New Ambassadors must be the best of their people – UM

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Mogadishu (UM) – The Somali Federal Government is likely to name a new wave of Ambassadors after returning eight existing ones towards the end of last year, including, those serving in the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, and Zambia. The former Ambassador to Kenya has been appointed as the Minister of Planning and the position is also vacant. At present, insiders at the Presidency and the Office of the Prime Minister confirmed, there a list of potential ambassadors already drawn up for most vacant positions but there is still internal disagreement between the two offices. In addition, the clan make-up of the ambassadors is still under consideration and a number of hopefuls have made clear to UM they are actively lobbying to get endorsement from their clan elders for the nomination of ambassador. Most of these have not served in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or any other Government institution relating to any aspect of Foreign policy.

This been Somalia, there is no escaping the clan competition for key diplomatic positions as they are associated with privilege and prestige. Both the President and Prime Minister are also under serious pressure to please the clans while rewarding political supporters. This is not a situation in which Somalia’s foreign policy will be served well at this most crucial juncture. An urgent injection of realism is needed through the vein of Somali diplomacy to save it from further embarrassment and the possibility of absolute irrelevance.

Already key diplomatic postings, including the UN and Turkey, are served by political appointees selected by this administration. Political appointees have also possibly destroyed what respect and tolerance Somalia had from the British Government, a key national supporter, by prematurely abandoning their posts for other opportunities from 2012. This should be enough embarrassment to change direction quickly for this government which seeks to impress upon the world its reformist agenda.

The appointment of ambassadors and rank and file diplomats should be left to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs aside for a small number granted by the Somali Diplomatic Law for the President to appoint for political reasons. The Ministry should appoint the most competent and qualified foreign service professionals who are capable and ready to advance the national interest of the Somali people and nation. The key word in the former sentence is SHOULD because to date, most of the appointments since the collapse of the Somali state have been politically motivated. What is tragic is that many of these appointees have never served in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and have limited understanding of the national foreign policy objectives which they were sent to execute and advance.

Political appointees are useful where they have skills and links that are valuable to the national interest where they are sent to serve. However, they should not make up the majority of diplomats in all ranks as is currently the case. In this age of uncertainty characterised by rising nationalism, increased conflict, global insecurity and resource competition, Somalia must be represented by its very, very best, whoever they are, chosen on merit by the Ministry responsible for Foreign Policy. Only the very best can steer Somalia’s diplomatic vessel through the difficult challenges of understanding President Trump, addressing the Gulf Crisis with timely action and working closely with our neighbours while securing the national interests. Somalia can no longer afford to drift through the international community pointlessly.

UM wishes the new Somali Foreign Minister, Ambassador Ahmed Awad, much success in his new role. However, he, as a competent former political appointee to Washington himself, must win back his right to do his job and appoint the most competent diplomats to fly the flag for Somalia abroad. Failing this, it will be back to incompetence and irrelevance abroad and low morale at home.

Ummadda Media Online (UM)

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