Hate Speech, Fake News & Distorted Info Shaped Impeachment Motion Debate
Within hours of the Sunday filing of the impeachment motion by a section of Somalia Members of Parliament seeking to have President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo fired for “violating” the constitution, Somalia social media was abuzz with the debate.
A digital front-line had been marked as pro-Farmaajo and pro-Speaker bloggers and opinion makers waged an online battle.
As demonstrators took to the streets of Mogadishu to show support for a President Farmaajo, online a Facebook campaign “I am with Farmaajo” had emerged while government critics ridiculed it with twisting the motto Nabad Iyo Nolol” to “Nabad Iyo Mooshin”.
The country had been thrown into it’s latest political crisis pitting pro-motion Mps and the Speaker Mohamed Mursal on one side and Pro Farmaajo Mps backed by Deputy Speakers Abdiweli Mudey and Mahad Awad.
Interestingly the crisis coincided with the return of self exiled politician Abdirahman Abdishakur Warsame a vocal critic of the government and Wadajir Party leader.
Apparently his return was overshadowed by a speech made by one of his supporters at his homecoming event.
The speech was deemed a ” threat to the national security” by those supporting the government.
“We will not allow those who are guard by the foreigners to kill our people, They have foreign passports, No we will not allow them to kill our people, we are moving a motion on the same, And we’re going to battle out this even by taking guns, I’m requesting the MPs to back us up on this. I came here to say this statement ” the elderly speaker said at the Abdishakur homecoming event.
The video went viral on Somali social media.
“This is really sad! The mentality behind this language has been coming up lately and unfortunately its backed and emboldened by a politicians and people who supposedly their job was to bring the country from that! #SomaliaRemembers” MP Sagal Bihi tweeted the video creating an avalanche of reaction from both sides of the online frontline.
“Check how corrupt @AAbdishakur is smiling in the back with an approval expression .Somewhere else he would have been locked up by now” Hiba Shookari replied to the Mp’s tweet.
“Sad indeed, what a shame. He should be arrested for inciting “armed” violence” Somali Journalist Abdulaziz Billow responded to the Mp’s tweet.
The Wadajir party leader who is back in the country to mark the first anniversary of his arrest and death of his five guards is however quoted by the media present at the rally to have denounced armed struggle as an option.
Abdishakur told the rally that he opts to use civil resistance to put the Farmaajo administration on it’s toes.
But government critics came out strong with the claim that the speech had been misinterpreted.
“This man’s speech has intentionally been taken out of context. He’s talking about @M_Farmaajo’s attack on unarmed people and saying that it will pave the way for armed revolt if extrajudicial tactics are maintained. Why is that controversial? Yet again, gov’t playing clan card” Somalia affairs commentator Adan Abdulle tweeted.
“Not addressing the issue at hand is worrisome! it wasn’t “armed” violence when Sadaq joon’s government militias were sent out by VS to murder Abdirahman and 5 of his guards in cold blood and buried with their shoes on by the same same group of hand picked government hit squad?” Truth paste reacted on a tweet in reference to the dramatic arrest of Wadajir leader Abdirahman Abdishakur in 2017 when his bodyguards were killed.
“this mans speech if anything is consequence and response to the vile hate and propaganda peddled by the communication director of villa Somalia to smear “curtain” clans on social media the last two years! clan reconciliation is at all time low because of his irresponsible actions!” Truthpaste added.
Government critic Ahmed Moalim Fiqi took the game farther in the heated motion debate by posting his photo on the gates of Villa Somalia on Facebook demanding President Farmaajo to “release” “detained” Speaker Mursal.
“President Farmaajo open the gates to allow the Speaker and his family to move” Fiqi captioned his post that attracted many comments.
According to the proponents of the motion the Speaker had been “restrained” from leaving his official residence. But was this a fact or a classic example of Fake news?
Radio Dalsan would later independently confirm that the Speaker had not been “restrained” or “detained” as claimed by Fiqi and MP Khalif Omar who had earlier adressed the media to the effect that they could not access Mursal neither could he leave his residence.
Notably the Government Communication Team backed by a regiment of pro-government bloggers was active in countering the anti government sentiments online.
US based Duqbilow Kablow who enjoys a large following on Facebook is among them. He posted a captioned photo of pro motion Mps declaring them “Clanist” who “want to take back this country where we came from”.
Presidential advisors Abdi Said M Ali and Salad Jelle were notably vocal in this debate defending their boss the President.
In an interview with Dalsan TV Salad Jelle gave a rather unexpected claim from a man who is a former Defence Minister.
Jelle claimed that the Pro-impeachment motion Mps had been funded by Somali militant group Alshabaab destabilize the country ahead of a planned military operation aimed at wiping out the Alqaeda linked jihadists.
A day after the filing of the motion followed a surge of internet bots and trolls who became active in the online debate.
Government critics point fingers at the Government communication strategist team of launching an army of bots to counter Farmaajo opponents.
“Somalia most definitely benefited from Qatari technical assistance.The first known use of these bots was during Somalia’s quarrel with the UAE. @TheVillaSomalia deployed an extensive bot army that fought UAE bots.In most cases it was bots vs bots lol” Adan Abdulle tweeted.
The Somalia diaspora was notably vocal in this debate.
UK based historian Mohamed Haji Ingiriis churned a series of anti-Farmaajo tweets
“The legacy of an African dictator ends with disaster: Idi Amin, Charles Taylor, Siad Barre, Ghaddafi, & most recently, Abdi Ileey. Now, Farmaajo is on the verge of the fate of Laurent Gbagbo. With exception, Mobutu and Mengistu saved Congo & Ethiopia from state complete collapse” Haji tweeted.
Most of his tweets emphatically strained to link Farmaajo to predecessor his Siad Barre.
“Constitutionally, when a motion of impeachment is filed against a President, (s)he should vacate the presidential palace and act as a private citizen during the handling process of the impeachment. Farmaajo must respect the provisional Constitution with which he swore to upheld” Haji a PHD holder tweeted.
His opinion however did not amuse one Aar Maanta a Somali artiste who reacted “My dear people, education doesn’t cure tribalism or any other discriminatory practices.Some of the biggest clanists are #PHD holders. Pull Him/Her Down ”
“Social media has emerged to be an open forum for Somalis to express their opinion. It is increasingly shaping the politics of the country. Both the government and the opposition seem to have acknowledge the power of social media and are using it to push their agenda. But I strongly believe there is need for Somalia to legislate the use of social media in the wake of fake news and hate speech.” Mohamed Hared a Mogadishu based Social Media expert told Radio Dalsan.
In a country that is still emerging from more than two decades of civil war triggered by clanism Somalia’s political scenario in 2018 is still shaped by clan allegiance and not political ideologies.
“The division among Mps and the political drama we are been treated to is based on clan allegiance. We lack nationalistic leaders whose vision is to sail Somalia intona modern day democracy and focus on the agenda of rebuilding the country” Abdirizaq Issack a political analyst told Radio Dalsan.