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Electioneering Fueling Tribalism, Regionalism, Creating Political Tension Among Parties And Dividing Somalia.

By Jebril Domenico – Mogadishu, Somalia, Tuesday November 26, 2019.

Leaders of UPD, TAYO, & Himilo Qaran.

Despite Somalia’s transition to Federal Government with six federal member States, political parties continue to stoke tensions along tribal, regional and party lines to gain supporters for the upcoming election.

New commitments to create a reconciliation commission could be a source of hope and optimism, but the government must ensure it remains politically independent to underscore a national cohesion agenda, pundits say. It is almost seven (7) years since the  Federal Republic was formed. But has the country achieved political peace? 

While there has certainly been some superficial political commitment to peace and democracy, as demonstrated by two  consecutive peaceful elections – in 2012 and 2017 respectively – the country continues to resurface political divisions and other issues that threaten national unity and social cohesion.

This threat is predicated on the potential relapse into violence should such divisions and political tensions not be addressed. Even after the 2017 elections, political interactions between the major political parties – the opposition parties and the ruling Tayo Political Party (TPP) – is expressed in the form of hate speech and threatens the country’s peace and security. 

This is demonstrated by the recent call made by the former president, Sheikh Sharif for violent clash if the government continues making manipulative acts to disrupt party leaders, especially the newly formed forum for national parties.

This came shortly after the government postponed a flight for a few hours at Adan Adde Airport by the forum’s leaders to Beledweyne, in central Somalia aiming to deliver goods to the flood affected people. This aggravated many tensions among the society while social media became a platform for promoting this hate speech and message of violence.

Disunity among Somalis is no more a hidden secret. In explaining local popular responses to decades of disunity, it is widely argued that during periods of electioneering, tribalism and regionalism have fueled disunity among Somalis – a widely shared perception.

The regional and tribal voting pattern 4.5 in subsequent elections undermines national cohesion. It is unfortunate that tribe plays a salient role in Somalia’s national politics both as a source for political organization and a basis for support. The results of the 2012 and 2017 elections clearly depict a pattern of tribal and regional allegiance.

Of particular concern is the hate-driven politics between the Tayo Political Party and the  forum for National parties, their current political tension is the fodder for future violent conflict. Challenging conditions have added fuel to the fire, as disillusioned party supporters, many of them unemployed youths, show a willingness to confront the government through social media and as such case they can also perpetuate gun violence in the near future. 

Instead of seeking solutions to these tensions, few of the educated elites continue to preach divisive messages to the community, conditioning them to go against the government. 

Another Few Independent observers say these tensions can be chalked up to an inexperienced government trying to restart a country previously run into the ground. The government is trying to provide a clean break from the previous regimes, which means vetting General Gabre loyalists. 

‘If you’re going to dismiss political competitors it should be done in a professional way. Let there be evidence to suggest that the people are guilty or people will interpret it in a different way.’

Good Somalis in the country and abroad are scared over the current political division and spate of violent across the nation. The political wrangling always visible among citizens on a daily basis as the custom of tribal and regional style has been adopted since ancient days. Political rivalries have increasingly taken a tribal hue in the country.

 If left unchecked the government risks alienating a segment of society and laying the groundwork for future problems. Therefore, It is critically important for the government to understand and address the ways mutual mistrust, suspicion, anger and animosity spill over into priorities of national development, such as the fight against terrorism and attracting foreign investment.

While Somalia has made promising strides in its transition from UPD to Tayo, the sustainability of these gains is based on cultivating continued stability nationwide. In this vein, giving reconciliation an address by establishing an infrastructure will be a vital move by the government.

Establishing Peace and Reconciliation Commission by an act of parliament to address these aims could be a way out for the current political tensions and the government should realise that such a Commission can only thrive with inclusive participation, devoid of political interference.

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