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A Year Later: Assessing President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud's Accomplishments, Challenges, and Opportunities.
by Dekow Diriye Sagaar
Friday May 12, 2023


Hassan Sheikh Mohamud wins Somali presidential election, May 15, 2022 - CGTN

One year ago, the Somali legislature made history by re-electing President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud for a second term, marking a significant milestone for the nation's political landscape. Despite the challenges and polarization surrounding the recent election, President Mohamud secured another term in office, becoming the first person in the country's history to achieve such a feat.

This article provides an objective analysis of President Mohamud's first anniversary as the Commander-in-Chief and the President of the Federal Republic of Somalia, focusing on his accomplishments, the challenges ahead, and areas where he could improve. In this piece, I will explore several central themes, such as the ongoing battle against Al-Shabaab, strategies for alleviating the impact of the recent drought, effective collaboration with federal member states, reforming the security sector, and managing finances and debt relief, among others.

First, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud inherited a security situation that was rapidly deteriorating, which his predecessor had exacerbated. The previous administration not only allowed the terrorist organization Al-Shabaab to flourish and increase its revenue but also allowed them to gain control over large swaths of territory. However, since his election, there has been a renewed effort to combat terrorism. In the past year, the government, working in collaboration with local militias, has achieved significant progress in liberating major towns and cities from the grip of the terrorist group. The approach has been multifaceted, including military operations and financial sanctions such as closing bank accounts and disrupting tax collection processes. The government has also penetrated Al-Shabaab's clandestine network, significantly weakening its power. President Mohamud's leadership in the fight against terrorism has been impressive, especially when compared to the efforts of other well-developed nations facing similar threats.

It is crucial to obliterate Al-Shabab militarily, but the government has yet to create a forceful stabilization plan for the villages, cities, and towns that have been liberated from the terror group. Although the President appointed Dr. Mohamed Abdi Ware, a veteran politician, as a Special Envoy, more is needed. The government needs a concrete and aggressive strategy to engage its international partners in establishing a governance presence in areas that have been under Al-Shabab's rule since 2006. This involves setting up basic infrastructure, such as police stations, schools, and healthcare centers. Despite the challenging nature of this work, it is a vision that well-wishers, donor countries, and international partners can rally around.

Regarding addressing the effects of the drought, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud faced a devastating drought and famine that threatened the lives of many marginalized and vulnerable Somalis upon assuming office. As one of his first orders of operation, he appointed a Special Envoy for Drought to galvanize international partners to prevent a famine that could kill thousands of people displaced by Al-Shabaab and recurrent drought. This appointment demonstrated his compassion towards the vulnerable population, and it preceded any political appointments, showing that his priority was the well-being of the people.

As a former civil society leader and academic who had never left the country since the collapse of military rule in 1991, President Mohamud deeply understood the country's priorities and needs. His approach and intervention prevented the devastating drought from reaching the famine stage, averting mass mortality, and preventing the situation from becoming irreversible. Resources were mobilized, and aid organizations and international partners responded well, demonstrating the effectiveness of the President's leadership in a time of crisis.

President Hassan has been transparent about his priorities in the reform of the security sector. Under the previous administration, political differences were often resolved through militarization. The National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) was used as a paramilitary force to intimidate, harm, or even kill political opponents, critics, and innocent civilians. President Mohamud recognized the urgency of this situation and led the development of a legislative framework that would regulate and align NISA with international security standards. This was a crucial step towards ensuring that the agency operates within the confines of the law and serves the interests of the Somali people. The security sector reform that President Mohamud initiated aimed to limit the power of NISA and bring it under control. This would prevent future leaders from abusing their power by using security forces for their own benefit. The result of these efforts has been a significant improvement in the public's trust in the security forces. The agency's operations are now aligned with international standards, which has helped to prevent human rights abuses from occurring in the future.

When Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was elected, the collaboration between the federal government and federal member states was almost nonexistent. This was because his predecessor used a "my way or the highway" approach to governance, which created an antagonistic environment. However, Hassan Sheikh took a different approach and established a working relationship with most of member states, including those who were unfriendly or aligned with his predecessor except Puntland. This demonstrates his commitment to working with people of divergent views, including the opposition, by creating a middle ground.

It's noteworthy to mention that Hassan Sheikh's campaign slogan was "Soomaali Heshiis ah, Dunidana Heshiis la ah," which loosely translates to "Somalia in harmony and living in harmony with the world." This highlights Hassan's approach to governance and his ambition to establish a Somalia that is not isolated from the world but rather open to investment and security cooperation. Strong institutions will protect foreign investors, and Somalis can live in peace with their neighbors and the world. However, this does not mean the absence of conflict, conflicting priorities, or taking a stand against any domestic and international aggression.

 

Regarding the challenges facing Somalia, the deteriorating situation in Las Anod is unfortunate. While the President's conciliatory tone and stance against the renewed conflict in the area are commendable, it is clear that more action is needed. It is a delicate situation to navigate when the only option available is a peaceful approach. However, it is crucial to emphasize that Somalia's sovereignty and territorial integrity are non-negotiable, and separatists' aggression against Somali citizens is unacceptable. Therefore, a peaceful resolution must be sought while also ensuring that the rights and safety of Somali citizens are protected.

Another sticking point is managing the unrealistic demand of Puntland Administration. A few days ago, the Prime Minister delivered a speech acknowledging the Puntland Administration's hindrance of the debt relief process. According to the PM, the debtor has made Puntland's participation a prerequisite for debt relief, which the Prime Minister's statement inadvertently provided validation to the opposing administration. Consequently, this regional administration swiftly seized upon the statement as a political tool. If the Prime Minister's statement holds true, I believe the federal government should confront the debtor on two fronts.

Firstly, it is the responsibility of the national government to engage in international agreements, including debt relief and securing new loans. International institutions such as the World Bank or IMF should not require the involvement of local governors or regional tribal representatives in such agreements. Therefore, this requirement or request must be countered with different and more legitimate arguments. Somalia has a legitimate government, and the signing of foreign treaties is the role of the federal government.

Secondly, despite Somaliland being part of Somalia, it has never been involved in the debt relief process since its inception. If the debtor did not demand Somaliland's participation in this process, then making the participation of the antagonist administration a requirement is not only an act of sabotage at worst, but also contradictory and indicative of double standards.

The demand from Puntland is evident, as the local administration asserts their entitlement to the Prime Minister position and other preferential treatment. While Puntland has previously made similar demands, it is vital to approach the situation diplomatically while disregarding unrealistic expectations and requests. It is essential to note that the role of the Prime Minister is not reserved for a particular constituency. The current Prime Minister brings more value to the table than someone from another region due to his deep connections, presence, and rapport in the region. Additionally, his humble background and collaborative approach with the President make him an invaluable asset to the government. These qualities are essential in establishing a strong foundation for the government and stabilizing a country that has not experienced peace, governance, and the rule of law for a prolonged period. Therefore, the main priority for the current administration should be to combat Al-Shabaab in Southern Somalia and work towards stabilizing the regions in the south.

Conversely, it is critical for the current administration to appoint competent and loyal individuals to key positions, such as cabinets, ambassadors, and Ministerial Directors. While loyalty is important, it should not be the sole determining factor for appointments. Both the President and the Prime Minister have the power to appoint individuals who are both loyal and competent. However, loyalty alone should not be the sole criterion for appointment. It is essential that the appointee has the necessary skills, education, and experience to manage, design, and deliver in accordance with the President and Prime Minister's vision. Therefore, there should not be a trade-off between loyalty and competence when making appointments. If loyalty is valued above all else, there is a risk that the President and Prime Minister will be surrounded by sycophants who could lead the government to disaster.

The President must urgently address two significant challenges that have not received much attention. The first challenge is the issue of state leaders behaving like a mafia. Federalism was implemented to promote local administration, allowing states and local authorities to elect their representatives and implement policies, decentralizing power from the central government. However, in Somalia, state presidents have unchecked authority, impeding the state-building process by holding their constituencies hostage and preventing the election of mayors, police commissioners, and school board members. In some cases, they even hinder efforts to liberate territories from Al-Shabab, citing potential vulnerability. They argue that since the country is disconnected and Al-Shabab surrounds their local administration, it acts as a fence that protects them from rival groups who may overthrow them. This poses a significant threat that requires urgent attention. Another challenge that the current administration must address is "Al-Shabab-ism" - the unarmed forces that promote the toxic ideology of the terrorist organization and support their activities, determined to indoctrinate the masses with false and distorted teachings.

In conclusion, President Mohamud stands out from his contemporaries not only for his historic achievements, but also for his inclusive and conciliatory approach to governance. He has consistently worked to bring diverse voices to the table and foster collaboration and unity, earning him respect and admiration both within and outside his circle. His ability to unite people of different backgrounds and perspectives is unmatched in the country's recent history, and his accomplishments have been widely recognized both nationally and internationally. During his first year in office, notable achievements have been made in the fight against terrorism, managing finances and debt relief, reforming the security sector, and mitigating the impact of the recent drought. However, challenges remain, including the need to create a stabilization plan for the areas liberated from Al-Shabaab, liberating the remaining territories from Al Shabab, implementing a comprehensive drought prevention plan, and appointing competent candidates to key roles among others. Despite these challenges, President Mohamud has demonstrated exceptional leadership skills in navigating the complex political and economic landscape of Somalia. With continued support from both the domestic and international community, he is poised to achieve even greater success in the years ahead.


Dekow Diriye Sagaar
Twitter @diriye100



 





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