Somali Prime Minister: An Act of Betrayal, Venality, and Incompetence!

Abdi Ismail Samatar

University of Minnesota

This note reflects on the quality of the Prime Minister’s leadership in the context of the country’s political history and the demands of the present.

Many Somalis outside the warlord world and mercenary politics hoped and prayed that Mr. Mohamed Ali Geedi’s appointment as Prime Minister would be different from previous / current crop of mindless leaders despite the fact that a warlord vacated the seat in parliament for him to be appointed PM. The public’s wish was that he would usher leadership anchored on integrity and common cause since he was a veterinarian who was not implicated in the sectarian violence of the past two decades. Most Somalis were eager to support him, without personal gain,  in any way they could in order to boost his political and social base provided he led by example. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister never bothered to translate this goodwill into a national movement. He even rejected the consul and labor of independent minded professionals from his own region and has instead endeared himself with corrupt partners and a regime of a neighboring country.  The PM’s contribution has been crass rhetoric devoid of words and deeds that exude reconciliatory and inclusive national agenda. Consequently, a precious opportunity to turn Somali politics around in order to serve our grieved people is being lost.

Mr. Geedi’s leadership style contrasts sharply with an earlier statesmanship in our country’s history which most young Somalis may not know about and others may have forgotten. When Aden Abdulle Osman was Somalia’ democratic president (1960-67) he pioneered a style of leadership that is yet to be emulated. His motto was that Somalia’s national interest was (is) distinct from the personal concerns of a leader and consensus was the appropriate modus operandi of government, particularly when fundamental national issues were at stake. This meant that he had to be deliberative in selecting premiers and then stay alert at the constitutional switch. His respect for the division of powers and labor enunciated in the constitution was unassailable. Finally, he tried to appoint individuals to the premiership who had the talent and courage to disagree with him when they had to do so rather than appointing sycophants.  Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke and Abdirazak Haji Hussen were such premiers. No other Somali national or regional leader has upheld these standards since Aden and his Prime Minister, Abdirazak, left office in 1967. The only loyalty they had was to the country, the oath of the office, and to the constitution. Aden and the prime ministers strove to live by that edict. Upholding the oath of Office and leading by example has earned them the respect and admiration of the vast majority of thinking and caring citizens. It would have been impossible for either the president or his prime ministers to make unilateral announcements that contravene the Constitution and the laws of the Republic. 

In addition to their constitutional rectitude, Aden and his prime ministers guarded their office’s integrity and personal dignity, particularly when they dealt with foreign leaders. One instance, which few people know about, demonstrates the high standards Aden and his PMs set during their tenure. Haile Seilasse, the late Ethiopian ruler, invited President Aden to travel with him on his private plane to that year’s OAU conference. Aden, with the consent of his prime minister, thanked Haile for the offer but declined to take the ride as he recognized the political trap behind the invitation and the irreparable damage his acceptance would have done to the presidency’s luster and the bond between the office and the public. Such thoughtful considerations and practices are at odds with the attitudes of currents leaders who relish and lust for such humiliating “privileges.”

The signs of our time are many (but I will only cite three at this moment) and at variance with the aforementioned ethics and standards. First, the deliberative approach to governing public affairs and this regime are oxymoronic. This Prime Minister’s latest gaffe on the northern region “Somaliland) and other issues is the most egregious breach of the dignity of his office and a treasonable violation of the charter. It is unimaginable for a sitting Prime Minister to declare, on an international radio broadcast, a policy statement that advocates the nation’s dismemberment. Such a blunder reveals that he either does not comprehend the significance of his public pronouncements as head of government or worse that he has consciously decided to betray the cause of the nation. Second, TFG leaders’ unwilling attitude to heed the voice and sentiments of the Somali people, their enthusiasm to accept demeaning personal “privileges” from the Ethiopian regime that has openly engineered and continue to reinforce our country’s disintegration, and the former’s practice of briefing Addis Ababa [1] about Somali agenda before anyone else is unparalleled in post colonial history. Third, the PM’s habit of signing dubious agreements and contracts with all types of suspect actors, and without serious debates in parliament bodes ill for the transition, the balance of power among the three branches of government, and the country’s future.

Collectively, the PM’s and his close colleagues’ behaviors and practices privilege their personal fortune (power, wealth, and sectarian agenda) above everything else including the fate and future of our people and have turned ineptitude and betrayal into art. Bereft of inclusive ideas and convictions that can resurrect Somali ideals, the PM and his cohort has succumbed to the patronage of the Ethiopian regime that lacks legitimacy from its own population.  Betrayal of the national interest, venality, and incompetence which are the hallmarks of this regime distinguish it from any national government –democratic or dictatorial- Somalis have had in modern history. 

A comment is warranted about the Mogadishu based warlords lest this essay is misconstrued as an endorsement of their stance. If the PM and his cabal are incompetent, fraudulent, and disloyal, the warlords of Mogadishu are the embodiment of avarice. Their myopic, self-serving, and cruel gimmickry is exactly what has exposed our country to Ethiopian exploits, and condemned the Somali people to divisiveness, misery, and humiliation.  They are the strategic obstacle to the nation’s cause.

Finally, the absence of a committed and deliberative leadership at senior levels, so central to the management of democratic and progressive public affairs, has bedeviled our nation for nearly three decades. Civic groups and individuals who claim to be better than sectarian political entrepreneurs have not shown the courage and commitment to a national vision that would cast warlordism and venal politics to history’s refuse bin. As the South African Liberation movement used to say “now is the time.” If the transition is not to lead to a calamity worse than the nightmare of the past, the civics must rise to the occasion and create quality political organization that can earn the respect and support of the population and insure the transition’s success.

[1] The BBC Monitoring Service reported that Mr. Geedi recently went to Addis Ababa after his visit to the EU, and briefed the Ethiopian Prime Minister before he saw the Somali President, his cabinet, and members of parliament. This was done in secrecy.

N.B. The opinions contained in this article are solely those of the writer, and it does not represent the editorial opinions of