Khaire and Farmaajo are joined at the hip. It is why a Khaire presidency will be a calamitous outcome for Somalia.
What does Khaire stand for? Does he believe in the rule of law and good governance? Does he have deeply-held values for tolerance, decency and doing the right thing? Is he someone who would put the country’s interest before his own? Or is he someone who just wants power without responsibility, laser focused on predation rather than nation-building? We do of course know the answers to these questions, thanks to Khaire’ record in office.
The remarkable aspect of Khaire’s candidacy is not so much that he wants to be the next president of Somalia, as the fact that he is someone looking for a business opportunity to monetise, not a country to lead. It is therefore unwise to overlook the underlying similarities between Farmaajo and Khaire: one is consumed by autocratic envy with a penchant for tyrannical vindictiveness and was using Khaire as his dependable foot soldier; the other believes in his own misinformation, holds values that are deeply conflicting, swims in politics of consigliere and will act on his worst corruption instincts at the expense of his country. It was a partnership that tipped Somalia over the edge. If successful, the corruption and impunity risk Khaire represents will further damage Somalia immensely.
Start with Khaire’s claim that he was a paragon of good governance when he was a prime minster. We all know how he kneecapped “independent” voices and institutions by creating a double-hatting system for minsters to the point Somalia’s parliament became the extended arm of his office. One of the hardest things to square with Khaire’s narrative of being a reformer is how he systematically undermined every element of checks and balances within the government. By creating direct and corrosive conflicts of interest between the different arms of the government, corruption thrived while accountability and good governance floundered. His time in office became a byword for politics of consigliere on an industrial scale.
On the economy, Somalia became a graveyard for reform plans. If one wants to know Khaire’s priorities while in office, look no further than how the country’s budget was spent. More money was allocated to his prime minister’s office than the Ministry of Health – a ministry that is supposed to support millions of Somalis battling diseases, pandemic and terrorist atrocities. On the economic development and reform front, Khaire maintains another historical fiction here. Somalia is still at the bottom of the international corruption index and has been so during his time as a prime minster; the country does not have a national currency; not a single school, hospital, clinic or even ambulance was opened or purchased during his time; millions of the annual budget were siphoned off under the cover of spurious spending lines in the government’s budget – just look at “travel expenses” and “Other expenses” lines in the country’s budget and the millions spent; desperately needed disaster relief funding was misappropriated; the budget books were never closed during Khaire’s time in office. In other words, he personalised the government to the point where corruption became rampant and pervasive, while NGO-style “Qawda Maqashii” , supplemented with meeting selfies, were used to create the illusion the country was on the path to prosperity.
On debt relief, no notable reform pillar was ever implemented. No anti-corruption commission; no independent judiciary; no independent central bank; no accountable tax authority; a servile parliament full of double-hatting government minsters waved through all sorts of corrupt deals. Financial accountability and policy-making took a backseat to personality cult in which Khaire – the “dear leader” – was running the show.
On Mogadishu, Khaire is remembered for presiding over the current “Mogadishu Penalty” – the deadly state of affairs in which the people of Mogadishu became politically asphyxiated; overtaxed by the government, while shaken down by terrorists; and die in unspeakable horrors which are neither investigated nor prevented. Under Khaire, the city became blockaded into quarters, paralysing the lives and livelihoods of millions. To him, being a prime minster was a monetising opportunity, rather than something that decides on matters of life and death. He was incapable of even doing the bare minimum to secure Mogadishu, let alone anywhere else in the country.
On the wider issues of security, some of the most egregious brutality happened under his watch. Politicians were denied basic constitutional rights and silenced. Government machinery was used to attack political opponents and anyone seen to be a political threat.
Khaire’s part in the Qalbi Dhagax rendition embodies the odious character of someone devoid of the core values of patriotism, or even simple fair-mindedness. By facilitating political oppression across borders, and labelling millions of Somalis as terrorists, he demonstrated his willingness to do anything, even if that means the ultimate betrayal of our nation. The fact that he is yet to account for these actions or publicly apologise for what he did shows a level of callousness that is hard to imagine. This was not an aberration but a glimpse of the character of the man who now wants to become Somalia’s next president.
A dangerous aspect of Somali politics is the willingness to consider anyone as the best alternative to the incumbent. It is why Khaire sees an opportunity now. It will be a profound mistake not to heed the lessons of the past five years. Khaire is as much to blame for Somalia’s descent into mayhem as Farmaajo is. Given the chance, he is likely to prove positively much worse.
Somalia is crying out for a better president – one that can heal the country and put the nightmare of the past tyrannical five years behind. Khaire’s record is an important and timely warning, reminding us why Somalia is where it is today and why there is no distinction between him and Farmaajo.
Indeed, all the more reasons he should not be trusted with Somalia’s future.