Jubaland, Somalia
Jubaland, Somalia

NAIROBI - Somalia’s regional state of Jubaland will this week elect a new president, but the electoral process has been marred by threats, intimidation, violence and outside interference.

Four candidates have expressed their interest to lead the Jubaland federal state of Somalia in the next four years.

FILE - Ahmed Mohamed Madobe, leader of the Ras Kamboni militia, speaks during a meeting for the creation of a State of Jubaland in Kismayo, Somalia, Feb. 28, 2013.

The incumbent, Ahmed Islam, best known as Madobe, will compete against Anab Dahir, Mohamed Gedi, and Mohamud Omar.

The electoral process has been marred by lack of transparency, and critics say the commission is trying to tip the election in Madobe's favor.

Hamza Barre, the head of the Jubaland electoral commission, says he is happy with the process so far.

"The electoral process is going on well, we are almost to the end of the process, it was a long journey.  Now we are in a situation where we have a parliament with its leadership and today all the candidates spoke to the parliamentarians to seek their vote and Thursday a president will be elected.”

However, those opposing Madobe's rule have formed their own electoral commission and in a statement, they said they will elect their own president.

The United Nations political office in Somalia called on the commission to address the concerns about the election process — only to be contradicted by Kenya's ministry of foreign affairs, which called on the U.N. office to withdraw their statement.  

Kenya has a strong presence in the port city of Kismayo, the largest city in Jubaland.

George Musumali, director of the Center for Risk Management in Africa, says militant group al-Shabab will try to exploit the political divisions.

“Definitely al-Shabab will take advantage of this and the Somali national government will focus on fighting and defeating Jubaland," he said. "This will also prove shaky for the Kenya presence in Somalia and basically it's also going to expose Kenya to more threats from the al-Shabab, bearing mind now they will be a conflicting side with the Somali national government.”

Horn of Africa political commentator Abdiwahab Sheikh Abdisamad says the political rift could push some communities to join al-Shabab.

“The clan division within Jubaland is going to benefit Islamist groups and make them strong," he said. "They will be able to get people who are not happy with what is happening there and to get revenge using such groups.”

Somalia has a history of clan rivalries and unstable governments, dating back to the country's independence in 1960.