Somalia: Worrisome signs of dysfunctionality at the Prime minister’s office – Yonis Abdulqafar


By Yonis Abdulqafar

Somalia is emerging from a long and disastrous civil war that not only caused an unimaginable suffering to its people but also debauched its governmental institutions. The county has made steady progress over the past few years on some fronts, be it political, security and socioeconomic. This incremental improvement did come with the enormous endeavours of many stakeholders. Hence, the current government inherited somewhat partially functioning governmental institutions. In February 2017, the country descended into a frenzied euphoria and high spirit upon the election of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo. It is naturally understandable that public expectation has incredibly skyrocketed since the government came at the back of widespread support and popularity. For its part, the government made some tangible progress, and any fair-minded individual will concur with such proposition. However, it also has had its share of missteps, which caused unnecessary distractions. One thing is for sure, though: it has been credited with improving the image of the office, creating an appropriate working environment for its staff, payment of salaries and so on and so forth. But the said improvements are the minimum expectations of the office of the Prime Minister.

Lately, the office of the Prime Minister established a delivery unit that is aimed to support the realisation of its objectives in line with President Farmaajo’s election manifesto. Despite coming late in the game, the establishment of such a unit is a development worth welcoming. This is despite the fact that people are frustrated about what is going on behind the walls of the Presidential inner circle. It is believed that the Prime Minister’s creation of this unit signals a new paradigm shift and seriousness at the heart of government in moving its policy agenda forward.

Unfortunately, there is already an apparent disappointment with the unit and how this is being handled. It appears that the government is suffering from amnesia. They question the appointment of figures with political baggage and questionable qualifications and credibility into this vital organ. Such decision raises eyebrows in as much as it leaves a lot to be desired. Proponents strongly advocate that since the office of the Prime Minister is the heart of the government machine that drives its policy agenda, people of highest calibre and integrity should run the business of government. On the contrary, as an apparent show of lack of creativity and clear objective, the Prime Minister settled for the easy route of recycling same old faces, controversial figures, and people whose appointment would not inspire the youth and the hope of those who want them to succeed.

To make the situation worse, the delivery unit team was put under Yahye Ibrahim, the former Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Interior and Federal Affairs. It is a common knowledge in the government circles of the acrimonious situation in which he was removed from the ministry. Adding insult to an injury, the disgraced former Permanent Secretary was entrusted with the responsibility of the ‘inclusive politics’ docket at the office of the Prime Minister. The unfortunate part is the Ministry that sacked him is forced to work with him since it’s mandated with docket of inclusive politics; not to mention the unnecessary political headache this had caused for the Prime Minister given his clan affiliation with him. As if this is not enough, the Prime Minister failed to notice the irony of having a relative serve him in such a position that deals with inclusive politics let alone failing to appreciate that such a decision would paint him in a negative shade, given the credibility crisis that Yahye carries with him.

Similarly, the recruitment of such characters as Avv. Omar Dhagey, former chair of Federal Independent Electoral Team (FIET), a former colleague and a close friend to the Prime Minister fits into a familiar pattern on the part of the Prime Minister. Citizens are fully aware of this individual’s disgraceful conduct at the last election. Close observers allege that this is mainly fuelled by the insecurity of the Prime Minister. Another low point for the Prime Minister is the appointment of Abdiqani Jama, a divisive character with no verifiable qualifications beyond his grandstanding trademark. Mr. Jama has fallen out of favour with Jubaland President Ahmed Madobe, former Somalia Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid, and Puntland President Abdiweli Gaas who he once worked with in short stints but left a pile of bad blood in his wake.

They point to the recent unsubstantiated rumours that the Prime Minister is feeling the pinch of the lack of human capacity within his office with the exception, of course, of handful individuals such as Liban Rabile, a competent individual with an excellent reputation among international partners, and Nafisa Santur, the only female advisor at Office of the Prime Minister, also with vast experience on Somalia, the fact that she is also, a former FIET notwithstanding.

The Prime Minister, many people argue, is attempting to offset this pressure by filling the office with his old associates. In fact, there are three former FIET members in the newly established delivery team: two male and one female. This has a foul smell to it and proves that there’s cabal ready formed in his office. Notice the hypocrisy, again, of discrediting the former regime but failing to find anyone to recruit outside others who served in the administration. This is a big indictment of the Prime Minister.

It will be quite intriguing if the Prime Minister is conducting himself in such a manner that completely goes against the spirit in which he was appointed. A Prime Minister that purportedly prides himself with transparency, accountability and integrity but so far hardly practices, it is no wonder that his government is now stagnant. What is the point of doing the same chorus of government business, appointing the same failed figures in important positions of government but expecting positive results? The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results, a famous quoted credited by Albert Einstein.

There is still an opportunity for the Prime Minister to save his office and government and as a result subsequently save the nation. First and foremost he should be vetting at the core of his team ensuring that those with dubious characters, ineptness and dead woods are cleared from the office. He should be sensitive to the complaints of respected technocrats and give the due attention this matter with urgency. Until such measures are taken immediately, the calls for the Prime Minister to resign or dismiss will have real grounds to succeed.

Yonis Abdulqafar

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