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By Osman Hassan

“That was the week that was!!” used to be a famous popular BBC TV satirical programme in the past that would mock the follies of the British government for that week. You could apply the same thing to the Somali government and say what a week that was for Somalia!!

We had some innocent Somali civilians killed (and not for the first time) by USA and Somali troops in a joint operation in the Lower Shebelle area apparently mistaking them for Al Shabaab insurgents; and then we had the incredible earth-shaking news that a senior ONLF official was renditioned to his enemies, the Ethiopian government, not this time by the usual culprits, Somaliland, Puntland or the other equally egregious regional States, but of all people by Farmaajo himself in his capacity as head of the State – the last thing one expected from the man crowned barely six months ago as the new apostle of Somali nationalism and Somalia’s renaissance.

Somalia’s Foreign Minister Yusuf Garad

And if those painful heart-rending events were not enough to depress any Somali worth his or her salt, we had Yusuf Garaad, over- zealous and ever keen to be first in the spotlight, wading in with a bizarre indelicate letter to the USA Ambassador to Somalia requesting urgent USA military intervention to fight Al Shabaab in the Galmudug region. Even if he is now the Foreign Minister of Somalia, Mr. Garaad cannot wean himself from his BBC background as a journalist who still hankers for sensational scoops and be the first with the news. He does not seem to be like a Minister under guidance or oversight.

His bizarre and somewhat not comic justification for his request with no supporting documents is simply that Al Shabaab, is mining uranium in the area and selling the stuff to Iran for its nuclear programme, a revelation Mr. Garaad might have calculated would be a like a red rag to a bull to the USA and drive the ever keyed-up President Trump into war fervour and call in the marines to sort out the Al Shabaab renegades!! To hone in on his central message, Mr. Garaad assets in hawkish tones befitting ultra rightwing US politicians that “each day that passes without intervention provides America’s enemies with additional material for nuclear weapons. There can be no doubt that global stability is at stake.”

To make sure his message sinks in, Mr. Garaad plays his last cardinal card and reminds the Ambassador, as if he did not know, the fact that President Farmaajo holds “dual citizen of the United States” spawning the “special bond between the two countries.” He sounds more like an advocate for the USA than one for Somalia.

The question is whether Mr. Garaad’s entreaties for USA intervention in Galmudug would fall on receptive ears or politely ignored. It is more likely the latter. Assuming the allegation that Al Shabaab is mining uranium from Galmudug is true, one has to ask why send such an S.O.S to the Ambassador when the USA is de facto the master of the land and its armed forces act freely on their own accord unfettered. How often do we hear their air strikes and land assaults on Al Shabaab. They are on the ground in Somalia and they are the first to know about this purported threat and no doubt would act accordingly without being prompted by Yusuf Garaad’s redundant request.

Furthermore, there are over 22,000 African peacekeeping forces in southern Somalia fighting Al Shabaab who could easily be redeployed in the area concerned. Add to this President Farmaajo saber-rattling this week announcing that his government would launch a final offensive against Al Shabaab that could finish them once and for all. With all these assets, it does not look like a country that would need Mr. Garaad’s intervention to send an S.O.S to the USA government.

Mr. Garaad might have thought he would endear himself to the USA government with this unsolicited request but in reality he did them no favour and if anything has inadvertently stoked more resentment against them in the wake of the recent killings of civilians in Lower Shabelle and at a time the USA government might have preferred to eschew unhelpful publicity until the situation would return to normal.

All that Mr. Garaad’s letter achieves is merely to publicly shame what is left of our national pride, antagonize Iran and needlessly alienate other countries, some equally important to Somalia like Turkey.  And when his damaging letter and its timing is taken in tandem with the rendition of the ONLF official to Ethiopia, it puts Somalia – its government and leaders- in the worst possible light as a country that is not sovereign but still mired in its failed States and manipulated by other countries for their own interest. The worst fallout from all this, in particular from the handing of the ONLS official, is the irreparable self-inflicted damage President Farmajoo has done to his standing in the nation. He has only himself to blame. Paradoxically, Al Shabaab are likely to be the main unintended beneficiary of all these fiascos.

The magical image of Farmaajo, mesmerizing the nation as a Messiah, was bound to burst on day in our eyes like a bubble. If the real emerging chastised and down-sized Farmaajo can learn from his tumultuous blunder, an act tantamount to treason, he could still be a force for the good. For that, he would need to restructure his administration root and branch and shake off all those old baggage that he brought onboard just to be nice and magnanimous. Mr. Nice won’t do anymore. He and his Prime Minister should stop their narcissistic publicity stunts they crave in Mogadishu. The public appeal of these gimmicks has now worn thin. It is time they get on grabbling with the daunting challenges facing the nation.

Osman Hassan


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