By Hassan M. Abukar
Editor’s note: This is the first of a series of articles WardheerNews will be running to highlight how the Regional Administrations managed the selection of the Upper House members as part of Somalia’s 2016 elections.
“When the hyena is the judge, the goat has no rights.” An African proverb.
Recently, Somalia’s South West State (SW) presented a list of candidates for the country’s Upper House. The list was orderly, timely, and even met the 30% quota for female representation. The seamless way in which the list was presented garnered praise and adulation from certain circles in the international community. It was, after all, a lot better than the political wrangling taking place in other regional states such as Puntland, Galmudug and Jubaland for selecting their respective potential members for the Federal Upper House. In reality, there are palpable reasons why the SW’s selection process went smoothly: utter corruption.
The federal commission for elections has four members from the SW who are all Mirifle. This means, no representatives from Biyamaal, Digil, and other groups in the region. The SW state election committee is another matter. It is headed by none other than Mohamed Abdullahi Mursal, the state minister for the Office of the Presidency and a nephew of Sharif Hassan. Mursal is a young man with no prior government experience before his uncle made him the de facto premier in the SW. Why a state minister would preside on the state’s election commission is beyond the pale.
For one thing, the state is run by Mursal’s family and the ultimate boss is Uncle Sharif Hassan. The state is a family fiefdom on the one hand and a money-making machine of self-enrichment for its members on the other. Sharif Hassan appoints who he wants and removes who he wants. Got any problems with that?
Sharif Hassan is not all about money. He has political cronies who prop him up and give him the political cover to appear that his administration has representation from other groups. One family has been an important political ally.
The Ibrow Factor
Warsame Ibrahim Aliyow Ibrow is the sultan of one branch of Jiido, a sub-clan of Digil. Ibrow—no need to jot down his name because you will be hearing it a lot—is a Somali American from Minnesota. This young man (see, SW loves to invest in youth) came from a prominent family in the town of Qoryooley. His father was a traditional chieftain who passed away in 2012 and Warsame was selected to lead his people. Why Warsame?
According to an interview Warsame gave to Somali-Mai TV, he was unique among his male siblings because he had an aptitude for all things political; he followed Somalia’s current affairs from his comfort in Minnesota, and even studied International Relations. Impressive, right? Warsame, who was coroneted in Minneapolis’ Little Mogadishu, immediately ingratiated himself with Sharif Hassan, then the speaker of the National Parliament. The two formed an alliance that gave the old notion “scratch my back and I will scratch yours” a new meaning. Ibrow’s unholy alliance with Sharif Hassan has reaped some tangible benefits:
- Sayid-Ali Ibrahim Hassanow Ibrow is the deputy head of the state election commission. He is a cousin of Warsame. Sayid-Ali has neither government experience nor education. Why bother?
- Zamzam Ibrahim Aliyow Ibrow, a newly-selected member for the National Upper House, is a cousin of Warsame. Her mother is Kuushow Aliyow Ibrow. I told you, the Ibrow name is becoming a brand name in the SW. Zamzam won the race after her rival and relative, Anisa Diidow (jjido) withdrew from the race. Zamzam, whose Ibrow connection was deliberately concealed (She was presented as Zamam Ibrahim Ali), has no experience in government.
- Salim Aliyow Ibrow, Warsame’s uncle, has been promised to be included in the next Federal Parliament, which is coming to a theater near you. Salim is the sister of Kuushow Aliyow Ibrow. Are you still with me? Now, this Salim Ibrow—I am not joking—is uniquely qualified to be a parliamentarian. He is a veteran politician and an intellectual who had held many cabinet positions. See, not all Ibrows belong in a basket of incompetents.
The 16 members selected as candidates for the Upper House from the SW had two things in common: Lack of government experience and the fact they were not expected to defy Sharif Hassan’s wishes.
Some of these elected members of the Upper House were bribed so that the race could appear competitive and easy for Sharif Hassan’s picks. Timiro Mohamed Ali, though, was lucky when her female rival lost. Many of these sixteen original candidates were unknown quantities who had been, as a SW politician recently said, “dad laga soo aruuriyay dariiqyada” (people gathered from the streets). Speaking of streets, one guy was a street vendor, one a taxi driver, and one woman sold Qat, a mild stimulant plant. A word of caution: selling Qat is a promising career in the SW because Sharif Hassan himself was once a Qat trader before he entered politics. In fairness, Ibrahim Ali Ahmed “Ayatullah,” was a former school principal, unfortunately he lost the race.
The next process is the selection of the SW members for the next Federal Parliament. It does not look good. President Sharif Hassan has been asking for $50, 000 per slot from those aspiring for that position. That’s 50% off the original price. He realized that $100k was too steep for the sons and daughters of the SW. The region lacks nouveau riches who are willing to invest in a corrupt system, i.e., a$50k in Cadaado, Garowe, and Kismayo for a political position is peanuts. Sharif Hassan has made it clear to wanna-be parliamentarians to cough up the dough or else they can kiss that lucrative job goodbye. It is not clear if the money—like a marriage dowry—can be paid in advance or if it can be paid at a later date.
Sharif Hassan, who will declare for the national presidency soon, has been collecting a war chest for that race. Rest assured though, there is little chance he will be the next Somali president. His major goal is to become a kingmaker, a job he is qualified for. He has told some of his close friends that he wants his half-brother, Mohamed Haji Abdinur “Madeer” (now the Somali Health Minister), to become the next premier. It is not a crime in the SW to dream big.
Did I mention that PM Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke, a close ally of Sharif Hassan, sacked two female cabinet members in June 2016? One of them was Hawo Mohamed Hassan (Mirifle-Hadamo) in favor of Madeer. Talk about election politics! One thing is clear: President Hassan who supported his PM’s misogynist, Trump-like action, is not courting women votes.
In a nutshell, the SW is a state in which Sharif Hassan acts as though he owns it. He has made sure to exclude capable SW figures from his administration. He does not care much about the international community because he knows how to manipulate the system. As long as his cronies are taken care of politically, and the federal guidelines for selecting members for both chambers of parliament are superficially met, then it is fine.
Now, which was the first state to furnish the list of candidates for the Federal Upper House? Just checking if you are still paying attention.
Hassan M. Abukar
Hassan M. Abukar is a regular contributor to Wardheernews and can be reached at [email protected].
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