President Farmajo calls for elections as allies withdraw support; Mogadishu to remain volatile – Somalia SITUATION UPDATE
President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo’s April 27 announcement that he will not pursue a two-year term extension is highly notable. With tensions escalating in Mogadishu and having lost support from allies, Farmajo likely had no other option but to back down on his desired term extension and to pursue elections.
However, it remains unclear how electoral stakeholders will proceed with inclusive dialogue and the implementation of the September 2020 electoral agreement after facing months of failed discussions over the same issues.
Given the extent of opposition and public anger toward Farmajo, any unfavorable outcome from the May 1 parliamentary sitting could elicit further backlash and demonstrations in Mogadishu. In turn, Farmajo may aim to subvert the narrative and blame the opposition for endangering national security. Such a scenario heightens the possibility of further violent clashes in the coming days.
Please be advised:
In the evening hours of April 27, President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo addressed the nation, announcing that he will not pursue a two-year term extension and will hold a special parliamentary session on May 1 to relaunch the electoral process.
Farmajo further called for the immediate resumption of unconditional dialogue between electoral stakeholders and reiterated his commitment to the September 2020 electoral agreement.
Earlier on April 27, Hirshabelle State President Ali Guudlawe and Galmudug State President Ahmed Kaliye, alias Qoor Qoor, withdrew their support for President Farmajo’s two-year term extension and called for the implementation of the September 17, 2020, electoral agreement along with the resumption of dialogue between electoral stakeholders.
Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble also issued a statement welcoming the announcement by Hirshabelle and Galmudug leaders and called for all five Federal Member States (FMS) to commit to renewed, inclusive dialogue and to prepare for elections.
Furthermore, PM Roble called for Somali National Army (SNA) and opposition force commanders to withdraw their troops from Mogadishu and to “cease all hostilities.”
Opposition presidential candidates including leader Abdirahman Abdishakur and former Presidents Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Hassan Sheikh Mohamud also expressed support for these statements on social media.
The US Embassy in Mogadishu issued a statement on April 27 in support of these announcements, and called for President Farmajo to accept “a clear path to dialogue and peace.”
Meanwhile, in Mogadishu, pro-government and opposition security elements remain deployed across the city, with several neighborhoods throughout the Hodan, Hawlwadag, Shibis, and Yaqshid districts under the control of opposition forces. Residents, primarily from Hodan and Hawlwadag districts, reportedly continued to flee Mogadishu on April 27 fearing renewed clashes.
The capital reportedly remained calm on April 27, however, sources indicate that President Farmajo recalled additional pro-government forces to Mogadishu from Dhusamareb in Galmudug, Baladweyne in Hirshabelle, and Gedo Region in Jubaland to secure his position.
Assessment & Forecast:
With tensions rapidly escalating in Mogadishu, the statements by Hirshabelle and Galmudug Presidents, and the subsequent endorsement from PM Roble, have effectively united all five FMS against President Farmajo’s attempts to remain in power for an additional two years. Hirshabelle and Galmudug State Presidents had remained staunch supporters of Farmajo and his administration until this point, backing Farmajo’s position at repeated FGS-FMS discussions before and after the February 8 election deadline and initially supporting the Lower House of Parliament’s resolution to extend his term. However, with the opposition mobilizing extensive support from clan militias, police commissioners, and certain SNA units in recent days, and demonstrating their ability to successfully counter pro-government security elements in Mogadishu, it is plausible that the Hirshabelle and Galmudug leaders were pressured to either withdraw support for Farmajo or enter into armed conflict on his behalf.
While the exact circumstances that motivated their announcement remain unclear, it is possible that urgent negotiations among political figures and clan leaders facilitated by PM Roble convinced Qoor Qoor and Guudlawe that such action was necessary to defuse the situation in Mogadishu. Moreover, given PM Roble’s immediate expression of support for the Hirshabelle and Galmudug statements and his efforts to quell tensions in Mogadishu, it appears that he has significantly distanced himself from Farmajo in recent days. While PM Roble had previously attempted to maintain neutrality throughout the electoral impasse and repeatedly facilitated negotiations with Farmajo’s opponents including Jubaland and Puntland states and the Presidential Candidates Union (PCU), electoral stakeholders continued to perceive him as Farmajo’s closest ally. Therefore, his break with Farmajo is notable and could have also motivated Qoor Qoor and Guudlawe to do the same.
Having lost support from allies within the FGS, FMS, and from international partners like the US and EU, Farmajo likely understood that his current position was untenable, and thereby has no other option but to back down on his desired term extension and to resume the electoral process. FORECAST: However, despite the significance of his announcement, it’s unclear how electoral stakeholders will proceed with inclusive dialogue and the implementation of the September 2020 FGS-FMS electoral agreement after facing months of failed discussions over the same issues. For instance, although Parliament will likely rule to renew the electoral process on May 1, with the Lower House allied to Farmajo, the body could vote to delay elections for some time to provide for sufficient stakeholder dialogue, which in turn will allow Farmajo to remain in office for an indefinite extended period. Furthermore, although all parties reiterated their commitment to inclusive dialogue as a way forward to elections, the parties are likely to once again disagree on the conditions for negotiations as Farmajo has already called for “unconditional” talks while PCU members will likely demand Farmajo’s resignation before discussions move ahead. Ultimately however, Farmajo remains unlikely to resign, further entrenching the mistrust between all parties.
FORECAST: Given the potential for these same issues to derail renewed discussions and the electoral process, it is possible that international partners, particularly the US, will ramp-up pressure on stakeholders to agree to the conditions for negotiations. In this context, the US endorsement of the position adopted by Hirshabelle and Galmadug, is notable and may likely result in other international partners such as the EU, UK, and Norway endorsing the same position. While such a scenario further reduces Farmajo’s thus far relatively steady international support, it remains highly unlikely that international actors will intervene, apart from further threats, and the possible imposition of sanctions on specific FGS or FMS leaders, additional reduction of humanitarian and security aid.
FORECAST: In terms of the security environment, given that pro and anti-government forces remain deployed across Mogadishu, the security situation is poised to remain extremely volatile with a heightened risk for further clashes. Although some opposition contingents have reportedly withdrawn from various areas of the capital and may heed PM Roble’s call, given that additional pro-Farmajo SNA troops are slated to arrive in Mogadishu, opposition elements are likely to remain on high alert and prepared for potential confrontations. Additionally, given the extent of opposition and public anger toward Farmajo, any unfavorable outcome from the May 1 parliamentary sitting could elicit further backlash and opposition demonstrations in Mogadishu. Given this possibility, Farmajo is likely to aim to subvert the narrative, and blame opposition forces and protesters for endangering national security, and may use loyalist forces to repress the opposition. Such a scenario heightens the possibility of further violent clashes in the coming days.
Those operating or residing in Mogadishu on April 28 and in the coming days should minimize movement throughout the city due to the potential for renewed clashes between pro-Farmajo and anti-Farmajo forces in multiple districts.
Those in Mogadishu are advised to consider organizing contingency and evacuation plans.
Death of President Magufuli likely to result in fraught transition process, renewal of power struggle within ruling CCM party – Tanzania Analysis
The death of President John Magufuli comes just four months after he was sworn into office for a second term. Given the two-week uncertainty regarding his whereabouts, the fact that Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan made the announcement is significant and may be a sign of adherence to constitutional protocol regarding presidential succession.
However, the transition process may be fraught, as factionalism within the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) is likely to remerge over the coming weeks as other party figures may seek greater influence.
Given this factionalism, elites within the CCM may attempt to attract loyalty from institution heads of the judiciary, intelligence, and security services by proffering them positions within government if their factions manage to capture power within the state.
Opposition response to President Magufuli’s passing is likely to be relatively inconsequential. The two major opposition parties may pursue divergent courses of action but have nonetheless been marginalized over the years and thus will have limited effect.
Any calls for the public mobilization of supporters are likely to fail, given their inability to organize and fears of suppression by security forces. The situation on the ground in Tanzania will also likely remain calm over the coming days.
Those operating or residing in Tanzania are advised to maintain vigilance and avoid the vicinity of gatherings as a general precaution due to political uncertainty.
Please be advised
In a televised address, Tanzania’s Vice President (VP) Samia Suluhu Hassan announced that President John Magufuli died in a hospital in Dar es Salaam on March 17. Hassan stated that Magufuli died of heart complications after being hospitalized at Dar es Salaam’s Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac Institute on March 6.
President Magufuli was reportedly last seen in public on February 27. Multiple opposition leaders had alleged that Magufuli was ill, potentially with COVID-19 and that he had sought treatment abroad. This remains unconfirmed.
Vice President Hassan announced that there would be a 14-day period of national mourning. As per constitutional protocols, VP Hassan is to be sworn in as President for the unexpired period of the five-year mandate won by Magufuli.
However, this process has not been confirmed by the government at the time of writing. Additionally, following consultation with the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), a new VP will be appointed.
Following the announcement of President Magufuli’s passing, the opposition ACT-Wazalendo party issued a statement noting the loss for the Tanzanian people. The party also welcomed incoming President Samia Suluhu Hassan.
Furthermore, the main opposition Chadema party stated that it would hold a press conference at 17:00 (local time) on March 18, and would issue a statement on the matter following party discussions.
Sources on March 18 noted that the situation in Dar es Salaam remained calm, with traffic moving normally, albeit with a light security presence.
Assessments & Forecast
The transition process may be fraught, with tensions likely over new President Hassan’s status in CCM
The death of President Magufuli is highly significant and comes after he was not seen in public for more than two weeks. Furthermore, it is notable that Magufuli passed away only four months into his second term in office. Magufuli won controversial elections held on October 28, polls that he was always likely to prevail in given his dominance within the CCM, effective sidelining of the political opposition, and shrinking of political space nationally. More recently, Magufuli had been a vocal skeptic of COVID-19, urging Tanzanians to shun wearing masks while also denouncing vaccines as a Western conspiracy. VP Samia Suluhu Hassan had publicly supported Magufuli, often representing Tanzania abroad, but has been noted as being more amenable to dialogue. The fact that VP Hassan made the announcement of Magufuli’s passing is notable, given the general government’s aversion to scrutiny and doubts over whether constitutional protocol would be followed in the immediate term.
As per Article 37 of the Constitution, succession protocols are that the VP is sworn in for the remaining period of the five-year term. Following this, as per Article 40 guidelines, after consultations with the party of the President, the head of state shall propose the new VP. However, the new VP can only be sworn in after being confirmed by the National Assembly by obtaining a vote of no less than 50 percent of all MPs in Parliament. In this context, while the succession plan appears to be straightforward, it is likely there still remain concerns over the transition process, especially considering VP Hassan’s uncertain status within the CCM hierarchy.
While Hassan has been VP since 2015, the fact that she hails from Zanzibar is likely to cause friction within the CCM, given that Tanzania has never had a President from Zanzibar, and more broadly given the historically tense relations between the mainland and Zanzibar. Furthermore, given that President Magufuli had often pursued Christian-centric policies while in government, Hassan being Muslim may be an unpopular choice for Christian hardliners within the party. That said, there are reports that Hassan may be backed by CCM factions that continue to support former president Jakaya Kikwete, especially those factions with a strong Muslim presence.
FORECAST: In light of this uncertainty, it remains plausible that the transition process will be tense. Magufuli occupied a strong and especially centralized role and his absence could leave a significant gap. Even if Hassan is able to take power in accordance with the constitutional procedure, tensions are especially likely in the nominations for the new VPs, where MPs will attempt to lobby to allow favorable candidates to take the position. Within the CCM, it remains probable that factionalism, which was the inherent state of the CCM before Magufuli assumed power, will return.
Magufuli’s ascension to power enabled by CCM factionalism but later subverted by his centralization of power
Factionalism was especially prevalent in the CCM during the reign of President Kikwete from 2005-2015, wherein he struggled to exercise control over the CCM’s ruling coalition. Instead, Kikwete depended on a powerful mtandao, or network, to maintain power. However, this network fractured into a competing group, which he struggled to reconcile. Given these tensions, Kikwete adopted the most inclusive candidate selection procedure CCM has ever had, allowing all party members to participate, highlighting how the president was caught between various factions.
However, Magufuli’s ascension to power changed this dynamic, given that he was considered an outsider with no mtandao to speak of. His rise to power itself was a result of a complex sequence of intra-party tensions, where two major factions broke CCM rules and effectively knocked each other out of running for the presidency. Following this, Magufuli reversed the CCM dynamic, centralizing power over committees and agencies under his control both as President and, from mid-2016, as CCM Chairman. Magufuli accomplished this by limiting independent sources of political finance, along with wide-ranging party reforms allowing him to undermine rival factions within CCM and thereby reinforce his own power.
FORECAST: In the absence of a figure like Magufuli, there remains a high likelihood that factions within the CCM will re-emerge, with various leaders attempting to shore up support to challenge Hassan during the transition process. Given the paucity of information on CCM dynamics at the time of writing, it remains unclear which particular leaders may emerge as potential candidates vying for either the VP position or just greater power within the CCM. Just as Magufuli came to power as a relative outsider, there remains a possibility that another leader who may be unheralded may garner enough support to attempt to capitalize on the political instability. Furthermore, it remains plausible that supporters of Magufuli within the CCM will lobby for policies followed under the former president to remain unchanged.
A resurgence of divisions within CCM heightens the potential for jockeying for influence within state institutions, as the possibility of civil unrest remains muted
FORECAST: Given the likely resurgence of factionalism within the CCM, leaders who were sidelined or given less authority under Magufuli may seek to court influence with various state institutions such as the judiciary, intelligence, and security services. This strategy will allow competing factions to better position themselves in terms of their ability to influence both political and ground situations. While Magufuli had centralized all these institutions unto himself, faction leaders may aim to attract loyalty from institution heads by offering them positions within government if their factions managed to capture power.
However, this strategy is fraught, given the possibility that various important institutions allied to various competing factions may undermine the overall stability of the state, especially in the case of the military and the police. Given that Magufuli used the security services, and intelligence agencies to undermine party rivals and the opposition, thereby offering them a foothold in politics, there also remains a latent probability that powerful security elites may aim to use to leverage to their advantage, further entrenching securitization of the political environment and instituting a democratic backslide. That said, a military takeover of the government remains highly unlikely, given the military has traditionally adhered to civilian control of state institutions.
FORECAST: Given these conditions, the opposition response to Magufuli’s passing is likely to be relatively inconsequential. Both of the main opposition parties, namely the ACT-Wazalendo and the Chadema party, may take divergent stances. For instance, ACT-Wazalendo has called for the immediate installation of Hassan and cautioned against allowing a power vacuum to form. The Chadema party, at the time of writing, is yet to publicize its position on the transition process. However, it remains likely that Chadema will adopt a more aggressive stance as compared to ACT-Wazalendo. Chadema leader Tundu Lissu, who now resides in exile in Belgium, remains a strident critic of the Magufuli administration, who he claims was responsible for his assassination attempt in 2017. Given these conditions, the chances of opposition-led protests are dim, especially since the opposition parties remain weak and incapable of mobilizing supporters either through lack of ground coordination or the fear of suppression by security forces if demonstrations do arise.
FORECAST: The situation on the ground in Tanzania, and especially in Dar es Salaam and other major urban hubs such as Arusha, is likely to remain relatively calm. While small-scale gatherings of civil society activists who may call for greater democratic freedoms after Magufuli’s passing cannot be ruled out, precedent dictates that such gatherings are unlikely to cause any significant disruptions. Security forces, who were already loosely deployed to Dar es Salaam before the official announcement of Magufuli’s death, will likely not allow any public demonstrations or disruptions to official national mourning.
Those operating or residing in Tanzania are advised to maintain vigilance and avoid the vicinity of gatherings as a general precaution due to political uncertainty.
Travel to Dar es Salaam, Dodoma, and Arusha can continue while adhering to general security precautions regarding the risk of crime.
Avoid openly espousing political views or demonstrating affiliation to local parties, either in person or online, due to political tensions and a restrictive political climate.
People’s Congress abolishes presidential term limits on March 11; military expansion and cyber monitoring expected to increase – China Analysis
This report was initially published on March 8 and was updated on March 12 following new developments.
Constitutional amendments abolishing term limits for the President and Vice President were passed by the The National People’s Conference (NPC) of the People’s Republic of China on March 11.
US President Donald Trump reportedly joked about the constitutional changes during a private fundraiser on March 4, praising President Xi for the move. The Taiwan Travel Act was passed by both houses of US Congress by late February, paving the way for closer US-Taiwan ties, although President Trump has not signed it into law as of publication.
On October 24, 2017, the NPC approved the addition of Xi Jinping’s philosophy into the constitution. Placing the philosophy of a living Chinese ruler into the constitution has not occurred since Mao Zedong, the founder of modern China. President Xi Jinping also neglected to name a successor to his post during the close of the 2017 legislative session, in a break with recent tradition.
China is expanding its regional military footprint
On March 5, the Chinese government announced that the military budget would increase by 8.1 percent in 2018, the largest such increase in three years. The Chinese navy conducted drills in the Indian Ocean near the Maldives in late January, which followed calls from Maldivian opposition for the Indian army to intervene in the island country’s political unrest. Beijing is also considering installing a military base in northeast Afghanistan and a naval base in Gwadar, Pakistan, according to Western and Chinese media, although the government has denied such reports. China opened a small naval base in Djibouti in July 2017, and also recently increased the frequency of air patrols near Taiwan and disputed South China Sea islands, having commissioned both Russian and Chinese-made next-generation stealth fighter planes into service in early 2018.
Cyber monitoring on the rise
Instances of cyber-censorship have risen following the initial announcement of the potential amendments in February, with words and phrases related to disapproval of the changes being filtered out of Chinese social media. Recent cybersecurity laws requiring Chinese data to be restored domestically also raised concern from human rights groups in early 2018, the most notable instance of enforcement being Apple locating its cloud storage servers in the country.
Assessments & Forecast
President Xi’s political control, cyber monitoring to increase with passage of amendments
President Xi is now very likely to extend his time in office beyond two terms, especially now that recent reshuffling has eliminated the influence of President Xi’s rivals at the upper echelons of government. The removal of term and age limitations also suggests that Wang Qishan, who is 69 and one of the president’s closest allies, will return as Vice President. Wang initially led President Xi’s sweeping anti-corruption campaign that resulted in the jailing of multiple political opponents, among others. The CPC will be able to continue removing potential political challenges to President Xi’s rule under Wang’s extended oversight.
Online censorship and monitoring are expected to increase in the wake of the amendments. Apple’s storage of data in-country means that the Chinese government will enjoy access to users’ data that was previously unattainable, and given precedent, will use the information in order to initiate criminal proceedings against notable online dissent. Other tech companies are now more likely to accommodate policies they would have elsewhere opposed in order to gain access to the Chinese market after Apple’s acquiescence. FORECAST: Heavy scrutiny of public perceptions of the CPC will be enabled by new access granted by foreign businesses, especially as President Xi continues to dominate headlines in the wake of the announcement.
China to continue military expansion in pursuit of strategic interests, tensions with US will remain
Chinese military adventurism is on the rise following the fall 2017 reshuffling in Beijing, which is directly related to President Xi’s more secure position. This type of posturing is therefore liable to continue as he continues to put an emphasis on the development of blue water naval capabilities. As China’s military expansion is liable to aggravate relations with regional antagonists, an increasingly militaristic posture towards Taiwan and the South China Sea will continue to raise tensions with the US, and recent naval exercises near the Maldives will do the same with India. However, Chinese military policy is by and large an extension of its foreign interests and not a desire to simply be more assertive. This is illustrated by the genuine need for security in places in strategic areas, such as Djibouti, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
Diplomatic relations between Beijing and Washington will not drop significantly in the aftermath of the amendments, although minor provocations will continue periodically. President Trump’s recent reported statements indicate at least a private acceptance of President Xi’s power by the White House. Although the recent passage of pro-Taiwan legislation in the US Congress suggests that the two branches of government are not fully coordinated in their China posture, both are reticent to significantly escalate tensions given the considerable economic implications. Both countries will continue building and asserting their regional presence, mostly taking the form of maritime and aerial patrols near contested areas, as outright conflict remains highly unlikely.
Travel to China may continue at this time while adhering to standard security protocols given the latent threat of militancy and crime.
Travel in Beijing and other major Chinese cities is generally safe but we advise to keep your passport on your person or have a copy of your ID. Major tourist sites will often have a large security presence, including plainclothed police officers or private security staff.
Practice vigilance over the storage of data and personal communications while operating in China due to the increased environment of surveillance and scrutiny.