By Abdelkarim A. Hassan
“Somalia must have a working government. I have greatly learned that since I became president.” Hassan Sheikh.
The fall of the Barre regime and the subsequent civil war that followed in 1991 caused the displacement of more than 2 million Somalis who are scattered around the world. The uprooting of these people, who lost loved ones, homes and properties, was not by choice but as the result of conflict, insecurity, murder, and mayhem. People left their homes in pursuit of safer countries to build a new life.
Today, forced migration due to wars, conflict, and repression has reached about 65 million people around the world. This number is more than 6 million from the statistics reported in 2015. (UNCHR 2015 Report).
After WWII, on December 14, 1950, the United Nations established The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR), an agency which is specifically tasked to address the assistance of refugees around the globe. “on average 24 people were forced to flee each minute in 2015, four times more than a decade earlier, when six people fled every 60 seconds.” UNHCR stated in a Global Trends report released on June 2016.
“More people are being displaced by war and persecution and that’s worrying in itself, but the factors that endanger refugees are multiplying too,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. In 2016, more migrants and refugees lost their lives than ever before.
Somalia is the third largest refugee-producing country in the world. One of every five Somalis is a refugee today, resulting in 20 percent of the Somali population living outside the country. Syria is the number one refugee producing country with 5 million, followed by Afghanistan with 3 million people.
The majority of Somali refugees are in Kenya, Ethiopia, Yemen (pre-civil war), South Africa, America, Canada and Europe. There are also internally displaced people (IDP) inside the country, numbering about 1.1 million people. (IDMC Report). According to Human Rights Watch, these internally displaced persons have suffered all kinds of injustices, from rape to physical attacks from the hands of the African Mission troops in the country (AMISOM), the very same people that were supposed to protect them. Human Rights Watch released a report in September 2014, on sexual exploitation and abuse of Somali women and underage girls by AMISOM soldiers.
“I was scared he would come back and rape me again or kill me. I want the government to recognize the power these men have over us and for them to protect us from them.” Farha A. a victim of rape by an AMISOM soldier, Mogadishu, February 2014.
Unfortunately, President Hassan Sheikh and his government did nothing about addressing these abuses nor did he take the matter to AMISOM. Tellingly, he has yet to visit a single IDP camp in Mogadishu, not even the one which is a stone’s throw away from Villa Somalia, the presidential palace. Furthermore, some reports indicate that the IDPs are used for public display propaganda on occasions such as demonstrations, elections and receptions of dignitaries. The president, oddly, has undertaken countless trips abroad, passing by these camps, yet it seems as if he was limited on time for the IDPs or the people in them!
Some of the Somalis in the diaspora have returned home and have done a marvelous job in boosting the economy through their entrepreneurship. Overall, Somalis abroad send about 1.3 billion dollars every year, an equivalent of 30-40 percent of the country’s GDP. Many countries recognizing the economic importance of their Diaspora, have set up government ministries or agencies to cater to the diaspora community of the country to encourage investment and the development of their countries. But not Somalia.
Recently, President Hassan Sheikh waged a ferocious and erratic war of words against the Somalis abroad and referred to them as individuals “who had ran away from home.” Interestingly, the current government whose term has expired has in its mix prominent figures from the diaspora; from the prime minister and cabinet ministers to members of the Federal Parliament, including the former speaker. President Hassan himself also has residency in Turkey, unlike the Somali Diaspora who risked their lives to a safer place, his residency in Turkey was a matter of choice, interestingly coinciding with his presidency.
To add insult to injury, on December 9, 2016, President Hassan gave an interview in which he was asked about President elect Donald Trump, who had made Minneapolis a stomping ground in the last days of the election to incite intolerance. In his speech, Trump called Somalis in Minnesota a security threat adding they should never have been admitted to the country. Hassan Sheikh calmly responded that he was not responsible for the Somalis in America. This shows the depth of the man, the limited understanding of the office of presidency and a denial of his responsibility for all Somali nationals in the country and abroad. Sadly, President Hassan is always received warmly by these same diaspora Somalis whenever he makes foreign trips.
Moreover, Somalia has been reeling from a drought that has affected 5 million people (OCHA Report) and President Hassan has called upon the international community to lend a helping hand. However, he has not presented any plans what so ever; and the role of his government to assist these people is non-existent. Instead, he has usurped public funds and used them for engineering his reelection campaign and to enrich himself.
For a while, President Hassan has been saying that the country needs an effective functioning government! Isn’t he the head of government that is to ensure a good leadership and stability for the masses!. Instead his quest for a functioning government appears to be requesting the task from others? At times he appears as if he is not at the helm of the very same government he wants to function effectively. There is often confusion as to whom this request of functionality is addressed to.
Unlike last time in 2012, when he was an unknown figure and people were affording him the benefit of the doubt, this time he would be judged by his performance.There are numerous reports alleging the president has amassed massive wealth leading to much corruption and vote rigging. There is much discussion around gatherings and discussion circles of upwards of five million spent in parliamentary elections to ensure his re-election by the new legislators. It’s a well-known fact that Mr. Mohamud was a college instructor and a not-for- profit organization activist before he became president. Therefore, where and how he has amassed these large sums of money in a span of four years is a question that remains unanswered.
It is obvious that these monies are absconded public funds, which is why the country is suffering from massive corruptions, mismanagement, lack of safety with no strong and effective national security forces and no institution building to speak of.
In an op-ed piece on these pages (WardheerNews), Faisal Roble, Osman Hassan and others made convincing arguments that Somalia needs a new leadership come the election date, while Hassan Abukar argues Mr. Mohamud’s come back is a certainty, given his fat pockets and influence in buying corrupted parliamentarians. I may agree with this premise giving the facts on the ground and the money available to him, but the hope that reinforces my believe is that new members of parliament question the reason they should give him a second chance, if there is an ounce of principle considering the shape the country is in and the plight of the most vulnerable of society who have gained nothing under Mr. Mahamud. Additionally they ought to ask themselves the hard question while casting their vote come election day “Does he deserve a second chance?”
Abdelkarim A. Hassan
Email: [email protected]
Read the Somali version: Xasan Sheekh ma muddan yahay in mar kale la soo doorto?
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