In the case of the PM, we would expect our readers to take this report card as a probationary evaluation due to his short term in office, and look critically at what he has done so far, what he could have done, or what opportunities afforded to him that he missed. On the other hand, we would give the president a final judgmental evaluation as to what we think regarding his open record during his tenure.
President Sharif Ahmed’s Report Card
When Shaikh Sheriff Ahmed was elected the president of the
Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFG) in Jan 2009, in Djibouti, his first political impact was immediately felt in the very creation of a bloated transitional parliament. The 250 body, established and agreed-upon at the Embagathi reconciliation conference, had to be increased to 550 mainly to accommodate his political demand at the time. The international community and Somalis as well gave him a healthy dose of confidence because he was perceived to be someone who would rally the nation and unify the newly-expanded parliament.
With the expectation that his involvement with the Islamic Union Courts (ICU) would lead to reconciliation with radical Islamists, including the Al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Shabab group, Shaikh Sharif got what he wanted. Today, the outsized and ineffective parliament represents one of Somalia’s intractable issues. We attribute this problem to the coming of Sheikh Sharif into the political scene.
Mr. Sharif proved to be an ineffective individual who utilized his newly-acquired political capital for personal dealings, allegedly engaging in corruption, and pushing nepotism to a new height while ignoring Al Shabab’s open presence in the capital and throughout the troubled regions in South and Central Somalia. As a result almost three years into his administration, South-Central Somalia remains to be the only unstable region that is impeding the process of pacification in the country.
A run-away culture of corruption in Mogadishu dimmed the hope to bring Somalia back sooner. As we recall, there was a report which the international Crisis Group authored in Feb 2011 and was covered widely first by the Associated Press (AP) and then by the rest of the international media, which uncovered institutional corruption in Mogadishu and inside the TFG. Food aid has become a big business, especially for some of the president’s close allies. As such, a close ally of the president, Mr. Abdulqadir Enow, was accused of apparently staging a hijacking of his own trucks in order to sell the food aid, estimated at $ 200 million, in the black market according to the World Food Program (WFP). Mr. Sharif had personally written to Banki Moon, the UN Secretary General, pleading him not to revoke Enow’s contract.
Another headache President Sharif contributed to Somalia is his tireless search to affect bilateral agreements that had negative impacts on Somalia’s future. In its issue of April 2, 2010, the prominent Middle Eastern paper Sharqal Awsat, unearthed a shady agreement between Sh. Sharif and an American lobbying firm, Shamun Rogers in which the latter was paid handsomely to reclaim frozen Somali assets held in Swiss Banks. The president’s critics often point out the timing of making these bilateral arrangements as being out of line at this juncture in the nation’s history.
This incident surfaced along with a potentially more consequential secret memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Sh. Sharif and a Norwegian firm. The latter deal, which was interpreted by the Somalis, to have conferred oil drilling rights in Somali waters to Kenya was brokered by the former UN representative to Somalia, Mr. Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah.
Shaikh Sharif’s insistence to complete these controversial bilateral agreements, most importantly the case of Somalia’s marine line demarcation has been a source of significant irritation. And a no-lesser controversy and a sore note in the President’s legacy is what amounts to be an institutional embezzlement of the nation’s frozen Somali assets in foreign banks.
The three adjectives that come to mind about Shariff’s presidency are bloated parliament, corruption and ineffectiveness. With all this under his belt, he is yet hopeful that, with the help of Uganda’s powerful dictator, Yoweri Museveni that he will be back come August 2012 as president. We think not.
Prime Minister Dr. Abdiweli’s Card
The current Prime Minster, Dr. Abdiwali Ali, was appointed to the post in June, 2011, after his former boss and fellow expatriate from Buffalo, New York, Mohamed Farmajo, was forced to resign. Dr. Abdiwali is either Johnny come late to a situation that is already sick to the core, or someone who, owing to lack of charisma’ missed the biggest opportunity to help Somalia come out of the black hole.
The first missed opportunity was his failure to establish a cabinet of his own choice. Most of the sitting-cabinet members were handpicked by President Sheikh Sharif and Sharif Hassan, Speaker of the Parliament. Both of them did so by relying on their surrogates and the vacating-members of the Farmajo cabinet. In this unheard bizarre horse-trading arrangement in selecting cabinet members, it was a reflection of how ineffective Dr. Ali’s cabinet has been. One therefore can’t help but wonder why the PM did not fight to select a cabinet of his own that would execute his agenda.
What could and should the PM have done is more of a theoretical issue now since the sitting cabinet members are as much entrenched in their jobs as he is in his. The question that most ask is whether the sitting cabinet members are loyal to the PM and his agenda, or to those former ministers, most of whom have unbounded loyalty to the ousted PM, Mr. Farmajo. Cognizant of the weakness of PM Abdiwali, Mr. Farmajo has not ruled out a political comeback that would further weaken the PM and engulf the country into a political quagmire.
Some may call the inability of the new PM to seat his own cabinet as a missed opportunity at best and a sign of weakness in its extreme form. The fact that the PM has not accomplished any meaningful objective about the road map to which his office was charged is a direct result of the dysfunctional working relationship between the PM, the President and the powerful Speaker of the Parliament, Sharif Hassan.
The tussle that exists within the TFI could not have been clearer than this last September, when three separate delegations, each with its own agenda, visited the Diaspora and Washington’s power corridors (that is PM, Speaker of the Parliament and Mr. Mahiga, the Tanzania-born head of the UNPOS). Each delegation was travelling on its own accord and without any coordination of each other.
It has been widely reported the most unpleasant discord was ostensibly between the PM, who was presumably on an official visit, and the Speaker of the Parliament, who came here (US) for no known official engagement. The two stayed in the same hotel but never communicated or coordinated their visits’ itineraries with each other. The Tanzania-Born UN diplomat was behaving in his own right as if he was an equal to, if not more powerful than, the Somali leaders.
Dr. Abdiwali has had rather the misfortune of taking this office when the crises in the country are so enormous and most challenging! Some of these challenges include:
PM Abdiwali and members of his cabinet playing football,
1- The worst famine the country has had since in recent history;
2- An intractable war with Al-Shabab that is not going anywhere.
PM Abdiwali’s open campaigning for Kenya and Ethiopia to invade his country represents a colossal mistake of his own making. He in fact had eroded any glimmer of legitimacy that he could have had as PM. How? When Somalis compare him to the founding fathers of this troubled nation (Adan Abdulla Osman, Abdulrashid Sharmarke, Abdirazak Haji Hussein, Egal and others), they seem to be bewildered about the PM’s lack of an iota of patriotism.
The combined weight of these factors and the PM’s leniency to give in to more assertive competitors already led to the pronouncement of this PM as one of the least effective leaders so far to hold this office. Adjectives that come to mind about Dr. Ali are as follows: ineffective leadership quality, lack of assertiveness and absence of patriotism. In his case, education apparently, has been of little use to him, as was captured by Osman Hassan, former UN official and BBC broadcaster:
“When we had the warlords, we could at least comfort ourselves by envisioning a time when they would be replaced by educated principled leaders. Well, we did replace them with degree and PhD holders, professors, Sheikhs, you name them, and yet they all turn out to be no less venal, rapacious and puppets for neighboring governments”.
The question remains whether Dr. Abdiwali would use these challenges as a field full of opportunities, exploit them and reap the fruits in the end. To do so would undoubtedly require, savvy and technocratic approach to these and other related issues. So far the PM has not shown strong leadership, but rather has shown behaviors often associated with junior staff in the manner he had “outsourced” many of his office’s mandates to other TFI executive branch.
His absence from Mogadishu, when the consultative conference, part of the Roadmap process, indicates misplaced priorities on his part. The PM has a lot to accomplish as more tasks in the Roadmap are either lagging behind or seem at this point unachievable.
We urge the PM to exploit the afore mentioned challenges and show serious leadership in owning his office for the remaining six short months left of his term.
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