The Best Man for Somalia’s Presidency – Who is it?
By Faisal A. Roble
In few days, a body of 275 men and woman representing Somalia’s disparate clans, who often engage in warfare than in each other’s welfare, would elect a post- transitional president. So far, more than 32 individuals, overwhelmingly men and political carpetbaggers from the bourgeoning Somali diaspora communities, have officially filed their applications. Despite this historic election taking place in an imperfect political environment, getting to the Promised Land (permanent government) is the goal of the exercise.
At the outset, I personally feel comfortable with no guilty conscious to state that those who deserve the least should not be elected. The following criteria should be observed to weed out the unqualified:
A religious fundamentalist (past and present) who may contribute or have contributed in the past to the erosion of the open and liberal version of Islam in Somalia should not become the next president. There are clouds hanging over some of the front runners, who are known to have either aided or abated al-shabab or piracy; these individuals should be denied the privilege to lead the country.
Candidates who are not adequately educated or do not possess any tangible skills to lead Somalia out of the socio-political quagmire in which it has been drowning for the last twenty years must not occupy Villa Somalia.
Those who wield power by agitating or polarize the community on wedge issues in such an already fragile society of Somalia must also be barred from sitting on the seat of power lest there is that fear that such individuals can submerge Somalia in a renewed crisis.
Those who had shown signs of megalomania or a behavior of tantrum as exhibited bySharif Hassan in his videotaped threat targeted against Abdurrahman Hosh, Minister of Constitution, should never be given a chance to take any leadership role, let alone giving such a person the privilege to lead Somalia.
But who are the candidates we can trust? Without having each candidate’s s resume at hand, one can only go by the personal knowledge one possesses about them. I personally have fair knowledge about nine candidates’ qualifications and abilities:
Dr. Ahmed Ismael Samatar, professor of Political Science, and a world class scholar needs no introduction. Ahmed, who declared that he will work for a $1 salary monthly, has for some time now eloquently explained what ails Somalia. If elected, he says he will draft a dynamic vision for Somalia and lead it out of its endemic political crisis, hunger, warfare and inferiority that engulfed it for the last 20 years. In a private email I once exchanged with Ahmed, I told him: “you are at the pinnacle of your scholarship that it is Somalia that needs you and not the other way.”
Dr. Ahmed Muumin Farah Warfa, professor of Agriculture, comes to the frying pan with a lot of academic and professional experience. He has worked as researchers and professional both in Somalia and abroad. Warfa has shown me in our frequent telephonic conversation for the last one year to be an inclusive and a no-nonsense man, with an unparalleled level of willingness to reach out the other side of the aisle.
Dr. Abdirahman Mohamed Abdi Hashi possesses extensive experience in international finance and about fifteen years of past employment with the World Bank. He is an all-round intellectual and well acquainted with Washington DC. The son of former vice president of Puntland, Mohamed Abdi Hashi, Dr. Abdirahman would make a great leader if, in addition to his credentials, he possesses an ounce of his father’s honesty and forwardness.
Dr. Bashir Nuur Looyan, Ph.D. in agriculture is a friend and both a former student of mine and a soccer mate; he is young and a true Balaja Carab kid with a lot of energy to implement radical ideas. He has a wide range of political connections to world leaders. He could be someone to mend the breach Somalia had sustained and help it heal its wounds.
Ali Abdale Guuri, a friend and an honest patriot with disability, is someone who would challenge the status quo in a never-seen way.
Dr. Abdirahman Badiyow, an academic of the Muslim Brotherhood, is a critical thinker and a well known quantity in Mogadishu’s fledgling educational institutions.
Mr. Yasiin Issa, a close friend and a graduate of management buttresses his education with integrity and honesy. As a former colonel in the now-defunct Marine of Somalia, and a long time employee of the County of San Diego, California, he comes to the candidacy with both professional and military credentials. He could help Somalia and its search for secure cities in a meaningful way.
Mohamed Hirsi Khalif of Islamic Bank also comes to the podium with multiple experiences and the most important one being his days at the Islamic Bank. He could help foster good understanding between Somalia and the rich and deep-pocket Arabs across the Red Sea.
Mohamed Farmajo, former Prime Minister, has a populist streak and a can-do attitude.
Each and every one of these candidates is highly educated and seems to be up to the task. I could see voting or accepting each and every one of them as the next president of Somalia.
However, one candidate stands out with the biggest chance than the rest – that is the sitting Prime Minister Abdiwali Gas Ali. Prior to joining the TFG, Dr. Ali was a professor of economics at Niagara University in Buffalo, New York. Dr. Ali joined the faculty in August 2003. He has a Masters of Public Administration from Harvard University, a Certificate of Taxation from Harvard Law School, and a Masters of Economics from Vanderbilt University; a Ph.D. in economics from George Masson University.
Dr. AbdiWali Ali has the unique advantage of boosting his credentials beyond academia. In the last one year, he has accomplished the impossible:
(1) He has succeeded through sheer discipline and tenacity to implement the excessively fastidious and fussy Roadmap,
(2) He has finished the stalled and controversy-mired Draft Constitution and literally made the defiant and illusive transition a reality. Somalia today has a living constitution which could be perfected through s serious of amendment as needed in time; Going to election is one-step forward,
(3) He helped bring peace to Mogadishu by closely partnering with the AMISOM troops and the nations that fund it,
(4) He was able for the first time to bring together regional leaders (Faroole of Puntland, Caalim of Galmudug) and the sitting president, Sharif Ahmed, the result of which has been the signing of Garowe agreements. Prime Minister AbdiWali was also instrumental in the establishment of the Jubaland administration, otherwise a tough terrain for the last twenty years,
(5) He showed a higher sense of good judgment by assembling a capable and cooperative cabinet that showed collegial and cordial culture in their day-to-day discharge of their national duty,
In the final analysis, leading a nation requires both a vision and a craft. Moreover, to succeed a leader could use friends and family support. In the case of Prime Minister Abdiwali, a decent and honest family man, his other half, Dr. Hodan Essa, herself a professor of economics in New York, is an asset. Watching them complement each other reminds us of the 1992 interview the Clintons (both of them are lawyers by training) gave to 60 minutes. In it, Hillary said: “You get two with one price,” suggesting that if elected, the White House will be occupied by a competent and capable couple. A couple of Somalis with Ph.Ds. in economics occupying Villa Somalia is a far cry than when a dictator or a Muslim cleric occupied it. This is indeed a high standard, even at Western norms.
A prudent first step by the eventual occupier of Villa Somalia should include inviting for consultation some or all of qualified contenders (AbdiWali, Ahmed Samatar, Warfa, Issa, Hashi, Looyan, Khalif, Guure, Badiyow, and Farmajo) to draft a plan to move forward.
My departing words to winners and non-winners are none other than Mark Twain’s wise words: “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it,” and hope the next president deserves our loyalty.
Faisal A. Roble