Farmaajo’s mask slips 

By ABDI ALI

The last time Somali government soldiers fired on peaceful Mogadishu demonstrators was on Friday, the 14th of July 1989, setting off a civil war. On another Friday, 31 years later, Farmaajo repeated this ugly history on the streets of Mogadishu and risks another civil war. 

Our deepest condolences to those who lost their lives last Friday and our sympathies for those who are lying in hospital beds injured. They are once again a symbol of the fragility of what we have taken for granted: one’s constitutional right to express their political views. 

The flames of anarchy and civil war are easily lit and we have not yet fully extinguished the last one after thirty years. It is why our country has been too fragile and on shaky foundations for decades and indeed why, more than ever, the country needed politics of caution, rather than confrontation.

However, what many of us never realised was the extent to which the country was already careering into the irreversible road of anarchy and civil war without our noticing. What happened in Mogadishu last Friday is a timely wake-up call for every Somali as another ugly historical current is being stirred. It is the first time in over 31 years a Somali president, albeit one whose constitutional term has already ended, used government soldiers to fire on peaceful demonstrators on the streets of Mogadishu. 

Another profoundly ugly event is once again added to Farmaajo’s inglorious long list. We now have another dictator in the making and the consequences that may follow could hardly be more atrocious.  

A dictator will not deliver democracy 

What happened in Mogadishu was not merely deeply unsettling. It was much worse than that. When a Somali president, who already lost his constitutional right to govern, resorts to using the government’s military machine to stay in power and wage war on his people, including two former presidents, a prime minster, parliamentarians and other politicians, in response to political pressure, it means an ugly chapter in our history is being re-opened. Just as was the case 31 years ago, the value and sanctity of our people’s lives are under attack and exercising one’s constitutional right to express their views is once again a matter of life and death.  

A person’s constitutional right to peaceful assembly should not invite hellfire of bullets and Rocket Propelled Grenades. However, when popular consent failed, violence was always Farmaajo’s default answer – a mindset that never changed. These actions are the first signs of a dictator in the making whose desperation to hold on to power is spilling Somali blood.  

What Farmaajo wants is to create mayhem and gain strength from fear and dread. He continues to amplify political division to create an ecosystem of tragedies so peaceful communities find new reasons to fight each other. This is already happening in many regions and towns across the country.

Indulging Farmaajo is a grave mistake 

There are some who wrongly assumed that Farmaajo will eventually hold elections and do what is required for an orderly transition of power, just as his predecessors did peacefully in 2012 and 2017.  Others try to paint a vision of doom if he were to leave office and create a vacuum. Both are mistaken.

The events of Friday remind us why a dictator does not deliver democracy. The show of brutality that was on display on Mogadishu’s streets was not just another sign of desperation, it was intended to tab into the destructive veins of people’s anger and Qabyaalad in order to spark another civil war. Thankfully, on this occasion, saner heads prevailed. The people of Somalia may not be so lucky next time. The longer others continue to indulge him, including elements of the “international community”, the larger will be the scale of the damage he will do to the country and the people. 

Killing innocent Somalis who are expressing their constitutional right should not slide without consequences, nor can last Friday’s events be forgotten. It is important to document these atrocities so that the perpetrators, and their enablers, are brought to justice.

Many of the key decision-makers in government are dual nationals and will be subject to provisions of the laws in their adopted countries, including crimes for widespread and systemic attack against peaceful civilians. Witness testimonies and evidence that is currently being collated must be preserved so that those on whose orders innocent lives were taken, were part of the collective action to implement it or continue to justify it on social media, are held accountable. 

Farmaajo’s actions are also creating opportunities for terrorists 

Farmaajo’s actions are also creating opportunities that will be easily taken by terrorists at a time when the country has been fighting an existential threat from terrorism. People’s judgment will shift if they continue to see the government soldiers as murderous tools who are being used to silence them to docility for Farmaajo’s political ends.  The consequences of this are extremely dangerous indeed. The longer this goes on and government soldiers are used to kill and suppress the people, the more ordinary civilians will become convinced that government is not on their side and is on par with terrorists. Farmaajo’s actions are therefore destroying the only and most important trust pillar the government needed to defeat the scourge of terrorism in Somalia – people’s trust in the country’s armed forces which will have catastrophic consequences for the fight against terrorism.    

Don’t sleepwalk into another civil war 

Many lives have already been lost and the potential for unexpected serious violence is real. It is critically important not be blindsided about the bigger risk of another destructive civil war in Mogadishu. It is what Farmaajo and his enablers want, but it will be the people of Mogadishu, and indeed Somalia, that will pay the price for it. We must continue to stand up for the country’s constitution, democracy and the rule of law peacefully and avoid anything that will lead to another war. 

Farmaajo’s mask finally slipped. He is not in Villa Somalia to deliver democracy; he poses a serious threat to it. 

Alloow Dalkeena iy Dadkeena Badbaadi.   

Abdi Ali can be reached at abdirahman.ali3@gmail.com

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