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It’s a new beginning in Jubaland as President gets down to business

PHOTO | BILLY MUTAI A Federal Government of Somalia soldier screens a Kismayu resident before entering Kismayu University for presidential poll celebrations on May 21, 2013.
PHOTO | BILLY MUTAI A Federal Government of Somalia soldier screens a Kismayu resident before entering Kismayu University for presidential poll celebrations on May 21, 2013.  NATION MEDIA GROUP

Daily Nation
Thursday, May 23, 2013

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On a cool Wednesday morning last week, 500 delegates filed into a long, rectangular building with plywood sides and a shiny new iron sheet roof in the middle of Kismayu University.

They converged for Jubaland Conference for the Establishment of the Regional State, and their main task was to elect the president.

They settled on Ahmed Mohammed Islan, also known as Sheikh Madobe, and who often has the title General.

President Madobe selected General Abdullahi Sheikh Ismail Fartag his Vice-President last Thursday and they were sworn in on Friday.

General Madobe’s elevation to the presidency of this new State of the Federal Government of Somalia has seen him undergo a transformation.

He has shed the jungle green uniform and traded it for a suit and now keeps his weapon away, or out of sight. The luxurious beard is not hennaed, as it often was, and the military boots have been replaced with polished black shoes. Guests are reminded that they should refer to him as “Your Excellency”.

Physical change

“My uniform is still there, even my weapon. It’s only I don’t carry it so much now,” he said when we asked him about the physical change.

For the President, and the people around him, though, the change needs to go beyond appearances to recognition that for the large part, they are now in charge of their destiny.

Jubaland aims to become semi-autonomous, meaning it would run its own affairs but remain part of the Federal Government of Somalia.

It is composed of the Middle Juba, Lower Juba and Gedo regions and on the map, is the part of Somalia that runs along the border with Kenya. The recognition has not been coming. Soon after Gen Madobe was elected, another politician, Barre Aden Shire, also claimed he had been elected President.

“He called his clansmen inside his room and said ‘Elect me as President’ and they said they elected him,” said Abdikadir Sheikh Abdullahi, a Kismayu resident.

On May 18, Somalia Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon issued a warning against the two “presidents”. The assertion from that side of Somalia has been that the South has been misled and that the elections are unconstitutional.

Gen Madobe and his supporters claim that theirs was the genuine election and that Mr Shire has been planted in their midst by the federal government to interfere with them.

They say Gen Madobe’s election was the result of four years of hard work with the support of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad).

Kenya is among the Igad member States and its forces have been fighting alongside President Madobe’s Ras Kamboni Brigade and the Somalia National Army since the start of Operation Linda Nchi in October 2011.

Kenya’s interest in having a stable administration in Jubaland would be to keep its border with Somalia secure from Al-Shabaab, prevent the smuggling of untaxed goods from Somalia and the eventual return of the refugees in the sprawling camps in Daadab.

News of Gen Madobe’s election was received warmly by Puntland in northern Somalia— the only other semi-autonomous State.

It said the formation of Jubaland State was fully in accordance with the Provisional Federal Constitution (PFC) of Somalia.

“Puntland calls upon the Somali Federal Government, Igad, and the wider international community to recognise and cooperate with Jubaland State,” a statement from the Office of the President said at the weekend.

Unlike Somaliland, which has for 22 years vainly sought recognition as an independent State, neither Puntland nor Jubaland is planning to secede from the federal government.

The process that led to last week’s election started at the beginning of 2012 when the heads of State from the six Igad countries— Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda— mandated a committee to arrange talks between representatives from the three regions.

They met the principal groups in the three areas— the Ras Kamboni Brigade, Ahlu Sunna Waljama’a, Azaaniya, Gedo Forces and the Harti Group in the presence of officials of the former Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, Igad, African Union Mission in Somalia and the United Nations Political Office for Somalia.

A 30-member technical committee was then formed to work out the details on the formation of the regional State and the political process that would lead to the election of a president, MPs and the rest of the establishment.

President Madobe will spend the three year liberating the areas of Jubaland still held by Al-Shabaab, reconciliation, establishing administration structures and setting up hospitals, schools among other facilities.

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