MOGADISHU, Somalia — Jubaland State in Somalia goes to the polls in an election that will have a significant bearing on the Horn of Africa region and particularly Kenya with whom they share a common border and deep historical ties.
Jubaland is currently led by Sheikh Ahmed Madobe, who for all practical purposes is seen as the front runner and whereas he faces stiff competition, his commitment to end the terrorism in the region makes him the man to beat.
Observers have rightly pointed out that the most significant outcome of this election is on the security dynamic in the greater Horn of Africa region, with the Al Shabaab threat being on the forefront.
Sheikh Madobe is famously known for leading the Ras Kamboni brigade alongside the African Union-backed troops to kick al Shabaab out of Kismayu.
This take over of Kismayu significantly weakened the terrorist group and fragmented their operations thus aiding the global efforts in securing the region. And whereas the al Shabaab threat still persists, the group’s former roar and has now been reduced to a whimper.
The unique architecture of Somalia’s autonomous regional states has seen the Kenyan government maintaining an official alliance with Madobe due to his commitment to the war against terrorism and for the need to have a trusted ally for peace and security on the Kenya- Somali border which is Kenya’s longest-running yet most volatile. And while this strategic alliance is primarily for security, economic interests are also at play.
Kenya is undertaking a wide range of development initiatives nationwide. The security and viability of these projects in the Northeastern region depend on stability in its neighbouring states. With Jubaland being its primary neighbour in the North East, it only makes sense that a stable neighbour becomes our concern.
Regular elections are an essential component of democratic growth and consolidation for many states and where they yield acceptable outcomes, they deepen intra-state stability and entrench integration because of the spill-over effects on its neighbours.
Elections, while being the sole preserve of the nation’s sovereign, should not have a regressive effect on democracy. They should produce leaders who shall preserve existing gains and work towards greater state growth and regional progress.
And whereas observers, including yours truly, have the right of observation and comment on the democratic processes going on within their neighbours, they should not be seen as prescribing or dictating choices for the sovereign of the democracies, even nascent ones such as Jubaland.
For Kenya, it is a matter of expressing goodwill to the people of Jubaland and hoping their decision at the ballot serves the greater interest of the region and the global community, which is to see a more stable and prosperous Jubaland and greater Somalia.
The ties of neighbourliness that bring us together should be deepened and enhanced. Kenya recently commissioned the 55 megawatt Garissa Solar plant, the largest in East and Central Africa and with greater peace dividends in the future, these developments can be harnessed not just for Kenya’s internal development but can also be shared or replicated as a catalyst of economic growth even within Jubaland.
The commercial success of the Kismayu Port can also be utilised to spur growth and development and enhance trade between Kenya and Somalia. And with greater stability arising out of stronger democratic practices, Kenya and Jubaland can forge and pursue a common regional development agenda that is mutually beneficial.
This is only possible with greater peace and stability that is attainable not only by the barrel of the gun but also through the entrenchment of democracy.
And so even as we get consumed by the avalanche of issues taking up the bulk of space in our national conversations, as a county, we should spare a moment and express our goodwill Jubaland as they prepare to go into these polls on Monday.