This Cabinet retreat must bring RESULTS! – UM

Prime Minister Hassan Ali Kheire chairing a two-day Cabinet retreat meeting in Mogadishu. Photo: via Twitter

Mogadishu (UM) – The Somali Cabinet, led by the Prime Minister, will conclude a two-day retreat in Doorbin hotel in Mogadishu. This retreat was an opportunity to reflect, review and revitalize government efforts and activities in key priority policy areas. During the retreat, the Prime Minister reiterated his government’s priorities and asked his Cabinet to re-double their efforts in achieving them. Yet, with nearly have of the politically mandated period gone, this government is still stumbling through reforms with the good will of the Somali people and international partners and is moving further away from the federal member states because of the ongoing dispute. The challenges of divided politics, weak governmental capacity and a crippling 4.5 system of Ministerial and civil service appointments still hampers the ability of this administration to really achieve its full potential.

There are many that question the wisdom of the retreat itself on the grounds of cost and that the Cabinet meets regularly on a weekly basis and should discuss national issues in this forum. But while these are important considerations, the retreat was important for the evaluation of this government’s performance and to re-focus the agenda on key priorities. The Somali Prime Minister is in a race against time to achieve even a small portion of this government’s ambitious legislative agenda. If he is to succeed in fixing the security challenges, grow the economy, tackle corruption and win public trust, as he so passionately said, he must make immediate drastic changes. UM proposes the below as a matter of urgent action:

1. Set all Ministers performance targets and sack them when they fail. The 4.5 formula has never benefited the people but a small crooked elite who abuse and mislead them and then laugh at their misfortune over expensive cups of coffee in overpriced hotels afterwards. If the public are to support this administration in its policies and actions, they want to see evidence that they will not be let down like in the past. Reform must mean competence and delivery otherwise forget about it and let it be business as usual. Mr. Prime Minister, the people have heard it all before, now they want action to better their lives.

2. Review this governments support for Saudi Arabia’s alleged murder of Jamal Khashoggi over Turkey. Foreign Minister Awad and his senior team should really reflect on their dangerous record of incompetence and ignorance on big diplomatic blunders that can and have hurt Somalia’s interest. If Turkey does not continue its budgetary support to Somalia and the EU and Western partners question our commitment to Human Rights, this reckless action will be one of the reasons. We should put Somali interest first.

3. Complete the promised civil service reforms and let people be appointed according to ability. The 2019 budget creates no new jobs in the public sector. This is disappointing but as the austerity bites, reforms must continue as usual. Planned reforms and all the commitment the Prime Minister has made seem pointless without a capable workforce. The government needs to complete a wider Human resource audit, retire the elderly workforce with dignity and offer young talented people a chance to benefit themselves and their country. We can no longer wast our youths future. The Somali civil service looks like a nightmare of incompetence and decay, it must be reformed without fear of upsetting the 4.5 system. The Prime Minister has said many times he is not frightened for his seat and that he will reform whatever the cost. It is time to marry rhetoric and reality for the future of the Somali people. History defines success not by words but actions. So far, by the current performance, history will judge this administration harshly.

3. Tackle corruption transparently and with respect for the dignity and human rights of individuals. People are innocent until proven guilty; this must never be forgotten or lost in a popular tidal wave. A deadly combination of populism, confused legislation, corrupted investigative and legal enforcement agencies, undermine the very rule of law they are meant to uphold. Tackling corruption is crucial but the sole focus of the Prime Minister’s attention should not be prosecution; Prosecution is the successful outcome of a fair investigative process which needs trustworthy and functioning institutions staffed by ethical professionals. The lack of an independent Anti-Corruption Commission, the enforcement of the Anti-Corruption Law and the toxic 4.5 clan system will pose further obstacles that cannot be overcome with simple verbal commitments and public outrage. Good governance is anchored on by fairness and justice; it will die with populism, politicization and social media witch hunt.

4. Resolve the issue with the Federal Member states quickly. The public stand-off is the fault of both sides. The President must carry much blame because he, as the Head of State, has failed to bring the nation together up to this point. The Cabinet led by the Prime Minister must stop their own division and work for national unity. The Prime Minister pretending to lead a strong centralised government is nothing more than a wasteful facade undermining this administrations credibility. Why is it that the UN Special Representative Nicholas Haysom is touring the nation meeting Federal Member State leaders while the President and Prime Minister are stuck in Mogadishu waiting for them to arrive? The President must be more pro-active and be a statesman and reach out or even visit the Federal Member states to preserve and advance Somalia’s unity.

5. Define what does Independent mean? The retreat must think of what organisations in Somalia are truly independent. This government is a fan of creating new “independent” entities which contradict the provisional constitution. There are more independent Commissions than are legal under the provisional constitution and these confuse the business of government daily. Ministers, civil servants and donors are confused by the relationship between so-called independent commissions and the government and this must be resolved. The Prime Minister and Cabinet should seek professional legal advice and stop their “I think” approach.