa Somalia mandarins made it its priciest political base deploying state resources to ensure it installed its own man. With 77 lawmakers in both the Senate and the Lower House, the South West state is the single-most crucial constituency in Somalia thus the intense political heat.
South West state first president Sharif Sheikh Adan bowed out as president in November and quit the presidential race. Former Al-Shabaab number two Mukhtar Robow who had earlier appeared to have been a preference of Villa Somalia would run into trouble with Mogadishu and in the last days of election in December was arrested by Ethiopian forces and bundled to Mogadishu where he was put under house arrest. Robow’s exit paved way for Villa Somalia’s choice-Abdiasis Hassan Laftagareen as new president of South West state. US UPS AIRSTRIKES: US LAUNCH 43 STRIKES IN SOMALIA KILLING OVER 300 AL-SHABAAB AND ISIS MILITANTS
Al-Shabaab and ISIS militants faced the sustained wrath of US drone hellfire throughout 2018 with most strikes coming in the last quarter of the year. Following declaration of parts of Somalia as ‘active war zone’ by President Donald Trump in 2017, the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) upped the ante against Al-Shabaab and ISIS in Somalia (ISS) in southern and central Somalia neutralizing over 300 militants.
According to all the reported strikes by AFRICOM, the U.S military conducted 43 airstrikes in Somalia in 2018 killing an estimated 321 Al-Shabaab and IS militants. The months of October and December were the deadliest for the militants with the hellfire strikes wiping out 60 and 77 militants respectively.
BOMB EXPLOSIONS AND TARGETED KILLINGS
Al-Shabaab carried out 13 bomb attacks in Mogadishu in 2018 killing 123 people and injuring 140 others. The attacks targeted mainly hotels within the city. Al-Shabaab claimed to have killed 285 AMISOM soldiers. In total, recorded deaths countrywide as a result of targeted killings, explosions and IED attacks amounted to 1,643 while 570 were injured.
Other stories which made the headlines in Somalia in 2018 includes the Federal Government’s diplomatic decisions in relation to Saudi Arabia which attracted rebuke and sharp reaction back home. In September, Somalia declared it would side with Saudi Arabia against Canada following a diplomatic fall-out with Saudi Arabia. In October, Somalia ditched its close ally Turkey in favour of Saudi Arabia during the Jamal Khashoggi affair.
The move by Somalia to back Saudi Arabia in the Khashoggi murder scandal received backlash from Turkey as Ankara skipped an IOC meeting in Somalia despite earlier confirmation of attendance.
GOOBJOOG NEWS TEAM