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WardheerNews Person of the Year 2017: Fahad Yasin

By WardheerNews

It is not secret that Mr. Fahad Yasin Tahir, Chief of Staff for President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, is the most powerful, most influential figure in the political affairs of the country. In fact, he is considered by many as the most powerful non-elected official in Somalia for the past 10 years. Fahad, as he is universally called, was the chief financier and architect of the installation of the last two Somali presidents, Hassan Sheikh Mohamuod and Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo.

President Farmajo (left) and Fahad, his Chief of Staff

Many wonder how Fahad, an unknown, reclusive individual rarely seen in public, who hails from a small clan in a country in which clan politics reigns supreme, has made strong strides in influencing Somalia’s politics and politicians alike and astonishingly in a short period. In spite of his immense influence on the course of politics, little is known about him.

Fahad was a member of Al-Itihad Al-Islami (AIAI), a religious militant group before the group disbanded itself in 1997 after Washington branded it a terror group. Fahad, as a member of this armed group, was then based in Gedo and the Sanag regions and fought with the radical cleric Hassan Dahir Aweys, then the second man in Al-Itihad Al-Islami. Aweys later became an official of the Al-Shabaab terror group until he defected from the radical group in 2013.

Fahad left the Al-Atihad militia group after it encountered several defeats in Gedo and the Sanag regions, and then he travelled to Yemen to further his religious studies, In Sana, he attended the controversial Al-Imaan University, which was founded by Sheikh Abdul-Majid Al-Zindani, a radical cleric whom the U.S. Treasury Department has classified as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist and is also sanctioned by the United Nations. The American al-Qaeda figures, such as Anwar al-Awlaki and John Walker Lindh, had also attended Al-Iman University. Fahad did not complete his university studies.

Fahad received support and mentoring from his relative Farah Abdulkadir, an influential close friend and former key advisor of former Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. When Fahad left Al- Iman University, Farah helped him land in a position in the Qatar state-funded and owned Al Jazeera Arabic TV. In 2006, Fahad became the head of Al-Jazeera’s Somalia bureau. Although Fahad and Farah were members of two different religious persuasions (Al-Itihad—now known as Al-Ictisaam- and Al-Islah), their kinship and common clan affiliation brought them even closer to each other.

In 21012, just 10 days before the Somali presidential election, Fahad managed to secure a large amount of money from Qatar for the campaign of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, an obscure candidate with apparently no chance of winning. These illicit funds from Qatar enabled Mohamoud to buy enough votes to secure his election over the incumbent, Sheikh Sheriff Sheikh Hassan. Once Mohamoud won the election, Fahad miscalculated his sudden political fortune because he thought he would exert substantial influence on the new president.

For instance, Fahad wanted Mohamed Farmajo to be his preferred choice to be as the next prime minister in 2012. Farmajo was Fahad’s friend and someone he could influence. But President Hassan Mohamoud and his Damul-Jadid clique had a different plan for the position of the premiership. Fahad was let down and that led to his estrangement from President Mohamoud. For the next four years (2012-2016) that Mohamoud was in power, Fahad was in a political wilderness. However, he was making plans for a comeback to become relevant again and exert power in the country.

Fast forward to the elections of February 2017 when Mohamed Farmajo became a presidential candidate. Fahad’s dreams of making Farmajo a leader in Somalia presented itself again. Fahad, once again, brought piles of money from Qatar, but this time to finance Farmajo’s campaign against President Mohamoud. Fahad worked hard for Farmajo and even recruited a group of politicians, including Hassan Ali Kheyre, the current premier, a carry over and known allies of President Mohamoud.

Somalis celebrated when Farmajo became president defeating a corrupt sitting president. The streets of the country were filled with people chanting Farmajo’s name and expressing a desire for a new leader to end corruption and install honest and competent leaders. But Fahd had his own plan and strange view of governance.

Fahad Yasin, Chief of Staff for President Farmajo

The power and influence of Fahad became evident when he was named as the Chief of Staff of the office of the presidency. In reality, Fahad became the gatekeeper of the new president and evidently the de facto king-maker in Mogadishu.

The Chief of Staff’s position is usually given to someone with no political agenda, whose job is solely to execute the president’s political agenda. It was shocking to many observers of Somali politics to see Fahad in that critical position. Many were concerned that, judging from history, Fahad would instead push his own political agenda against in defiance to the president he now serves.

In the end all the fears many Somali observers had regarding an imperial Chief of Staff have come in fruition. Fahad has been the mastermind behind most of the recurring political setbacks of the new regime and the turmoil that has arisen between regional states and the federal governments.  In recent months, Fahad waged a political campaign to remove some regional presidents and other political figures from office, by using illicit Qatari funds to buy local parliamentary votes. These campaigns included a plan to replace Hirshabelle president. Fahad has allegedly spent more than $5 million in Galmudug and in the South-West regions to topple Presidents Haaf and President Sharif Hassan respectively.

Both Galmudug and the South-West attempts backfired and hence never materialized. On the contrary, Fahad’s failed attempts resulted in the creation of a coalition of the regional state government leaders, strangely—not to fight Al-Shabab but to safeguard their own interest against their own federal government. These regional leaders saw Fahad as their main threat and a source of destabilization.

Fahad has also allegedly played a crucial role in handing over of Colonel Abdikarim Sheikh Muuse (Qalbi Dhagax) to Ethiopia. The fact that Qatar was seeking to ease a blockade in the Gulf crisis and, hence, wanted to boost ties with Ethiopia at the expense of Egypt, might have influenced the Somali government’s decision to send Qalbi Dhagax to Ethiopia.  Since Qalbi Dhagax’s transfer, Doha has hosted the Ethiopian Prime Minister, promising to fund Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam.

Fahad has proved to be a person of immense personal ambitions. There are some observers who strongly believe that Fahad has links with the Qatari intelligence services in order to promote Doha’s interests and agenda in Mogadishu.

There are major concerns about Fahad’s unhealthy influence on his boss, President Farmajo and Prime Minister Kheyre, two leaders who seemingly have ceded power to Fahad and his political cabal.  Appointments of key government positions are made based on nepotism, cronyism, and with the consent of Fahad.

It is therefore on this background that WardheerNews has named Fahad Yasin as its Person of the Year due to his growing immense power and influence-wielding abilities over an elected and sitting president.

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Related articles:

–  WDN Person of the year 2016: Hassan Abukar and Faisal Roble
–  WDN Person of the Year 2015: Ahmed Hussen, the new Canadian member of Parliament
  WDN peron of the year 2014:Somali Week Festival (SWF) and Hargeisa   International Book Fair (HIBF)
– WDN Person of the year 2013: Said Salah
– WDN Person of the year 2012: Somali youth
– WDN Person of the year 2011: Sharif Hassan Sh. Adan

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