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Analysing the risk of conflict in regional elections in Somalia

Somalia is scheduled to hold regional elections in the states of Jubaland on 24–30 August and Galmudug, probably in late 2019. The article analyses the risk of conflicts in these upcoming regional elections.

As regards, Jubaland, the Jubaland state presidential and parliamentary elections on 24–30 August may witness small-arms skirmishes between rival clans in the state capital of Kismayo, mostly outside political residences and, less likely, within the grounds of Kismayo airport.

Jubaland state president Ahmed is running for a re-election. Mohamed hails from the Ogaden clan, one of the two largest clans in Jubaland. His candidacy is opposed by clan elders representing the numerically largest clan in Jubaland, the Marehan, a Darod sub-clan shared with federal president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (alias “Farmaajo”), and by the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS).

The FGS is backing its own candidates from the rival Awlyhan, a sub-clan of the Ogaden, likely to try to split Ahmed Mohamed’s support base. A likely contested electoral process increases the risk of small-arms fighting between these rival militias in Kismayo, as well as within the grounds of Kismayo airport, from where clashes could take place between rival factions and JSF.

The Galmudug state elections take place in late 2019. The electoral delay stems from a dispute over the duration of regional president Ahmed Duale Gelle (alias “Haaf”)’s term in office. President Gelle rejects the FGS’s position that his term should have ended in July 2019 and that elections should already have been held. On 24 June, Gelle said that the election delay had resulted in a power-sharing agreement with the ASWJ having “completely broken down”.

It is possible that ASWJ may obtain the concessions demanded, thereby facilitating its relatively peaceful integration into government-aligned forces that will more effectively combat Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen (Al-Shabaab) in southern Somalia. Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre on 31 July, visited Galmudug to meet with the parties participating in the election and discussed options towards a resolution.

The risk of conflict runs in case the FGS-backed candidates attempt to enter Kismayo in the run-up to polling before the 24–30 August election. Small scale conflicts may take place increasing the risk of unintended damage to parked aircraft and the terminal building. In the unlikely event that no political concessions are offered to the ASWJ, its militia fighters are likely to break away and occupy key government buildings in Dhusamareb, as well as the airport there, and probably try to forcibly prevent the entry of both SNA and regional African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces.

If the turnout of clan elders, who pick candidates for the regional parliamentary seats, is low as the electoral process proceeds in both states, this will indicate that Al-Shabaab is successfully preventing them from participating in the electoral processes and increase the likelihood of electoral delays.

However, there may be a lowering of a risk of conflict if Ahmed Mohamed withdraws his candidacy in Jubaland. This will decrease the likelihood of disruption to Kismayo airport caused by militia fighting.

In the likely event that the ASWJ is offered senior cabinet posts and oversight of the electoral commission in Galmudug, this will increase the likelihood that regional elections in Galamudug are completed peacefully in late 2019.

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