Jubbaland, the Somalia federal state led by Ahmed Islam “Madobe,” heads to the polls next month in what could prove a tall order for new entrants, as the local electoral agency this week introduced stringent vetting measure for aspirants.
According to rules published on Thursday by the state’s electoral commission, candidates must pay $30,000 registration fee, must not be serving members of parliament or Cabinet and should have stayed in Somalia continuously for the past two years or more.
And, in what could further roil relations between Mogadishu and Jubbaland, the electoral body has barred candidates married to foreigners as well as those without university degrees or leadership experience of at least 10 years.
It was not immediately clear if Mogadishu would endorse the new rules and whether they were going to hold.
The proposals would be hard on suspected ‘joyriders’ in a country of about 16 million people but where just half of the men can read and write.
Just over a quarter of women are literate, according to a World Bank bulletin. Half of the population live in poverty and routinely suffer hunger and al-Shabaab attacks.
If the rules stand, it could knock out many Somali politicians, who hold foreign passports. The Interim Constitution is silent on dual or multiple nationality.
President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo and several members of his Cabinet hold dual nationalities.
But Jubbaland is something else: It is a key part of Somalia bordering Kenya, with a lucrative port and hydrocarbons and where Mogadishu has grown its interests lately as it tries to take control of the federal states.
Some experts have told The EastAfrican that the political battle in Kismayu is representative of the actual wrangles within the Somali political circles, but also shows the hand of foreign players.
“Somalis have agreed on some form of federal system of government. But the extent of that system has not been agreed upon,” Saed Faad, a Somali consultant on governance in the Horn of Africa said.
Madobe’s Jubbaland, he said, had been supportive of “serious” autonomy within Somalia, as has Puntland. Galmudug and Hirshabelle haven’t, while South West has neither been vocal or against it. Somaliland, on the other hand, has been demanding total independence from Somalia.
“As a result of the civil war, these areas supportive of total federalism do not want the same experience where their people were massacred in Mogadishu. But the current government in Mogadishu wants a more centralised type of federalism so they have tried to bring like-minded people to lead these regions,’ Mr Faad added.
In public, President Farmaajo has appeared supportive of federalism and recently appointed a committee of scholars to help push talks with Somaliland to reverse its latest stance
But his relations with Jubbaland, like most of the federal states has been lukewarm, leading to claims his administration could fund certain candidates against Madobe.
“Madobe has a 70 per cent chance of winning, but he has stiff competition from candidates backed by Mogadishu,” added Mr Faad.
Idd Bedel Mohamed, a former Somalia envoy to the UN, agrees there could be stiff competition, but argues Madobe’s latest strategy gives him a clear lead.
“All indications show President Farmaajo’s message to the international community is that Madobe will not be re-elected. This is short-sighted,” he told The EastAfrican.
“Madobe has shown strong campaigning, has got endorsement from key local clans and shown resilience to stand against Farmaajo’s Federal government power and resources to unseat him.”
As in any other Somalia elections, clan balancing is key.