Sheikh Islam Ahmed Madobe, the president of Jubbaland state of Somalia may on August 22 be waiting for the spinning coin to land in his favour when he faces other candidates for another term in office.
Previously planned for August 21, the poll for the state presidency was pushed back by a day when the Jubbaland Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission yielded to pressure from the international community on Friday to allow more candidates to register for the race.
The UN and the African Union had been pressuring the JIEBC to make changes.
JIEBC chairman Hamza Barre said more people interested in the presidency had 72 hour to present their papers, a decision that could raise the number of candidates from the current six.
“The JIEBC has decided to officially re-open the registration of the aspirants...Starting August Saturday 17 to Monday 19. The election date is August 22,” he wrote to James Swan, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative to Somalia who had led a delegation of AU and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development to call for a more credible process.
Swan had said issues surrounding who takes part “if unresolved, could have a destabilising effect on Jubbaland”.
With that cleared, the commission conducted the election of the local Speaker, which saw Abdi Mohamed retain his seat after garnering 55 votes against Hussein Shinow’s 18. It means he will be in charge of the presidency vote.
Madobe was born in Somalia's central region and was the leader of the Ras Kamboni Brigade, which routed Al-Shabaab from Kismayu with the help of Kenyan soldiers in 2012.
Madobe's education background is in Islamic philosophy.
He benefited from the support of the Kenya Defence Forces who re-hatted to the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), occupying Sector II in Jubbaland.
The impasse has seen former presidents Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, former Galmudug state President Abdulkarim Gulled and current Puntland President Said Abdullahi Deni support the poll agency.
With the elections though, the interests in Jubbaland have grown beyond Somalia.
On Thursday, a group of academics said the impact of the poll would shake regional security policies.
“There are contestations from many players. Jubbaland is like the umbilical cord of Somalia and Kenya. It is very strategic,” said Patrick Maluki a diplomacy lecturer at the University of Nairobi.
The forum, organised by the think-tank Africa Policy Institute discussed “the election between democracy and terror”.
The Amisom defeat of al-Shabaab made Kismayu relatively safe.
But other regions have remained in the hands of the group despite Ethiopian forces also occupying Gedo region in the state.
While everyone is coming in ostensibly to fight al-Shabaab, the divergence is based on interests.
“Jubbaland elections will have an impact on the Kenya-Somalia relations due to competing interests. It has been a buffer against al-Shabaab, but also belongs to the Horn of Africa which is a theatre of global competition,” said Hassan Khannenje, the director of the Horn International Institute of Strategic Studies.
Formally, Madobe is competing against Mohamed Omar Gedi, Mohamed Abdille Magan, Anab Mohamed Dahir, Abdi Hiis Udan, Ahmed Abdi and Abdirahman Ahmed Rabi. All have agreed to face off under the JIEBC, which Madobe created.
But there are other contenders, locked from the race over what the commission termed as late submission of papers and failure to meet other qualifications.
These contenders created a parallel commission despite condemnation from the global community.
Known as the Union of Jubbaland Presidential Candidates for Change, it includes Mohamed Ibrahim Shakuul, Abdulkadir Ali Sharray, Salah Ahmed Hussein, Adam Afey Mahmoud, Abdi Osman Esse and Abdalla Ibrahim Afwaranle.
Others are Abdirahman Jibril, Mohamed Yusuf Aw Dahir, Ali Jamaa Hussein, Mohamed Ali Yusuf, Sayid Saahid Sayid and Mohamed Yusuf Duale.
Madobe’s former ally in the Ras Kamboni Brigade Abdinasir Seraar, accused JIEBC of bias, though it is not clear if he joined the alternative commission. JIEBC did not list him among candidates.
Observers say the elections could make or break the bid by Somalia to return to normality.
Abdirashid Hashi, the Director of the think-tank Heritage Institute said there are dangers in locking out candidates.
He, however, added that any perceived interference may fuel the isolation, leaving Jubbaland to fall back to al-Shabaab.