A wake-up call to the President of Somalia
The hope and the aspiration of the Somali people is diminishing by the day due to lack of concrete actions and delivery from the part of the Federal Government of Somalia and the International Community. The ship is sinking deeply and it needs 360 degree shift if it were to put the truck back on course. All the signs are showing that there is a final wake up call to the President of Somalia who seems that he is in a comma situation; unaware or unwilling to realize that time is running out against him.
This article attempts to shed a light why Somalia is failing drastically despite the hope and the aspiration that was created during the election of President Mohamud in September 2012. The hope and the aspiration of the people can be reinstated if the leader sees the momentum and the opportunities that exist and to come up with policies and strategies to bring that hope alive. Yes, it can be done.
It was 10th September 2012 when H.E. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was elected as the next President of Somalia for a four year term. Somalis and international community hugely welcomed the peaceful transfer of power and President Mohamud was seen at the time the best alternative to former President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.
President Mohamud at the time didn’t go to the UN General Assembly in September 2012 and claimed that he had important tasks which included the selection and appointment of Prime Minister and cabinet. Political analysts at the time felt it was a golden opportunity for the President to visit New York and to meet with other world leaders where he could have shared his priorities, which could have created a momentum to provide necessary support to Somalia. President’s argument of sorting out local issues rather than visiting New York came fruitless, as he took more time to appoint the Prime Minister and during the UN General Assembly he took no action at all. The then Prime Minister who attended the meeting came back to Mogadishu without no steps being taken to appoint PM and cabinet. His delay of appointment together with his selection of Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon received criticism which was the beginning of what to come later. It was two months later when the cabinet was formed. In November ten ministers were appointed, however, due to criticism from the parliament 20 deputy ministers and 5 State Ministers were included and most of them came from the parliament, which made it possible for the parliament to approve.
Somali people and the international community gave the benefit of the doubt that Somalia is now moving forward. The end of transition period, the election of a civil society activist, someone who was in Mogadishu throughout the 23 years were all seen as positive signs that could transform the way to democratization of the country. The President presented his 6 pillar policy framework which was at the beginning attracted the attention of Somalis and donors as all these 6 pillar priorities were very important to the development of Somalia.
This was followed by the recognition of US government in January 2013. Somali President met his counterpart President Barack Obama and later that day on 17 January 2013 held joint press conference with the then Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. Clinton talking on the recognition said “We have moved into a normal sovereign-nation-to-sovereign-nation position and we have moved into an era where we are going to be a good partner, a steadfast partner, to Somalia as Somalia makes the decisions for its own future.” This was the best statement that Somalis were waiting since the collapse of Siad Barre Government in 1991.
The President’s visit to London and Brussels in February and the London Conference in May 2013, and his visit to Yokohama, Japan in June 2013 were all seen as very positive steps and raised the expectation of Somalis. Followed by Brussels Conference in September 2013 where international donors agreed to fund the COMPACT agreement. Over 2 billion dollars were pledged to support the reconstruction and the rebuilding of the country.
Despite all these positive momentums that existed, the government failed to make the necessary progresses and reforms that people expected from the government. The President and the then PM Shirdon started political infighting and in the end PM Shirdon was removed from Office. The only credit to the process was the way the parliament handled the dismissal of the PM. Few ministers and their associates at the beginning put huge pressure to the President to dismiss the PM. The political infighting that started at the time is still visible in current political situation. At one point the President made an agreement with PM Shirdon to stay and both agreed to increase the size of the cabinet from 10 to 25 ministries. At the time the then State Minister of the Office of the President was away and upon his return, he immediately convinced and changed the President’s agreement with the PM. The political infighting immediately started that accelerated the process to get rid of the PM.
The President again delayed the process of appointing new PM despite of having over two months during the removal process of previous PM, and this showed that he didn’t plan ahead to headhunt the new PM. The delay and the outcome was exactly the same as the first PM’s appointment, which really killed the hope and the aspiration of the people. Again the President elected the weakest link compared to other candidates. Due to pressure from MPs the 55 cabinet members, 35 of them were from the parliament and this made it possible for the parliament to approve. During the process of the selection of ministers the President and the PM were not in good terms and political infighting started at earlier on which is still continuing. Media were called in Villa Somalia on 16 January 2014 for the announcement ceremony of the new cabinet around 4pm, and they were there till before 3am on 17 January when the PM announced the list of ministers. The main dispute were some of the names of the list including the National Security Minister, the minister of Trade & Industry and more importantly the role of the President in the process as the Provisional Constitution doesn’t specify compared to previous charter. The PM argued that he doesn’t need to obtain the President’s decree before the approval of the parliament. The Speaker reconciled and found a temporary solution and asked the President to sign a letter agreeing the proposal of the PM without issuing decree. This will have huge implications to future appointments of ministers, as the PM could straightaway take the list to the parliament without consulting the President.
The reasons to increase the size of the cabinet were to satisfy clans, to be more inclusive and representative and to reduce some of the caseload, such as Ministry for Social Affairs and Ministry of Resources. The expansion of the cabinet didn’t solve these issues, as some clans such as Majerten, Dhulbahante, Murasade, Isak, Saleban, Duduble, Hariin, Geeledle, and Digil clans were all disappointed on their respective portfolios. All these clans felt that they weren’t given due consideration of their weights. The majerten clan portfolio of planning was added to International Relations, and Dhulbahante clan portofolio of minerals was added to water. However, both of these changes angered Dir clan as both portfolios that were removed from Isak and Gudebirsi clans. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was given the portfolio of Investment in order to compensate the removal of International Relations. There are still disagreements on this, as the parliament states that there should be no changes to portfolios as they originally approved it. Majerten clan believe that they were not giving key positions such as PM or the key ministry for the Darod Clan and they blame the two closest friends of the President as they put pressure to him. Ogaden were giving the ministry of Finance which is one the key ministries.
Let me come to the point of this article which is the wake-up call to the President of Somalia. The hope and the aspirations that was created in September 2012 is now diminishing very fast, which will need to be understood and acknowledged before finding a solution to overcome. First and foremost there is no doubt that the President is holding the most difficult position on earth. There are huge challenges that need to overcome, such as lack of resources, building institutions, building trust amongst Somalis, and fulfilling all the mandated responsibilities. But, before President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud accepting the role he was very well aware of all the challenges and that his mandate included to appoint the best people that can help him overcome all the challenges. One of the reasons that are impediment to progress is for him not selecting and appointing the competent people that can help him make huge difference to the people of Somalia. For example, his choice of PM Shirdon, PM Abdiweli, some ministers, Ambassadors to UK, Ethiopia, Italy, Tanzania, Mayor of Mogadishu, Governors of Hiiraan and Galgadud, Police Commissioner and many more were all not given to competent people. All were chosen without due process and with pressure from some people that are close to the President. A close friend here in Nairobi tells me that the most undiplomatic person became the Ambassador to one of the most diplomatic countries in the world. During the discussion another friend tells me that The President objected a cabinet decision to replace the Ambassador to United Arab Emirates. The cabinet collectively approved it and they widely publicized the decision. This shows that the President doesn’t care due process.
Therefore, first, most of appointments made by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud were not given to competent people and no organization can make necessary reforms without employing the most competent people to carry out these reforms. Second, he lacks institutional development as he never worked an organization that has sound structures in place, which would have helped him to aware the necessary due processes in decision making processes, as he was a teacher and we always know a teacher never consults with students and teachers’ word are always final. All these shows that the President is very weak when it comes to making decisions, as we have seen time and time that he first delays the decision and when he reaches the decision is always the wrong one. What he needs is team efforts; collective responsibilities and individual accountability which are all prerequisite to success.
It is not only Somalis who see the weakness of the President with regards to his decision making. The United States National Intelligence Director James Clapper talking to US Senate early this year said “The credibility and effectiveness of the young Somali government will be further threatened by persistent political infighting, weak leadership from President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, ill-equipped government institutions and pervasive technical, political and administrative shortfalls,” Political analysts concluded that it is unusual for Clapper to directly mention the President’s name on his report. Therefore, this statement clearly shows that the US is adamant that President Hassan has failed not only to Somalis but also to allies who gave him the benefit of the doubt when he was elected. US went the extra mile to give him full recognition.
The President has dramatically failed on the formation of Federalism, the review of the constitution and good governance structures that the people of Somalia expect from their leaders. On Federalism issue, he cannot make his mind up whether to implement or not. When talking in public he claims that he will implement, however, his actions differ. For example, he gave green light to the formation of 6 regions state in Baidoa, he also gave green light to the 3 regions state formation and as well as to the 2 regions of Shabelle State of Somalia. The President failed to take advantage of the August 2013 Addis Ababa Agreement on Jubba and no progress was made at all. There have been national conferences on Education, Exteremism, Judiciary reform, Security and Vision 2016. None of the outcomes of these conferences were implemented at all. Almost two years he has been saying that he will make reforms on judiciary and so far none has been done. In the Office of the President, which is the mirror of all institutions lack leadership, structure and procedures. Two individuals were both claiming that they were Chief of Staff of the Office, and almost 7 months the President couldn’t solve this issue. Mr Gutale and Mr Abdi continued political infighting in the Office which seriously undermined the credibility of the President until one was appointed to other position outside of the office. The Office still doesn’t have permanent Chief of Staff. So, here in Nairobi Mr Gutale after moving out of the office had meetings with donor countries and he was very critical to the President. So people here in Serena Hotel, their talk is that if he cannot solve his own office, why we expect him to solve complex and challenging issues of the nation.
Furthermore, the issue of security was exacerbated by allowing former minister to keep the portfolio of security when in fact the previous government was replaced because of security concerns. All ministers were removed from the cabinet except the minister of National Security. What angered the people most is that all security incidents that took place in Mogadishu and other regions were never properly investigated further and no concrete action was taken. For example, incidents that took place at Banadir Regional Court in April 2013, at the UN Compound in June 2013 and many more serious incidents that took place in Mogadishu. On 21 February 2014 Al-Shabaab entered Villa Somalia and carried out the most serious and heinous attack ever, which really killed the hope and the aspiration of the people. It was pure luck that the President survived in that attack. No action was taken from the government.
The effect of the resignation of the central bank governor and the claims that his relatives are involved corruption practices are growing by the day. There are concrete evidences that his brother Ali Sheikh bought at least 4 properties in Mogadishu worth of 2.3 million dollars. Another claim is that the President bought a luxury house in Turkey. His close relatives are involved contracts and dealings in Somalia such as Muse Ganjab and Ismail Wardhere and others.
Even ordinary people now days talk about the weak leadership of the President. So, it is really a wake up call to the President and if he needs to really make changes he has to do 360 degree genuine changes, such as to replace the PM, minister of security and most of cabinet. Start implementing vision 2016 as people need to see the review of the constitution, the public debate, civic education and the real debate on democratization process. People want to see a referendum on the constitution to take place next year and local elections, so that people can see a light at the end of the tunnel. The President needs to retain competent people; otherwise these people will jump the sinking ship at their earliest opportunities.
Abukar Arman, former Somali Special Envoy to US wrote an article in Aljazeera online on 19 March and said “President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed must embrace the reality that the only viable leverage they have is to cultivate trust within the Somali people, who, as a result of decades of exploitation, are sick and tired of always being the expendable pawn.” What is very clear is that President Mohamud has lost too many opportunities to sees the momentum that existed. The international community is looking out for alternative and now giving all the attentions to the President of Puntland and the leader of Jubba as they see both of them are enjoying the support of the people they represent. President Mohamud has even lost the local support that his predecessor Sheikh Sharif used to enjoy. All Hawiye MPs, elites, civil society and all segments of society in Mogadishu, in Lower Shabelle, in Middle Shabelle, in Galgudud and in Mudug have all lost confidence and are looking for alternative. President Mohamud when he privately meets people he doesn’t hide away on this, but instead of admitting the reality on the ground he blames people not supporting him. As they say charity begins at home, so this shows very clearly that he has lost confidence and hope. What next?
During the High Level Partnership Forum meeting in Mogadishu on 24 February the President blamed the international community for not fulfilling their commitments and said “There is a systemic underlying syndrome that has kept us from moving forward. This includes but not limited to the lack of confidence and trust in Somali institutions from our international partners.” The President also said in that meeting that the over 2 billion dollars pledges during Brussels conference nothing materialized on the ground. Some diplomats say that it was the lack of coherent approach from the leadership of Somalia which is prevented them to provide financial resources to the government. Some donors are now discussing the implementation of projects in Somaliland and Puntland and sideline the Federal Government. During this meeting the President publicly stated “within a week starting from tomorrow (25 Feb) I will make changes to security apparatus and in particular the leadership of the Police.” So, far no action has been taken.
The SRSG Nicholas Kay talking to some Somali politicians in Nairobi stated that if there are no developments and clear progress in Somalia by November, the International Community plans to take decisive action in the next HLPF meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, which could include similar roadmap when ending the transition will be agreed, where by leaders of Puntland and Jubba as well as new emerging states in Somalia will take part the implementation of the future roadmap discussions in order to be more inclusive and representative. Therefore, time is of essence and if no concrete actions towards the review of the constitution, the implementation of federalism and the democratization process by Novemeber, then the Federal Government will lose its status. This is the most critical test to the leadership of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and it is a real wakeup call that cannot be ignored.
Recently the President of Puntland Dr Abdiweli Mohamed Ali wrote a letter to donors urging them to attend a consultative meeting in Puntland to discuss the way forward. Dr Ali claims that the federal government lost golden opportunity to show leadership and failed to reach-out regional states that are important to the unity of Somalia. Dr Ali demanded that Puntland deserves special status with regards to the delivery of the COMPACT and the new deal pledges. The idea of the new roadmap comes from Puntland as Dr Ali knows too well on how to implement a roadmap as he was the key player in the implementation of the 2012 roadmap in Somalia. Will President Mohamud realize this golden opportunity where he can lead a Somali led process of reconciliation, political reach-out, and make the necessary compromises needed to revive the confidence of Somali people? Time will tell if he is brave enough to save the nation.
Yes, it can be done and all it needs a great vision, strong decision making, and understanding that time is running out. The alternative is to resign. MPs are circulating petition to impeach the President while elites and former politicians are debating the next move to save the nation. The definition of Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Dr Hassan Farah,
Political Analyst & Expert in East Africa politics – contributes articles to East Africa Magazine