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What Your Advisors Will Not Tell You - An Open Letter to President Hassan Sh. Mohamud

Please read Somali Version here

Somali President Mr. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud

by Abdinur Mohamud, Ph.D

Monday, March 2, 2015

It was barely two years ago when literally the whole nation rejoiced over your rise to power and elated on the notion that an ordinary civil society leader can assume the presidency of a war ravaged fragile state where warlord-ism reigned for so many years. In retrospect, your relative obscurity and detachment from Somalia’s past ills, gave you the edge and made you a safe bet over other deeply entrenched contenders. In essence, you were afforded a lifetime opportunity to serve your nation, bestowed without reservation, the highest favorable rating imaginable, carrying on your shoulders the hope and aspiration of a war fatigued society. Because of your humble background, contagious smile and soothing demeanor, Somalis and friends of Somalia were relived in your selection and found in you a ray of hope that the nation’s intractable political conflict may be a thing of the past and a new dawn for effective leadership, statehood and development is in the offing.   In fact, you are among rare leaders afforded a massive political mandate sufficient to carry the nation forward, rekindle its dimming appetite for nationhood and restore social and political stability.

Mr. President, it is not an overstatement to underscore the fact that unfortunately you did not live up to these expectations and on the contrary the nation may return back to a period of conflict and mayhem if the current political trajectory prevails before the expiration of your term.  

Mr. President, a great deal of opportunity and momentum were lost during your presidency and a very valuable political capital carelessly squandered that could have catapulted the nation into political stability. Consequently, public confidence in your leadership is at arguably all-time low, clan-ism and warlord-ism is unabashedly on the rise and after a sharp military and economic decline, Al-shabab is breathing once again and flexing its muscles in and around your presidential compound.

Mr. President, I am writing this letter not as a critic of your administration, but out of concern for our country’s future and a burning desire to shake your inner spirits for immediate positive change before it is too late. My concern, Mr. President, is that if left to your own devices, you may leave Somalia much worse than you found it.

Here is a glimpse of current political realities that your advisors may not relate to you.

Growing Insecurity

Mr. President, you promised the Somali people a national vision in your post-election plan called the “six pillar policy”, giving heightened emphasis on national security and signaling your unwavering pledge to restore peace and security to the nation. This now forgotten policy focused on the creation of political stability; speeding up of economic recovery; rebuilding peace and removing main drivers of conflict; improving institutional capacity for public service delivery; and increasing international partnerships. Mr. President, the welcome sound of these well-intentioned slogans aside, Somalia is nowhere closer to achieving any of these critical objectives, and on the contrary remains less secure today than the day you were elected president. Even with the support of over 22,000 African troops , Al-shabab seems to have an invisible psychological grip over the nation, rendering your Government noticeably ineffective. It is undeniable fact that parliamentarians, senior public officials and other innocent civilians continue to lose their lives under your watch with no sense of alarm and serious investigation to bring perpetrators to justice. In fact, one gets the impression that you have resigned to accept the status quo as an inherent part of Somali life, when you were principally elected to be the change agent for peace, security and a better Somalia.

The question many continue to ask today, Mr. President is, whatever happened to your security, security, and security pledge? Was it all an empty rhetoric?

Even though Al-Shabab is militarily on the decline, the political climate created by the endless squabble in the highest levels of your government gives it the breathing space to reconstitute, rearm and wreak havoc on the defenseless public. Undoubtedly, Al-Shabab remains a clear and present danger that acts at will with the added potential to regroup and possibly regain political power.        

Rampant Corruption

Political corruption is not new and limited to Somalia. However, as the nation’s foremost national figure, you were elected to set the example of high moral conduct and establish a political culture where ethical practices for good governance, transparency and accountability have the potential to thrive. As a trained academic and social activist, you appeared from a distance the right man for the job, given your first-hand knowledge of Somalia’s social and political ills. Instead, you and your associates unfortunately stand accused of widespread corruption, allegedly ready to sell the nation’s natural resources to the lowest bidder. In fact, the U.N. Monitoring Group is not alone in making these allegations; ordinary citizens now began to scrutinize Government contracts signed with local and foreign agents in secrecy. Whether true or not, your detractors succeeded in painting you and your team as political opportunists with a bent desire for quick riches. Moreover, dismissive denials from your administration continue to fall on deaf ears with far reaching economic and political consequences to the nation.

As a civil society practitioner, you should have known the egregiousness of these allegations; distanced yourself from those directly accused of corruptive practices and reassured the public of your innocence. Instead, you ill-advisedly went on the offensive, questioned the motive of your accusers, blinded yourself from the prevalence of corruptive practices in the war ravaged country and waged a losing battle against your accusers. In doing so, Mr. President, you lost credibility; much needed public confidence in your presidency; and in the process lost international community support which the country desperately needs.

 Ineptness and political conflict at the helm

Mr. President, through their political representatives, the Somali people elected you to the highest office of the land, not as a member of a political party or religious group, but on your own individual merits. Not a small feat, one might add. However, as soon as you assumed power, your allegiance to an inexplicable political group became quite evident, even though you denied their existence on numerous occasions. In fact, having a team of political advisers is an advantage and not in and of itself a crime. However, holding the business of the public hostage, time and again, to the personal and political wishes of a few is nothing short of a political suicide.  Mr. President, the public expected you to serve the nation honorably by upholding the constitution, advancing sound policies and solid public infrastructure and institutions of good governance. Instead, you wasted precious national time and resources on petty political squabbles with ineffective public officials you singlehandedly picked yourself in the first place. Moreover, your political selections and appointments for crucial public posts leave much to be desired, given the wealth of human resources potential available to the nation.

Clan-Federalism Run Amuck 

As enshrined in the national constitution, Federalism is the system of governance and political framework chosen for the country provided that it is eventually ratified through a public referendum. Even though this was necessitated by clan acrimony and two decades of statelessness, many contemporary citizens remain apprehensive about its potential to balkanize the nation. Mr. President, you were expected to fairly discharge your constitutional duties by ushering the development of viable regional states,  and ensuring a transparent process that fosters political legitimacy and public ownership for all stakeholders, all the while maintaining the supremacy of the Federal Government. However, you and your Government seem to have politicized the process by suppressing legitimate voices, creating multiple co-presidents with their peculiar foreign policy machinations competing with your Government, in clear violation of the constitution, and effectively diminishing the prestige of the Federal Government. Mr. President, this unhealthy social and political engineering designed, as your critics contend, to advance your potential to retain the presidency for a second term, may sound benign in the short term, but has the potential to rekindle inter-clan warfare to peaceful communities as it already has in some regions.

Trivializing Negotiations with Somaliland

It is commendable, Mr. President, that your Government continues to engage in a political dialogue with our brothers in Somaliland. Unfortunately, it has taken more than two decades to establish meaningful dialogue on the status of Somaliland and the potential to enhance cooperation with the Somaliland administration. However, these talks appear haphazardly organized and continue to send confusing and sometimes alarming signals to the Somali public.  Granted that Somaliland administration and its representatives on these talks appear primed for the cause and sharply express their objectives without reservation, the Federal Government’s position on these talks seems at best rudimentary, trivial and somewhat treacherous. Make no mistake, Mr. President, the issue of Somaliland is an existential matter for the nation, potentially threatening its sovereignty and territorial integrity and deserves heightened urgency, sound national policy framework guiding the talks and full stakeholder awareness. A national policy predicated on the national constitution emphasizing the sanctity of Somali unity addressing the question of Somaliland must be developed and disseminated to the Somali public.

Inability to promote citizenship and national unity

As a nation emerging from prolonged civil war, the country remains polarized across clan and regional lines with little public affinity or Government initiated programs enhancing social cohesion. Regional identities and clan narratives currently suffocate the desire for citizenship and national unity. While the clan power structure invests heavily in the nation’s disunity and clan based power-and resource sharing, national unity, remains elusive and to the new generation an ancient concept. Naturally, presidents occupy the bully pulpit of the nation they serve and have the unique responsibility to advance citizenship, mobilize public support or pacify the nation when necessary. Mr. President, regional narratives and new social identities continue to threaten the core national identity that undergirds the country that you currently lead. It should not surprise you to know that some Diaspora communities today even reject the singing of the Somali national anthem in public events where regional states are celebrated. Unfortunately, your Government has done very little to reverse this dangerous course, advance citizenship, suppress clan loyalties and promote national unity.

Moreover, Mr. President, effective leaders mourn visibly with their public in times of crisis, mingle with their troops to boost morale, honor fallen public servants killed in the line of duty and galvanize the nation to stand with the Government to enhance security and public welfare.

Mr. President, I am privileged to know you in person; hold you in higher esteem and continue to believe that that you possess what it takes to seriously change the course of the country and leave behind a positive legacy. Unfortunately, Somalia faces crisis of epic proportions in the fight against balkanization, clan-ism and Al-shabab in that order. In fact, the menace of Al-Shabab strengthens and thrives as the drumbeat for clan-ism and regionalism gets louder.

Mr. President, Somalia deserves a transformative national figure, willing to surround himself with diverse and qualified professionals to hold this tattering nation together at this critical time. And with all due respect, if you are unable to do so for the remainder of your term, please spare the nation more despair and agony and gracefully consider vacating the office.

Abdinur Sh. Mohamud, Ph.D., is a former Minister of Education in Somalia and is currently an educator in the state of Ohio.


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