Vote of no confidence “illegal”, but “in the interest of the country’s unity”: Somalia’s defeated Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire (Mogadishu, 1.3.2017)

The EU has responded with open interference and intimidation to the Somali Parliament’s vote of no confidence in Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire. This move represents “a setback for Somalia and for the European Union’s confidence in Somalia’s progress,” according to a statement released by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Sunday.

The circumstances of the vote in the House of Representatives “had not met the minimum constitutional requirements” and were “a serious disregard for the constitutional foundations of Somalia” in which the EU had “invested”. The Union would “carefully examine how this happened, who is responsible, and to what extent it is dissuading Somalia from the progress it has made and to which it has committed to its international partners.”

Similar command tones had already been announced on Saturday in a statement by the US embassy in Mogadishu: “This irregular process is a setback for the” reform agenda “that Somalia has pursued with the support of the US” and “undermines the stability of the whole nation” . The embassy calls “all Somali leaders, institutions and actors” not “to pursue their individual interests” but those of their country. “We will take action against the disruptive forces that are trying to undermine Somalia’s progress in stability, peace, orderly governance and prosperity. We don’t want Somalia to go in the wrong direction «.

The Somali parliament, to which 275 MPs belong, expressed mistrust to the head of government on Saturday with 170 votes to eight. The vote was surprising and was not on the agenda, the Somali media said. The 52-year-old Khaire then declared that the operation was illegal, but at the same time submitted his resignation “in the interest of the country’s unity”. President Mohammed Abdullahi Mohammed, called Farmajo, immediately accepted it on the grounds that “the rift between the government and Parliament is undermining progress”.

Farmajo had nominated Khaire as Prime Minister on February 23, 2017, and Parliament had approved the appointment on March 1, 2017. He was the longest-serving head of government since the start of the civil war in 1991. Like many other Somali politicians, Khaire has lived abroad for many years and is of second nationality, in his case Norwegian. Before he was appointed to the top of the government, he had been the director of a Somali oil company since 2013.

The background to the vote of no confidence in Khaire is the conflict over the re-election of the parliament and the president, which would normally be due this year but were postponed to February and August 2021, but also the not improved security situation in the country. Most recently, the MPs and the head of state were determined in 2016 and 2017 by neither democratically legitimate nor transparent agreements between the leaders of clans and other social groups. At the same time, it was promised at the time that 2020 – for the first time since 1969 – there would be general and free elections.

This is unrealistic, not only because of the rule of the Al-Shabab jihadist militia over large parts of Somalia, but also because of the lack of functioning state structures. Khaire is therefore one of those who – supported by the EU and the USA – want to continue to shape the “electoral process” in the “traditional way”. The majority of MPs and the President insist on the elections agreed four years ago, but take more time for the process. Khaire and the opposition accuse them of wanting to extend their terms uncontrollably.