A portrait of Fadumo Dayib, the hope of Somalia’s future?

A portrait of Fadumo Dayib, the hope of Somalia’s future?

Fadumo Dayib is the first woman to run for president of Somalia in the upcoming 2016 elections. Strongly influenced by patriarchate and clans, the country has been devastated by conflicts. Being an educated woman that fights against corruption, nepotism, and injustice puts a huge target on Fadumo Dayib’s back. Will she embody Somalia’s hope for 2016?

Fadumo was born when her family was forced to leave Kenya. She lived a nomadic life until 14 years old, when in the 1990’s, the permanent instability and deteriorating civil war on the Horn of Africa compelled her family to flee to Finland.

Illiterate until then, Finland gave her the opportunity to get an education. A governing principle of her campaign is that she wants to give Somalis the same opportunity Finland gave to her when she was a refugee herself.

She decided to run for president when she was working as a United Nations health specialist in Liberia. She saw Liberia as a true role model for post civil war reconstruction, and she asked herself why Somalia could not do the same.

“85% of the Somali population is under the age of 35 yet they don’t have a means of livelihood or the ability to visualize a better future for themselves”, Fadumo says in a promotional video. “The current situation in Somalia is really one that we cannot afford to continue maintaining.”

A bumpy road for the first female candidate

To be the Somalia’s first female presidential candidate comes with inherent difficulties. She bluntly declares that politics in Somalia is restricted to men with gray hair. As an educated woman, Fadumo’s campaign was not easily accepted, especially since her program mainly focuses on fighting corruption and therefore targeting the current government.

Today, she is facing threats that prevent her from campaigning in Somalia without endangering her life, and she does not have the financial means to guarantee her security. As a result, she mainly uses social media to raise awareness.

Fadumo has started an internet fundraising program where everyone can give according to their resources and where the distribution of money is fully transparent.

In contrast, she is facing undemocratic elections without universal suffrage. As in previous elections it is the Parliament that will elect the president, therefore excluding civil society from any political participation. This is a heavy blow for Fadumo who receives her principal legitimacy from civil society support. She will need to campaign hard to convince deputies of her own credibility and encourage them to take an interest in the issue of inclusion of women in the political decision-making process.

Another issue she is fighting is the clan-based system of Somali politics. Clan membership form the basis for political allegiance and is seen as one of the main causes for the conflict. Fadumo strongly encourages emancipation from the clans.

While she is willing to work with their leaders, she does not want to share power with the largest clans on the same level as today.

Dealing with Al-Shabbaab

Al-Shabbaab took advantage of the government’s weakness and the divided Somali society when they emerged in 2006 as a radical militant group seeking to establish a state ruled by Sharia laws.  Since then, terrorist attacks against Somalis and foreigners have been common practice.

Their most infamous action came in 2013, when Al-Shabbaab attacked the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi and killed 68 people. They have, however, also addressed  real social and economic issues in Somalia.

The group promises recruits to earn a salary in a country where the unemployment rate for youth aged between 14 and 29 was 67% in 2012. For many young Somalis, joining Al-Shabbaab is synonymous with earning money and providing for their family, which they often cannot do by other means.

Stabilizing the region and establishing security requires including the Somali military and police forces in the national peace process. In order to guarantee the security forces’ efficiency, they need to be paid enough to provide for their families and avoid being drawn into corruption.

Furthermore, as a sovereign country, Somalis must address Somalia’s security issues. Western countries can provide advice and technical support, but the problem remains a national one, so the solution must ultimately remain in the hands of Somalis, according to Fadumo.

In her interview with Le Monde, she explains her intent to invite the Islamist group to negotiations. However, she underlines that this would be possible only if three conditions are respected.

First, the group must disarm, second, they need to renounce their affiliation with international terrorism, and third, they must stop perpetrating attacks in Somalia and abroad. If those three conditions are not accepted, she believes the group can be easily neutralized by targeting their recruitment channel through education. Educating the young people is key to Fadumo’s program to change Somalia’s structure as a whole.

Fadumo Dayib wants to start from the bottom and reconstruct a political system that is badly damaged by corruption. However, her ultimate goal is not to win, but rather to change mindset and offer opportunities that Somalis do not have today.

One way to reach this goal is to defy patriarchate and privileges that constitute the cornerstone of Somali’s power. Fadumo Dayib will perhaps not be the future president of Somalia, however, 2016 might certainly be a year for upcoming changes in Somalia.

About Author

Jason Dozier

Jason specializes in crisis management and the organizational development of terrorist groups. He currently works for the Embassy of Malta in Paris where he serves as Executive Assistant to the Ambassador. Jason holds a Master’s in Terrorism, Security and Society at King’s College London concentrating on a comparative analysis between Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. He also obtained a Bachelor in International Relations from the Institute of International Relations in Paris.