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Meet the journalist seeking to be Jubaland's president

Thursday June 13 2019

Jubaland presidential candidate Abdalla Ahamed Ibrahim

Jubaland presidential candidate Abdalla Ahamed Ibrahim, of Cahdi party, addresses the press at a Nairobi hotel on June 4, 2019, when he pledged to strengthen the relationship between Kenya and Somalia. PHOTO | COURTESY 

AGGREY MUTAMBO
By AGGREY MUTAMBO
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Abdalla Ahamed Ibrahim has largely lived as freelance journalist in Dhobley, Somalia. Now, the 44-year-old man is plunging into politics, vying for the presidency of the federal state of Jubaland.

But Mr Ibrahim first wants the election scheduled for August delayed.

In Nairobi, where he spoke to the Nation, he said his rallying call was for Somalis to return to obedience for the law, unlike now when everyone chooses which bits to obey.

“Jubaland and Somali Federal Government both deserve a president who respects the law and not one who is a slave of the political class,” he said, reflecting on his so-called ‘liberal’ ideology.

CONTESTANTS

Contesting for the Jubaland presidency means he is up against the incumbent, Sheikh Ahmed Mohammed Islam Madobe, the former leader of the Ras Kamboni Brigade that allied with the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) to chase the Al-Shabaab out of Kismayu in 2012.

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KDF are now part of Amisom’s transition plan which could see a gradual withdrawal from Somalia.

Others who have shown interest in the race include former Somalia Information minister Abdullahi Ciilmooge Hirsi, former Madobe ally Sheikh Dahir and financial consultant Abdirazak Fartaag, whose father was a senator in Somalia.

SOMETHING NEW

Yet Mr Ibrahim, despite his little experience in politics, says he is bringing something new. First, he says, he wants the elections delayed so that requisite legal amendments are done to make it harder for politicians to bribe voters.

“We know we can’t have one-man-one voter yet due to our security and logistical situation. But we can increase the number of delegates who can elect a president,” he argued.

In Jubaland, some three dozen delegates nominated by clan elders from districts eventually elect the president.

“These are too few. If I have the money, I can pay each one of them and they choose me. It is not free and fair at all. I propose that we raise these delegates to a number that is large enough to discourage bribery.”

REGION KEY

To convince the Jubaland populace to delay the elections could be a tall order, given that Madobe himself has allied with political leaders opposed to any delays.

He wants regional bloc, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) to help implement the changes.

But Jubaland itself is significant both to Somalia and Kenya. Rich in natural resources, it is also a region where KDF are situated.

It is also a region where a maritime dispute between Nairobi and Mogadishu is now a subject of a case at the International Court of Justice.

Somalia sued Kenya in August 2014, seeking to redraw the boundary in a move that could swing 100,000 square kilometres of sea rich in hydrocarbons to either side.

PATRIOTISM

Yet in Somalia’s political sphere, local politicians have shied away from publicly commenting on the issue.

One reason, observed Mr Abdirashid Hashi, the Director of Somalia’s think-tank the Heritage Institute, is that Somalis are a patriotic community and the matter has become a key political issue where perceived traitors are thrown off.

“No Somali official and citizen will cede any inch of land or ocean or wealth underneath it to Kenya because Somalis feel others are trying to exploit them,” Mr Hashi told the Nation.

“They also believe that Kenyan officials and foreign business interests who see Somalia as a weak state decided to help themselves to what is Somalia's.”

BORDER DISPUTE

For Ibrahim, however, the matter has been partly messed up by the government in Mogadishu.

“The boundary dispute is unfortunate. I want to make clear what role Jubaland plays in resolving it because these resources are in our region. So far, people in Jubaland do not know what it is all about,” he said.

“Under normal circumstances, Somalia and Kenya do not need a third party to solve their differences so I think there is little consultation between the government and federal states, which needs to change.”

As it is now, only Mogadishu can withdraw the case, something it has indicated it will not.

CLAN POLITICS

Back to Jubaland elections, Mr Ibrahim could also get into the local clan politics. Like the incumbent Madobe, he belongs to the larger Ogaden clan.

Sheikh Madobe has had his wrangles with other clans and has been trying to mend his relations with Mogadishu.

The Darood/Ogaden is the largest clan in Jubaland but there are also the Hawiye, the Diir, the Rahanweyn and others who form a political system of nominations known as ‘4.5’ to ensure equitable representation.

Besides clans, the legacy to be left behind by KDF and the perceived interests by the Middle East countries could determine who wins; according to Dr Sheikh Abdiwahab Abdisamad, an analyst on the Horn of Africa issues for SouthLink Consultants.

According to the transition plan, Somalia is due to hold parliamentary elections in the next 18 months.