On the 15th of June, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud appointed Hamza Abdi Barre as the 21st Prime Minister of the Federal Republic of Somalia. Barre’s appointment is a departure from the clique of insufferable diaspora men that dominated this post. Important to note however, that not all diaspora men are cut from the same cloth.
The new Prime Minister is the right person at the right time. Gone are the days, at least for now, where delusional men from the diaspora, devoid of local context and knowledge, occupied this important post sinking the country even deeper into the mire and, in the process, prolonging the agony of the already desperate Somali people.
Hamza Abdi Barre is a local product from the vast Somali civil society. Apart from his higher education of bachelor’s and master’s which he obtained in Yemen and Malaysia respectively, he spent most of his life in Somalia. Mr. Barre stayed in the country during its most volatile periods and spent most of his working life as an educationalist. He worked as a school principal as well as an administrator for FPENS, Somalia’s largest school administrator, where he was the Secretary General. He is also a co-founder of Kismayo University. It is in these jobs that he gained a deep knowledge of the Somali people and the needs of Somali families.
Mr. Barre entered politics in 2011 when he became the Secretary General of the Peace and Development Party. He subsequently served as a senior advisor to several ministries in successive governments as well as a senior advisor to the mayor of Mogadishu. Before he was revealed as Somalia’s 21st Prime Minister, Mr. Barre was serving as a member of Somalia’s new parliament representing Jubaland.
Appointment with political stability in mind
Mr. Barre’s appointment is also significant as it is the first time that a president and a prime minister were from the same political party. Mr. Barre is a close ally and friend of the President and closely worked with him as the Secretary General of the President’s own political party. This does away with the practice of picking prime ministers purely to satisfy certain opposing groups without giving a thought to the importance of longevity and continuity.
Having gone through three different prime ministers in his first term, picking a premier who can finish with his time in office was a top priority for President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.
In an interview he gave to Voice of America, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud addressed the discrepancies of Somalia’s hybrid political system. When asked how he would curtail the curse of successive presidents going through multiple prime ministers he explained “our difficulty is not this president or that president, our problem is structural. This hybrid system we have in this country has never worked since our independence in 1960. To truly overcome this, we must finalise our constitution and choose either parliamentary system or a presidential one”. However, before the country gets a permanent constitution, the President vowed to do his part to overcome this by appointing a prime minister that understands the complexity of this issue. Speaking at his unveiling event, the Prime Minister seemed to have heeded this and said “Mr. President, in a long process, you were elected and picked from 39 other candidates, therefore it is my immense pleasure that you chose me among hundreds of Somalis” in other words, you were elected and I am not, therefore I will work for you rather than run the country in a parallel manner.
The new Prime Minister hails from the federal member state of Jubaland. Although they are entitled, he is the first of his clan family to be appointed to this post. This signals that the president is adamant about putting together a truly inclusive administration that represents all Somalis.
Mr Barre’s appointment is also significant as his embattled home state has been the battleground of different past proxy conflicts. The Prime Minister now has the mandate to, once and for all, resolve the protracted and perpetual political conflicts that plagued his home state. Moreover, the recurring droughts and the resulting human suffering that have dominated headlines in the past couple of years has affected his home state more than any other part of Somalia. Talking to the media for the first time at Villa Somalia, the Prime Minister pledged that he would do his best to address the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the country.
Adhering to the 4.5 clan power-sharing system, staying cognisant of the needs of the Somali people, and the need to have a functioning government, president Mohamud picked the right person for the job, but the Prime Minister must now perform by firstly setting up a technocratic cabinet that delivers President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s agenda of economic recovery, building strong institutions, and securing the country and secondly getting rid of the omnipresence of incompetence coupled with corruption that crippled past administrations.
Mohamed Abshir copy edited this article.