In Summary
  • Stretching from Gedo in the south to the Indian Ocean and bordering the entire Kenyan frontier with Somalia, Jubbaland is politically seen as Kenya’s buffer against Somali militant group al-Shabaab.

Somalia’s federal state Jubbaland will hold elections on August 21. Not everyone will vote, but it appears the poll could affect both Somalis and neighbouring countries.

Stretching from Gedo in the south to the Indian Ocean and bordering the entire Kenyan frontier with Somalia, Jubbaland is politically seen as Kenya’s buffer against Somali militant group al-Shabaab.

But the ties of Jubbaland to Kenya and Ethiopia—through clan connections—means the stakes are higher for everyone. So what is in it?

  • Who is the current leader?

A former warlord, Sheikh Ahmed Islam Madobe also known as ‘Blackie’, was the leader of the Ras Kamboni Brigade, a local militia group opposed to al-Shabaab.

Supported by the Kenya Defence Forces, they ousted Shabaab from Kismayu in September 2012.

Madobe then became interim President in the two years that followed as clans reached reconciliation agreements. In 2015, he was elected President.

Supported by Kenyan and Ethiopian forces, this time as part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), Madobe was able to settle in, gripping power and securing most of Kismayu from frequent militia attacks.

Having run a militarist regime in an area vulnerable to al-Shabaab, his popularity lay on the campaign to eliminate extremists. With military ties to Kenya and running the resource basket, he remains the candidate to beat.

  • Who are his rivals?

Madobe faces opposition from Abdinasir Seraar, a former Ras Kamboni Brigade comrade. Seraar now runs a separate paramilitary group claiming to be opposed to Shabaab.

He is seen as Madobe’s strongest opponent, given his ability to rally other opponents in one voice against perceived bias in electoral rules, as well as providing parallel security for politicians.

Other candidates include former Aviation and Transport minister Mohamed Omar and former Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) employee Mohamed Dahir Marsheye.

Omar has been rumoured to be the favourite candidate for Somalia’s Federal Government as it seeks to take control of federal states.

The local electoral commission had indicated that more candidates had applied but need to pass the stringent electoral rules for their names to be put in the roll. The list is yet to be published.

  • The voting process

For most elections in Somalia, there is a special college of elders, selected from the local clans. The elders—chosen by the electoral commission—select three candidates for every parliamentary seat.

The names are then forwarded to the electoral agency which picks one per slot from each three until the 75 MP slots are filled.

The selection follows the clan balancing formula - 4:5 – four main clans and a coalition of smaller ones.

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