By Hassan M. Abukar
The United Nations Monitoring Group Report on Somalia and Eritrea, which was released this week, offers a scathing attack on former Somali ambassador to Kenya, Mohamed Ali Nur “Americo” for engaging in a widespread graft and misappropriation of state funds. Americo, who was stationed in Nairobi for a decade, has yet to respond to the allegations.
Many loved the popular ambassador for his accessibility, humbleness, and activism. In April of this year, three weeks after he was recalled to Mogadishu, he told Abdi Latif Dahir of Sahan Journal that he was honored to be liked by many people. “I was doing my job, and it is really nice when you are liked for what you did,” he humbly said. “God forbid the other way around,” he added. As if to punctuate his message and legacy, he said “I am leaving on a high note.”
Not so fast
Per the UN Report, Americo ran the Embassy like his own fiefdom. He controlled embassy funds, personally paid the staff, paid all expenses, and, on rare occasions, even personally transferred money to Somalia. In one case, he opened an account in the name of the Embassy that was different from the official account and had a friend outside the Embassy to run the bank accounts.
Mohamed Ahmed Anwar, a friend of Ambassador Americo, told the UN Monitoring Group that he was never an employee of the Embassy, but nevertheless he acted as the envoy’s private accountant. Here is an account of how much money Anwar, the “private accountant,” handled for a major Somali Embassy under Americo:
1. From June 2014 to April 2015, the Embassy collected USD $960,836 in fees for issuing 7,500 Somali passports and countless emergency travel documents. In that same period, only $486,258 was remitted to the Central Bank in Mogadishu, leaving about $474,578 unaccounted for.
2. The Chinese Government donated $1 million to Somalia through the Embassy in Nairobi. Only $479,314 was deposited in the Central Bank and the remaining $517,686 was allegedly paid to a law firm (Ibrahim, Issack & Company) that provided services for a case that involved the illegal sale of the Somali Embassy property many years earlier. According to the UN Report, the invoice from the law firm was different from the actual amount allegedly paid. Fowzia Adam, then the Somali Foreign Minister, corroborated the irregularity of the way the Chinese donation was handled. When Mohamed Farmajo was prime minister, he had authorized the release about $112,000 specifically to the Embassy for the legal fees. However, Americo said he had no knowledge of that fund.
3. The Somali Foreign Ministry allocates $49,200 to the Embassy every quarter ($196,000 annually) for operational costs and the Somali Federal Government an additional $246,000 every year. With the fees the Embassy collects for issuing passports and travel documents, the total yearly revenue for the Embassy is about $720,578. This rivals the annual budgets of three important federal ministries such as the Ministry of Health ($793,032), the Ministry of Labor ($760, 116) and the Ministry of Youth and Sports ($572, 220).
Ten days before Ambassador Americo was to return to Mogadishu, he brought a team of information technology specialists to the Embassy to delete all sensitive files in the Embassy’s computers and furthermore “hard copies of documents” were “systematically destroyed,” according to the report. When the Embassy was handed to the new ambassador, per the UN report, only about $4,000 was left in the Embassy’s bank account. Moreover, Ambassador Americo had not paid the rent ($6,000 monthly) for the Embassy for months.
The UN Monitoring Group observers contacted Ambassador Americo about these allegations of misappropriating of funds. He was adamant he had done nothing wrong. In his words, he said that the missing funds had been used for the “assistance of refugees in Dadaab and Kakuma camps, rent of vehicles for dignitaries, assistance to Somalis accused of piracy in Mombasa, assistance of needy Somalis in Kenya, i.e. tickets, school fees, and hospital fees. Function for the Embassy. Assist Somalis throughout Kenya who needed assistance. Paid for school fees for students who got good grades for encouragement. Held seminars for the youth in Eastleigh, Mombasa and other cities. Paid hospital fees for the mothers, elders and other Somalis who could not pay their hospital fees.”
When Ambassador Americo was asked if he had any documentation for those services, he couldn’t furnish any. No documents were found in the Embassy either.
The UN Monitoring Group Report raises legitimate questions about the way the Somali Federal Government and its officials handle public funds. The case of Ambassador Americo is one of many examples that need to be examined and, of course, the ambassador has every right to due process. Abdi Hosh, a Somali parliamentarian, has recently proposed in the social media that the Somali Attorney General “initiate prosecution proceedings against the individuals named, their properties put on a temporary lien and their passports confiscated.” Hosh added, “It would be courageous of the government to indict everyone who is mentioned in this [UN] report for misappropriation of money and recover all these monies.” This is the right course of action to leave the endless loop of recriminations and shenanigans on the side and to find the truth.
For Ambassador Americo, all the hoopla and the informal talk about possible 2016 presidential run might be prudent to be put on hold until he answers to these serious allegations .
Hassan M. Abukar
Hassan M. Abukar is a regular contributor of WardheerNews and the author of Mogadishu Memoir. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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