Mogadishu (UM) – The Somali Federal Government finally confirmed that it DID seek American Military assistance to “identify and crush Al-Shabaab elements operating within the country.” The letter which was confirmed as authentic and signed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yusuf Garaad Omar, appeals to the US Government to be more proactive in the fight against Al-Shabaab, which it claims has captured surface exposed uranium deposits in the Galmudug region and are strip mining it “for transport to Iran.”
Embarrassingly, the letter states that “AMISOM cannot help in this matter” as they have limited capacity to defeat Al-Shabaab and the wider terrorist network in Somalia. Unashamedly, the letter concludes by reiterating the dual nationality of President Farmaajo as a possible reason for the requested US intervention in Somalia against Al-Shabaab.
While it is not unusual for the Minister of Foreign Affairs to seek diverse forms of assistance from friendly partner nations in all areas of common benefit such as security, it is very undiplomatic for him to undermine ongoing security efforts by both AMISOM and the Somali National Army in Somalia. In his blog, Minister Garaad toned down his harsh undiplomatic words in the official letter but this is too little too late. The diplomatic, political and moral damage is already done.
Uranium is by far the singular key word to get American attention in any security matter given its centrality to their difficult relationship with Iran and the Trump administration’s opposition to the Iranian Uranium enrichment program. Given that neutrality has been a key pillar of the Cabinet endorsed Somali Foreign Policy of last year, it is damagingly opportunistic and dangerous to play politics with such a sensitive issue between two world powers, especially, as Somalia has cut ties with Iran last year over internal political interference.
Further to the damaging content of the letter, there is a crisis of communication and confidentiality at the heart of the current administration. The first major error is not that the letter was drafted at all but that it was so casually leaked and widely circulated to almost all Somalis with internet access. Like all leaks before it, this is diplomatically and politically ruinous and the tragedy is that unless there is real reform, no lessons will be learnt.
It is worrying that the Somali Federal Government’s first response to crisis is silence. This only allows speculation to fester and then undermine any rational statement that may follow. In the case of Minister Yusuf Garaad, it is important that he ends the bad practice of disclosing national information in his private blog. Minister Yusuf must remember that he no longer is a journalist or a private citizen but the Minister responsible for leading Somalia’s Foreign Policy and the international face of Somali diplomacy as its chief diplomat.
The rushed, alarmist letter appears to be written more by a general under attack and in retreat in battle than a Minister leading the Foreign Policy of a country which is slowly recovering from over two decades of civil war. The priority of the Foreign Policy and the current Government is on changing the narrative and not re-enforcing crippling past stereotypes of Somalia which has held the nation back.
Overall, the letter to Ambassador Schwartz requesting support to defeat Al-Shabaab is ill-thought out and undermines all efforts at fighting Al-Shabaab. It could also raise clan tensions in the Galmudug region if the US does militarily intervene as the letter requests. The letter by Minister Garaad will most certainly raise embarrassing questions from other partners including, other members of the UN Security Council, the Troop Contributing Countries to AMISOM and the African Union Peace and Security Commission. Getting out of this fine mess, will require the best of diplomatic skills.