Leaked Text Messages Offer Glimpse Into Somalia’s Political Dysfunction
Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom’s message to the Somali government was clear: feel independent, solve your internal problems and be wary of foreign interference.
That message — relayed to the government in December 2013 when Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was looking for someone to appoint for a prime minister after lawmakers ousted Abdi Farah Shirdon — provides a glimpse at how current Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed came to power.
Before Abdiweli was nominated, President Hassan had submitted three finalists for the premiership to UN special envoy to Somalia Nicholas Kay.
But Kay, also called “The Teacher” in a slew of text messages independently obtained by SAHAN from a reliable source, had someone else in mind. He had lobbied for Nuradin Dirie, his current senior special adviser, for the premiership, according to the messages.
The messages allegedly linked to President Hassan and his close advisers were on Tuesday leaked to the press. It was first reported by the news site Somali Agenda.
The correspondents, exchanged between January 2013 and January 2014, showcase an administration mired in internal wrangling, inconsistency and power mongering.
The bulk of the messages consist of conversations between President Hassan and his close henchman, Farah Sheikh Abdulkadir. Until recently, Farah was the minister of justice and constitutional affairs, but under a cabinet reshuffle that triggered a dispute between President Mohamud and Prime Minister Abdiweli, he was moved to the veterinary minister.
On Tuesday, the Somali parliament’s session turned into chaos after lawmakers supporting Abdiweli started shouting and banging on empty jugs soon after debate on no-confidence motion against the prime minister began.
The no-confidence motion was submitted by supporters of President Hassan, who rejected the prime minister’s move to shift Farah from the justice and constitutional affairs portfolio to the veterinary docket.
The leaked messages were written in colloquial Somali, interspersed with broken English sentences. One of the text messages used an emoji at the end of the text.
The messages confirmed the hunch of many analysts, who have always emphasized the role that Farah plays in President Hassan’s administration. Over the last two and a half years, Farah was rumored to have been Hassan’s right-hand man, and an indispensable wingman to the Commander-in-Chief.
“Mr. President, I consider myself to be among the people who love to see Somalia develop, and who as well have a lot of respect for you. … I hope that Allah makes the burden of the job easy for you,” Mr. Farah allegedly writes in one of the messages.
The text messages also touched on the resignation of Yussur Abrar, the former governor of the Somali Central Bank, who resigned after just seven weeks in the job. Abrar, who sent her resignation letter from Dubai, accused Hassan’s government of corruption and mismanagement of finances. In the messages, Farah wrote to the president by saying: “We have established communication channel with Yussur and with phone conversation slated for tomorrow. Meanwhile we have advised her not to address press and important that the same approach is adopted by [Somali federal government].”
True to the matter, the Financial Times had reported then that donors who supported Abrar believed “that she sent her resignation letter, dated October 30, from Dubai, before traveling to an unknown destination.”
The text messages also displayed a government structure that is not based on job merit or management hierarchy, but rather one that is based on political mileage and presidential propinquity.
This can be seen in how Farah forwards messages from certain sources to the president. The president then replies by asking: “Who sent that message?”, clearly showing the lack of proper and direct communication channels.
Suggestions even come in galore for the president. In one message, Farah dishes out advice to lower the flag “to show Solidarity” that Somalia is sad about the death of Nelson Mandela. “African countries,” he continues, “the USA, UK and other countries have done so.”
Together, the correspondents show how the current prime minister was chosen after the U.S. gave the stamp of approval to Abdiweli’s nomination. One of the messages reads: Out of the three finalists for the premiership, the U.S. said “only one candidate meets the criteria particularly engagement with the [international community].”
In December 2013, a text message from someone the president was allegedly consulting with says: “If you need my humble view then would share but I don’t see any figure with more potentials within the Marehan candidates then Abdiweli.”
Fast forward to a year later, and Abdiweli may be replaced with a new prime minister if the president’s supporters succeed to oust him.
And after some weeks, President Hassan may submit another three finalists for the premiership to Kay and the U.S.