In this article, I would like to highlight the backgrounds, the virtues, and contributions of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Abdirahman Abdishakur Warsame, prominent Somali political oppositions who distinguished themselves in the struggle for democracy in Somalia. They are candidates for the highest office of Somalia, the presidency. They possess what has been defined the constitutional character which includes “sensitivity to basic human rights, respect for due process, willingness to accept responsibility, tolerance of the opposition, and mostly importantly a commitment to candor.”
Absolutely, I don’t impugn the qualifications of any other presidential candidate. My aim is to recognize the efforts, sacrifices, and consistency of the two opposition leaders in the last five years in the face of the brutal rule of Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo who destroyed Somalia’s future.
It’s inconceivable that Farmajo harbors the intention of participating the presidential election set for May 15, 2022, hoping that there is a number of members of the federal parliament who will vote for him. A president who has been barred from the involvement in the election process for his violation of the constitution cannot hold public office. Vote for Farmajo is vote for the death of Somalia.
Abdirahman Abdishakur, 54 years old, is well educated leader in religion, law, international relations, management, and leadership with high degrees from reputable international institutions. He also has an impressive experience in Somali politics. He was member of the federal parliament between 2009 and 2012 and presently is member of the House of the People for 2022 -2026 term. He was the chief negotiator and spokesperson of the Alliance of Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS) during the 2008 Somali Peace talks with the federal government in Djibouti. The parties agreed the withdrawal of the Ethiopian forces from Somalia and the formation of national unity government. Mr. Abdirahman became the Minister of National Planning and International Cooperation.
After leaving the transitional federal government, Abdirahman became the Political Adviser of United Nations Mission for Somalia (UNSOM) under the leadership of the Special Representatives of the UN Secretary General, Nicolas Kay and Michael Keating. Not least, he held the position of the Executive Director of Muslim Welfare Centre, the third largest Centre in the United Kingdom. His resume attests his excellent knowledge and experience of public service in government, opposition, and religion.
Maliciously, he was accused of selling Somali Maritime territory to Kenya after signing on behalf of the transitional federal government of President Sheikh Sharif and PM Omar Abdirashid a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Kenya, granting each other “no objection in respect of submissions on the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical Miles to the Commission on the Limits of the continental shelf” as required by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). President Sheikh Sharif and PM Omar Abdirashid who authorized the signing of the MoU didn’t defend Abdirahman and MoU vigorously and unambiguously and didn’t take responsibility of the consequences.
Fortunately, he has been vindicated during the public hearing on the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the case of Somalia and Kenya maritime boundary dispute. The Somali delegation attending the court hearing publicly declared that the good reputation of Abdirahman Abdishakur was smeared for fabricated crime. The MoU served well its purpose and the Somali interest.
The security forces of Farmajo’s government attacked him in his house in the middle of the night, killing five soldiers and one woman and wounding him without any reason. Farmajo and other officials have yet to tell the people the reason behind the deadly attack.
Professor Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, 67 years old, was a well-respected leader in the Somali education system and civil society movement before becoming the first President of the Federal Republic of Somalia between 2012 and 2016. He was defeated by President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo in 2017. Somali Political pundits attributed his defeat to the combination of the magnitude of the problems razing the country and the below expectation performance of his government, and the corruption allegations that frustrated the public and energized support for change. Some of his collaborators were accused of factionalism and marginalization attitude that infuriated different groups. President Hassan was proud of his accomplishments and agreed that his government had unfinished goals to accomplish if reelected, which didn’t happen. His successor Farmajo moved the country backward.
However, President Hassan is remembered for the promotion of the collaboration of the federal government with the international partners of Somalia. Particularly, the engagement of the International Financial Institutions has led to the IMF-Staff Monitored Program, a catalyst for increased flow of financial resources for security, economic, and social development and for the process of the debt relief, and the improvement of public financial management and protection of remittance flows.
He pushed the implementation of 2016 indirect elections with determination and time-frame. More importantly, his graceful acceptance of his defeat in the presidential election has been applauded nationally and internationally and strengthened the democratic tradition of peaceful transfer of power. Farmajo spoiled that Somali success story.
President Hassan took the historical decision to bring the case of the maritime boundary dispute with Kenya to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and put together a remarkable legal team. The move infuriated Kenya leaders and surprised many international powers. Despite his adverse decision, President Hassan maintained cordial relation with Kenya. Farmajo could have jeopardized the case for political expediency had it not been the progress made before him, the public vigilance, and Judge Abdulqawi A. Yusuf’s immense influence.
Without doubt, the leadership of President Hassan Sheikh maintained certain degree of respect to the democratic norms and moved the country forward. He didn’t choose to use violence after Farmajo’s government violated several times his life and rights.
What’s more significant, the public virtues of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Abdirahman Abdishakur shined during the disastrous extended five-year tenure of Farmajo who veered Somalia off the right path for national reconciliation, rule of law, and good governance. Working with the Presidents of Puntland and Jubbaland Said Abdullahi Deni and Ahmed Mohamed Islam “Ahmed Madobe” who valiantly opposed the predatory leadership of Farmajo and with other ambivalent and scorned opposition figures, they became the authentic face of the political opposition outside the federal government.
Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Abdirahman Abdishakur filled candidly the patriotic role of the political opposition in preventing the obliteration of the democratic system of governance. Their daily challenges against the egregious transgressions of president Farmajo’s government with competence, tenacity, and conviction were remarkably effective. Other opposition figures usually spoke guardedly or waffled on the widespread abuse of power and corruption of the federal government. Those opposition politicians either didn’t appreciate the gravity of Farmajo’s transgressions and their responsibilities to speak out consistently or they believed in the rules of the power which say- conceal your intention, use absence to increase respect and honor, and play to people’s fantasies to avoid telling the truth. Clear and consistent opposition is essential pillar in the political stability and progress of Somalia.
Opposition leaders Hassan Sheikh and Abdirahman Abdishakur contributed considerably to prevent the capture and personalization of the state power by Farmajo and his cabal for more than five years. Had it not been for their strenuous efforts to inform and educate the public, the international partners of Somalia, and the media daily on the abuses of power, corruption, and political violence committed by Farmajo’s government, Somalia would have ceased to exist as a state due to political violence and armed conflict. They defeated Farmajo’s authoritarianism with wisdom and courage.
Somalia needs competent, trustworthy, democratic president committed to the rule of law, able to bring Somalia out of the political, security, and economic paralysis in the next four years. The role of the federal President is to defend the constitution, national unity, and honorable and respectable international representation. With the help of Allah, Hassan Sheikh and Abdirahman Abdishakur possess the virtues, knowledge, and experience to change the political landscape of Somalia for better one.
Dr. Mohamud M. Uluso