The Jubaland Quagmire: what happens next?

The Jubaland Quagmire: what happens next?

By Mohamed F. Ahmed

The political tables in Jubaland are turning. President Ahmed Madobe, in power since 2009, who came to power as a terrorist-turned-reformer with the promise to crush Al-Shabaab in Jubaland and support the broader Somalia agenda of regaining control of swathes of the country has failed to do so.

The last two years have been particularly problematic for relations between Jubaland and Villa Somalia – the seat of Somalia’s federal government. Madobe has been working in overdrive to frustrate the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) and thwart President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo’s chances of reelection. Pundits point out that this could be the beginning of the end for Madobe.

To be fair, Madobe has had turbulent relationships with all of FGS’s administrations since he came to power. With Farmaajo, Madobe went as far as to say that FGS members were not welcome in Kismayo, the capital of Jubaland; at one point, an FGS delegation that included Somalia’s Defense Minister, was detained at Kismayo Airport and denied entrance.

In 2019, Madobe was declared the winner of the region’s election, riding into a third term. FGS and the international community rejected the outcome of the result outright, terming the election “exclusive, unconstitutional and rigged”. Farmaajo’s administration initially said it would not recognize the results of that election but an about-turn a few later, stating it would accept Madobe’s presidency for a two-year term, which is now almost ending.

New alliance

A new alliance named the Council for Inclusive Jubaland (CIJ) has been created with the intention of producing a candidate to replace Madobe in August, when his term expires. CIJ has set up camp in Garbaharrey, the capital of Gedo. CIJ’s intention, its founders say, is to foster reconciliation and unite the region.

According to insiders, CIJ plans to actualize its proposal by bringing together all Somali clans residing in Jubaland to establish a unified, inclusive and viable Jubaland base in Garbaharrey, as well as liberate other areas, including Kismayo, from the clutches of Al-Shabaab.

So far, CIJ has got the support of clan elders in the region and will most likely obtain endorsement from the FGS once new administration structures are announced. Also among CIJ’s membership are national figures, renowned rebel fighters, youth and women activists, and influential diaspora leaders. Prominent in the CIJ coalition is Adam Aw Hersi, an influential figure and former minister who resigned from Madobe’s government in January last year.

Military intervention

In March 2020, the FGS stationed initiated what it termed as a military intervention in Jubaland by placing Somali National Troops in Gedo, effectively taking over the region. With Gedo no longer under Madobe’s control, it left him with a narrow swathe Jubaland, which dramatically increased isolation and chance of ouster.

Madobe has suffered a series of setbacks in recent years, and his increasingly erratic form of governance hasn’t escaped many. For example, almost two years since his inauguration, he has been unable to form a cabinet for failing to agree on a power-sharing agreement with his allies.

Recently too, his minister for Security, Abdirashid Janan, struck a deal with Farmaajo to transfer hundreds of Jubaland forces to the Federal Government of Somalia. Another key ally who defected is Abdi Ali Raghe, a former right-hand man and a relative to Madobe who was fired from his post in 2019. Raghe is now an elections adviser to Farmaajo.

Collaborating with Al Shabaab

But perhaps Madobe’s biggest undoing is the allegation that he is an Al Shabaab collaborator. In 2015, a UN report spoke of ‘a flourishing charcoal business’ facilitated by the Jubaland administration that indirectly gave Al-Shabaab millions of dollars in revenue. According to the report, Jubaland exports over 1 million bags of charcoal monthly, with a large portion of the money used to fund Al-Shabaab.

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