By Guled Hagi Hersi
Two years has passed since the Somali people celebrated the election of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo as the “savior” of the country after President Hassan Sheikh’s term was marked by runaway corruption committed by his rapacious team and greedy family members. More than anything, the Somali people were yearning for a clean break with past malfeasance and a demonstrable leap in transparency, accountability and good governance.
Little did we know that, two years later, we will be in far worse condition. The famous Somali adage “col ku dhac, tuugana kuu ciidamisay” (roughly translated to: robbed by the enemy, only to be rescued by mobsters) aptly captures the bitter aftertaste. Majority of Somalis are now in buyer’s remorse with Farmaajo. They have recognized that, with Hassan Sheikh, we had a predictably benevolent thief who was paradoxically interested in the veneer of peace-building and state-building.
Under President Farmaajo, Somalia is blighted by the double whammy of untethered corruption and recycled dictatorship cleverly packaged as nationalism. By all accounts, President Farmaajo, aided by his conflict entrepreneur Prime Minister, Hassan Ali Khaire, and his reclusive, radical-cum political operative, Fahad Yassin, has run the country aground. For the first time since the Third Republic was revived in Arta in Djibouti almost 20 years ago, the country is in real danger of further disintegration or outright internecine war.
Allow me to highlight why I’m deeply troubled by Farmaajo’s thinly veiled dictatorship. First, the President has deliberately transformed the security apparatus from protecting the state and its citizens—a primary responsibility enshrined in the Constitution—to a militia hell-bent on regime security at the expense of virtually everyone and everything, including civilians and national resources. That is why Al Shabaab has regained more territory over the past two years than over the eight years before that. In fact, Farmaajo has facilitated the infiltration of Al Shabaab in the security sector, particularly in NISA, as documented by the UN Monitoring Group. Effectively, former senior figures of Al Shabaab are now collaborating with the Farmaajo Administration in its regime security priority, at the expense of state security. Zakariye Ismail, a kinsman of Farmaajo and once the head of the feared Amniyat cell within the Shabaab, is now in charge of regime security for Farmaajo. The objective is to repackage dictatorship in the façade of nationalism by usurping more powers and disempowering oversight and accountability institutions.
Second, President Farmaajo is far more corrupt than Hassan Sheikh both in financial figures and in the sophisticated methods he established to steal seamlessly. Whereas Hassan Sheikh was a petty thief expropriating public land for cronies and family members, Farmaajo is going beneath the earth to steal Somalia’s natural resources. With the assistance of his PM, a certified con artist, he orchestrated the auctioning of the country’s proven oil and gas deposits. The highway robbery event in London on 7-8th of February, which was ironically scheduled to coincide on the second anniversary of Farmaajo’s election, was by far the most brazen example of President’s elaborate formula for stealing systemically. This theft was so shameless that it was carried out by Spectrum, the same company that helped Hassan Khaire while he was an executive with Soma Oil. As revealed by the VOA, the employees of the Petroleum Ministry have been on the payroll of Spectrum for years. In an interview with the VOA shortly after the auctioning conference, the Minister of Petroleum, Eng. Abdirashid Sheekhaalow refused to disclose the shares of the Somali Government, chastising the journalist for even questioning that. “We are the representatives of the Somali people; we will disclose that when appropriate,” he said, rather unconvincingly.
President Farmaajo also steals more cash than Hassan Sheikh, a fact uncovered by the UN Monitoring Group in their last report. He receives about five million USD a month from Qatar through Fahad Yassin, the head of the national intelligence agency and the architect of Farmaajo’s election victory. According to the Monitoring Group, this amount is exclusively managed by Farmaajo, Khaire and Fahad as a slush money to buy loyalty, silence critics, remove opponents and, above all, fuel nationalistic fever to conceal their schemes.
Third and perhaps the most flagrant abuse of power during the Farmaajo era is his systemic dismantling of virtually all oversight and accountability institutions, such as the Federal Parliament, the Judiciary, the Attorney General and Auditor General. While former presidents were notorious for changing prime ministers like a pair of socks, Farmaajo is the first president to forcefully oust a sitting Speaker of Parliament on the ground that he was “an obstacle” to his nefarious agenda. The sacking of Mohamed Osman Jawaari, a veteran politician who commands the respect of most Somalis, was a daring mission to render the Federal Parliament toothless. Since, the House of the People has been aptly called “Golaha Sacabka”.
In December, when the Finance and Planning Committee of the Federal Parliament exposed serious theft amounting to $42 million USD, Farmaajo moved swiftly to sack the entire committee, including its chair, and replacing him with a puppet. Also last year, President Farmaajo sacked the Chief Justice—illegally—and replaced him with a 32-year-old former inventory officer with an NGO in Hargeisa with virtually no litigation experience. As we learned later, the new Chief Justice happens to be the first cousin of the Deputy Prime Minister!
Even the Central Bank, an independent monitory policy and economics institution, was not spared by Farmaajo’s unprecedented corruption. When PM Khaire decided to install a former consultant to Soma Oil, Nigel Roberts, as the new Governor, he asked “Golaha Sacabka” to change the law of the land just for him, and they complied dutifully. Later, we learned that
Mr. Roberts did not only score much lower than many qualified Somalis for the post, but he also performed badly in the interview. Still, three of the five panelists (Minister Beileh, Minister Anshur and Abdurahman from the Office of the PM) voted for Mr. Roberts, and the only two independent panelists, Dr. Ali Isse Abdi, a respected economist and a Kenyan expert, voted against Mr. Roberts (who has a degree in fiction writing—no kidding!). With Mr. Roberts at the helm of the Central Bank, Farmaajo and Khaire would have consolidated state institutions to steal willfully and systemically.
Fourth, President Farmaajo is systemically dismantling the federal architecture of the nation. Over the two years he has been in power, he successfully helped the removal of three presidents of federal member states, and, with the exception of Puntland, has replaced them with loyalists. In Puntland, where the election was largely free and fair, Farmaajo failed spectacularly in his attempt to install Mohamud Khalif (Jabiye), a former taxi driver turned businessman in Minneapolis as a the president of state. The MPs of the local parliament elected a veteran politician, Said Abdullahi Deni (although they happily accepted the $50K a vote Jabiye was doling out the night of the election).
The federal system of Somalia is imperfect, but it’s the best hope for a post-conflict society like Somalia to come together again. Anyone trying to undermine it should be fought vigorously.
One of President Farmaajo’s hallmark projects is the weaponization of social media and few “qaaqlayaal” (rabble rousers) whose megaphones spare no one from their venomous attacks. Again, a number of independent reports have exposed that Villa Somalia spends upwards of a million dollars a month on an army of bots and trolls online, and on the rabble rousers who create a pro-regime eco-chamber that permeates Facebook and Twitter. Under the tutelage of Abdinur Mohamed, the Chief Propagandist of Villa Somalia, who happens to be the nephew of Fahad Yassin, this well-oiled machinery unleashes coordinated attacks against anyone suspected of being disloyal to President Farmaajo, often using incendiary language to defame politicians and other prominent people.
The irony of this project came to the fore last week, during the auctioning of Somalia’s oil blocks in London. Villa Somalia deployed the “qaaqlayaal” army, led by Ali Yare, a former day laborer in Dubai best known for his exceptional capacity to mobilize IDPs when Farmaajo needs them, or for “igu sawir” opportunities. Among others, the “qaaqlayaal” included the notorious Dahir Alasow, a common criminal and a former mooryaan now based in the Netherlands, and Abdinasir Zola, a cantankerous blogger known as a serial fraudster in London. And from Minneapolis, the Villa Somalia deployed Duq Bilow, a truck driver who spews hate speech from the driver seat of his 32-wheeled lorry while crisscrossing the United States.
The hiring of megaphones has now extended to so-called religious scholars and pseudo journalists. Sheikh Kenyawi is the latest iteration of Villa Somalia funded disorientation campaign aimed to redirecting the public’s attention from the real challenges of the country into nonissues. And just last month, Villa Somalia commissioned “a documentary” by an obscure “journalist” who assembled few videos he lifted from Youtube to slander against politicians hailing from Mogadishu.
Resist the Dictator
Regardless of how many rabble rousers Farmaajo hires, his image is beyond repair. He will spend the next two years stealing natural resources and other sources at will. He understands very well that his chances of a second term are practically nonexistent. This was brought home during the recent inauguration of President Deni in Puntland. Garowe put on a show of national character, and reduced Farmaajo to one of many equals. In fact, the other three known candidates from the Presidency in 2020, Sheikh Sharif, Hassan Sheikh and Abdirahman Abdishakur, had far more traction than he had.
When he awkwardly crouched to the podium, grinning nervously, he admitted guilt by saying that, “from now on, I’ll be an elder statesman for the nation, and will heal the wounds.” It was designed to blunt the attention of the audience from his long wrap sheet. Days after he returned to Mogadishu, he renewed his incendiary attacks on the opposition, derisively calling them “angry politicians” and even went further: he claimed that “independent media was designed to destroy Somalia,” a remarkable statement by a president of a democratic, constitutional republic.
The statement mirrored those of Trump, Putin and other autocrats around the world. We should never allow the return of dictatorship in our country. We should resist by all means possible.
Guled Hagi Hersi
Guled is an economist by training and management consultant by trade. He can be reached Email: [email protected]
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– The blah blah prime minister of Somalia By WardheerNews
– Farmajo’s farce By Hassan M. Abukor
–Somali officials linked to money laundering and public corruption By Dr. Ahmed Ibrahim
–Farmajo one year review part I By Various Authors
–Farmajo one year review part II By Various Authors
–Farmajo: The saga of missed opportunity By Faisal Roble
–How Farmajo fragmented his fragile state By WardheerNews
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