By Ahmed Ibrahim, Ph.D
Not long ago, stability and security in Somalia seemed possible. However, the Somali Government growing ties with Qatar, a country many consider as a state sponsor of radical Islamist has shattered any hope of Somalia achieving peace and security. Today, there is a growing concern that Qatar’s influence and control over the government supported by proxy allies Al-Islah, the Muslim Brotherhood in Somalia and Al-Itisam, a radical Salafi with strong ties to Al-Qa’ida as well as Al-Shabaab is establishing Islamist radical government that directly poses significant threat security and stability of Somalia and the region.
A year ago, Somalia finally had a new national government that promised it would lift the people out of the predicament, positive relations with the country’s Federal Member States, clans and sub-clans and International Community. But President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo, and Prime Minister Hassan Ali Kheyre have squandered the opportunity, by building a dangerous alliance with Fahad Yasin, who is making Somalia a subservient to Qatar, making them most internally and externally isolated Somali government.
According to experts, Farmaajo was not expecting to win the 2017 election and thus he was not prepared to lead and govern. He had a vague program, and lacked the leadershp, experience and decisiveness in decision making as statesman. The tumultuous pace after the election left little time for Farmaajo to build a solid government for Somalia. Instead, Farmaajo relied on Fahad- Itisam and the Muslim Brotherhood machine, a secretive organization that relies on loyal members to shape his government and is financed by Qatar.
Qatar’s Support to Somalia-based Radical Islamist
Qatar has long played a disruptive role in Somalia, providing financial and material support to radical Islamist groups, hoping to expand Salafist Takfiri ideology and the Muslim Brotherhood influence to Somalia and the region. Qatar has cultivated radical groups as proxies. It has augmented Somalia’s instability by providing intelligence, weapons, and protection to radical Islamist.
But years of pressure have failed to induce Doha to change. Qatar through Fahad seeks to create an unstable Somalia that becomes a safe-haven for tradical groups and a dangerous playground for outside powers. Qatar and its proxy allies are betting that Islamist elements in the Farmaajo – Kheyre government will in the long run gain and maintain power or have significant influence in Somalia for the foreseeable future.
Many were glad that for the first time since the collapse of the Siyad Barre regime, a Somali government had went against an Arab State. Many Somalis resent the Gulf States because of perceived interference in internal Somalia affairs. Qatari media led by Al Jazeera as well as paid Somali news websites played crucial role in establishing narratives and messages that painted UAE in a negative light and the government in a positive light. Qatari controlled Bots and trolls managed by Al-Jazeera spun the conflict, according to reports.
An Atlantic Council’s article –Somalia Continuing Crisis Worsens with UAE Dispute, states ” from the point of view of the United States and other allies, more worrisome, is that the FGS has apparently taken sides. Moreover, Mogadishu’s choice appears to be driven, in some measure, by a cabal within the already-fragile regime with a clear Islamist agenda”.
The issues is not whether the Somali government had a legitimate right to confront UAE, but the role Qatar, and its media as well as paid Somalia media played in manipulating the Somali citizens. Qatar pays Somali online media sites as well as television stations that are playing an important role on defining political disputes, propagating propaganda and targeting opposition figures and foreign governments as well as Somali regional presidents. According to credible sources, and many analysis including my own, since the elections, the paid Somali media had 90% positive coverage of Farmaajo – Kheyre government and only 4% positive coverage of opposition to the government.
In the wake of Somalia seizure of nearly $10 million, Qatar and Al-Jazeera trolls and bots grabbed the attention of Somalia social media sites, provoking emotions, and spreading propaganda, according to western intelligence sources. Qatar intelligence and Al-Jazeera paid fake news spread like wild fire in the Somalia media. U.S. troll and bot-tracking sites reported increase anti-UAE fake news on Facebook and twitter from sites affiliated with Qatari Intelligence and Al Jazeera political propaganda bots and twitter accounts, as part of Qatar’s paid Somalia influencing campaign.
On March 20, 2018, Qatar appointed an Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Somalia to safeguard its interest in the war torn country. During the crisis, Fahad and Kheyre routinely interact with Senior Qatari Intelligence Officer to coordinate campaigns against UAE, according to credible sources. Since October, the Qatari Intelligence Officers had direct access to Villa Somalia, pushing the government to abandon the neutral position in the Gulf crisis. In return, Qatar promised to significant financial support.
What is clear in the current Somalia – UAE conflict was manufactured by Qatari Intelligence and executed by Kheyre and Fahad serving their masters in Doha. Despite Farmaajo claims of neutrality, Fahad and Kheyre have decided long ago to hitch their wagon to Qatari masters and proxy allies, risking the future of Somalia. Fahad in conversations with Qatar offered to further escalate the conflict with UAE, but were overruled by Doha, because Qatar sensing that it has accomplished its goal of humiliating UAE and did not want to escalate out of fear that the situation with UAE could potentially go out of hand.
For all the accolades given to him since the 2017 election, Fahad Yasin has miserably failed to move beyond corrupt political disputes and perpetual self inflicted crisis. He has done more in one year to ruin Somalia and set the political reconciliation process and trust in government back decades. In less than a year since his appointment, Fahad has been responsible for never ending crisis that started with Qalbi-Dhagax, followed by conflicts with Hirshabelle, Galmudug, and Southwest as well as conflicts UAE, speaker of the parliament, firing or resignation of more than a dozen members of the cabinet.
Fahad is a dangerous and a morphing threat to the security and stability of Somalia and the region. He is also a one trick pony who only knows fighting and lacks the statesmen qualities necessary to navigate Somalia’s political and security issues at this challenging time.
Farmaajo – Kheyre Government Fails to Govern
It was a new atmosphere full of promise in Somalia after the election. Somali people were demanding more from their politicians than mere survival. Farmaajo promised re-establishing strong state institutions, reducing corruption, and providing services to the people. The prospects of establishing a new inclusive political environment and stable and secure state seemed within reach.
It never happened. Rather than consolidating these gains, Farmaajo, Kheyre and Fahad used the opportunity to settle political scores with opposition political figures and foreign governments. The government formation process turnout to be yet another corrupt process and opportunity for Qatar to establish radical Islamist state as they previously attempted for their support to the Al-Itihad Al–Islamiya, the Council of Islamic Court and Al-Shabaab in Somalia.
Farmaajo’s election provided Qatar with a new opportunity in which Fahad is governing the country, albeit with many strong uncertainties. Farmaajo and Kheyre hold offices, but the government, the parliament as well as the security forces and judiciary are now working for Fahad. Moreover, the state institutions (most importantly Villa Somalia, the Ministries of Interior, Security, Judiciary and the Foreign Affairs) are filled by loyalist of Fahad who are eager to please him and support his efforts to establish radical institutions.
Moreover Fahad is utilizing Somali securty forces to eliminate oppositions. In a damming report, western intelligence sources have said that senior Al-Shabaab Amniyat leaders work for Fahad, and benefit from direct support with the knowledge and approval of Kheyre.
The report mentioned in the Atlantic Council’s article identifies Fahad, Abdulkadir Mohamed (Jama), Zakariya Ismail and Sadiq John, the head of NISA in Banadir working with Amniyat and providing financial and material support to Al-Shabaab.
There is much talk in Mogadishu about Fahad using NISA units to arrest opposition figures, often in the middle of the night, whisking them to secret jails, often never to be seen again. Many opposition and activists were targeted using NISA and were neither charged with crimes nor brought before a judge, according to reports.
Somalia is entering a period of more uncertainty, becoming increasingly isolated and unstable because of Qatar’s interference in internal issues. Farmaajo – Kheyre decision to be subservient to Qatar and its proxy war will have significant negative impact on the future of Somalia and the region.
Fahad and Kheyre will probably escalate their war against Puntland, Jubaland and Hirshabelle in order to destabilize the regions, and implement the Al-Islah and Itisam plans of ending federalism and establishing Islamist government in Somalia. Fahad and Kheyre will continue to use Qatari funds and paid media to destabilize the regions, using a false narrative and Somalia – UAE crisis to undermine their authority.
Fahad has initiated the plan to destabilize Jubaland, using Qatari funds and former Minister Abdullahi Elmoge Hirsi, as well as a new paid opposition group from Gedo region. Fahad and Kheyre are also using Qatari funds to finance campaign against Puntland President Abdiweli Gas, with the goal of financing a challenge to Puntland presidency later on this year.
The Farmaajo – Kheyre – Fahad government instead of uniting Somalia and waging a robust war against Al-Shabaab, will instead continue to serve the interests of Qatar, and its proxy allies Al-Islah and Al-Itisam and wage political campaign against Federal Member States, in an attempt to end federalism in Somalia.
Fahad Yasin will continue to serve Qatar and push its interests ahead of Somalia and the Somali people. Farmaajo, Kheyre and Fahad will remain useful tool until and when it reconciles with GCC governments, and that will be the day of reckoning for them, because they will lose the only source they have and the wheels will come off this failed government.
Ahmed Ibrahim, Ph.D
Dr. Ahmed Ibrahim is a former senior United Nations official who served in the Africa, the Middle East and the United Nations Head Quarters in New York. Dr. Ibrahim is a security and development consultant as well as freelance writer and report based in Nairobi, Kenya.