Saturday, May 18, 2024
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Farmajo’s Farce

By Hassan M. Abukar

The appointment of Hassan Kheyre as Somalia’s new prime minister by the country’s president, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, has sent shockwaves through the country, leaving many political commentators bemused and the public surprised.

President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo in Saudi Arabia

There are many reasons for this reaction, not least of which is that fact that Kheyre, a Norwegian citizen, was an ally of President Hassan S. Mohamoud (HSM) and campaigned for him, despite well-placed rumors that he contributed financially to Farmajo’s campaign. Like many “astute” politicians, Kheyre’s duplicitous support for the two rivals for presidency clearly shows that either result would be a win-win situation for him. But the real brain teaser here is why Farmajo appointed Kheyre as his premier, knowing that the latter had campaigned openly for HSM. HSM even tried to nominate Kheyre for an IGAD job, but Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya rejected him after a UN monitoring group had accused him of graft.

Prime Minister designate Hassan Kheyre (left) in a refugee camp

It is extraordinary that Kheyre has been appointed to such a high office in government, not only in light of the investigation into his affairs by the UN Monitoring Group for Somalia and Eritrea, but also because of the serious allegations levelled against him regarding corruption and alleged ties with Al-Shabaab. While the UN Monitoring Group is not a prosecutorial entity, these allegations warrant an independent investigation. It would have been prudent for Farmajo, widely hailed as an anti-corruption candidate, to select someone else not tainted by allegations of corruption. Some Somalis are alarmed by Farmajo’s choice of Kheyre because they had such high expectations of him naming a non-controversial figure.

Kheyre has no government experience. He has carried out extensive humanitarian work and is known to be smart and engaging. His detractors, however, say he is what Somalis call “nin fudud” (a man given to rash decisions). Some people who have met him have appraised him in positive terms, while others have expressed concern about his lack of experience for taking the helm of government. It is the same old story of on the job training we have been accustomed to in Somali politics; figures such as former presidents HSM and Sheikh Sharif and former prime ministers such as Abdi Shirdon, Abdiweli Sheikh, and Farmajo himself—in his first stint as a premier in 2010—being placed in leadership positions. The country, it seems, is always trying to reinvent the wheel.

Kheyre’s appointment came as a surprise as he belongs to a sub-clan (Murursade) of Hawiye that has historically never held either the presidency or the premiership. A group of Hawiye traditional leaders met Farmajo recently and implored him to appoint a Hawiye—any Hawiye—as his prime minister. However, a Somali politician, a Murusade, called me one week before Kheyre’s appointment to tell me an odd story. He said the Murursade chieftain and elders met with Farmajo separately and pleaded with him to appoint a Murursade premier. “For 30 years, no member of our clan has represented our country as president or prime minister,” the elders lamented.

When I heard Kheyre had been appointed premier, I dismissed it as a joke. I thought Farmajo would appoint the usual suspects: either Abgaal or Habar Gidir. In the end, Farmajo, whose wife is a Murursade, defied political convention and appointed a Murursade premier. There are reports that Kheyre is also married to a woman from Farmajo’s clan. Clan politics are never far from major government appointments.

Fahad Yasin Factor

Fahad Yasin Haji Dahir, a former employee of al-Jazeera, is a political operative who is closely allied with Farmajo and currently wields unusual power in his transition. Did Fahad bring loads of money from the Gulf countries to Farmajo’s presidential campaign? On July, 2013, the UN Monitoring Group accused Fahad and Abdi Aynte, also a former employee of al-Jazeera, of bringing millions of dollars from Qatar for then-candidate HSM “which was used to buy off political support.”

Fahad Yasin

Fahad was once an ally of HSM until the two had a disagreement over Farmajo. In 2013, Fahad earnestly tried to persuade President HSM to appoint Farmajo as premier. HSM agreed, but at the 11th hour, he changed his mind and instead appointed Abdiweli S. Ahmed. It was widely believed Farah Abdulkadir (Fahad’s uncle and then influential presidential advisor) had blocked Farmajo’s appointment. Fahad was so disappointed with HSM that their relationship soured.

Now Fahad is back on the political scene with verve. He and Dahir Ghelle, Somalia’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, were instrumental in Farmajo’s first foreign trip to Saudi Arabia. There is a fear that Fahad Yasin will be another Farah Abdulkadir-type politician, a Rasputin-like figure capable of influencing the new Farmajo Government.

It is likely that Somalia’s parliament will approve Kheyre’s appointment. The chance of the legislature holding exhaustive hearings about Kheyre and his past business dealings is slim. Farmajo will have his nominee approved. The question then will be what type of cabinet Kheyre will nominate. Will they be the same old faces we have seen in HSM’s failed government? Will the new ministers be as inexperienced as the new premier? There is concern that HSM, despite being defeated in the presidential elections, will wield some power in the new government. If that is the case, an old Somali proverb will once again find credence: “Ayax teg eelna reeb” (The locust flew away, but it left hardship).

By Hassan Abukar
Hassan M. Abukar is a political analyst, a contributor to Wardheernews, and the author of Mogadishu Memoir. He can be reached at [email protected].

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