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Somalia: The Case for Presidential Debates

by Mohamed Ibrahim
Tuesday March 8, 2022

As Somalia’s parliamentary and presidential elections is happening at the moment we aim to develop and constitute the first ever Somalia Presidential Debates. The organisers are Somalia Debates, a charity entity that is non-political which aims to enhance and promote democratic choice through the art of persuasion and debate on many key challenges facing Somalia. This initiative is designed to enhance democracy and give Somali leaders present and in the future the opportunity to showcase their ideas and political mission to a wider audience.  What future do they have for Somalia? What is their economic, security/political stability, social, international trade, Climate Change, and foreign policy? Is another future possible beyond personalistic politics? The SD hopes such discourse of this nature will forensically give the Somali audience and beyond the policy ideas and leaders on offer from Somalia. 

For some time, we have been frustrated by our Somali politics. The most critical factor that has influenced our plans is the personalistic nature of our politics. The current political set up lack substance and ownership from the society at large. It is too closed a process for political elites and entities.    

This is an opportunity to test the water and move the goal post towards substance led politics where political actors explain their policies and manifestos to a wider Somali audience rather than wait for political coronation that is closed from society without any accountability for their visions and aspirations for Somalia. From optics points of view, credible elections matter for all. This a new initiative but is one that must happen and must be embraced by all political stakeholders  

This initiate will help enhance political engagement from the Somali public by discussing substantial bread and butter issues facing their lives and country. This initiative is beyond personalistic politics and aims to promote a healthy political discourse that is interactive, engaging, and progressive for all. 

At the heart of our mission is about democratic choice in the long run, political impartiality, and Somalia’s future. The road to democratic change is never easy but it must start somewhere, and all societies and political stakeholders must pull together towards a democratic transitional future. It is within this context, we believe Presidential Debate will help that future by promoting democratic spirit, bringing healthy politics to everyone’s sofa, home and abroad.  


Our politics is fractious and often unpredictable. However, we believe our civil society need to find that middle ground in our politics without belonging to any political camp – This where collective progressive lies ahead. Our people home and abroad have a role in enhancing the road to democracy and this initiative is intended/attempt to prepare the political climate, expectations and institutions as well as society for One Person One vote in the coming future Somali elections beyond 2022. 


Somalia Debates has met the United States based International Democratic Institute the co-founding member of the Commission on US Presidential Debates where they have provided on hand guidance/advice throughout our journey to help advance the pursuit of democracy in fragile recovering nations/societies. Advice and guidance is continuously on hand on political impartiality which are integral/critical part of our plans for a fair and open process during the debates.   Our selection criteria, format of debate, terms of reference, moderator and formal agreements are ready – and we must now fulfill and summon our historical democratic tradition in our political process and culture.

Somalia Debates would like to take the opportunity to commend the international partner’s unwavering support and the wider international commitment to Somalia's recovery and prospects. As a civil society we underscore and appreciate the sacrifices made in blood and treasure. 

Our plans are unique in Somalia and these plans will enhance international partner’s commitment for political stability, democratic future and the development of strong civil society that is engaged in the political process while also improving political accountability, predictability. It is our view this is in our mutual interest to help this initiative with the necessary political capital, expertise and guidance from all international partners to help rekindle a democratic culture and future in Somalia’s politics. 

Debates are often the only time during a campaign when candidates are together at the same time in the same place. The test before our leaders is whether they can share the same platform to have a dialogue. To put it bluntly, If they cannot do that, how would they expect their citizens to unite towards common ground. This goes to heart of their collective leadership and legitimacy to govern. We will soon find out who is fit for office and political purpose. We will invite all the candidates and protect relevance and inclusivity in the process while also publishing those candidates who have participated or have failed to participate in these debates.

Mohamed Ibrahim
Director of Somalia Debates (SD)

BA/MSc, London School of Economics and Political Science, is a keen writer and social justice campaigner, London based, He can be reached via @Mi_shiine


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