Since his election in 2017, Somalian President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmaajo” (of the Darod/Marehan clan) has increasingly politicized his security agencies. While changeovers within the security agencies have accompanied every recent presidential election in Somalia, the extent to which Faarmajo has used such transitions to throttle opposition is unprecedented.
By contrast, fighting the al-Shabaab Islamic militant insurgents has frequently been a second priority. After fighting in the capital Mogadishu in April 2021, discussions started over a rebalancing of security agency heads to better guarantee peaceful elections.
Those discussions appear to have withered but should be restarted. If they are not, it will threaten peaceful elections and any potential transition after that.
Changing Somalia’s Military Leaders
A change of military leaders has followed every recent presidential transition, but the current administration has taken this trend to the extreme.
After new presidents came into office in 2009 and 2012, the Chief of Defence Force was replaced. Yet, in the two years after Faarmajo came to office, he replaced his Chief of Defence Force four times, rewarding political loyalty at the expense of experience and competence.
In August 2019, a 32-year-old officer was appointed. This latest chief was promoted straight from lieutenant colonel to brigadier, bypassing the rank of colonel. In contrast, a 32-year-old officer in the British Army might be a captain or a major.