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GALMUDUG CRISIS: A game of musical chairs and the gift that keeps giving

Storyline:Archive, Opinions
Cartoon illustrating the game of music chairs courtesy. Credit: courtesy

By Roble T

GALMUDUG TREATED THE country this week to a masterly choreographed game of musical chairs and the phrase-the gift that keeps giving could not any better describe the political crisis in the central Somalia state.

Charged to the hilt, 55 state assembly lawmakers in the evening of September 26 found way into a hotel room purportedly owned by a Federal Minister and in one fell swoop sent home Ahmed Geel Haaf whose stay in power could not even have allowed him time to master all the names of his newly approved cabinet.

Theatre of the absurd

A sad tale of a three year old federal state tearing itself apart weaved through the days ahead culminating into a state of uncertainty, a sense of nothingness, best played out in the theatre of the absurd. Questions with very economical answers now abound. How are we to interpret actions of the state? For example does the state of emergency declared by Haaf still hold? And now that the legitimacy of the judge who upheld the controversial motions of no confidence is in question, what are we to make of his ruling? When will a motion of confidence be one exactly?

It is not the theatric description of events in Galmudug that I intend to engross you in but illustrating the failure or lack thereof of institutions in our country. The purpose of institutions is to stabilize a system, make the system function even when the people working in such a system exit. Institutions cushion the system from excesses and selfish interests of human beings in the system. In essence, institutions provide the lifeblood for the system.

Institutional collapse

What happened in Galmudug this past week clearly brings to the fore the very fragile if not non- existent state of institutions in our federal units. It doesn’t stop there; it tells us something about institutions within the Federal Government. It is about institutional malaise in Somalia. All the three arms of government-the executive, judiciary and legislature went into an unmitigated warpath each reading from their own scripts and in a total state of anarchy.

Actually what we had was not even institutions but individuals acting in the name of institutions holding hostage the very institutions they are bestowed authority and power to manage and turning them into conduits of self- gratification and political expedience. A system gone amok!

The assault

It first started with the legislature. The circumstances notwithstanding, a section of MPs voted to impeach Haaf in a no confidence motion and as if having typed it ready for release awaiting the announcement, the Federal Government sent out a statement supposedly endorsing the hotel room vote. Institutions self-immolate or they are fractured and subsequently destroyed from without.

Shortly after day break, Haaf allied MPs in a similar version but operating from the opposite end of town (indicative of a hostile political environment) fired their salvo sending home deputy president Mohamed Arabay and state assembly speaker Ali Asir.

These scenes took place at a time when both Asir and Arabay were allegedly under house arrest courtesy of Haaf. In the intervening periods, both Haaf and Arabay sent out public statements-one banning flights from Mogadishu and the other negating the same in equal measure respectively.

When a group of federal legislators announced talks had hit a dead end after two days of negotiations, the state’s High Court sent out summons ‘to provide legal direction on the matter.’ To date, it is not clear who the plaintiff was and whether any hearings were conducted.

Roadside verdict

Three days later, windy Tuesday afternoon to be precise, the court’s chairman pulled aside his 4×4 and emerged with the verdict. Fending off the strong wind on the roadside, Yahye Sheikh Mohamed read out what has now been described as ‘his own ruling’. In three pages signed by himself, Sheikh Mohamed Guled Keynan and Sheikh Bashir Ugaas, Justice Mohamed declared the heads of legislature and executive jobless. Reporters said Justice Mohamed, like the Stranger in The Winner and Other Stories drove off thereafter into the oblivion, crossed over into Puntland fearing for his life. It was a highly mobile court with an equally unsettled judge.

Fake and no-so fake news

For a reporter covering the Galmudug political crisis, sifting through between the official and unofficial position of the state became just an impossible mission. From two letters emanating from the Federal Ministry of Interior to several others from the state president, deputy, MPs et al, fake news for once became ‘hard and acceptable’.

When the citizenry cannot tell between what is official and what’s fake, trust for public institution wanes and ultimately dies. Worst is for Somalia where trust on public institutions is very marginal and gradually growing.

The dramatic but disturbing tales of Galmudug in September are symptomatic of institutional malaise in Somalia which must be treated without demur. Institutions of the state must not be the vehicles of expedience; they should be strengthened and respected to not only effectively function but outlive their holders.