“Mr. President, you have been in office for four years, have you succeeded in securing Mogadishu? My second question is: Regarding the children in the camps (Internally Displaced People), do they have Dugsi (Qur’an schools), regular schools, and doctors to treat them? If that is not the case, is it fair?”
Adnan is a small boy from Minnesota whose age is about 6 or 7. He was one of the participants of a program organized by VOA’s Somali Service to meet and question President Hassan.
The president was asked questions by the audience, at the event in which the VOA was evidently used at the cost of tax payers’ money in furthering Hassan’s presidential campaign.
President Hassan Sheikh was jovial and smiling when he answered Adnan’s question: “About that issue, I had addressed it before and I do not want to revisit it.”
Young Adnan’s question was a clear manifestation of the issues that has baffled many Somalis regarding President Hassan and his four-year old government.
Hassan Sheikh’s presidential term technically ended on September 10th of this year, in which he has failed to reach his lofty goals of (a) building Somali security forces, (b) establishing credible Somali institutions, (c) unifying Somali people and (d) holding elections in the fall of 2016 based on “one-man one-vote.
Only within a short period after his appointment, President Hassan has become not someone who beckoned the future as he had promised and outlined, but a polarizing figure that beckoned disastrous corruptions, mismanagement and clannish policies of division that has taken the country and its people back to the civil war era.
Oddly, four years ago, President Hassan was an unknown figure when he, through his hat (aspiration) at the election and at the final round challenged the then incumbent president, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed. He easily won that election in 2012 because his anonymity was his biggest asset. However, this time, unlike last time, he would be judged by his performance. His monumental track record in the last four years is an issue which he cannot evade or ignore.
Young Adnan’s obvious disappointment with President Hassan and the critical outlook to the president’s term is shared by many citizens.
President Hassan is best remembered for his endemic power struggles with his three prime ministers in a span of four years as he has opted to ignore the Somali constitution, solely concentrating on power by running the country’s affairs from Villa Somalia. These chronic infightings have crippled the country and resulted in an imperial presidency. Areas of development that have suffered the most and lagged behind due to presidential and premiers’ power struggles include deterioration in the security sector, social services, and fighting widespread corruption.
The president has been accused by many of clannism, nepotism, corruption, and trampling on the provisional constitution. His main accomplishment, which is widely touted during his current campaign, is a glossy photo archive (album) full of images of new cascades of pictures of foreign officials and dignitaries he has met. Unfortunately, many of these trips were hastily arranged without prior planning and, hence, have produced no positive results for the country. For instance, the president’s notable trip to Japan is an example of an ill-prepared trip that must have baffled the Japanese officials for its haphazardness (see the photo showing, the un-seriousness and unpreparedness of the Somali delegation, while in contrast, the Japanese delegation are taking the meeting at heart).
The president, as indicated above, has failed in organizing free elections as he had pledged. To add more insult to injury, the government is more likely to miss serious deadlines agreed upon by the National Leadership Forum regarding this fall’s election schedule:
- Electing members of the Upper House by September 25.
- Electing members of Parliament between September 25 and October 10.
- Selecting the Speaker of Parliament by October 25.
- Election of a new president by October 30.
- Finalizing the formation of Hiiraan, Middle Shebelle Region, and Banadir.
- The boycott of the coming elections by communities in the north.
There is this gripping fear felt by many that the country will experience rigged elections in which bribing legislators will be the recurring theme. President Hassan is believed to be orchestrating his come back to Villa Somalia and there is a wide fear he will win because the government-run mass media and state funds are at his disposal.
Thus far, it is not clear if the UN, AU, and other International Community entities will send independent observers during the elections.
Somali citizens wonder if there are viable presidential candidates that can serve as alternatives to the possible re-election of the incumbent.
Coalitions of various political groups have been meeting to present a united front against President Hassan to make sure he does not return to Villa Somalia. These groups obviously have diverse political agendas, outlook, and ideological beliefs. Some of these possible candidates range from the good and the bad, the competent and the inept. Some are running for president because it’s something they want to cross-off their bucket list; this is how cynical running for president in Somalia has become—thanks to the history of the incumbent and others before him who have devaluated the Somali presidency so much so every inept aspirant wants have a try at it.
The slogan of these groups is: “We have suffered enough, leave us alone.” The success of the coalition however, depends on how viable its national agenda is and if they can coalesce under the banner of one able and competent candidate. Otherwise, you can expect President Hassan and his Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid to return to power and continue with their long, soiled records of incompetency and corruption.
The better alternative, in case the scheduled elections do not happen at the scheduled timelines, is to have a temporary, caretaker government led by—according to the constitution—the Speaker of the Parliament (the Somali parliamentarians themselves have their share of responsibility on the current dismal state of Somalia by accepting money to allow the president to orchestrate the most corrupt tactics that had derailed the country) for the transition period.
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