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Hassan Sheikh Mohamud: The Return of the Incumbent

By Hassan M. Abukar

Barring the unforeseen, it is likely President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud (HSM) will be reelected on Dec. 28. What is not certain, however, is whether there is a possibility that the presidential election might be put off once again. A politician whose term technically expired last September, Hassan Sheikh has recently become unhinged in the numerous interviews he has given. His odd behavior has recently become a concern as he has spoken erratically and, seemingly, without a filter. In one interview,  he railed at unknown Somalis abroad equipped with laptops who pen articles against “Somalia” with the “four words of English” they had learned. He has equated criticizing the country of Somalia with opposing his government. Moreover, he juxtaposed these nefarious figures  who ran aways from home (ka cararay) with the Somalis in the country who carry guns and fight the government. He fails to acknowledge the hundreds of Somalis from the diaspora who occupy key positions in his own government.

Hassan Sh. Mohamud

Then, there was the time he welcomed the election of Donald Trump and said positive things about him. When the interviewer reminded him that the new U.S. president-elect lambasted Somalis in Minnesota, Hassan Sheikh drew a distinction between the Somalis in America and their brethren in Somalia. “Trump said nothing negative about the Somalis here,” he gloated.

At any rate, the possible re-election of Hassan Sheikh is strong. In a normal democratic country, the Somali president’s abysmal record for the last four years would have guaranteed his ultimate defeat. But, Somali elections are not one man, one vote. The parliament will select the new president, which is a process Hassan has wanted all along since his election in 2012.

Several years ago, a prominent government official revealed two things: There would not be direct elections in 2016, and that Hassan Sheikh was categorically “the most corrupt man in Somalia.” This official, who was appointed by none other than the president himself, has the jurisdiction to investigate his boss, Hassan Sheikh. Unfortunately, he is only interested in preserving his position and not rocking the boat.

Why is Hassan Sheikh likely to be reelected?

There are several reasons that might help his reelection:

1) He has stashed sufficient money to bribe many legislators in order to get their votes.  He did it in 2012 and he is likely to do it again. This man has been hoarding money for the last few years and, in essence, has a war chest that defies logic. These funds are not from his own pocket, but rather public funds diverted from government projects and monies from business conglomerates. It is not clear how much money he has for the election, but people close to him posit astronomical numbers—many say about $300k per vote—to guarantee his election. What is not clear is how many foreign governments are willing to invest millions in this presidential election? Countries like the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Turkey are expected to play a major role in the process, as well as neighboring countries. The Gulf factor is expected to be crucial. Some Gulf countries have not shied from dispensing cash to have their man elected. Moreover, there is no truth in the reports that Hassan’s second wife, whose house caught fire and was gutted last week, lost $30,000,000 cash in that dubious incident. It is one of the tabloid news items circulating in Mogadishu at this critical juncture in the country’s history.

2) There are too many presidential candidates, many from the diaspora, and almost all of them know they have no chance of unseating Hassan Sheikh. The number of the candidates is so staggering that the joke now is not who is running for president, but who is not. There are former presidents, former prime ministers, former ministers, former or current heads of regional governments, a former speaker of parliament, and a few professionals. Many are in the competition to bolster their resumes. Some are there to be in the limelight. Others are simply failed politicians who are committed to resurrecting their images. Unlike the opposition in Gambia’s recent elections in which they all united against the sitting president, Somali presidential candidates are unlikely to present a united front. Each wants to do what is best only for him. Yes, they are all men. The only female candidate withdrew from the race last week and faded with barely a sound. She was never serious about her race and spent almost all her time doing interviews with the international media, which found her candidacy alluring. She, like her male colleagues, rarely spent time campaigning in Somalia. She knew she had no chance, but she got her 15 minutes of fame. She is now back in her adopted country of Finland railing against “corruption in the presidential race.” In reality, she was no better candidate than many of the inept male candidates she was running against. In short, these presidential candidates’ division is a boon to Hassan Sheikh.

3) The Mogadishu factor comes from the fact that the next president will be Hawiye. All the talk about PM Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke unseating his boss is nothing but cheap talk. Let me be clear: The chance of a Darod president in Mogadishu is unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future. It’s a pipedream. Somalia is not ready to elect a Darod president again. Now, the Darod, the Dir and the Digil/Mirifle can be power brokers, but that is the extent they will play in the election.

4) There is also the myth of the homogenous “international community”. Now and then, one hears that the “International Community” wants Hassan Sheikh or that candidate. Not true. There are various countries and entities that play crucial role in Somali politics, but they are not united. Each country has its own interests to guard: Turkey has an economic interest in the country that might be anathema to the Emirates, and vice versa. There might be some convergence of interests among some of these entities, but one should never assume they are all one united front. Some of these entities might prefer the incumbent because it is simple, old politics: Better the devil you know.

In all, I do not expect miracles from the coming presidential elections. Hassan Sheikh has resoundingly failed in his first term because he has shown that his primary interest is self-enrichment. He did little to prepare the country for clean elections and with one man, one vote, did nothing on the provisional constitution, and, additionally, he allowed his cronies and relatives to control businesses, failed to bring law and order to the country, and became indifferent to genuine reconciliation. Another term for Hassan sheikh means the continuation of unbridled corruption, bad governance, and Somalia remaining the laughing stock of the world. However, there will always be some in the legislature who are willing to sell their soul for the right price.

Hassan M. Abukar
Mr. Abuakr is a regular contributor to Wardheernews and can be reached at [email protected].

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