Somali president “replaces” palace guards with fellow clansmen
BBC Monitoring Africa
April 17, 2013
Following the election of Professor Hasan Shaykh Mahmud as the president of the federal government of Somalia, guards at the presidential palace, Villa Somalia, have been quietly replaced. Members of the presidential guard unit, known as VIP Security, received training in Egypt, Sudan, and Uganda.
Before they were replaced, Colonel Ahmad Muhammad Af`adey was appointed commander of the presidential guard unit. Col Ahmad Muhammad Af`adey, who was a Banaadir regional police official, hails from the same sub-sub-clan as President Hasan Shaykh Mahmud. After his appointed, Col Af`adey played a role in removing members of the presidential guard unit, replacing them with men from his sub-sub-clan. Members of the current presidential guard unit come exclusively from Ise Rati sub-sub-clan of the Abgal sub-clan. The commander is being accused of nepotism.
After the new presidential guard unit took over security at the presidential palace, a cache of weapons was stolen from the place in the dark of night. The replacement of the presidential palace guards with new soldiers selected purely on clan lines was cited as a reason for the weapons theft.
The dismissed unit was made of members from most Somali clans and they had been trained to protect national leaders. One of the members of the dismissed VIP Security said they had been trained to defend the president because the president represented the national flag.
Whatever the case may be, government security officials are mostly blamed for the current insecurity in Mogadishu. It is believed that some of them are not serving the nation with honesty.
Source: Dhacdo.com website, Hargeysa, in Somali 15 Apr 13
© 2013 The British Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
Commentator accuses Somali president of clan bias, urge him to unite country
Faisal A. Roble
Diplomatic Gains and Disunited Somalis: Challenges to President Hassan – by Faisal A. Roble
President Hassan Mohamud`s visit to America during the week of January 16-19 could be viewed as an episodic opportune time albeit a challenging one. Following a highly visible visit with Secretary Hillary Clinton, a brief stint with President Obama, a robust discussion with the World Bank, a well-received presentation at Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIC), and a face-to-face clash with a vocal and well organized Diaspora Somalis, President Hassan would have enough on his plate once he reaches his tattered city of Mogadishu.
The 21-year-old diplomatic hiatus between Somalia and the US came to an end on January 16, 2013. As a result, Somalia may have inched towards reversing the course of a “failed state.” The timely congratulatory note by the government of Puntland on the occasion of the resumption of diplomatic relationship by USA with Somalia is an indication of Puntland`s majority and dedication to the journey ahead. Puntland government also stressed that Somalia is country where the power is divided and so does it expect matters to remain.
Somalia in the past has misused its access to international financial institutions and arms supplied by donor countries. The most recent past history of the 1990s civil war is a constant reminder that such a recognition given back to Hassan, if not handled well, could enhance the insecurity of its own citizens or even threaten the embryonic federal system.
The absence of diplomatic recognition has not been the root cause of Somalia`s debacle. On the contrary, disunity and the manipulation of clan sentiments inside the country have always been the source of Somalia`s ills, and both disunity and clan politics still thrive. Alas, the pervasive disunity among the regions and clans is indeed worrisome and could wipe out this small gain which has temporarily blurred the underlying division of Somalis.
Sooner than later, the President better start assessing the challenges and complaints raised by dissenting Diaspora groups. His attention to mending relations with critics and patching up his fractured society is the only way his office can regain the legitimacy it so cherished only few months ago, when millions of Somalis across the country accorded to him a broad-based support. Putting an end to his divisive rhetoric is as an urgent matter as any other issue in the country.
Wearing a reflexive and knee-jerk smiles and vocal `aahs” to denote agreement and satisfaction with his host, President Hassan stood tall, as did previous Somali leaders before the civil war, besides Secretary Clinton; he proudly accepted her proposal to resume the US diplomatic relationship with his country. He deservedly reveled and basked in the victory while meeting with different Somali Diaspora groups in Washington DC and in Minneapolis. This was a triumphant moment that should never result in a politics of triumphalism.
Without qualifying the President`s victory, one must recognize that he should have mentioned that this victory came on the heels of previous Transitional Governments` leaders and the ground work they laid down for this moment to arrive. The President should have recognized them to show humility and maturity lest these attributes are important in politics. Unfortunately, the egoistic nature and his triumphalism stood in the way.
The suspension of the US-Somali diplomatic relation was precipitated by the botched Black Hawk Down in 1993 during President Clinton`s term. The ill-conceived mission to capture the late warlord Aidid Farah under a United Nations mandate (UNISOM 2) ended up in the killing of eighteen rangers whose dead bodies` war gorily paraded in the streets of Mogadishu.
That failed mission became a source of significant irritation and headache for the administration of President Clinton and his then Secretary for Defense, Les Aspen.
As a result of his failed mission in Somalia, the late Secretary Aspen suffered a massive heart attack in the West Wing of the White House that ultimately claimed his life. Some even attributed his death to his failure and stress associated with the failed Somalia mission. President Clinton on his part ordered afterwards his aids to never raise the Somali issues in the White House corridors. Somalia became a “dirty” word not to be uttered in his presence.
The Clintons have had something akin to a hate-love-relationship with Somalia. While President Clinton never felt comfortable with Somalia, even when he authorized 26,000 troops to be sent there or working through warlords in the 1990s, his wife, Secretary Clinton, empathized with Somali indigents, especially the week and the women. That empathy was feasible on her tired- looking face when she delivered the congratulatory news to President Hassan at the lawn of the State Department.
Was this rushed and unexpected switch of US policy towards Somalia a quest by Hillary Clinton to leave a legacy behind and a personal attempt to clear her husband`s baggage with Somalia? Time will tell or we would know it when some of the documents on Somalia are de-classified. Until then, the resumption of the relationship is a welcome matter for Somalia.
Patching up a Fractured Society
In his multiple speeches and presentations, President Hassan talked about security, what he called “a six-point plan” and his commitment to federalism. He often touched the right notes, like empowerment of the masses, cleaning up corruption and ending the nomenclature of “failed state” reserved for Somalia. Nonetheless, his rhetoric at times sounded as if they were directly borrowed from NGOs` and PVOs` text books; these phrases often mean nothing and amount to nothing more than well choreographed empty jargons and buzz words.
What left a bad after taste, though, is that he rubbed sore spots by carelessly flirting with two issues that, one may assume, were meant to energize and ignite the passion of his political base. However, these comments gauge either his political naiveté or the political novice of his administration.
First, he asked all Somalis to forget and forgive what had happened in the past and look to the future. But how can Somalis forget the bombardment of Hargaisa by South African piloted mercenaries, the poisoning of water wells of Mudug and Bari regions, or the massive accounts of atrocities of the 1990s civil war that professor Lidwien Kapteijins of Wellesley College details in her new book, “Clan Cleansing in Somalia: The Ruinous Legacy of 1991”? It is an impossible task for Somali to deliver to the President.
Secondly and more gravely, what he said in reference to the conflict and brouhaha on the Jubaland that “a person who came from 1,000 Kilometer will not lead Jubaland`s governance,” or “Nin kun kilometer ka yimid uma ogalaanayno in uu dowlad u dhiso Jubooyinka” is troubling and divisive and a clear revisionist of Somali history and the oneness of the Somalia people.
Who are these people he is talking about? His comments were interpreted differently by different people. Some even extended it to real persons. Is he talking about the governor of Kismayo or the governor of Banadir (governor Tarzan) as both are transplanted from Qorahay and Mustaxiil, respectively? One can easily be persuaded that the President is not referring to the governor of Bandari (who was born in Mustaxiil) for he and said governor are political bed- follows from the same clan. His comments undoubtedly appear shrewd on the surface but have the malicious intent of “other-ing” some individuals while embracing others. If left unchecked, this witch-hunt and manipulation of Somalia`s lethal weapon called “clanism” could and may have serious import for the nation.
One may ask: why is the President so passionate so publicly about Jubbland at this juncture in the history of this fractured country. The most obvious reason seems to be that may be, and only may be, he is trying to appeal to a radical constituent who hold him and his political views hostage to the days of the “ruinous” civil war of 1990s.9 If so, one surmises that the President is playing the politics of “us versus them.” Instead of promoting wedge politics in public, the nation expects from him words of wisdom that call for “out of many, one,” or E PLURIBUS UNUM.
Otherwise, division and wedge politics in Somalia will perpetuate the “failed state” status of the last 22 years.
The Somali public must and shall demand public explanation or/and apology on this matter so that the President can move on to attend to the business for which the nation entrusted in him.
The President, although most of the ideas he presented appealed to the peace-hungry masses, avoided certain key questions related to the looted/disputed properties in Mogadishu and the diversification of the administration of that city. A capital of the nation should smell and behave as a national mosaic city. If the President is not willing to clean up Mogadishu and reorganize it in the image of Somalia, then a national broad-based discourse of selecting the most appropriate National City is due.
For the sake of patching up the fracture nation, the President shall attend to the following matters:
1. Establish an independent national commission, accountable to the President and the national parliament, to study and develop recommendations on how to address the question of looted/disputed private and public properties in Mogadishu. This issue should be dealt at three categories with each having a distinct timeline for research and resolution not necessarily in the following sequence: (a) residential properties; b) commercial properties; and (c) public owned land and buildings that are occupied illegally.
2. Impose a one-year moratorium on all disputed properties not to add, demolish or sell or put under escrow any disputed properties in Mogadishu until the results of the commission are in place. This will help stop the unregulated changes to looted/disputed properties and help reverse past trends resulted from the civil while ensuring that future investment in Mogadishu is safe and protected,
3. Draft a vision and a master plan showing the road map as to recreate a diversified Mogadishu so as to make it in the image of the nation, or recommend on the need to move the nation`s capital from Mogadishu. If Mogadishu stays the National City, it has to diversify its higher echelon of power seats.
4. Empower the people of Jubaland, Bay, Hiraan or any other entity in the country that is a member of the federal system without provoking one while endorsing another.In that connection, he also needs to apologize to the nation for his “other-ing” of some groups in the hope that he can re-unite the sprite of his nation.
Without resolving these issues, the President`s cry for “one man one vote” is an unattainable mirage and an empty rhetoric. National traumas like the one that befall on Somalia can`t be wished away. The nation does not have a magic wand to wipe out pains of the past, and therefore needs a workable reconciliation and recovery plan that mirrors the above mentioned recommendations.
1. My next article in this series would look at the reason why it is not the right time for lifting the arms embargo. Suffice here to quote my colleague Markus V. Hoehne, who wrote on Wardheernews.com: “it is also worth remembering that it was actually the western protected and armed regime of Mohamed Siyad Barre (1969-91) against which Somali guerrillas rose in the first place in the 1980s, and then the opening of the arms arsenal of the cold war (provided by the usual suspects) that led to the state collapse in Somalia.”
2. A press release by the government of Puntland said the following: “Puntland expects the Somali Federal Government to adhere to the country`s adopted Federal Constitution, fairly allocate share of international security sector support programs and planning to the regions of Somalia, advance completion of the federal system of government in Somalia, support formation of the remaining Federated States, promote genuine national reconciliation, establish the Upper House of Federal Parliament to represent the Federated States in accordance with the constitution, and enact equitable distribution of international humanitarian and development assistance granted in the name of Somalia in a credible and transparent process.
3. If the country is not in peace with itself, international recognition, translated by Somalis as cash and military cache, could be more dangerous than expected. International recognition shall not be translated by recalcitrant leaders as “buur ahaw ama buur ku tiirso,” meaning,
“You have to either be a power yourself or have a powerful friend”. Hassan Sheikh`s recent rhetoric on the Jubland region has immensely contributed to clan strife among Somalia`s disparate groups.
4. According to Minneapolis based TV footages, there were about 500-600 highly committed and foot soldiers who vocally demonstrated against the President`s visit. They claim that he is biased against certain groups of the nation and does undermine the local governance of the Jubaland regions; they also called for maintaining the arms embargo which the world imposed on Somalia following the vicious clan wars of the 1990s.
5. The renewed re-engagement of Somalia by the US government would have been impossible without several factors, including the role the late Abdulahi Yusuf played in the “war on terror,` the massive and valuable intelligence materials Sharif Ahmed passed on to the CIA and Puntland`s and Somaliland`s unquestionable ability to stabilize their respective regions,
6.The Clinton administration, from 1993-1998 and the Bush Administration worked and armed various warlords, including Muse Suudi Yalaxow, Qanyare, Rage, and Mohamed Dheere whose might was broken and defeated by the Union of Islamic Courts.
7. In a recent interview with Somali Channel (dated January 19, 2013), Dr Ali Khalif Galydh, whose aptitude in reading the tea how the Western world operates, viewed the sudden and hastily orchestrated visit of the President of Somalia to Washington on the weekend of Obama`s inauguration for his second term, a period when Washington is close
8. It is also reported that a women`s group who met with him in Washington DC, in the hope of engendering peace and understanding between his camp and those who oppose him, came out with empty hand, disappointed. Some of them latter on shared their feelings and said that this President is travelling on a dangerous and unpredictable course.
9. A Somali parliamentarian who has met with him in Mogadishu informed this author that President Hassan appears to helplessly be a hostage to a radical group (clan and religious wise) that is literally suffocating him. The same parliamentarian, who empathizes with the President, informed me that President Hassan is aware of this suffocation and is looking for a safe way out before he get joked to death.
Somali writer says president failing to address causes of civil war
By Warsan Osman Salah
BBC Monitoring Africa
February 09, 2013
This week Somalia`s top man is in his 17th trip out of the country he promised will bring prosperity to. As usual the speech fatigued Somalis turned up to listen, yet again, to what he had to say as they did for his predecessors, just to hear a new man with an old message, making even more promises of achieving durable peace in Somalia through vague and open ended statements. In the US in a state of estimated 70,000 Somalis, most of whom are refugees from the Darod clan, some appeared. But, just like other politicians, devoted fellow clansmen and women gathered from around the US, Canada, and as far a place as EU to populate the conference hall. It was no different in the UK. They have turned up as they do, more or less, for presidents of other Somali states such as those of Galmudug, Puntland, Somaliland, and Ximan and Xeeb.
However, Mr Mahmud`s travels have a dangerous tone to them. The Somalis are being polarised because of the repeated failures of the current administration to translate rhetoric to actions. As he stood repeatedly telling the audience about justice and the rule of law, Somali woman who reported rape by Mogadishu soldiers has been charged with a crime against the state by a kangaroo court and dodgy witnesses. Nuradin Farah has given us a glimpse of the witnesses for rent in Mogadishu. The fact that the journalist and the co-accused has also produced his own witness, shows the scale of the problem we face in terms of implementing justice in Somalia. Of course the witnesses of the ones with the guns have more value in these circumstances. Mr Mahmud also mocked dictators and how they silence people and deny them their freedoms, yet Banaadir administration issued a decree to arrest young women returnees in Mogadishu`s Lido beach, because according to him, they were not dressed in a particular way or and have been talking to other young men, reminding many of Al-Shabab era.
Like his predecessor, the attendees of UK conference were the in-group; many people were denied access including Somali MPs. Even when people raised their concerns they were terrorised, pushed and threatened further with physical violence, that their faces would be scared and teeth pulled by the organisers. This is in the UK, so the implications for those who the president is calling home can only be left to imagination. However, Mr Mahmud giggled as he addressed reversed migration amongst other things. Of course, this is a funny statement, since he himself and in the same speech talked about how people live in fear, with even men worrying about the moment they would be mugged of their own skirts (macawis) in Mogadishu.
When he was addressing the question of Jubbaland, and as though his thoughts and feelings are relevant here, he suggested that federalism is not about two clans coming together, explaining further that it is about two regions coming together; it is not clear how this statement fits with his position on Jubbaland. Yet ironically Mogadishu, since its clan cleansing in early 1991, remains a one clan city. The plans to reverse this has been mysteriously left out.
The most important aspect of his speech though is the fact that he uses them as a platform to attack his critiques rather than talking about a viable way forward. In the US he accused them of spreading propaganda about him, while denying he has ever said anything against federalism and that he would appoint care taker administration for Jubbaland. Of course he is not so bothered of the fact that his speeches are recorded.
He also suggested that the previous corruption charges made by international bodies are unfounded. According to him there have been no measures in place to substantiate these claims and that he founded anti-corruption mechanisms. Yet he did not tell us where and what happened to the millions of dollars that have disappeared in thin air, and where and how the founded wealth of so called politicians comes from. Just like his predecessor, he asked the diaspora for money, most of whom themselves live on state benefits, adding that this will enable his government to achieve what they want, while suggesting that international support limits them, presumably because of accountability. Generally, Mr Mahmud had many plans for Mogadishu with the rationale that it has suffered for 22 years, attracting cheering from Mogadishu crowds. No tangible plans for beyond, apart from the fact that it has to wait for the reconstruction of Mogadishu. The future of those responsible for this mess, some of whom are currently in the Somali parliament, is not clear. But we know that Mr Mahmud wants the victims to forget about what happened to them.
After watching and hearing Mr Mahmud for extended periods outside his country, he appears to be a person of many characters. That long awaited justice we dreamed of is currently on hold, until one of the persons he is, decides to actually change rhetoric to actions. Do I expect more at this moment, not really. But I hope that we all know that this chance we now have, is the end of a road and a beginning of a new edged one, weather Somalia makes it to safety or falls.
Source: Allsbc.com website, Boosaaso, in Somali 0000gmt 06 Feb 13
© 2013 The British Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
On Somali president`s plate: goat liver and state rebuilding
Agence France Presse
February 28, 2013
Breakfasting on porridge, vegetables and goat liver, Somalia`s president listens attentively to his advisors -- a new day is starting for the man tasked with rebuilding his country ravaged by years of war.
It is almost six months since Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, a former professor and virtual newcomer to the political scene, was elected president by the new parliament.
Since his surprise election he has governed the part of the country under his control with a small team of advisors.
This morning he is scolding the team for their “lack of preparation” the previous day when ambassadors from five European countries presented credentials and a microphone failed to work.
“If something does not work, there must be an immediate backup,” Hassan said.
The advisors keep their eyes fixed on their plates in the dining room of Villa Somalia, the elegant art deco presidential palace built under Italian colonial rule.
A microphone that conks out may seem like a minor detail in a country where hundreds of thousands have perished in the war and tens of thousands in famine, but for Hassan, seeking to “re-lay the foundations of the state” the devil is in the detail.
The conversation turns to domestic politics.
His flashy computer open in front of him, Malik Abdalla, the young man in charge of communications, reads a rambling statement by the Shebab Islamists in which they distance themselves from a former comrade in arms, Al Amriki or the American, a militant who came from Alabama to fight in Somalia.
“They want to send a message to their financers that the Shebab are one,” Abdalla analyses.
Three years ago, the same Al-Qaeda-linked Islamists controlled most of the capital Mogadishu, launching regular attacks on the tiny government foothold of Villa Somalia.
Since then the Shebab have been expelled from all major urban strongholds by a 17,000-strong African Union force.
The Shebab sent suicide bombers against Hassan, barely two days after his election, but he survived the attack.
To get close to the presidential palace visitors have to zigzag their way through a series of road blocks.
The sharp comment about the failed microphone is Hassan`s only flash of bad temper. He comes across as an affable man, with a round face and small beard, who seems willing to listen.
Hassan, 57, who has a background in working with civil society groups, tells diplomats and UN officials in good English that what he really wants is help with nation building.
Since his election Hassan spends most of his time at Villa Somalia -- where his two wives have a separate house -- or outside the country, in London, Brussels or Washington.
Improved security inside Somalia has allowed him to make two trips out of Mogadishu, to former Shebab-held bases in the towns of Beledweyn and Baidoa.
Mogadishu itself has come back to life, and from the roof of Villa Somalia new buildings can be seen under construction.
“One year ago we couldn`t have stood here because of the snipers,” a security agent tells visitors, as they look out at the city at their feet.
But security remains a concern, and foreign diplomats wear flak jackets and helmets and travel in armoured vehicles for the short journey to Villa Somalia.
Mogadishu has been rocked by half a dozen attacks in the space of six months.
But Shador, a young presidency official driving back to the airport, is proud to point out that he is “driving a normal car and not wearing a flak jacket”.
He weaves his way between the street sellers, and points out what is quite an event in a town that was for so long a no-go zone: the beginnings of a traffic jam, hailed with a flurry of hooting.
© Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013 All reproduction and presentation rights reserved.