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Prof. Samatar blasts Farmajo’s Chief Justice appointment

Prof. Samatar blasts Farmajo’s Chief Justice appointment

One of Somalia’s leading intellectuals Prof. Abdi Ismail Samatar blasted President Farmajo’s decision to appoint a legal novice as Somalia’s top judge, calling his decision a disaster to the justice system.

President Farmajo dismissed Hassan Ibrahim Idle Suleiman who served as the Chief Justice for two years on Sunday replacing him with a relatively unknown and inexperienced 36-year-old lecturer, Bashe Yusuf Ahmed. The decision was made in the name of judicial reforms but has received a strong rebuke from Somalia’s legal and intellectual community.

In a Somali-language interview on Monday, Prof. Abdi Ismail Samatar – who also was the head of the election commission to oversee the integrity of last year’s Somalia presidential elections – said that it was unfathomable that an individual who never sat as a judge to be appointed as the nation’s Chief Justice.

“This (Chief Justice appointment) is something that I have never heard about in my life. This man who was named as the Chief Justice never sat as a judge. How can he render legal judgements with no experience?” said Prof. Samatar. 

He added that “for a man who never sat as a judge to be elevated as the top justice in Somalia is a major problem for our country and if the President insists on his appointment than his credibility as a leader should be called into question.”

Furthermore, Abdi Ismail Samatar charged that the Deputy Prime Minister of Somalia and Bashe Yusuf Ahmed are maternal cousins, which leads to more nefarious speculations surrounding the controversial appointment.

Prof. Samatar said that to be a functioning democracy, the three arms of government must be separated. 

“The executive branch should be separated from the legislative branch which should be separated from the judiciary.”

Prof. Samatar also said that Somalia has barely healed from the scars of the last political conflict that pitted the legislative branch and the executive branch and came within whiskers of open conflict. That protracted political tussle eventually led to the ouster of former Speaker Jawari. Samatar lays blame with the executive arm of government for that political crisis. 

Many analysts have said that Jawari’s ouster was in direct response to fears from Villa Somalia that he was growing too powerful in the Parliament. The recent election of former Defense Minister Mohamed Mursal Sheikh Abdurahman as the new speaker in late April was seen by many as Villa Somalia ’s consolidation of power within the legislature. 

Farmajo’s latest appointment has only compounded those fears.

Prof. Samatar likened Farmajo’s decision to appoint a legal novice as Somalia’s Chief Justice as someone who just obtains their Ph.D. beginning his career as the Dean of the university.

“ I’m a university professor. I’ve been teaching at this university for 15 years. I was the head of the department. If we have new professor arrives who just obtained their Ph.D., They receive training first. They won’t be hired as the Dean of the University or the head of a department as their first position. Typically they would begin as an assistant professor. If they perform well they will be promoted to associate professor if they advance from that stage they will become a full professor. If they decide at that point to enter the administration part of the University and stop teaching then they can switch to that.”

“So for someone to never sit as a judge to get automatically promoted to the Chief Justice is hugely problematic for Somalia and a disaster of the justice system.”

According to his professional LinkedIn account, Bashe Yusuf Ahmed graduated from the University of Hargeisa in 2008 with a Bachelor’s in Law.  He later graduated from a one year Masters program at the University of Hertfordshire with a focus in commercial and maritime law.

PHOTO COURTESY: Waddani Party of Somaliland

His professional career is primarily NGO work, notably at Mercy Corps as a Program Officer and later as a Youth Employment Technical Advisor. Both positions do not require a legal background. He also had a brief stint at the UNDP as a Review Consultant, again, a position that does not require an analytical legal mind.

Mr. Ahmed also worked with the Somaliland Government, both as a consultant and a legal advisor.

His most recent posting is at his former alma mater, the University of Hargeisa, as a lecturer for just over 4 years. His LinkedIn resume does not specify if he is a lecturer of law.

He has not worked as a professional barrister or lawyer.

Politically, Bashe Yusuf Ahmed was a member of the opposition Waddani Party in Somaliland where he acted as the party’ s Chief Executive Officer.

In nearly every country, the nation’s top judge must have extensive experience in the legal field preferably as a superior judge but also as an acting barrister or advocate. Although they are appointed by the country’s head of state, the tradition almost always dictates that the Chief Justice is appointed by a judge already on the Supreme Court.

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