Somali President’s Actions Raise Concerns Over Political Interference

Published: May 9, 2023

By: Mohamed Abdiqafar  Haji Hussein

Upon President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s election on May 15, 2022, many Somalis hoped for a change in the president’s management style. It was expected that President Hassan would nominate a trusted individual for the position of prime minister, and then allow that person to execute the prime minister’s duties without interference. Hamza Ali Barre, a long-time friend of President Hassan, became prime minister.

However, it did not take long for President Hassan to start performing the duties of the prime minister. He traveled overseas and signed contracts before and after the prime minister was appointed. His appointment of more than half of the government ministers and an equal number of state ministers was viewed by many Somalis as a move to undermine the prime minister’s position. 

Additionally, the president began addressing the Somali people directly, which was considered to be a departure from the approach of his predecessor, the former President Farmaajo. Supporters of the president have stated that he is more open than any previous president, being willing to answer any question he is asked.

But those who oppose the president believe that his actions raise concern about political interference, and that he cannot think clearly or make sound decisions because of his attention-seeking behavior.

On one particular day, President Hassan spoke in the Masjid in Villa Somalia after Friday prayers. During his speech he revealed that his government had discovered cases of corruption in the government, specifically regarding absenteeism from work. He stated that over one-third of government employees had not reported to work on the previous day, and that no one knew why. The government learned of this through the use of an electronic system that required employees to log in. Many Somalis were left wondering why the president had spoken of this matter, as it was typically something the prime minister should discuss with his cabinet.

A few days later the prime minister presented a detailed report to his cabinet and urged action against those who failed to show up for work. The report showed the prime minister reviewing the number of employees reporting for work, live on his computer. However, the report was rendered useless because President Hassan had already told the Somali people about it, before the prime minister had a chance to discuss it with his cabinet.

It has been observed by political analysts that this was a result of the prime minister informing the president before Friday prayers. The president, who wishes to grab all the attention, could not wait for the prime minister to inform his cabinet. The president intended to take the credit for fighting corruption.

On May 5, 2023, during Friday prayers in Villa Somalia Masjid, President Hassan told another story that was deemed inappropriate by most Somalis. He predicted that Puntland would cease to exist if its President Deni did not carry out the people’s wishes. Many people were perplexed as to why he had talked about Puntland, since he had previously stated that there were no problems between the Puntland people and the federal government, and that the only conflict was minor and could be resolved politically.

One analysis suggests once again that the president sought attention by foretelling what would happen to Puntland. That morning, before prayers, a few individuals opposed to the Puntland government had probably told the president of their plan to disrupt the Puntland election, and he had approved of that move. However, the analyst added that President Hassan could not wait for those individuals to act. He then told the Somali people about it because he wanted to be perceived as a visionary if and when the election was disrupted, 24 days later. The President’s intention was to say, “See? I told you so.”

The consequences of President Hassan’s actions were unfavorable to his allies, and President Deni gained much support from both Puntlanders and others. This might make it seem as if he has the mandate of the people to do as he thinks is right. But it should be noted that extending his presidency would not be successful for President Deni. It is essential to hold an election that all stakeholders agree upon in due time.

It is worth recalling that four years ago, when President Deni was elected president of Puntland, his opponent probably wanted to stay in power. However, he relinquished the presidency so that Puntland could move forward. President Deni should remind himself of this fact and do the right thing. President Farmaajo and President Muse Bihi both attempted to extend their period of rule, and it led to chaos and a loss of credibility. President Muse Bihi’s attempt essentially rendered Somaliland non-existent after 32 years of building the government.

By: Mohamed Abdiqafar  Haji Hussein
Atlanta, Georgia