by Abdullahi Ahmed Suleiman
Tuesday, July 30, 2019
Dr. Michael Rubin and the Somaliland president Muse Bihi
In the past five months, a chap named Michael Rubin began suddenly writing negative articles mostly comprising unsubstantiated characterizations, and outright lies about Somalia and Somali government. Many started asking questions about his motives, his personality and the basis of his sudden hate for Somalia. The curiosity grew faster as he continued his malign publications on Somalia. So who is Michael Rubin? Is he a ghost writer or he is real?
According to Wikipedia Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). He got his B.S and PhD from Yale University. Previously, he worked as an official at the Pentagon. He has written numerous op-ed pieces on the Middle East, Turkey, Kurds and Iran. After over 20 years of work experience focusing in the Middle East and neighboring countries and never a single article about Somalia, people are questioning why now?
It turned out that in early this year, Mr. Rubin received an invitation to visit Somaliland Administration and was flown from Dubai (UAE) to Hargeisa (Somalia). And on February 19, 2019, Somaliland Standard, an online news owned by the Somaliland Administration reported
Somaliland: President Meets with AEI member, Mr. Michael
Somaliland Standard wrote:
“Somaliland leader, Hon. Musa Bihi Abdi has on Saturday received Mr. Michael Rubin, a member of American Enterprise Institute and great lobbyist for Somaliland recognition. Mr. Michael Rubin has written academic articles on Somaliland’s quest of an international recognition, its flourishing democracy and its being an oasis of stability. The president has thanked Mr. Michael Rubin for supporting Somaliland’s self- determination efforts from Somalia. Mr. Michael Rubin has said that he is happy having come to Somaliland and is due to visit certain sites in the country and once he returns to the US that he will share his finding with the world”.
They discussed and agreed on a dual strategy approach for his service to Hargeisa. Strategy one entails changing lawmaker’s opinion in the USA by propounding negative propaganda against Somali government and advancing Somaliland image. The second strategy involves influencing the white house, thereby providing access to Somaliland administration.
Immediately, after securing his generous contract of fifty thousand US Dollar/Month, he initiated a smear tactics, making ad hominem attacks on the Somali government including the President, criticizing American Foreign Policy and Pentagon’s support on Somalia with the aim of swaying lawmaker’s opinion.
His first article on Somalia was published on the same day of his visit to Hargeisa, February 19, 2019: The title: “The US and UN are repeating Iraq-style mistakes in Somalia”. He writes “to channel all aid through Mogadishu, the State Department and USAID apparently believe, both strengthens Somalia’s recovery and reinforces the sanctity of Africa’s borders. The border issue is a red herring. Somaliland’s borders are set by map and treaty”. He stated: Somaliland has transparent systems in place. Society is increasingly cashless, as even illiterate shoppers use mobile apps to pay for almost everything. Each transfer generates a receipt and ensures the kind of accountability that the bags of cash in Mogadishu do not.
The piece was intended to make a case for Somaliland administration and at the same time portray Somalia as corrupt and inept.
His second article on Somalia was published in March 26, 2019 by the Nationalinterest.org: “U.S. Africa Policy Cannot Afford to Ignore Somaliland”. In this piece he maliciously writes: In effect, Somalia has joined Pakistan and Egypt in an extortion racket whereby it demands endless aid to fight radicalism, but never defeats it for fear of losing an annual windfall which elites siphon for personal interests.
In this piece Mr. Rubin is trying to plant to the brain of the lawmakers in Washington, DC that it is an ordained Somali policy to never defeat Al-Shahab. This is outright baseless, fear mongering and dishonesty.
His third infamous article was published by the Washington Examiner on April 8, 2019: Title: 10 questions Somalia’s Prime Minister should answer in Washington:
Some of the bizarre question he raised in his piece include:
Q: Why are salaries in Mogadishu so high?
Q: Why does Farmajo travel so much?
Q: If you want US support, why lease your country to China?
Q: Why ask the ICJ to mediate Kenya dispute and then not wait for decision?
Q: Why is Somalia bothering with Israel-Palestine dispute?
Putting these questions under scrutiny reveals the chap ran out of ideas. Yet, he made an effort to put a positive spin in highlighting the importance of his questions, but failed to bring credible evidence to support his prerogatives. His poor questions are indicative of lack of sincerity and an endeavor to spin the facts. Also there are clear evidence that Mr. Rubin has no knowledge about Somalia, but evidently is trying to accomplish his assignments as clearly outlined in his contract. Actually, it is not his fault if his writings are poor, untrue and unconvincing as he merely relies on the client’s source of information without fact checking. He is not concerned of being challenged as the journal editors in the States will not bother checking the truthfulness of an op-ed written about Somalia.
His 4th article “U.S. Missteps in Somalia Benefit Our Enemies” was published on March 25, 2019 by National Review. Mr. Rubin writes: “It is ironic, then, that in the Horn of Africa, the Trump administration now doubles down to do the opposite. As China moves into Djibouti and Ethiopia and as the U.S.-funded government in Mogadishu increasingly offers its strategic assets to China, the State Department has decided to break past precedent and turn its back on Somaliland, the only stable, secure, and truly democratic region in the Horn of Africa, even as Russia seeks to move in on the territory”.
It is clear that over and over, Mr. Rubin’s basic message remains the same and i.e., tarnishing Somalia’s image, blaming US foreign policy, and international community on Somalia and promoting Somaliland.
His last article “Somalia's president is no ally against terrorism” published on July 28, 2019 by Washington Examiner, he writes: It is against this backdrop that Farmajo was caught on tape saying, “Al-Shabab has foreigners with them who refused to harm their own countries and came here to explode our country. But ours [Somali members of al-Shabab] are fools because they do not go to the countries where these foreign elements came from to explode. That exchange would have been fine, but they agreed to harm our own country only.
Oddly, the video in question was first published on July 26, 2019 by “Somalitribune”, an online fake news website owned by Somaliland administration. It is an edited video where several speeches of the President were cut into pieces and then the matching pieces were combined together to make it sound original. Sources familiar with the video confirmed, that it was translated into English and later sent to Mr. Rubin to use it as a material witness for his piece. The message of his piece was to portray Somali leaders as irresponsible, dishonest or make them appear to be only looking out for their own best interests.
Mr. Rubin is out there lobbying for Somaliland. He understands that without proper debunking and verification, the quick circulation of his smear tactic via twitter and other online media can at least grab attention and that is what he is paid for. A lobbyist’s opinion is for hire and the longer Mr. Rubin remain employed by the Somaliland administration, his quest to smear Somalia will stay. He will continue making personal attacks, manufacturing unverifiable rumors, distortions and outright lies. The reality is that he is there to damage Somalia as a whole, but regrettably his client think differently. The question is what impact will he have over the long run?
Somalia needs to debunk his lies, correct his mischaracterization and expose his manipulative and dishonest smear tactics. It is only way to make him ineffective.
Abdullahi Ahmed Suleiman