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The Bitter and Poisonous Pen of Yusuf Garaad: What happened to one of Somalia’s most Talented Journalist?

By Dr. Nuur Hassan

‘47 Nin oo beel ahaan loo beegsaday oo habeen lagu dilay Xeebta Jaziira iyo dhallinyaro Xabsiga loo taxaabay oo ku eedeysan Qaran-Dumis ayaa ka mid ah Qaybta Labaad ee Taxanaha 1989 – 1990’ (Y. Garaad, March 18, 2018).

Roughly translated to: ‘Clan-based killing of 47 men in one night on Jazeera beach and the imprisonment of youth accused of anti-state activities, are part of my second 1989-1990 sequel instalments’.

Yusuf Garad

The above title belongs to one of Yusuf’s latest venomous salvo, taking no prisoners-so reckless that you will not believe to be the pen of a man who few months ago, was Somalia’s top diplomat, entrusted with the task of overseeing the external affairs of the Republic?

Yusuf Garaad is not one of your ordinary pseudo analyst tea shop-based futile chitchat trader of Somali politics. (Fadhi ku Dirir). He is or was until now to be precise, an accomplished journalist. A product of good schools- graduate of Fletcher School of Law and diplomacy, a multi-lingual, a former editor in chief of the BBC Somali section and mere few months ago the top diplomat entrusted with the external affairs of the Somali Federal Republic.

I ink this piece with an aim in two folds, one is (and I can’t help), to express a grief over a misused talent- one that has never been without flaws and/or betrayals but without a question a real talent. The second aim is to warn against almost assembly-line type production of salvos of venom, of division and of recklessness in Yusuf’s animus that have the potential to spark old and an unsettled atrocities.

What is not my aim in this piece is, to stifle creativity, stop history lessons, and attach personality without laying down a rationale building blocks – the critique of Yusuf’s callous writings is timely and one that should be engaged by those with sincerity.

BBC Somali Service- Era of Betrayals and Controversies

In early 1990s Yusuf got an opportunity to join the BBC Somali section as a non-UK based correspondent, initially reporting from Italy and later from various locations in Africa. Fate dictated he would end-up not too long after his recruitment in the UK, joining the rest of the team working in London. Rumor has it, he hit the ground running in no time to the astonishment of his seniors both Somalis and none-Somalis. The usual stagnation of the BBC’s Somali Service continued at a lower and painful rate, top newsreaders started to get tired a bit of their day jobs, confounded by an era of radio proliferation and decline of audiences. On the contrary, Yusuf was building a reputation for himself as a reporter with a can-do attitude and one that is not fazed by anything even if it means leading the service at his colleagues’ costs.

A decade would elapse, when again a fate decided that he would become the head of the service after an unexpected retirement of its head.

After assuming the editorial and managerial role of the BBC Somali Service just before the dawn of the second millennium (i.e. late 1999), Yusuf Garaad embarked on a campaign of witch-hunt to drive his old colleagues out of the service in the name of reform and streamlining the service. While he was making redundancy of the existing staff left, right and centre, he was accused of recruiting from his kith and kin with zero broadcasting experiences to fill the shoes vacated by more experienced and household name journalists.

In addition to the betrayals of his old colleagues, he was constantly accused of favoritism, micro-management and sometimes bullying the new and inexperienced recruits. The criticism of Yusuf Garaad’s unpopular leadership at the BBC’s Somali service did not stop at the above, but it moved to a more serious allegations of biased reporting, of giving unwarranted airtime to his political alliance and misappropriation of funds paid by European taxpayers to train journalists in Africa.

The accumulative of the above accusations and further drop of audience’s numbers owing to competitions from services such VAO Somali service and the Internet-based news bulletins, sounded the final nail in the coffin for Yusuf Garaad’s career with the BBC- in early 2012 was when he announced he was resigning without giving much away as to the reason.

Read more: The Bitter and Poisonous Pen of Yusuf Garaad

Dr Nuur Hassan


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