Thursday, February 20, 2020
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Somalia: Mr. President, Stop being your own spokesperson

By: Mohamed A. Hussein

The recent attack on Villa Somalia by Al-Shabab was a surprise to most of the Somali people, but certain political analysts  who follow Somali politics were not astonished that the president, the day after attack, held a press conference and undermined the whole issues as mere occurrence in which Al Shabab made one of its last desperate move.

IMG_1411-280x187In a press conference, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud stated that his government would put a plan in place to wipe out Al Shabab out of the country within the next few months without mentioning the detail of the plan. During his campaign to win the presidency, President Hassan stressed that his first priority would be to secure the safety of the capital. Later on in that press conference, he pointed out that Al Shabab was so weak to the point that it attacked Villa Somalia.

Most of the people who listened to that press conference left confused, since the President was not making any sense. If Al-Shabab was fragile enough as the president declared, how comes the religious faction was able to attack inside Villa Somalia? That is the question asked among Somali people the day after president’s speech.

It seemed that the president was not being upfront to the Somalia people. A Couple days before the attack of Villa Somalia, PM Abdiwali Ahmed Mohamed expressed his concern regarding the lack of security in the country, much different from what the President explained to the Somali people the day after attack.

In that press conference, PM Abdiwali said that it is not hidden from anyone that Al-Shabab’s activities increased recent especially in the capital city of Mogadishu where it has become a norm to hear motor sounds in the middle of the night without anyone in the security apparatus following up and he concluded basically the government does not have the capacity to fight back.

The PM added that he does not want to sound frail or disappoint his listeners, but it is the reality on ground.  However, having said that, the PM assured the Somali people that with their help, Al- Shabab can be defeated. After that speech, his supporters applauded him as someone who can be trusted with the position he holds since there was no single Somali politician who, recently, leveled with the Somali people as the PM did.

However his critics blamed him as sounding weak and less established because, his speech days before attack, was what encouraged Al Shabab to take such an invasive action for the first time and infiltrate Villa Somalia.

The reason certain political analysts were not surprised by President Hassan’ remark of defending an allegation (whether it is corruption or lack of performance) against his government without any independent investigation done, is because, this is not the first time that the president denied an allegation against his government. It was widely known or reported in news media a couple month ago, that when the allegation over the corruptions of the central bank came to light, the president became his own spokesman when he publicly denied any wrong doing on the part of his government without even entertaining any possibility such corruption might exist.

Certain people who follow Somali politics questioned why would the president who was not directly linked to the accusation over the central bank fiasco defended his staff directly before any independent investigation was concluded.

However, some political analysts concluded that the only way the president could defend his staff without any investigation being done, is that he was personally aware such corruption took place. Thus, such a move to defend allegations against his staff would send a signal to staff members that it is tolerable and he stood behind them. The President is normally expected to be neutral to any accusations or corruption alleged to his government until a final investigation is done and the result of that investigation is made public.

It seems that the president thinks that he can solve all problems by himself by any means necessary. A few months ago, when the president noticed a lack of progress made by the government in terms of all he wanted accomplished including the safety of the Mogadishu and other areas, he resorted to following the best practice followed by transitional presidents, which was to change the prime minister as that would cure all ills.

Now, since he cannot blame the second PM he nominated a little over year, he is trying to paint a picture to the Somali people that everything will be okay since his government will implement the grand plan to wipe out Al-Shabab within months even though the PM who is supposedly expected to execute that plan cannot see the light at end of the tunnel based on the President’s recent statement.

Somali people are aware that when the president was elected, he promised that his government’s priority top priority would be security, security and security, and the result on the ground, year after, became a lack of security to the point where Al-Shabab militias finally entered inside Villa Somalia, resulting in the killing of government staff members.

Instead of denying all the accusations against his government, most analysts suggested that the president should have been neutral to any accusations leveled against his government and let the executive branch led by the PM assign an independent committee to investigate all allegations without interference by his staff. The President should not influence the result of pending investigation by the public by denying the existence of such allegations. By doing this, it sends a bad signal to all that the president is hiding something.

Finally, the president will need to look himself in the mirror and come clean to the people of Somalia who expect a lot from this government, the first one recognized by international community since the collapse of the central government in 1991. He should also be upfront with the Somali people by telling them the situation on the ground as it is like PM Abdiwali did.  Somali people are tired of politicians who only care prolonging their career. Instead, they want someone who tells them as it is, not a president who becomes his own spokesman immediately after every incident.

By Mohamed A. Hussein

Email: [email protected]


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