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Report Card: For the President and the Prime Minister of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFG)

WardheerNews Editorial
In  lieu of our annual review of the year’s past happenings, we share with our readers  the following report card. Comprised of two interrelated evaluations, one for  the President and the other for the sitting Prime Minister is a high level  review of the problems and prospects associated with these two leaders.
Sharif Ahmed & Abdiwali

In  the case of the PM, we would expect our readers to take this report card as a probationary  evaluation due to his short term in office, and look critically at what he has done  so far, what he could have done, or what opportunities afforded to him that he missed.  On the other hand, we would give the  president a final judgmental evaluation as to what we think regarding his open  record during his tenure.

President Sharif  Ahmed’s Report Card

When  Shaikh Sheriff Ahmed was elected the president of the
Transitional Federal Government  of Somalia (TFG) in Jan 2009, in Djibouti, his first political impact was immediately  felt in the very creation of a bloated transitional parliament.  The 250 body, established and agreed-upon at  the Embagathi reconciliation conference, had to be increased to 550 mainly to  accommodate his political demand at the time.   The international community and Somalis as well gave him a healthy dose  of confidence because he was perceived to be someone who would rally the nation  and unify the newly-expanded parliament.

With the expectation that his involvement with the Islamic Union Courts (ICU)  would lead to reconciliation with radical Islamists, including the Al-Qaeda  affiliated Al-Shabab group, Shaikh Sharif got what he wanted.  Today, the outsized and ineffective parliament  represents one of Somalia’s intractable issues.   We attribute this problem to the coming of Sheikh Sharif into the  political scene.

Mr.  Sharif proved to be an ineffective individual who utilized his newly-acquired political  capital for personal dealings, allegedly engaging in corruption, and pushing nepotism  to a new height while ignoring Al Shabab’s open presence in the capital and  throughout the troubled regions in South and Central Somalia.  As a result almost three years into his  administration, South-Central Somalia remains to be the only unstable region that  is impeding the process of pacification in the  country.

A  run-away culture of corruption in Mogadishu dimmed the hope to bring Somalia  back sooner.  As we recall, there was a report  which the  international Crisis Group authored in Feb 2011 and was covered widely  first by the Associated Press (AP) and then by the rest of the international  media, which uncovered institutional corruption in Mogadishu and inside the TFG.  Food aid has become a big business, especially for some of the president’s  close allies. As such, a close ally of the president, Mr. Abdulqadir Enow, was accused  of apparently staging a hijacking of his own trucks in order to sell the food aid,  estimated at  $ 200 million,  in the black market according to the  World Food Program (WFP). Mr. Sharif  had personally written to Banki Moon, the UN Secretary General, pleading  him not to revoke Enow’s contract.

Another headache President Sharif  contributed to Somalia is his tireless search to affect bilateral agreements  that had negative impacts on Somalia’s future.    In its issue of April 2, 2010, the  prominent Middle Eastern paper Sharqal Awsat, unearthed a  shady agreement between Sh. Sharif and an American lobbying firm, Shamun  Rogers in which the latter was paid handsomely to reclaim  frozen Somali assets held in Swiss Banks. The president’s critics often  point out the timing of making these bilateral arrangements as being out of  line at this juncture in the nation’s history.

This  incident surfaced along with a potentially more consequential secret memorandum  of understanding (MOU) between Sh. Sharif and a Norwegian firm.  The latter deal, which  was interpreted by the Somalis, to have conferred oil drilling rights in Somali waters to Kenya was  brokered by the former UN representative to Somalia, Mr. Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah.

Shaikh Sharif’s insistence to  complete these controversial bilateral agreements, most importantly the case of  Somalia’s marine line demarcation has been a source of significant irritation.  And a no-lesser controversy and a sore note in the President’s legacy is what  amounts to be an institutional embezzlement of the nation’s frozen Somali  assets in foreign banks.

The  three adjectives that come to mind about Shariff’s presidency are bloated  parliament, corruption and ineffectiveness.   With all this under his belt, he is yet hopeful that, with the help of  Uganda’s powerful dictator, Yoweri Museveni that  he will be back come August 2012 as president.   We think not.

Prime Minister Dr. Abdiweli’s  Card

The  current Prime Minster, Dr. Abdiwali Ali, was appointed to the post in June,  2011, after his former boss and fellow expatriate from Buffalo, New York, Mohamed  Farmajo, was forced to resign.  Dr. Abdiwali  is either Johnny come late to a situation that is already sick to the core, or someone  who, owing to lack of charisma’ missed the biggest opportunity to help Somalia  come out of the black hole.  

The  first missed opportunity was his failure to establish a cabinet of his own  choice.  Most of the sitting-cabinet  members were handpicked by President Sheikh Sharif and Sharif Hassan, Speaker  of the Parliament.  Both of them did so  by relying on their surrogates and the vacating-members of the Farmajo  cabinet.  In this unheard bizarre  horse-trading arrangement in selecting cabinet members, it was a reflection of  how ineffective Dr. Ali’s cabinet has been. One  therefore can’t help but wonder why the PM did not fight to select a cabinet of  his own that would execute his agenda.

What  could and should the PM have done is more of a theoretical issue now since the  sitting cabinet members are as much entrenched in their jobs as he is in his.  The question that most ask is whether the sitting  cabinet members are loyal to the PM and his agenda, or to those former  ministers, most of whom have unbounded loyalty to the ousted PM, Mr.  Farmajo.  Cognizant of the weakness of PM  Abdiwali, Mr. Farmajo has not ruled out a political comeback that would further  weaken the PM and engulf the country into a political quagmire.

Some  may call the inability of the new PM to seat his own cabinet as a missed  opportunity at best and a sign of weakness in its extreme form.  The fact that the PM has not accomplished any  meaningful objective about the road map to which his office was charged is a direct  result of the dysfunctional working relationship between the PM, the President  and the powerful Speaker of the Parliament, Sharif Hassan.

The  tussle that exists within the TFI could not have been clearer than this last  September, when three separate delegations, each with its own agenda, visited  the Diaspora and Washington’s power corridors (that is PM, Speaker of the Parliament  and Mr. Mahiga, the Tanzania-born head of the UNPOS).  Each delegation was travelling on its own  accord and without any coordination of each other.

It  has been widely reported the most unpleasant discord was ostensibly between the  PM, who was presumably on an official visit, and the Speaker of the Parliament,  who came here (US) for no known official engagement.   The two stayed in the same hotel but never communicated or coordinated  their visits’ itineraries with each other.   The Tanzania-Born UN diplomat was behaving in his own right as if he was  an equal to, if not more powerful than, the Somali leaders.

Dr.  Abdiwali has had rather the misfortune of taking this office when the crises in  the country are so enormous and most challenging! Some of these challenges include:

Famine, Somalia
PM Abdiwali and members of his cabinet playing football,

1- The worst famine the country has had since  in recent history;

2- An intractable war with Al-Shabab that is not going anywhere.

PM Abdiwali’s open campaigning for  Kenya and Ethiopia to invade his country represents a colossal mistake of his  own making.  He in fact had eroded any  glimmer of legitimacy that he could have had as PM.  How? When Somalis compare him to the founding  fathers of this troubled nation (Adan Abdulla Osman,  Abdulrashid Sharmarke, Abdirazak Haji Hussein,  Egal and others), they seem to be bewildered  about the PM’s lack of an iota of patriotism.

The  combined weight of these factors and the PM’s leniency to give in to more  assertive competitors already led to the pronouncement of this PM as one of the  least effective leaders so far to hold this office.  Adjectives that come to mind about Dr. Ali are as follows: ineffective leadership  quality, lack of assertiveness and absence of patriotism. In his case,  education apparently, has been of little use to him, as was captured  by  Osman Hassan, former UN official and BBC broadcaster:

 “When we had the warlords, we could at least  comfort ourselves by envisioning a time when they would be replaced by educated  principled leaders. Well, we did replace them with degree and PhD holders,  professors, Sheikhs, you name them, and yet they all turn out to be no less  venal, rapacious and puppets for neighboring governments”.

The  question remains whether Dr. Abdiwali would use these challenges as a field  full of opportunities, exploit them and reap the fruits in the end. To do so would undoubtedly require, savvy and  technocratic approach to these and other related issues.  So far the PM has not shown strong  leadership, but rather has  shown  behaviors often associated with junior staff in the manner he had “outsourced”  many of his office’s mandates to other  TFI executive  branch.

His absence from Mogadishu, when  the consultative conference, part of the Roadmap process, indicates misplaced  priorities on his part.  The  PM has a lot to accomplish as more tasks in the Roadmap are either lagging  behind or seem at this point unachievable.

We  urge the PM to exploit the afore mentioned challenges and show serious leadership in owning his  office for the remaining six short months left of his term.


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