Biden Mulls Special Envoy for Horn of Africa

Biden Mulls Special Envoy for Horn of Africa

(foreignpolicy)—The Biden administration is weighing plans to establish a new special envoy for the Horn of Africa to address political instability and conflict in the East African region, including a brewing civil war and humanitarian crisis in northern Ethiopia, current and former officials familiar with the matter told Foreign Policy.
The new special envoy post could fill a diplomatic leadership gap in the administration’s foreign-policy ranks as it works to install other senior officials in the State Department, a process that could take weeks or even months to complete, as they require presidential nomination and Senate confirmation. Special envoy posts do not require Senate confirmation.
A new Horn of Africa envoy would have their work cut out for them: Sudan is undergoing a delicate political transition after three decades under a dictatorship, South Sudan is wracked by chronic instability and corruption, and the fragile government of Somalia is grappling with ongoing threats from the al-Shabab terrorist group and political gridlock that has delayed national elections. An ongoing dispute between Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan over a major dam project adds another layer of complexity to the tensions in the region.

Somalia is headed towards another tragic collapse

(aei)—After more than $50 billion in foreign assistance, muchΒ U.S. provided,Β SomaliaΒ now faces its worst crisis since its collapse 30 years ago. It has now been a week-and-a-half since President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo’s four-year-term presidential termΒ ended. Plans for elections collapsed after Farmajo (and U.S. Ambassador Donald Yamamoto) soughtΒ to stack the process. Opposition politicians balked.

While Farmajo has refused to step down, a dwindling number of Somalis accept his legitimacy.Β Wardheer News, one of Somalia’s leading and most reputable news sites,Β explained, β€œFarmajo not only failed to satisfy the oath of the office which compels to hold election prior to his term but…failed to carry out consultation with the opposition groups for the possible establishment of an agreed interim administration until a new parliament and a president is elected.”

ProtestorsΒ calledΒ what was set to become Somalia’sΒ largest peaceful demonstrationΒ in more than a half century to demand a peaceful transition. Last night, before protestors arrived, militias led by General Indha Cadde took over control of theΒ Monument to Unknown Soldiers. When asked who ordered him to deploy, heΒ saidΒ it was his sense of responsibility because there was no government in the country. Farmajo’s challengers then deployed their own militias to the main landmarks around the city, as FarmajoΒ sought to block protestor accessΒ to the city center. Calm did not last long. Yusuf Gabobe, editor of theΒ Somaliland Times,Β reportedΒ that at around midnight Mogadishu time, β€œFierce fighting…between government security forces and bodyguards of former presidents Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Sheikh Sharif Ahmed.” Sheikh Sharif AhmedΒ confirmedΒ the skirmish at the hotel where many presidential candidates are staying as they seek new elections.

For Farmajo, a nephew of former Cold War dictator Siad Barre, to order Somali forces to attack his political competitors confirms that he is more interested in suppressing political competitors than fighting the Al Qaeda-affiliated Al-Shabaab militia. Indeed, rather than fight al-Shabaab, he hasΒ threatened to unleashΒ the group on Somalia’s neighbors.

It is time the United States, the European Union, and the African Union recognize what so many Somalis do and start to listen to them: Somalia will descend into civil war unless the international community changes its approach.

First, it is time to abandon Farmajo.Β HisΒ actionsΒ have dashedΒ whateverΒ hopesΒ greeted his selection. Somalis nowΒ compare their president as more destructive than COVID-19. He had his chance. He failed. It is time to move on.

Second, the United States should not only withhold aid until Villa Somalia dismissesΒ Fahad Yasin, the director of Somalia’s intelligence agency who has ties to terrorism, but also designate him for his terror connections.

Third, asΒ Tibor Nagy, Jr., the recently retired assistant secretary of State for African Affairs,Β noted, it is time β€œto consider strengthening links with Somaliland.” As Somalia descended into chaos, Somaliland reasserted its independence and has remained peaceful, secure, and democratic ever since. When Farmajo sabotaged elections, SomalilandΒ embraced them. Nagy’s calls for linksΒ need not mean recognizingΒ its independence, but a firmerΒ partnershipΒ could be inΒ both countries’ interests, especially given the threat of China’s rise.

Fourth, Congress should demand aΒ Special Inspector General for Somalia. Too much money has disappeared as the State Department spends more even as its strategy fails. If Yamamoto believes his strategy has succeeded, he should not oppose an audit.

Fifth, it is time to recognize that the key to Somali stability is not renewed dictatorship, but rather respect for democracy both in Mogadishu and at the local level. When I visited Puntland last month, I could walk around without fear or security. Regional President Said Abdullahi Dani has prioritized the economy, with visible success. In Jubaland, regional President Ahmed Madobe has likewise stabilized the situation. It is unfair for Yamamoto or UN Representative James Swan to behave like colonial governors and destabilizeΒ Somalia’s regionsΒ for the sake of their client in the center. Somalis will never accept Mogadishu dictatorship; Swiss or Emirati-style federalism is a better fitΒ in which local states run local affairs with the central government handling only fiscal policy and defense.

Somalis are today putting their lives on the line for democracy. It is time to listen. If the international community remains deaf or arrogantly insists they know better, the result will be a disaster that will reverberate far beyond Somalia’s borders.