Qalbi Dhagah: Only an independent inquiry can salvage Government credibility – UM

Somalia Cabinet Ministers Photo/ SONNA

Mogadishu (UM) Editorial–This week will be one the Somali Federal Government hopes will end quickly with some good news. Any news is better than the current headlines in the local media which is dominated by speculations and accusations regarding the circumstances surrounding the extradition of Abdikarim Sheikh Muse aka Qalbi Dhagah to Ethiopia.

Qalbi Dhagah was handed over to the Ethiopian authorities last week and this sparked overwhelming public outrage against the Somali Federal Government. The Somali public overwhelmingly feel that the Government has betrayed the Qalbi Dhagah, a senior member of the ONLF Liberation movement. As we go to print, the facts of the case are still not clear despite the Somali Government labelling Qalbi Dhagah and the ONLF movement as terrorists with links to Al-Shabaab.

Whatever the facts, the Somali public everywhere does not believe the Government’s version of events and their reasoning for handing Qalbi Dhagah over to Ethiopia. In fact, emotions are running so high that even the Cabinet Ministers are not agreed on the facts and actions taken by the Government they are members of despite efforts by the Prime Minister, Hassan Ali Khaire, to win them over. Parliamentarians are threatening to destabilize the current Government with a vote of no confidence (motion) against the Prime Minister which, if successful, would have disastrous consequences. More painfully for this infant popular administration, it appears as though the Somali people are also angered by the Government’s decision and demonstrations have already taken place in many countries across the world.

The current administration, led by President Farmaajo, has proven itself incapable of managing crisis which seem to be occurring more frequently. What starts off as mini events are quickly turning into difficult national issues which with their silence, the Government turns into full blown disasters. Last week it was a damaging letter from Foreign Minister Yusuf Garaad to the US Ambassador effectively destroying Somalia’s foreign relations; today it is the handover of a Somali national to the Ethiopian Government, which he was fighting, without clearly communicated procedures and due process.

The Somali Federal Government’s ineffective handling of the Qalbi Dhagah backlash and the lack of information on the procedures and process, led to speculations dominating the discussions. When eventually the PM and Cabinet spoke, it was too late. Instead of hearing the Government’s reasons, the public sympathized further with Qalbi Dhagah whom they view as been betrayed by his Government.

To sustain public confidence in the Government, President Farmaajo and PM Khaire must immediately initiate an independent inquiry into the case of Qalbi Dhagah. Never before has a Somali national been surrendered to Ethiopia and it is crucial for both public morale and Somalia’s relations with Ethiopia, for this inquiry’s findings to be presented in public. Clearly, there were reasons of national importance that must have warranted the Somali Government’s actions but that can never and will never ever excuse the possible breach of Qalbi Dhagah’s human rights, especially, the right to Liberty and Fair trial before extradition.

Security cooperation with Ethiopia and within the wider IGAD region, which will include extradition, is crucial for development in the Horn of Africa. However, this cooperation must be public, approved by both Cabinet and Parliament as well as respect national and international Law. Anything short of this is arbitrary and abuse of state powers.

The Somali Federal Government is still failing to adopt and promote intergovernmental working strategies. There is clearly no consensus in Cabinet and Parliament on the Qalbi Dhagah matter and the disjointed media strategy and delay in responding to public concerns only adds further suspicion and fuel to the already raging fire. Only an independent inquiry can draw a line under this emotive and embarrassing national episode.