Who is Advising the New Somali President?

September 27, 2012     |   Over the last two weeks, Somalia has experienced seismic political changes. A sitting president, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, found himself left in the dust by a newcomer, Hassan Sh. Mohamoud, who defeated him in a landslide. The Al-Shabab group has started a massive campaign of suicide bombings in Mogadishu that have led to the death of many people, including a parliamentarian. The new president has given several interviews, but he has yet−until the writing of this article−to appoint a prime minister. While it is difficult to gauge his intentions, Mohamoud has so far made proclamations that are reassuring to a country that was torn apart by radicalism, civil war, and dysfunction. But he has also said things that make some people scratch their heads and ponder about who is counseling the presidentThere is the issue of the Al-Shabab and how to deal with the group. Mohamoud provided the usual rhetoric of Somali politicians when he stated that the young radical Al-Shabab fighters “are our children” and that they have been misled.

Children who have been misled! The days of such double-talk are over because, first, Al-Shabab militants are not children but adults committed to killing their enemies. Second, no one would give legitimacy to a group that is losing battles and territories, and on its way to extinction. While the days of Al-Shabab, as we now know it, are numbered, the threat of radicalism is still present. Another group with similar ideology, but a different name, is likely to emerge after the Al-Shabab with unbridled vigor to resist reform. The outgoing interior minister has even gone so far as to offer factory jobs to Al-Shabab fighters; if they abandon the militant group. One might wonder; how one deals with terrorists who may have killed and maimed; without first conducting an investigation and then serving justice.In an interview with the VOA, Mohamoud made remarks that appeared to show his naiveté. He pleaded with “his friends” not to be upset with him if he did not appoint them as prime minister. The logical question is: Mr. President, how many people are we talking about? There are at least two verified cases in which Mohamoud and two other politicians – both highly educated – made an agreement with Mohamoud only for the new president to forsake them. These two individuals were promised the plum job of prime minister and are ruing because they feel double-crossed. The new president, in fairness, has yet to address this matter. But one thing is clear, Mohamoud is a politician committed to getting what he wants, even if it means engaging in equivocation.

Somaliland is another matter that the new president highlighted−as Somalis say “wuu ku simbiriiraxday” (he has slipped) − when he naively made two contradictory statements. On one hand, he wished that things would be the way they were in 1960 when Somaliland joined its brethren in the south and formed one state under one flag. However, the president also said that “no one will be forced into Somali unity.” That statement was confusing to the people in Somaliland, a self-declared state, who were busy sending congratulatory messages to the new president. It is obvious that the new president and his coterie of advisors in Villa Somalia have not yet formed a well-thought -out and clear policy regarding key issues such as Somaliland and neighboring countries.  It would have been better if Mohamoud had waited until he appointed a prime minister before issuing such confusing statements. A seasoned politician would focus on the major priority of the new regime which is −as the president himself said, “Security, Security, and Security.” Somaliland is an issue that should not consume the government when the south itself is in shambles. The new president, of course, gets the benefit of the doubt and these mishaps can be forgiven because, after all, he is a rookie.

This brings us to the question of who is advising the new president. There are, so far, three close advisors that we know of: Farah Abdulkhadir, Abdikarim H. Guled, and Dr. Mohamed Ali Dodishe. Some other figures like Dr. Sadiq Enow, also an Islamist, are said to be in Mogadishu now for consultation. It is not clear if he was summoned to Mogadishu by the new president or he went there on his own. Enow is a medical doctor and an accomplished author of several Somali books on the history of Somalia. He is a quiet man, bookish, well-mannered, and articulate. His Achilles Heel is that, like his powerful friends, he has no experience in politics.

Farah Abdulkhadir is the man mentioned as the major presidential advisor. Abdulkhadir is a member of the parliament and one of the people who encouraged Mohamoud to run for the presidency. The two are believed to be good friends and share the same approach in dealing with Somalia’s pernicious problems. Abdulkhadir was, until recently, a manager of the Kuwait-based Islamic organization named AMA (Africa Muslims Agency), and has a degree in Islamic studies. He is, of course, an Islamist and a bright individual. Contrary to rumors that he is the power behind the president, Abdulkhadir is an advisor with whom the president feels comfortable. All indications are that Mohamoud is his own man and, hence, does not carry water for anyone.

Dr. Mohamed Ali Dodishe is another close advisor of the new president and a longtime friend. Dodishe was once the head of the Al-Shahid Centre for Research and Media Studies, an Islamic nonprofit group.  He is not as well-known as his father: Ahmed Sheikh Ali Ahmed Burale, a onetime faction leader from Jubbaland and a former leader of the Somalia National Front (SNF). Burale was once the head of the Somalia Appellate Court and a legal advisor to President Abdiqasim Salad Hassan. He had written books in Somali and even translated the classic literary book, Kalila Wa Dimna, by Abdalla Ibn Moqfa’a, which is a collection of fables of people and animals. For those who know Dr. Dodishe, he is an intellectual who articulates his thoughts frankly, but he is also cautious to a fault.

Abdikarim Hussein Guled is one of the top leaders, and perhaps, the most respected figure of Dam al-Jadid (New Blood) and a key advisor of President Mohamoud. Guled became the the head of AMA after Farah Abdulkhadir had left. He is best known for being the chief of FPENS (Formal Private Education Network in Somalia). A source familiar with Guled has described him as “the brain and the person who understands the complexity of Mogadishu the most.”

While any president has the right to surround himself with friends and loyalists, it takes guts and a high level of self-confidence to seek out opposing viewpoints. Barack Obama shocked the world when he made his once avowed political rival in the Democratic Party primaries− Hillary Clinton− his secretary of state. The new president has to prove to the country that he has –aside from his friends of Dam al-Jadid Jadid − an array of advisors who can be frank with him and who form the microcosm of Somali society: women, non-Islamists, traditional elders, and the youth. He is, after all, the president of all Somalia and not just the leader of one group.


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