By Mohamed Abdiqafar Haji Hussein
On September 6, 2017, the Minister of Information of the Somalia Federal Government, Abdirahman Osman (Yarisow) held a press conference giving the government’s position regarding the handing of Abdikarim Muse Qalbidhagax to the Ethiopian government on August 28, 2017. The press conference was held after government ministers were called into a special session to discuss the case and present their reasoning to the Somali public, who were expressing their uproar on social media.
Many people were speculating about what the government’s response would be, which came at least 8 days after Abdikarim Muse was handed over. It was reported in social media that the president and his government were taking their time to come up with an answer that would most likely satisfy the public.
A few people argued that the president was planning to avoid getting involved in the case, since he was not fully aware of it beforehand and, as a result, he wanted PM Hassan Ali Kheyre to take the blame. Others predicted that the president and the prime minister, Hassan Ali Khayre were deciding whose heads would roll as result of this fiasco.
People even claimed that the president was working behind the scenes to reverse the handover and that he would have Abdikarim Qalbidhagax in Villa Somalia during the anticipated press conference. Even when in a press conference, President Abdi Mohamud Omar of the Somali region in Ethiopia stated in an interview circulated on social media that Abdikarim was a terrorist and he was handed over based on an agreement signed by the Somali and Ethiopian governments, some still hoped that the president and the prime minister would distance themselves from this case.
However, the reality on the ground was that the government spokesman followed the same script as President Abdi Mohamud Omar. Yarisow confirmed that Abdikarim was handed over to the Ethiopian government based on an agreement signed by the previous government. In that agreement, he said it was agreed that each country should hand over to the other anyone who is deemed to be a terrorist. It is said that Abdikarim is a member of ONLF, which is considered to be a terrorist group. He concluded that the current government was just fulfilling its responsibility.
If that was the government’s position, which is straightforward, why did it take so long (8 days) to respond to the public? It is possible that the government was working behind the scenes to come up with an answer that was much different from what was stated in that press conference. It seems that with all the other options not being possible, it had no other option but to repeat the statements made by President Abdi Omar of the Ethiopian Somali region.
There is no doubt now that the government will stand behind its reason for the handover, but it seems that it did not think through the legality of its actions. It has already been pointed out that the agreement has not been ratified properly, so therefore it is not binding.
The agreement was signed by the Minister of Post and Telecommunications and the president of Galmudug, who distance themselves from this case. Even if those two, as the government has claimed, represented the Somali government when they signed that agreement, it is known that the agreement was not debated nor passed by the Parliament.
It is a fact that Abdikarim is a Somali national since it has been confirmed that he was a member of the Somali national army. As a Somali national, he should not have been handed over to another country. If we accept the government’s claim that he was not a Somali national, then under the Geneva Conventions, he has the right to ask for political asylum in Somalia.
However, the Somali people expected a lot from Farmaajo’s government. They believed the new government would safeguard the rule of law and that every Somali national would be treated as a citizen. During his campaign, the new president promised that he would follow the Constitution to the teeth and would not allow the neighboring countries and others to intervene in Somali’s internal affairs.
President Farmaajo also mentioned during his campaign for the presidency that all agreements signed by the previous government and any new ones his government signed will go through the parliament, as the Constitution states. When this case however surfaced, the president’s supporters defended the president may not have been aware of the case and it was handled by the prime minister and others.
People who follow the president’s walk, not his talk and knew him well, expected and affirmed of Farmaajo’s plunder . In his campaign, Farmaajo said he would accomplish a lot, including introducing one person one vote by the end of his term. However, the minute he was elected, he stated that the problem was bigger than he had thought. During his campaigning, he also accused the previous president of spending too much time traveling overseas. He claimed that if he were elected, he would spend more time traveling within Somali regions to advance reconciliation.
Eight months later, he has traveled more than the previous president and he has not even visited some of the regional states. After he was elected as president, he promised the Somalia people that he would nominate a capable prime minister after he had consulted the Parliament. Even though he consulted a few parliamentarians about who they thought would be suitable to be the prime minister, it is said he selected Kheyre overnight, ignoring the list of four names already suggested to him.
Most people who supported Faramaajo said they supported him because he stood against corruption during his premiership in 2011/2012, even though it is widely known that he resigned from that government after he was given a choice, by Ugandan President, either to stand with the people who supported him and act alone or to follow the lead dictated to him with compensation. Faramaajo took the latter option.
Now in this case, even though he is the head of the government and he should have spoken to the people from Villa Somalia immediately after he had been made aware of it, he is still hiding and hoping the case will disappear.
It is now clear to the Somali people, what a few people knew before, that Faramaajo cannot walk the talk. As a result, the parliamentarians should do their job of investigating this case thoroughly. The Somali people should be told more than what was mentioned in the press conference by the government spokesman.
Since it is known that Abdikarim was a Somalia national, how did he lose his citizenship? If he is a Somali citizen and he is a terrorist, then why was he not held, like all the other terrorists, in Mogadishu Prison. Is the agreement, which the government claimed it based its decision on, valid? Why did it take the government 8 days to respond after Abdikarim was handed over? There seems to be something wrong in this case, which the Parliament must resolve. It is a time that President Faramaajo clarified to the Somali people what occurred.
Mohamed Abdiqafar Haji Hussein
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