Corruption is the curse on Somalia. Vote buying elections will only harm more

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“There is nothing that is a more certain sign of insanity than to do the same thing over and over again and expecting the results to be different” —Albert Einstein.

Corruption is a curse from God on Somalis. Corruption, Ar-rishwa in Arabic, is a big sin (crime) to both the giver and the taker in Islam, the religion that is believed and beloved by all Somalis. Nevertheless, corruption has become an accepted practice and morally good for Somalis, to the extent that we elect for ‘president’ the devil that corrupts us the most. No doubt, corruption will be Somalia’s cause of death.

In this discourse, we will reveal the futility of replacing one president with another without putting in place proper system of checks, restrictions and measures that will keep a tight rein on presidents at both the regional and federal levels.

Every so often in search of a leadership that can lead Somalia out of the predicament that it has been in from time immemorial, we change one president after the other, both at regional and in federal governments, but the situation on the ground only changes for the worse. The heads of states/leaders come and go but the suffering of people persists. Even after so many presidents came into power, the plight of ordinery people is not relieved a bit. Why? Because of CORRUPTION.

No Avocado from an Apple Tree:

A Somali proverb states “ Hal xaaraan ah Nirig xalaal ah ma dhasho”. You can’t sow an apple seed and expect an avocado tree. We often elect corrupt leaders, for a money — a money that is probably invested in them by our enemy to destroy us or a money they stole from us while in office —yet we expect them to transmogrify themselves into saints and fight against grafts. Never. That is far from the logic. Conversely – and in line with the proverbial saying ‘power corrupts man, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’ —the unconstrained power we give corrupts them more. We create monsters. They then rode roughshod over us; this time with the money they extort from poverty emaciated constituents that elected them, they corrupt a few to destroy many.

The case of Puntland: Putting Beggar on the Horseback:

As the Puntland elections draw nearer, let us take it as an example to contextualize the point that we want to make. For sure the other regional states share a lot with it.

In Puntland, once in every five years a 66-member unicameral parliament elects the president of Puntland government – a member State of the federal Somalia. Since its inception in 1998, Puntland have had four elected presidents – 20 years at the time of writing this article; the first of them was Colonel Abdullahi Yusuf (1998-2004).

Colonel Yusuf was known for his hardheadedness and  his eagerness to power but he had a reputation for trustworthiness with the public coffers. Colonel Yusuf was succeeded by General Mohamud Musse Hersi (2005-2009). Even though, some of the General’s close relatives alleged for misappropriations, embezzlement was not common practice in his administration.

The third president Abdirahman Faroole (2009-2014) was a banker by profession. When this money worker came to the helm the needle of the moral compass, however, had moved to the far left. The money took precedence over the virtue, and thievery of the public funds became common practice and morally good in the administration. Mr. Faroole who himself was known for his vulgar language, his administration is remembered by his Aaran-Jaan(Jin’s offsprings) gangs: an inner-circle group of henchmen led by his sons that was notorious for humiliating, intimidating and silencing oppositions voices and misappropriations of the public funds. Allegedly this group served him as middlemen for securing his cut in all government deals with local businesses and NGOs, and even in the pirate deals in the high seas.

The last of the quartet, the incumbent president Abdiwali Gas, a former associate professor of economics, who studied at Vanderbilt and Harvard University, in the USA — was due to his distinguished careers and education, the one Puntlanders were most hopeful of, and for that matter whom they are most disappointed. In his presidential campaign he promised the moon. Among his promises, to name a few, was a democratic and transparent governance system, an impregnable security apparatus, a robust economic infrastructures and institutions; the last but not the least of his promises was an universal suffrage: one-person-one-vote electoral system.

As customary for those corruption-elected presidents Mr. Gas reneged all his campaign promises, fully knowing he won’t be held accountable for it by those purchasable Puntland MPs who elected him. In his campaign Mr. Gas had harshly criticized all previous administrations. He even likened Puntland with unlucky bride who never got the groom she deserved; but after he attained his goal (presidency), he embraced Faroole administration team and policies that he vilified before; he even some of his cabinet members and Aaran-jaan group. He only took Faroole’s foot steps.

Mr. Gas became the proverbial mountain that laboured for longtime then brought forth the mouse. The Professor from whom once a lot had been expected, has drowned in the trivial tribal politics. Halkii cirka laga filayey ayaa ceeryaamo ka timid.

There is no much difference between Abdiwalis’s  mindset, his world outlook, and the one of the plain folks that never went to school. His doctor of philosophy proved to be nothing but a knowledge without benefit.

There is one similarity between all Puntland presidents: unilateral decision making (one-man rule); and that is what earned Puntland its nickname ‘Madax-ka-Nool’. The first and the second presidents were former soldiers, and their authoritarianism traits were attributed to their soldiery professionalism. The strange paradox is, however, that the civilians presidents, the third and the fourth, from whom pluralistic governing system expected were more authoritarian. And moreover, due to the fact that they were not properly elected but came to power through ‘a vote buying contests’ in which they were the highest bidder of their respective times, they were ever-ravening profiteers and raving greed into bodies.

They used poverty as an repression tool; by exploiting the destitution of the people in a place where the government is the only major employer. They used money – from tax imposed on impoverished population – to buy the allegiances of the (so-called) parliamentarians and the clan chiefs/elders; they used cash as a carrot and economic sanctions (impoverishment) as a stick. Because they got the power by corruption, they kept it by corruption. And as a matter of fact, through those corrupted ‘ vote buying’ election, only profiteers like them will get the power to only sell (us) Somalia out to the Devil.

A Faustian Pact with Fahad:

Another good example of the product of those vote auctioning election is the President Farmaajo of the Federal Government of Somalia. He, initially, come into the contest with nationalism hat. Exploiting the nationalism sentiments of the people.  He talked anti-Ethiopian rhetoric, however, after he attained his goal, he took all his hats off to the Ethiopians leaders; not only he fawned over the Ethiopians but he surrendered to them a Somali citizen arms and legs tied together and he signed blank check ‘brotherly treaties’ for them to fill themselves in the way they wish.

Mr. Farmaajo’s pick for prime minister, Hassan Ali Kheire, the Damu-Jadid’s (previous president’s party) point man for looting Somalia’s oil reserves, was the head of newly incorporated shell company, Some Oil & Gas, which was created solely for that purpose. It is widely believed, among the Somalis, that Mr. Kheire was finger-pointed for President Farmaajo by Fahd Yasin, the current Acting Director of Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA), and his former campaign financier, and Chief of Staff until recently.

Mr. Yasin himself is a very controversial person; it is alleged that he was Alshabaab fighter before he joined Damu-Jadid and became a prominent member; in the 2012 election he was a campaign financier of the former president Hassan Sh. Mohamud, and his very close friend in his tenure. Ironically, in the 2017 presidential election, Mr. Yasin chose to finance Mr. Farmaajo’s campaign while still he is a financier of his contender, the incumbent President Hassan Sh. Mohamud.

Preposterously, it is said that in every federal presidential election Mr. Yasin gets millions of cash dollars in sacks from the Qatari Sheikhdom to finance his choice of president. This is utterly ridiculous. For what? Why Qatar doesn’t directly contact its choice of presidential candidate instead of Fahad Yasin? What does Qatar wants for quid pro quo? Why Qatar chose backhanded way over diplomatic one for its interests in Somalia? Could it be one of Somalia’s adversary countries, in hiding, that Fahad Yasin is working for? Why Fahad Yasin now chose Mr. Farmaajo over Hassan Sh. Mohamud, his colleague of yesteryear? For sure,  the Devil is in the details!

An English proverb says: “put a beggar on horseback and he will ride to the Devil”. Mr. Farmaajo is a perfect spectacle of the proverbial beggar on horseback; I cannot think of anywhere else that this could be illustrated more than in his presidency. But that doesn’t mean his predecessor was any better than him. They are one and the same- two evils; both were the product of corrupt (vote buying) elections. As a matter of course only the greater evil has taken over(and displaced ) the lesser.

If It Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix It:

Those sham governments resulted from those vote-auctioning elections, which perpetuates the suffering of the Somali people, work fine for a narrow group of people. It works well for the interest of the clan traditional-cum-political chiefs who select their respective members of the parliament, and the members of parliament who cash their votes to highest bidder of candidates, and the winner of the auction who after appellation ‘The President’, becomes the sole proprietor of his newly bought private estate — by surrounding himself with punch of likeminded sycophant cabinet ministers. Without opposition party, with no proper checks and no body telling their wrongs, we often create monsters; and more problems for ourselves.

Opposition parties often act as mirrors in which the ruling party sees its mishaps. And without the opposition party, one party system – an euphemism for a dictatorship —hardly leads a country to the right direction.

That group exploits the destitution of the people; their political and economic powers are tied to current situations on the ground, the status quo and they don’t need it to change; the corrupted system, at the expense of the rest, pays them off squarely; as such they see nothing wrong with it from their prospective and thus no reason to fix it.

The problem here is very clear, it is lack of control over the ruling elite by the ruled masses whose fate is being decided. Neither the president, the parliamentarians, the ministers nor even the chiefs are accountable to or elected by the people: the clan chiefs, even if they know little or nothing about governance, are hereditary; they aren’t elected or paid by the people they purportedly represent; and they are there for themselves. The parliamentarians are selected by their respective clan chiefs; and after themselves they are there for their clan chiefs, thus they sell their voting power to the highest buyer candidate. The ministers are nominated by the president and they serve him after themselves. That means no body is there for the general good of the people and the people can do nothing about the government’s decision making.

The corruptly-elected president, the winner in the vote-buying contest, while knowing that those shamefaced, sellout parliamentarians whom he bought yesterday can’t confront his profiteering agenda, and that even if they murmur against something crumbs will sort them out, set out settling his campaign debts; then buying two or three villas and cash savings in a friendly peaceful country for retirement; then campaign funds have to be stashed way for next term ; and in less than no time the term is up. And back to square one again, Qatari Sheikhdoms/Fahad Yasin will choose for us another one, a president. And we are in a rat race.

Our insanity shouldn’t be more clearer than from our elections of corrupt person[s], through those corrupted election system and our expectations from them to fight the same corruption that brought them to power and free us from the problems that beset us today. That is what all a madness is about.

A Matter of Life and Death

Somalis must quit the corruption for their lives. Somalia is dying of the proverbial death of a thousand injuries/maladies. But the corruption is the worst of all that dwarfed all other social ills Somalia had; it is the major cause of its inability to stand on its feet. And it has to be stoped. How? I should recommend the following few steps:

I. Any candidate for elective/nominative public office must disclose his/her assets and income. And any property on his/her name or on his/her immediate relatives, within his/her tenure or within fixed time limit thereafter, without proper legal source of in come will be declared as national property and will attract financial and/or criminal penalties.

II.The first criterion for presidential, MP candidate or for any elective public office holder should be his/her integrity and capabilities (Karti iyo Hufnaan), thence come his/her higher education credentials.

III. There must be constituents, other than clan chiefs, that elect the MPs and can hold their respective MPs for his/her misbehaviours. Currently MPs are elected by their respective region’s clan chiefs who, after they elect, have no power over him/her whatsoever to bring that MP to the account. Considering the facts that clan is not a polity that has common interests and that the clan chiefs themselves are not accountable to the clans they supposedly represent, it should be recommendable to let the constituencies have an independent district level electoral committee consisting of that district’s civil societies – intellectuals, businesspeople, clan elders, religious scholars etc., all selected for their tested integrity — to elect the most suitable candidate for the interests of that district, region, and most importantly for the nation but not the one with deepest pocket. In that case any MP should be elected by more people than the clan elders for which that one MP was allotted who will be affected by the decisions made by that MP.

VI. Limited opposition parties and opposition MPs – in both regional and national levels – are vitally necessary to counter check the ruling party and shade light on its misbehaviours. An opposition that opposes the wrongs and supports the rights of the government is very important.

The riddance of the corruption and the corruptly elected leaders, is a sine qua non condition for Somalia or else it will itself got rid by the corruption.

So long as the votes of those sellout MPs (selected by their respective clan-chiefs) are to the highest buyer, only profiteers will be on power; and no one keeping their self-respect will even be candidate, let alone to take the leadership. Thus an evil will replace by another; and most likely the lesser evil will be pushed aside by the greater one. If you pay bananas, it is said, you will get only monkeys: through the vote buying elections, only the most corrupt candidate will be the winner (president).

One might ask himself are there good guys remaining in the Somalis? The answer is YES. There are plenty of good guys full of integrity and capabilities (Karti iyo Hufnaan) who are willing to serve their people and their country, but with the corrupt system of election we have in place now it is impossible for self-respecting person to stand a chance to be candidate let alone to be a winner. For that reason let us correct our election system, the bases for putting our statesmen/women to the power; and for that matter let us start by electing decent MPs (deputies) who will elect for us the good leader we deserve. It is only up to our deputies, that we send to represent us [the people] in the election arenas, to either sell us out or salvage us. Like minds attract to each other, only MPs with integrity will attract to the leaders with integrity.

‘Mas madaxa ayaa laga dilaa’ is an age-old Somali saying which means a snake dies surely of its injuries on the head; our version of the English adage, ‘a fish rotes from the head’. Like a fish, a society rotes from the head. And the head of society is its leaders. Thus our choice of leaders is a matter of life and death.

Putting profiteers[beggars] to the power – befitting to the proverbial saying: “Put a beggar on horseback and he will ride to the Devil”— will sell us out to the Devils. And it is the fact of the matter that those vote buying ‘elections’ will only put profiteers to the power.


Ahmed Khalif,
Email: [email protected]