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Farmaajo, nationalist hero and ‘defender of the republic’, fights for survival

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By AGGREY MUTAMBO

When President Mohamed Farmaajo of Somalia appeared on TV on April 27 midnight to announce that he would be returning to the negotiations for indirect elections, it seemed like a sudden about-turn in reconciliation.

But observers say it formed a consistent pattern, where he passes the buck to Parliament to bridge his next step. On May 1, he was scheduled to address MPs whom he asked to cancel his two-year term extension.

The announcement was in response to growing pressure from donors and the international community as well as the local opposition over the decision that ultimately cancelled indirect elections for (an improbable) universal suffrage in two years.

It didn’t change his modus operandi, however.

The journey began in April 2018. Somalia’s then Speaker of the Lower House Mohamed Osman Jawari, a veteran lawyer, quit his job in the face of plots to impeach him. Mr Jawari had been in the seat for nearly six years but he was increasingly seen by the Farmaajo administration as being an ally of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, two of Somalia’s biggest contributors to aid and security support.

Consolidation

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With one hurdle cleared, President Farmaajo would embark on a journey to consolidate his authority with a supportive legislature. With the veteran lawyer gone, Mursal Mohamed Abdurahman took over in Farmaajo’s second year in power.

Now, Mr Abdurahman is expected to steer the House to cancel the motion that granted them and the president a controversial mandate to stay around for an extra two years. Analysts say the decision amounted to yet another misstep that only went on to further polarise Somalia politically.

“Farmaajo’s government had every chance of succeeding on these tasks,” argued Dr Hassan Khannenje, Director of the Horn International Institute for Strategic Studies in Nairobi, referring to the fight against Islamist insurgency, a democratic tradition of regular elections and peaceful transfer of power, attracting foreign capital and instituting security sector reforms, which Farmaajo pledged at his election in February 2017.

“However, it is apparent that Farmaajo came to power haunted by the one-term presidency of the previous three administrations and immediately began to engineer his survival beyond his first term,” Dr Khannanje said.

His predecessors, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed and Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, sought re-election and failed. During their reign, they both grappled with delayed elections, forcing dialogue which rearranged polls to avoid a crisis.

In 2012, Farmaajo, then prime minister, was forced to resign under the Kampala Accord, which granted Sheikh Sharif Ahmed a few more months so as to allow a transition.

Farmaajo, analysts say, learnt from predecessors’ “mistakes”: They did not weaponise the security structure and gladly conceded defeat when voted out.

He saw this as a tool to use against opponents. With strained relations with Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, he strengthened ties with their archrival Qatar and Turkey; both of whom say they are apolitical but have armed some of the units of the police and army that have recently been accused of bludgeoning opposition groups.

His eye, however, was on the ordinary folk, to whom he marketed himself as a hero defending the republic.

“He is a pragmatic nationalist with a visible touch of populism,” Adam Aw Hirsi, a Somali academic and former government minister told The EastAfrican. “In a country like Somalia, one can access power employing nationalist rhetoric and pronounced patriotism, as the masses have had more than their share of humiliation and desperation and therefore tend to adore demagogues.”

Farmaajo declared that he had renounced his US citizenship, although he did not provide proof he had taken an oath of renunciation as the US law demands. In his travels abroad, he started speaking to the diaspora about his vow to defend the country against foreign interference. At home, he told gatherings about Somalia’s readiness to cut ties with those who interfered in its sovereignty.

Guinea and Kenya were initial culprits.

“He created a different phenomenon,” Dr Abdiwahab Sheikh Abdisamad, a Kenyan academic and author told The EastAfrican.

“He speaks to the ordinary folk, not elites. He is a hero, nationalist. He divided the country into those who are for Somalia and those who are against,” said Dr Abdiwahab who consults on the Horn at Southlink Consultants.

Farmaajo managed to instil some sense of professionalism in the army by removing “ghost” soldiers, sought debt forgiveness and somewhat empowered the legislature.

But his leadership has faced tougher challenges than just wooing the people with populist speeches. His relationship with federal states has been poor. The three states that largely supported him – Hirshabelle, Galmudug and SouthWest – held elections marred by protests over rigging claims.

Jubbaland and Puntland have remained opposed to his rule. When Jubbaland held elections in 2019, President Farmaajo initially annulled the result, before branding Ahmed Sheikh Madobe its “transitional” leader.

Ultranationalists

“The relationship between these two is almost non-existent,” Dr Abdiwahab said. “He failed to tame al Shabaab as promised and failed to conduct elections on time, although this was also due to differences with stakeholders.” 

“He galvanised the country based on nationalism. He reached out to the ultranationalists. That achieved a lot for his status as president,” he added.

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“Farmaajo’s politics is based on divisions. He was supposed to be a statesman and bring people together. He has failed,” said Dr Ahmed Hashi, a political analyst of the Horn of Africa. “And this is a warning that the only solution to the problems of security in East Africa is to unite Somalis for stability and good governance.”

Villa Somalia, Farmaajo’s official residence, has often fought off these accusations of polarising politics, accusing the federal states and political opponents of being puppets of foreign agents.

“Our efforts were hampered by individuals and foreign entities whose aim has been to destabilise the country and revert to the era of divisions and destruction in order to create a constitutional vacuum,” Farmaajo said, defending his plan to hold elections. “The Somali people will tell between those who are working to prevent elections and destroy national institutions from those who are championing peace, nationhood and unity.”

His intentions have been viewed with suspicion and his friends have not helped much. Eritrea, which has helped train Somalia soldiers, has never held an election and Ethiopia, which was once enemy number one, has been deemed reformist, until the ongoing Tigray crisis blotted this record.

His opponents wanted the president to transfer some powers to his prime minister once his term expired on February 8, 2021. When he didn’t, they branded him a dictator.

Omar Sharmarke, the prime minister during Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s presidency, said blending autocracy and democracy has created the current “precarious situation”.

“The dilemma confronting FGS [Federal Government of Somalia] now stems from the fact that it needs stability and participation of stakeholders for the legitimacy of the elections. Security sector reforms are key to both ends,” Mr Sharmarke said.

When he called for resumption of talks this week, President Farmaajo did not make it clear whether he was abandoning the two-year extension of his rule. Instead, he passed the buck to Parliament to cancel it. If MPs refuse, then it stays. After all, they are beneficiaries too.

“He’s still trying to plot with Mursal to derail the September 17 Agreement,” said Abdishakur Abdirahman, leader of Wadajir Party and one of the presidential hopefuls. “In order to reach an inclusive agreement, all the stakeholders have to take part in the talks to resolve the outstanding issues once and for all.”

Farmaajo came into Somalia’s political scene in 2011 when Sheikh Sharif Ahmed appointed him prime minister. But he was no stranger to politics, as he is a relative of Siad Barre, whose fall in 1991 created the chaos Somalia faces today.

He worked as a diplomat in the US and after the collapse of the Barre regime, Farmaajo continued to live in the US where he obtained his second citizenship.

His critics accuse him of divisive politics.

“Farmaajo is an absolutist but moonlights in constitutionalism supermarkets,” said Aw Hirsi. “He is not a fan of open debates on matters foreign relations, military and intelligence but generally designs those within his trusted inner circle.”

Mr Hirsi argued that unlike his predecessors, Farmaajo has appeared to delegate leadership by leaving government tasks to the prime minister. Yet that has only worked as long as the PM and those other arms play ball. In July last year, Hassan Khaire, his then prime minister, was impeached by Parliament. The president immediately signed the impeachment. The two had attended a conference on elections in Dhusamareb in the Galmudug state before Khaire met his sack.

The former PM is now one of Farmaajo’s harshest opponents.

In spite of his perceived missteps, Farmaajo is a smart politician trying to overcome a jinx: Somalia has never re-elected a sitting president.

But on Sunday, this took a different trajectory. Clashes broke out in Mogadishu with Somali media reporting that “mutineers” in the Somali National Army had taken control of various roads in the capital as they battled government forces and intelligence agents.

Division along clan lines

Ever since MPs extended their mandate, and with officials operating under transition clauses of the law, the debate has always been whether the Lower House, let alone the bicameral legislature as a whole, can pass a law extending their own term. The resultant tensions have fractured the army, leading to clashes between units of the same security agencies, divided along clan lines.

The United States has warned its citizens against travelling to Somalia. The US State Department issued a statement on Monday saying that Somalia remains “a dangerous” place for its citizens. It also noted rising incidents of improvised explosive device attacks and suicide missions.

With the army now divided along clan lines, how the Somali leader manoeuvres the crisis will depend on the decision Parliament makes.

The president on Wednesday struck a conciliatory tone, calling for elections and a return to dialogue, with Mogadishu on a knife’s edge as government troops and pro-opposition soldiers beefed up their positions and civilians fled their homes.

The president pledged to appear before parliament on Labour Day to “gain their endorsement for the electoral process,” calling on political actors to hold “urgent discussions” on how to conduct the vote.

“We have always been ready to implement timely and peaceful elections in the country,” he said.

Puntland and Jubbaland said they would attend negotiation meetings only if international guarantors ensure it.

“I don’t think anyone trusts anything that comes from Farmaajo anymore,” said Ahmed Hassan, Jubbaland’s minister for Constitutional Affairs. “It is that bad.”

***
This article was first published in The EastAfrican newspaper on May 1, 2021.

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Milano Marathon:Titus Ekiru defends title in fifth fastest time – KBC

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Titus Ekiru retained his Milano Marathon title in style by registering the fifth fastest time 2:2.57 to win the men’s race held Sunday in Italy

 

Kenya’s Titus Ekiru retained his Milano Marathon title in style by registering the fifth fastest time  2:2.57 to win the men’s race held Sunday in Italy.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Ekiru steered clear after the 30km mark and held on to clinch the race ahead of compatriot  Reuben Kiprop who was placed second in 2:3.55, while Barnabas Kiptum wound up third after posting 2:4.17.

 

 

“I have realized that running 2:1 is possible especially after regaining my shape and my body is in great condition so I will discuss with my coach on how I can better the time’’, said Ekiru.

Ekiru  who trains in Kapsabet  Nandi County is under the management of Italian Rosa Associati .

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Kenya’s Racheal Jemutai  finished second in the women’s race ,posting 2:22.50 behind race winner Ethiopian Hiwot Gebrekidan  who cut the tape first in 2:19.35,Bahrain’s Eunice  Chebichi  wound up third.

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Great beauty in the Rift

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Meanders at Kiboino village along Iten-Kabarnet road. The road is famous for its tens of corners between Baringo and Elgeyo Marakwet counties.[Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Faults.” By the way, suppose Gregory never happened on the scene, what would you have called this fissure?
The vast valley, formed when the core of the earth heaved and sighed millions of years ago as a result of volcanic activity, is visible from space and runs from Lebanon in the Middle East to Mozambique in the southern part of Africa. Yet, it is the immense natural beauty and diverse cultures that make a visit to this region worthwhile.
Late last year, during the small window that allowed for some travel, I hooked up with Ben, a birding expert for an exploratory tour of the Rift Valley.
Now Ben is one man who can tell one bird from another even in his sleep. He will spend copious amounts of time combing every bush for that rare bird few can identify.
The adventure starts at the eastern escarpment that drops towards Mai Mahiu. The unwritten rule is to stop and take in the enchanting vistas that stretch beyond the valley floor as far as the eye can see because the most beautiful things in life are free.
From here, the conical Mount Longonot looms large, another product of the volcanic activity that created a caldera when part of the volcano collapsed. Since our aim was to make it to Baringo by early afternoon, a quick glimpse of the expanse was enough.
We got to Nakuru by midday. The sweltering heat was becoming unbearable, a sharp contrast to the cloudy weather back in Nairobi.
“If you think Nakuru is hot, wait till you get to Baringo,” warned a security guard at a mall in Nakuru.

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True to his words, the terrain became harsh past Kabarak. Trees, bereft of leaves dotted the countryside.
Lake Bogoria Spa was our next pit stop. In the harsh terrain, the hotel stands out like a diamond in the rough. On a good day, guests are entertained by Tugen dancers just before dinner. It was in this hotel that I got to taste mursik for the first time. I say on a good day because there was little activity at the hotel as the effects of Covid-19 wore on.
The hotel is named after the nearby Lake Bogoria, one of the four Rift Valley lakes to the north.

Flamingos at Lake Bogoria National Reserve in Baringo county on January 20, 2021.[Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

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Bogoria also marks the divide between the northern lakes of Baringo, Turkana and the ‘Masai’ lakes of Nakuru, Elementaita and Magadi.
Lake Bogoria is set at the bottom of the 600-metre Ngendelel Escarpment. Bogoria could not have been set in a more bleak environment.
It lacks an outlet, but the high alkalinity in the lake has been a factor in the propagation of the blue-green algae that is at the core of the lake’s global fame. Still, the stench from the algae is enough to make you puke.
How, you may wonder, would such seemingly useless substance bring visitors from around the world? You see, Bogoria is known for harbouring thousands of flamingos.
Though they do feed on some small fish, the algae is not only their main source of food but their vibrant pink colour as well.
The algae contains beta-carotene, a water-based bacteria with a reddish-orange pigment. When the bacteria dissolves in the birds’ fat, it is then deposited in feathers and as the birds grow, their colour slowly shifts to pink. Got it? Thus, a well-fed flamingo will have a deeper shade of pink and will make a formidable mate while a pale one could as well be content in the singles club. In the flamingo world, you are what you eat!
Sadly, his beautiful phenomenon is slowly fading away, thanks to the current phenomenon of rising Rift Valley lakes. For the last 10 years, the water in Lake Bogoria has risen to unprecedented levels, diluting the alkalinity and making it difficult for the flamingoes to survive.
A similar phenomenon greeted us in Baringo. At Kampi ya Samaki, scores of men washed their motorcycles on the road, now part of the lake.

Some of the buildings submerged at Soi Safari Lodge after Lake Baringo swelled on July 21, 2020.[Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

We had anticipated to lodge at the nearby Soi Safari Lodge, but this one too has been eaten up by the lake. And so are Robert’s Camp and Lake Baringo Country Club, the region’s favourite safari destinations. We were content staying in a nondescript haven on the water’s edge.
For some sense of serenity, we took the vertical ascent towards Kabarnet, the town set on a hill, one side overlooking the Iten escarpment.
Kabarnet sits on top of Kerio Valley, undoubtedly one of the most scenic locations in Kenya. Three minutes from Kabarnet, we pull over to the side of the road to take in the endless beauty of the valley below, where, as my primary school teacher told me, is the source of fluorspar.
If the landscape does not stir any emotions on your part, the Kabarnet-Iten Road surely does.
On such terrain, constructing a road vertically presented many challenges. In order to minimise the gradient, the engineers simply made numerous twists and turns, coils upon coils of tarmac meandering all the way to the top. While this was not their intention, the winding road has become part of the region’s tourist attraction.
My two days in the geological museum that John Gregory called the Rift Valley revealed some secrets that make the region tick. Here, the remains of animals and plants lie fossilised, awaiting a new discovery. 

 

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Bodies of Two Men who had Allegedly been Arrested by Police Retrieved from Thika River –

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Two men who had allegedly been arrested by a police officer in Thika, Kiambu County, have been found dead.

The bodies of the two young men were retrieved from Thika River on Saturday evening.

It’s suspected that the two were murdered before their bodies were dumped in the river.

According to area residents, one of the deceased had handcuffs on his left hand.

The other had bruises on the wrist.

Read: Missing Businesswoman Caroline Wanjiku Maina’s Body Found In A Kajiado Mortuary

Despite the locals linking police to the death of the two men, the authorities have distanced themselves from the heinous act.

The police have denied knowledge of what transpired as the locals continue to demand justice.

“We are calling on the government to launch a probe into the killing as no young man should undergo what the two went through,” a resident said.

Another added, “If it’s the police who arrested the two, we want the government to get to the bottom of the matter.”

Email your news TIPS to [email protected] or WhatsApp +254708677607. You can also find us on Telegram through www.t.me/kahawatungu

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