Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre of Somalia yesterday (4 January) suspended three senior cabinet ministers without notice. These were Foreign Minister Yusuf Garaad, Interior Minister Abdi Faraj Said (alias "Juxa"), and Trade Minister Khadre Ahmed Duala. Khayre did not specify a reason for their removal. The decision follows detention of the main opposition Wadajir party leader, Abdirahman Abdikashur Warsame, on 18 December 2017. Warsame, among other unnamed parliamentarians, was claimed to have committed treason after allegedly receiving bribes from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the purpose of co-ordinating impeachment proceedings against President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed. Warsame denied all allegations.
Significance: IHS Markit previously assessed that the rival Haber-Gedir clan (a Hawiye sub-clan), which dominates the military, had obtained support from nearly 50% of legislators. This was above the 30% threshold necessary to initiate impeachment proceedings and remove President Mohamed – who hails from a minority Darod sub-clan – from office. Mohamed's removal would probably then initiate a relatively orderly transition of power to parliamentary speaker Mohamed Jawari, given the limited independence of the judiciary (see Somalia: 22 December 2017: Probable leadership change and Somali military disunity derails security transition from regional African Union force in 2018). The suspension of Garaad, who is a well-respected politician from the Haber-Gedir, provides a further indication of this outcome. In addition, Abdi Faraj Said hails from a rival Darod sub-clan to the president and is influential in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland. Puntland's administration has orchestrated regional opposition to the president's plans for devolving the military, as well as fiscal and regulatory powers. President Mohamed's waning influence also stems from his failure to pay Somalia National Army (SNA) wages on time. This was a key promise during the February 2017 election that initially secured him across-clan support. Therefore, if several of Somalia's regional administrations and/or senior SNA officials now publicly oppose the cabinet suspensions, then a military-led forced change of leadership via the impeachment process will be highly likely in early 2018. Separately, if the United States refuses to reinstate SNA stipends, which were removed on 14 December 2017 (see Somalia: 15 December 2017: US suspends Somalia's military stipends, increasing parliamentary pressure for leadership change and higher seaport taxes), then the UAE stands to gain as the most viable substitute funder, thereby further strengthening the Hawiye's dominance over the military.