Thursday, July 18, 2024
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President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud: The Veil of Corruption and Family Centric Administration

By Ahmed Ibrahim PhD

Somalia, a nation scarred by decades of conflict, famine, and poverty, looked to President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud for hope and progress. However, his second term in office has left many disillusioned, as he falls short of the promises he once made. Mohamud’s re-election in May 2023 was met with anticipation. Yet, the reality has been starkly different. His pledges of security, democracy, and development remain unfulfilled. Instead, the corridors of power have become breeding grounds for the nexus of nepotism, cronyism, and corruption.

President Hassan at AU summit.

The federal government, once a beacon of hope, now stands accused of serving the interests of a select few. Mohamud, along with his family and circle of allies, have used the government as a business entity, enriching themselves while neglecting their entrusted responsibility upon by the Somali people. Key positions within the government, diplomatic corps and security forces are filled with incompetent relatives and loyalists, often bypassing merit and accountability, while rendering the prime minster as a useless ceremonial post!

During President Hassan’s presidential campaign from 2019 to April 2023, he frequently articulated his vision for change within the Somali government. Drawing upon his prior experience as President from 2012 to 2017 and subsequent time in the opposition, he emphasized his commitment to instituting significant reforms. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud pledged to leverage his insights and learning from his previous term to construct a more efficient and responsive government for Somalia. Central to his agenda was the establishment of a government dedicated to implementing policies that truly served the interests of the people, aiming to leave behind a lasting legacy of progress and development.

However, despite these stated intentions, concerns arose regarding the appointments made within the government during President Hassan’s tenure. A pattern of nepotism and cronyism have become the day-to-day activities of the president, wherein the majority, if not all, of the government appointments were limited to individuals with familial or personal ties to President Hassan. This practice raised questions about power sharing, fairness, transparency, and the meritocratic principles essential for effective governance. The favoritism towards family members and close associates within the government threatened to undermine public trust and hinder efforts towards building inclusive institutions.

Inside Villa Somalia: Unmasking President Mohamud’s Family Enterprise

Within the walls of Villa Somalia, the presidential residence, Mohamud’s family wield major influence. Their financial interests and connections raise eyebrows. To name a few the family business ventures with major government contracts, the import of Khat from Kenya and airline industry such as Flydubai and Ethiopian Airlines. The lack of transparency surrounding these dealings fuels suspicions of undue influence.

Mohamud’s nepotism extends beyond family ties. His appointments—ministers, officials, and advisers—are from his own clan or sub-clan, or loyal to his association “the Union for Peace and Development (UPD).” In doing so, he disregards the constitutional mandate of fair representation and power sharing for all regions and clans. The Daarood, Dir, Rahanweyn, and even Hawiye critical of his leadership find themselves marginalized.

In the corridors of power, where decisions shape nations and alliances, President Hassan Sheikh has made a move that reverberates far beyond the walls of Villa Somalia. A case in point is the lack of fulfilment of three ministerial positions, that include the ministers of Foreign Affairs and Internal Security, leaving vacant when Somalia is facing a foreign and security threats. Moreover, the Foreign Affairs post is currently being given to one of his allies and clan associate, assuming such portfolio with the president’s daughter!

Also, his decision to appoint his daughter, Jihan Hassan Sheikh, as Sr. advisor on foreign affairs and the de facto foreign minister has ignited a firestorm of debate. Jihan, a young woman in her early twenties, lacks the relevant experience or qualifications typically associated with such a critical role. Yet, she has been a fixture at high-level meetings and international events, often standing alongside her father. Her presence has raised major concerns among seasoned diplomats and foreign partners.

Critics argue that proximity to power should not be the sole criterion for such appointments. While President Mohamud cites Jihan’s education and experience, many question whether these credentials suffice. Is attending global summits enough to warrant a pivotal position in shaping Somalia’s foreign policy? The tension between merit-based appointments and familial loyalty is stark. Ideally, foreign policy decisions should be guided by competence and expertise. Jihan’s appointment, however, hints at a different calculus—one where family ties play a decisive role.

Behind the scenes, deserving seasoned diplomats and qualified public servants have toiled tirelessly. Their expertise, honed over years of service, remains overshadowed by clan centered appointments. The disregard for their contributions underscores a troubling trend—one that undermines the very foundations of good governance.

President Mohamud’s previous term was also marred by allegations of nepotism, cronyism, and corruption. Now, as he elevates his own flesh and blood to a critical position, it is a calculated move—one aimed at consolidating power within the family circle. Somalia deserves a foreign policy guided by competence, integrity, and a deep understanding of geopolitical intricacies. The appointment of Jihan Mohamud raises critical questions about accountability and transparency. As the Somali people watch, they demand answers—a path forward that transcends family ties and serves the nation’s interests.

Accountability vs. Clan/Family Loyalty

President Hassan Sheikh leadership threatens the very fabric of governance, transparency, and accountability. The presidents’ priorities are confused, while there are the pressing needs of the war with Al Shabab and institutional development, President Hassan’s preoccupation with the constitutional change, consolidating power and micromanaging government affairs through familial channels, not only erodes public trust but also jeopardizes the country’s prospects for meaningful progress and development.

The president’s entourage reads like a family reunion. His daughter, son, niece, in laws and other clan relatives form an influential circle within his administration to conduct government businesses, such as those officials among them the state minister of foreign affairs and national security advisor, currently engaging in discreet diplomatic efforts, operating through backdoor channels, in undisclosed mission to Nairobi. The purpose of this mission is said to negotiate with the Ethiopian government, leveraging Kenyan mediation, regarding the recent agreement on access to the Red Sea between Ethiopia and Somaliland.

The family and clan associations’ proximity to power is proven to be the president’s sole central management practice. His former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, who resigned after being blocked from attending the Arab League Summit, is just one voice among many questioning the web of clan network and the legitimacy of these appointments.

In conclusion, Nepotism—the practice of favoring family members and close associates—casts a long shadow over Mohamud’s tenure. Key appointments, rather than being merit-based, are driven by blood and clan ties. This undermines public trust and exacerbates internal divisions. The Somali people deserve leaders chosen for competence, not kinship. Within the president’s inner circle, cronyism thrives. Personal connections, not qualifications, dictate decision-making. The result? Mediocrity, and a culture were nepotism and cronyism trumps competence. Transparency, meritocracy, and accountability must replace these shadowy dealings.

Mohamud’s cronyism extends beyond national borders. Foreign actors, who have supported him financially and politically, have received favors and concessions in return. These relationships have paved the way for lucrative contracts and deals awarded to foreign companies, often without proper oversight or transparency. In doing so, Mohamud has unwittingly violated national interests and sovereignty. The president’s alignment with certain countries and organizations has created tensions and conflicts within Somalia and the broader region. While some applaud his strategic partnerships, others view them as compromising Somalia’s hard-won independence. His antagonism towards specific actors further exacerbates these divisions.

The specter of corruption looms large. Allegations of graft, illicit deals, embezzlement, and kickbacks paint a grim picture. Somalia’s stability and development hang in the balance. As accusations swirl, President Mohamud’s actions—those that undermine the constitution, democratic norms, and the rule of law—demand scrutiny. As Somalia navigates its complex political landscape, it must confront these challenges head-on. Competence should triumph over connections, and merit should outweigh familial ties. The Somali people deserve leaders who uphold integrity, transparency, and the nation’s best interests.

In the process, President Mohamud has undermined the legitimacy and effectiveness of the federal government. Public trust in its institutions has eroded, hindering progress and prospects for a united Somalia. The Somali people, who have endured decades of war, famine, and poverty, deserve better. The international community, which has invested significant resources in supporting Somalia’s development and security, should also expect better. Their commitment to stability and progress demands leadership that transcends personal interests.

President Mohamud must recognize that the path to peace and prosperity lies in unity, dialogue, honesty, and integrity—not in nepotism, cronyism, corruption, and deception. Somalia deserves a leader who is honest, competent, and accountable. A leader who can unite the country, reform institutions, and deliver essential services. Somalia needs a leader who will fight against corruption, uphold the constitution and rule of law, and serve the interests of all Somalis. The road ahead is treacherous, but the Somali people deserve nothing less than a leader who can navigate it with integrity and vision.

By prioritizing personal and clan interests over the collective welfare of the Somali people, President Hassan Sheikh’s leadership undermines the foundation upon which effective governance is built. The Somali people demand more from the president. It is time to choose a different course—one that leads to a united, prosperous Somalia.

Ahmed Ibrahim, Ph.D
[email protected]
Dr. Ahmed Ibrahim is a former senior United Nations official who served in the Africa, the Middle East, and the United Nations Head Quarters in New York. Dr. Ibrahim is a security and development consultant as well as freelance writer and report based in Nairobi, Kenya.

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