Reports from Mogadishu indicate that elements of the Somali parliament are pushing for a no-confidence vote against the government as part of a strategy to change the federal government position vis-à-vis the Gulf crisis between Qatar, and the other Arab states. If true, the actions to undermine the new federal government represent an unlawful attempt to negatively influence government policies on behalf of foreign governments against the interests of Somalia.
Although it is too early to judge the new federal government, the sense in Somalia is that despite many challenges, the new leaders have restored national pride. Therefore it’s highly problematic for the future of Somalia, if a few members of parliaments can overturn the will of the majority in Somalia.
Reports suggest that the group is using external funds from an Arab state to influence and change the government on important geo-political and anti-corruption initiatives the new government has championed. Intransigent individuals and allies of the former government who oppose the government are also financing the opposition group in the federal parliament.
The government’s decision to take a neutral stand in the Arab states dispute with Qatar although welcomed by majority of Somalis who viewed it as a prudent policy, the policy however did not sit well with an Arab state which criticized the government’s stand. The Arab state did not criticize Jordan, Morocco, Algeria, Sudan, and Tunisia as well as other non-Arab states who also chose to stay neutral and called for a dialogue between Qatar and Arab states.
Unlike the other neutral states with strong intelligence and internal security, Somalia lacks the capabilities to investigate and prosecute influencing agents of foreign governments, resulting in free for all, where some are paid by hostile governments to negatively influence Somalia. This environment is fuelled by corrupt and greedy so-called politicians who worked to undermine the effectiveness of successive governments and contributed to the poor state of the nation.
Since the start of the current Gulf crisis, the Mogadishu-based government has faced external pressures, including the delay and/or cancellation of financial commitments made since the election in early February. Although the external pressures were expected due to the historical use of financial blackmail by some Arab states to pressure the governments, the use of these resources to buy internal witting actors including current and former members of the parliament constitutes a direct threat to the sovereignty, stability, and the national security of the republic.
In addition, the idea that Somali nationals are working for foreign governments to exert influence and shape the government’s foreign policy and national security decision although not new, the overt effort raises serious concerns.
The onus is on the federal government to use existing laws to investigate and prosecute individuals who are suspected foreign agents. The government should adopt a zero-tolerance policy to suspected agents to limit their corrosive influence over state affairs. It is also the duty of the other co-equal branch of the government to take a stand against individuals and groups who are working against the national interest of Somalia.
-The federal government must reconstitute external focused intelligence services to combat the influence of foreign governments in Somalia. Establishing an intelligence agency separate from the current National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) to focus on the activities of foreign nationals in Somalia is critical to the security and stability of the nation, developing the government’s capabilities to monitor foreign nationals and other individuals who are working against the interests of Somalia.
-The federal government must start instituting security clearance process for members of the executive, and the parliament, including polygraph and financial disclosures. The polygraph is a useful tool to identify and prosecute agents of foreign governments and corrupt government officials. The security process should include financial disclosure of private assets, and connections to foreign nationals.
-Establish a law enforcement agency to investigate and prosecute individuals suspected of working for or collaborating with foreign governments against the interest of Somalia.
-Require members of the executive branch and parliament to seek approval from the government prior to meeting with foreign governments’ representatives in Somalia or outside the country. The failure to comply should result in suspension of all privileges of the member including freezing of salary and benefits until the individual is cleared.
-Require diplomats and foreign nationals to seek permission from the Ministry of Internal Security (MIS) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOA) for any meeting with government employees, officials and members of parliament as well as travel outside of the capital Mogadishu or within defined area of operations. Failure to comply should result in persona non-grata of the diplomat and the foreign nationals.
-Ban all gifts from foreign governments, nationals, and companies to members of the government including members of the parliament.
-Changing the federal parliament no-confidence vote for prime minister from simple 51% majority to 67% two-third majority vote. This procedural change will probably limit the use of no confidence by foreign governments and opposition figures to blackmail and influence government policies. Ethiopia and Kenya have repeatedly used the no-confidence vote to blackmail successive governments, using influence over Somali regional states voting blocs to shape internal Somali affairs to their benefit.
For more than two decades, the governments of Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and Djibouti as well as Arab states have used unfettered access to Somalia to advance their agenda, influencing regional governments, triggering political crisis that undermined meaningful political and security progress in Somalia. The Arab states are using economic incentives including port deals, humanitarian assistance and other financial support mechanisms to the regions in an attempt to influence and shape the federal government.
In conclusion, the federal government can only stop foreign meddling if internal security rules and policies are strengthened and there is a heightened state of awareness, vigilance, and nationalism. The free for all state where some are working for foreign governments and against the national interests is a serious threat to the future of Somalia and must be stopped.
By Mo Fatah