Why the Presidential tour achieved so little? 

In the space of a week President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo visited Italy, Turkey and Uganda to discuss bilateral talks. Photo credit: Villa Somalia

Mogadishu (UM) – In the space of a week President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo visited Italy, Turkey and Uganda to hold bilateral talks with these countries leaders. He has also decided to attend the International Blue Ocean Conference in Nairobi to complete his tour. It would seem this travel is a welcome development because it shows that other important partners want to engage with the Somali government and we must all be happy about this. Italy, Turkey and Uganda are all important partners for Somalia. The Blue economy is clearly in Somalia’s interest. But the issue is why is it that the President is engaging in all these state visits when there is nothing on the agenda for him to achieve. More embarrassingly, why is the President not on the list of visiting Heads of States for the official Blue economy brochure?  What investment will his speech bring to the Somali ocean of which some parts are disputed by Kenya in the International Court of Justice?

In Italy, Turkey and Uganda President Farmaajo met the leaders of the state but what useful outcome can the public expect? Italy is heavily indebted and its at war over its budget with the European Union, Turkey is clearly unhappy with Somalia’s support for Saudi Arabia in the Khashoggi case and Uganda just wants to leave as quickly as possible from Somali soil amidst the ongoing discussions with international backers about the payment of AMISOM in the future. What can a state visit do to change these difficult situations which needs domestic solutions and a president who is fully in command of his nation to see them through? The message from all visit are the same, the outcomes are the same and both quickly disappear with lack of follow up. It seems once the Presidential delegation return, they put their pictures on social media and this is the state’s visits conclusion. The President is too busy to follow up personally and the line Ministries are not performing and poorly lead, especially, the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Interior.  Others like the Ministry of Fisheries and Ports are not even involved, especially on the issue of the Blue Economy Conference. So, the question becomes what has the huge public cost of the President’s travel gone to? Hotels, expensive meals, undeserved expenses and a few photos with other leaders in charge of countries, institutions and systems that are functioning. On the blue economy conference in Nairobi, it is even more embarrassing because Somalia is not even in the main program. Therefore, these visits are a waste of public finances.

The President’s time is valuable and must not be wasted on foreign trips unless they are absolutely necessary. To save him time and international embarrassment, his government must implement what they agreed with international partners and organisations and not undermine themselves with cheap statements supporting international crime like in the case of Jamal Khashoggi. Imagine the meeting in Nairobi was not on the blue economy but on Human rights, the President would have still gone despite supporting the Saudi obstruction of Justice in the case. Somalia must have values. Somalia must be ethical and Somalia must be trusted by its people and international partners. The Somali government must have
a plan.

One of the reasons why the President and Prime Minister travel regularly, is the same reason why their offices are always full of everybody every hour of the day: weak, dysfunctional institutions. Somali institutions are not working and the only way to know if Somali is committed, a contract is real or if a policy applies is to see the President and Prime Minister. This is a disaster the President promised to fix before he was elected and is now been ignored by his Prime Minister who could not see through the civil service reforms he boasted about so openly a year ago. The so called government of “talent and opportunity” is the same  heavy empty water barrel with the holes in every corner it always was.

Good foreign policy always relies on a strong functioning government at home with clear policies and sound leadership trusted by its people. The only way any Somali leaders foreign trips will ever mean anything is when the huge problems at home are fixed.