(Awdalpress-UAE)For the first time in twenty years the Somali spirit is rekindled and the whole country is buzzing with great expectation and optimism. There is a lot of excitement in the air with the presidential election just a week or two away from today. So far, nearly thirty presidential hopefuls have thrown their hats in the ring, vying for the top job in a country that was plagued by more than twenty years of civil strife, famine, warlord-ism, Islamic fanaticism in the form of Al shabab, piracy in the high seas and internal displacement (IDPs) of millions of its citizenry throughout the country and farther afield, with Dhadhab in Kenya being the biggest refugee camp in the world. Millions of more Somalis had to flee in search of save heavens, with Europe, North America, East Africa and the Middles East being the highest Somali concentrations anywhere in the world. It is not surprising, therefore, that most candidates hail from the Diaspora community.
Without any shadow of a doubt there are many fine men in this presidential contest whose past and present records in private and public lives are unblemished. However, it is sad to note that male candidates still far outnumber women candidates by a mile. Candidates like ex-premier Abdiweli Gaas, and economist and technocrat; Mohamed Abdillahi Farmajo, a man who started the ball rolling for good governance before he was pushed aside by Yuweri Museveni and his IGAD cohorts; Dr. Abdurahman Baadiyo, an academic and a former colonel in the Somali national army; Dr. Hashi, a great authority in financial management and a former world bank executive; and finally professor Ahmed I Samatar, a political scientist and the James Wallace Professor of International Studies at Macalester college are among the best pick of this group.
Conversely, there are candidates who should never have been allowed to run for public office, let alone in this milestone race considering their unscrupulous and terrible past. Sharif Aden, better known Sharif Sakiin, comes on the top of this list. Let us not also forget that Sharif Aden is the same man who presided over the worst brawl by Somali Parliamentarians in history when opposing MPs beat each other in a bloody confrontation in Nairobi over whether Ethiopian army should be part of AMISOM mission in Somalia. I hope he never sees a public office again.
On the other hand, Sheikh Sharif, the incumbent who came to office in 2008 with the US and IGAD blessing, is also running for a second term in office despite misgivings about his management style, often described by some as confrontational with signs of dictatorship tendencies. His storming out of the last meeting in Nairobi is a testament to this.
So who is the right candidate?
The new MPs have a rich list to pick up the right candidate if they go by their heads, but the question that is lingering in everybody’s mind is this: will they chose the right candidate on merit or simply continue the downtrodden path that brought us into this everlasting mess and shame in the first place? Thus far, the omen is not good as the going rate for vote-buying is estimated to be hovering around $20,000 to $30,000 dollars. ome say what is happening in Mogadishu right now is reminiscent of the 15 days prior to the 1969 October revolution that brought General Mohamed Siyad Barre to power. In that particular period, the then Somali parliamentarians were jockeying for positions in exchange of money while the country’s slain President, Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, remained unburied.
Parliamentarians selected through this dubious and fraudulent process are highly unlikely to have free votes and make an informed judgment by electing the right man. Nonetheless, let us hope that there are conscientious members among the new legislators who will put the interest of the country over the interest of their financial and tribal backers. Let us hope they shun the overtures of opportunists, former warlords and clannish supremacists in the contest.
The newly-sworn Somali parliamentarians have all the hopes, expectations and aspirations of Somali people on their shoulders and the choice they make today will either make or break the Somali nation, which is yearning for a peaceful break from a horrible past riddled with all negativities. In my humble opinion, the new legislators have a clear choice in front of them by picking up professor Ahmed I Samatar as the new President of Somalia. He has al lot to offer. Being a lecturer in the political science in one of the finest academic institutions in the world, Professor Samatar has the knowledge, charisma, capabilities, skills and above all the integrity to take Somalia out of its current abyss. He is the only candidate who put forward his entire political manifesto to be seen by everyone. In Ahmed I Samatar you get what you see. He is regarded by almost all Somalis – from North to South – as whiter than white. His service to the Somali people in the US and elsewhere is second to none. Professor Samatar has been involved in Somali politics for the past thirty years and has written extensively about the country more than anyone else. In an opinion article published on Wardheernews, Faisal Roble summed up by saying this: “Somalia needs professor Samatar more than he needs it”.
In a recent World Bank report on TFG, certain members of the current administration have been accused of rampant corruption and public embezzlement. Sheikh Sharif, the incumbent and the man many are tipping to return to office, is on this list. Unlike some candidates in this race, professor Samatar’s sole objective in this race is not to enrich himself or make name for himself but to save the country of his birth from total oblivion.
Professor Samatar has reiterated on many occasions that, if elected, he will offer his services for free i.e. will get no salary at all. In a country whose institutions have completely destroyed and entirely dependent on foreign handouts with little or no revenue, this massive political pledge by the professor should give him a competitive edge over his competitors. Indeed, this alone should have given him the ticket to Villa Somalia. In an ideal world, a man with professor Samatar’s credentials and stature should have been home and dry. But in a country reeling from a terrible past and an old age clan animosity, the multi-talented and smooth-talking professor may have tough job in his hands.
Somalia has had many elections in the past twenty years with no concrete and meaningful results to shout about. However, it could be different this time round with the election of the right candidate. And the good news is that there is a pool of excellent candidates to choose from in this contest who could make a big difference in Somalia. Every genuine effort on the part of Somalis to reconstitute a viable state has been thwarted repeatedly either by elements within Somalia or by our neighbors, most notably Ethiopia. Now, with the demise of the greatest scourge of Somali people, Meles Zenawi, together with signs of Somali nationalism on the rise for the first time in as many years, it is possible our nation will rise again from the ashes. This is where I honestly believe professor Ahmed I Samatar will make a big difference should he given the chance to lead his country to pastures land. He is the right candidate at the right time with all the necessary attributes of a statesman.
In a country dogged by Darood – Hawiye rivalry since independence professor Samatar, the only presidential candidate from Dir clan, can at the very least become a compromise candidate to break this vicious cycle. Furthermore, in a recent opinion article, the former prime minster of Somalia, Abdirizak Hajji Hussein, has urged his fellow countrymen and women to vote for non-Hawiye non-Darood candidate. If Somali parliamentarians want to have a clean break from the past, they should heed the advice of Somalia’s eldest statesman and vote for professor Ahmed I Samatar.
Mohamed F Yabarag
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