Who owns the “elections” in Somalia?

Apparently there’re elections taking place in Somalia.  A process best described as an event with special kind of tribal discriminatory price auction in all but name, it has the nation gripped for much of the year like a poisonous spectacle of mass distraction that fixates and paralyses at the same time, rendering onlookers cattle fit for slaughterhouse.  I can’t say much about the “elections” which hasn’t been said before by others more informed about the intricacies as played out in practice, notwithstanding self-evident intimidations, bribery and clan dynamics.  However, I want to briefly guide you through some figures and see if we can lift the curtain and glimpse the puppeteers pulling the strings.  We ask first: Who owns the “elections” in Somalia?

As with almost everything in Somalia, nothing is what it seems.  In general, the accepted common knowledge about elections are that ownership lies with whoever is funding it and that, all other things being equal, winners of elections are by and large those with the greatest amounts of money to spend.  Therefore in Somalia those who own the election will own the parliament and the government, and by extension the country and its destiny.  Because of this principal-agency relationship exposes the Western powers’ grip hold over Somalia, which in turn risks delegitimising the electoral process in the eyes of many Somali citizens on whose behalf this theatre was being concocted, the international community is very sensitive about openly disclosing how much they spend on “managing” the Somali elections.  Such reluctance is reflected by their reporting practices under new deal aid flow data, where Peacebuilding and Statebuilding Goal (PSG) appropriated figures to “elections” are limited to yearly reoccurring “democratization” budget.  Mainly channelled through United Nations’ multi partner trust fund projects, no one in their right mind would believe that these relatively modest figures are encapsulate the full picture of election expenses, but it’s overall clear that we’re dealing with a negligible and predictable consistent amounts spent even on non-election years.  You can see below details of amounts spent on the electoral process from 2014 to 2016 and booked under PSG’s Inclusive Politics.

 Reported Aid Flows Against PSG 1: Inclusive Politics (World Bank Group)

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So where do we look and what method would be most appropriate in adopting to identify the domineering group or groups with the highest impact on the election outcomes?  It’s no use going after multilateral agencies that are funded themselves or whose funding involvement is Somalia isn’t necessarily political, and most definitely not election-related.  What we’re left with are the donor countries.  Given the complicated multi-layered structures of multi partner and multi donor funds, more often than not simply conduit vehicles used and abused as fronts, a degree of judgement is required to determine the most effective grouping for analytical purposes.  One of the necessary criteria is that such a group must have both proven track record of monopolizing the Somali agenda and motives for doing so along with existing capabilities.  Final element is that there should be a level of homogeneity as basis for a common unified interest and an ample opportunities or shared organizational platform which allows coordination.  After taking all of that into consideration, we’re left with one unique group; namely Club de Paris, better known as the Paris Club creditors.

Paris Club creditors’ claims against Somalia averaged about $1.5 billion since this secretive group started publishing annual ‘Amounts due to Paris Club Creditor Countries by foreign sovereign and other public debtors’ from 2008.  Paris Club members can easily prey on debtor countries, especially institutionally weak states like Somalia, and any of these creditor countries can bilaterally increase, decrease or manipulate their claims through Official Development Assistance (ODA) and non-Official Development Assistance (NODA) book entries.  Below chart shows aggregated outstanding Somali national debt held by the Paris Club as this creditors club doesn’t disclose breakdown of country-by-country claims.

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As the scale doesn’t allow clear naked-eye analysis of debt fluctuations, we use the below two charts instead to extract different potential interpretations.  The first Chart chows a simple year-on-year changes Paris Club claims.  It becomes immediately noticeable how much total outstanding debt stock jumped on the election year of 2012!  For the record, it increased by $97 million relative to the year before.  The second noticeable tell-tale sign is the extraordinary drastic drop of debt stock the year preceding the election years.  These decreases amounted to $87 million in 2011 and $101 million in 2015 (most recent year prior to current 2016 elections).  Furthermore, if the $97 million topping figure that was added to national debt of Somalia on election year 2012 was partially (or even fractionally) spent on manipulating and buying the “elections” then we’re dealing with the tragic circumstance where Somalis are paying for their own enslavement!

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This second chart conveys a similar manipulative patterns by taking in to account possibilities that inverse correlation exists between dropping debt stock and election year expenditure, with lags and entries brought forward as two period moving average trendline.  This is purely done for the benefit of illustrating alternative theoretical flip of the coin.  Still, there are clear anomalies in each of the years preceding election years (2011 & 2015).  Although we won’t know this before midyear 2017 what the ultimate figures will be for the 2016 Paris Club claims, we have a definitive evidence that unexplained spikes in Somali national debt were observed on and around the 2012 election year.  Combining that with the other two anomalies allows us to speculate with acceptable degree of confidence, that Somali “election” are paid for, orchestrated and owned by foreign interests.  Interests which are closely aligned with agendas of Western powers that on occasions become visible through audit trails exposed by the tools and mechanisms required for exercising power.

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Alternatively, one can always take the international communities’ official figure of $4.8 million supposedly being spent for the 2016 elections at face value.  If not $4.8 million, at least whatever is left after UNSOM finishes writing cheques for the multimedia and PR specialists hired for the ‘doorashada2016’.


Contact: liban.farah@barkinka.com