Abukar Arman is a Somali writer, political analyst, and from February 6, 2010, to January 19, 2013, served as Somalia’s Special Envoy to the United States. Mr. Arman, a widely published foreign policy analyst, resigned from his special envoy post five months into President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s first term as a president and soon became highly critical of President Mohamud’s administration.
In this interview with Sakariye Cismaan, Gorfayn’s editor-in-chief, Mr. Arman gives his take on the current state of Somalia and what he expects from President Mohamud in his second outing as a president.
This interview has been mildly edited for clarity by M. Mohamed Abshir.
Sakariye Cismaan: Somalia has recently concluded an election, what is your take on the whole election process, and what can be done to improve it?
Abukar Arman: Somalia is unique in every aspect, and its political transition of power is no exception. The recent election was as theatrically entertaining as the previous two in the past decade (2012 & 2017). The world watched live each member of the Federal Parliament of Somalia being called in alphabetical order who then walked up to the center stage to fill out his or her ballot and place it in one of three sealed transparent boxes. We all watched how in the end, each of those boxes was opened in numerical order and names of the vote-getters were read out loud then verified by the ever-vigilant electoral commission. It was a beautifully acted suspenseful melodrama that qualified to lull the overanxious masses back into their political slumber.
In reality, almost all members of the Parliament were elected through a shameless, corrupt process. Most of them came by way of cash, clan-manipulation, coercion, bullets, or by what Somalis dubbed the “Malxiis” (bridesmaid) phenomenon. In the latter case, a candidate handpicked by the powers that be is suitably escorted to the stage by supposedly another candidate who is paid to declare his or her support to the opponent. So, who would be shocked to know that MPs were selling their votes to the highest bidders among 39 candidates before the presidential election, and in the election hall after the second and third Rounds!?
In order to do away with this helplessly corrupt election process, we -the citizens- must pressure the new parliament toward a system of one-person, one-vote. Of course, that is easier said than done. Because neither the parliament, nor the politicians of all levels, nor the clan leaders, nor the international predators that fund the aforementioned process will find one-person, one-vote in their best (zero-sum) interest.
Sakariye Cismaan: President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was recently re-elected. You were a fierce critic of his during his first term, what are the issues you believe President Mohamud got wrong in his first term that he now has the chance to rectify?
Abukar Arman: If I were President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s “fierce critic during his first term” I must’ve evolved into that state of mind after my resignation as a Somalia’s Special Envoy to the US on Jan 19, 2013. I thought his violations that compelled me to resign were either based on misguided advice from his close circle or on his political naiveté since he was in the office for less than five months. Whichever the reason, I just did not want to be part of it.
Then came his decision to allow UNSOM -a reinvention of the defunct UNPOS that supposedly ended six months earlier with the transitional government- to set up a new shop for what I call “reinvention of failure”.
He then unilaterally granted a shady company named Soma Oil & Gas that was registered only a few days earlier one of the most coveted explorations and exclusive marketing rights in the 21st century. And if that was not bad enough, he agreed to pay them with a dozen oil blocks of their choice. Then there was the rampant cronyism, land grab, and all sorts of flagrant corruption in his administration. In order to undue his first term legacy, he must come clean by admitting his wrong doings and publicly state his plans to undo. He must appoint a prime minister who is ethical, visionary, and independent.
Sakariye Cismaan: Given our recent history of civil strife and armed insurgency, do you think Somalia is on the right path?
Abukar Arman: Absolutely not; while some offer the usual lip-service, no one is seriously planning for a Somali-owned, Somali-funded across country reconciliation process that is spear-headed by credible independent reconciliation commission.
The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of this publication.