WardheerNews: Dr. Baadiyow, could you share with WardheerNews readers about your background?
Dr. Baadiyow: In the name of Allah, the Merciful and the Beneficent. Let me first thank you for posting these questions for the interest of the public. To answer your question briefly, I am a former military officer (1971-1986) and hold a PhD in Islamic studies from McGill University, Canada. I have returned to Somalia in 1992 in the capacity of regional director of Mercy-USA for Aid and Development. I am also one of the founders of Mogadishu University and its current chairman of the Board of Trustees. I am also a member of Islah Movement and a member of its Shura Council since 1995, and its vice-chairman in (1999-2008). Currently, I am responsible for the bureau of reconciliation and political activism. Finally, I was a presidential candidate in the 2012 race.
WDN: You were one of the founders of Mogadishu University. Can you tell us the challenges and successes thus far achieved by Mogadishu University?
Dr. Baadiyow: Mogadishu University is one of the major achievements of Somali initiatives during the civil war. Establishing internationally recognized university in the midst of the civil war in Mogadishu is obviously extremely challenging. The very idea was innovative, visionary and ambitious. The biggest challenge was convincing the community that a university could be established by private citizens since the field of higher education was considered to be in the domain of the state. The second challenge was to persuade students who used to get free education to pay fees without which the project cannot sustain itself. The third challenge was adopting a competitive curriculum and hiring qualified faculty members in order to gain international recognition. However, all of these challenges have been dealt with successfully. MU boasts to have given admissions to more than 10,000 Somali students in its seven undergraduate faculties and postgraduate programs. Its graduates are the backbone of the young Somali scholars and professionals today.
WDN: You ran for the office of Somalia’s president in last year’s presidential election. What have you learned from that experience?
Dr. Baadiyow: After running in the presidential election of 2012, I am relieved and believe that I have done my part in attempting to provide leadership to my people. Indeed, running for a presidential position was a great opportunity and experience. I have learned a lot about emerging trends of Somalia’s political culture and interacted with many political elites. I have observed two important trends: the weakening role of political clannism and nationalism, and the growing role of the pragmatic individualistic motives of “what’s in It for me”. Lessons learned will be considered and counted in the future political engagements. Indeed, it’s my deep conviction that Allah gives leadership to whom He wants and stripes leadership from whom He wants.
WDN: What is your current assessment of the political situation in Somalia?
Dr. Baadiyow: After initial high expectations, the current political situation in Somalia has a propensity for tumultuous scenarios and profound societal disappointment. For example, security is deteriorating, the economy is waddling and Jubaland project is biting hard. The government is not generating adequate resources and external financial support is not forthcoming. Thus, the government faces great challenges while lacking necessary human, technical and financial capacities. Moreover, the government and the parliament are already behind the schedule in implementing major tasks according to the constitutional provisions. For instance, the government should propose and the parliament should establish numerous commissions in specific timeframes. According to article 135 of the constitution, the government should establish Judicial Service and Truth and Reconciliation Commissions in 30 days, Human rights, Ombudsman, National Security and civilian oversight commissions in 45 days; and Constitutional Court in 60 days.
On the other hand, even though it is a bit too early to pass a fair judgment on the performance of the government, nevertheless, it seems that public support is dwindling, frustration and desperation are growing. Objectively, the performance of the current government should be evaluated on three major aspects: progress in the internal challenges and issues, progress in the institution building and progress in the international relations. These are three intertwined indicators that this regime will be evaluated on. Fairly, they will be evaluated on the final outcome and constitutional tasks, not the some processes and disjointed activities here and there. The general mood in the street is “let us give the regime more time to improve and reform itself.”
WDN: Many argue that the current president Mr. Hassan Sh. Mohamoud concentrated all powers in his office, thus undermining the responsibilities of the prime minister as given by the constitution, what is your opinion on this issue?
Dr. Baadiyow: Looking into the Somali political culture, Somali presidents since 2000 were operating in a false assumption as through the system of the state is presidential and prime ministers have been accepting less than their constitutional powers. Some of the prime ministers even accepted such low key roles in under the table agreements with presidents prior to their appointments. Accordingly, presidents usurp executive powers from prime ministers. Paradoxically, in the constitution making process, we advocated for a parliamentary system while practically we operate on the basis of presidential system. Interestingly, members of the parliament tolerate such political malpractice and never raise the issue seriously. Coming back to your question, the existing power relations between President Hassan and Prime Minister Saacid in is not different from that chronic political culture where Presidents usurp executive powers of Prime Ministers.
WDN: How do you see the issue of lifting arms embargo in Somalia, while many believe that it could re-ignite Somalia’s clan conflicts?
Dr. Baadiyow: There is no doubt that all Somalis are in total agreement to have effective national army capable of protecting our national territory, guaranteeing the security of the citizens and protecting our sovereignty. We also agree that building such security institutions require military hardware which necessitates lifting the arms embargo. The major concern of many Somalis, however, is based on the fear and mistrust to the possible use of this military hardware to ignite clan conflict. Their reason is based on the low capacity of the security apparatus and its lack of inclusiveness. The government must reasonably address these concerns. I believe that Somalia needs lifting the arms embargo while concerns of its proliferation must be adequately addressed.
WDN: Could you provide some background on Al-Islah Islamic organization and what does it stand for?
Dr. Baadiyow: Islah Movement is a Somali organization established in 1978 with the purpose of spreading and promoting Islamic moderation in the Somali society in line with the methodology of the Muslim Brotherhood which is based on gradualism and long term societal transformation. The name of Islah means “reform” and its name is a true expression of its nature. It is non-violent, tolerant and promotes comprehensiveness of Islam in all aspects of life. Accordingly, Islam is not only creed and rituals, but must be applied in the social, political and economic spheres. Moreover, Islah inculcates this ideology through peaceful means and through building civil society institutions. It is a matured institution with established legal foundation and exercises internal democracy through electing its consultative council (central committee) and its national and regional leaders every five years. Members of Islah are very active in the society and in the Somali Diaspora, and participate in the social and political activism through available opportunities which does not contradict Islamic principles and values. In the very near future, however, Islah is planning to mandate its willing members to form political parties (regional and national) with other Somali politicians and approach politics from pragmatic point of view of national unity and inclusiveness which are major principles of Islam.
WDN: Many people lump the Islamic group “Dammul-Jadid” (New Blood), which some of the top leaders of the Somali government belong to, and Al-Islah. What is the difference of the two groups?
Dr. Baadiyow: The Islamic group aka “Dammul-Jadid” is a splinter group form Islah. It happened in 2004 and since then the group has been on its own. The whole story began with early grievances of some members during the reformation period of the organization in the 1990s. In those years, Islah was transforming itself from an underground organization to a public institution. It had drastically reformed its internal regulations and bolstered its democratic practices through periodical elections. However, some individuals who lost elections showed dissatisfaction and began to distance themselves from the organization’s activities and later began to spread rumors violating the regulations of the organization. As is the normal procedure of all organizations, disciplinary committee dealt with the issue and expelled some of them from the organization while others voluntarily joined them. They later became part of the wide coalition of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) in 2006, which led to an armed uprising in Mogadishu against warlords. As a result, they became part of the government under President Sheikh Sharif. Later, they initiated their own political initiative and formed PDP party with Hassan Sh. Mohamoud, now the current president, as its chairman. On the other hand, Islah denied to be part of all armed groups in the pretext that it is bounded to its non-violent doctrine and persistently pursued that guiding principle in turbulent and chaotic environment.
WDN: Was your presidential candidacy a calculated political move by Al-Islah, the movement, or a personal undertaking?
Dr. Baadiyow: Initially, my candidacy was a personal undertaking which I have decided after 12-years of pushing other individuals to the position of national leadership and, consequently, their repetitive failure. I convinced myself that seeking the presidency is an Islamic duty as well as a national responsibility. Many members of Islah supported my program in the beginning while others were not happy with it for various reasons. The Islah by-laws, however, were in my favor since they allow that every member has the right to participate in the political process in his/her individual capacity. Finally, towards the end of the campaign, the Islah Movement officially supported my candidacy.
WDN: Recently a conflict surfaced between Sheikh Mohamed Nur “Garyare,” a co-founder and former head of Al-Islah, and the current leadership. What was the nature of the conflict?
Dr. Baadiyow: Sheikh Mohamed Ahmed Nur “Garyare” joined the Muslim Brotherhood in 1963 and has a long and shining history with Islah. He was one of the five founders of Islah in 1978 and became its first chairman. He migrated to Canada in 1989 and his role was confined to be permanent member of the consultative Council. However, he tried to exercise an extraordinary role within the organization beyond his legal prerogative. After many years of attempts to dissuade him, he unitarily announced that he took over the leadership of the organization, claimed that he expelled from the Islah Movement its legitimate chairman, Dr. Ali Basha Omar, co-founder and former chairman Dr. Ali Sheikh Ahmed and Dr. Mustafa Abdullahi, a member of the executive bureau. However, Islah Movement, being a matured institution, dealt with the incident in accordance with its legal framework and expelled Sheikh Garyare and his associates from the organization. Currently, a process of reconciliation is underway. My hope is that this conflict will be resolved once for all and unity and brotherhood will return to Islah.
WDN: The issue of Federalism is being hotly debated in Somalia and in the diaspora between its proponents and critics. What are your thoughts on this matter?
Dr. Baadiyow: Discussions of federalism are very hot all over Somalia. Both the proponents and the opponents base their perspectives on what they consider the best interest of Somalia. Proponents look the matter from clan mistrust and post-civil-war syndrome which they think federalism will cure it. Opponents argue from national unity perspective fearing federalism may create an environment of divided Somalia. The clan sensitivity and perceived parochial interest is not absent from both sides. However, my perspective does not examine the merits and disadvantages of federalism as a system of governance and its applicability in Somalia. My thesis is based on the notion that the responsibility of our generation is mainly to bring back united Somalia under one flag irrelevant of the system of the governance. My assumption is founded that any adopted system of governance could be effective or nominal. For instance, in case federalism fails, it will be reformed or altered in the future under the unity government of Somalia. Let us make our priority at this stage to restore trust, reconcile communities and bring Somalis together under one functioning state. This means respecting and considering emotions, fears and mistrust of various clans from any form of clan hegemony in the name of the state. On that rationale, I accept federalism and want to give it the benefit of doubt until it is proven that it does not work for Somalia.
WDN: Why is the issue of Jubaland becoming polarizing and divisive in your opinion?
Dr. Baadiyow: The issue of Juba-land is very controversial and knotty issue which had revived clan sentiment. It is unfortunate that such sentiment is instigated as political tool after 23 year of the civil war and formation of recognized government of Somalia in 2012. The true nature of the issue is hijacked by singular clan interpretation perspective. However, it is a well-established reality that Juba-land is a home for all Somali clans irrelevant of who the majority there is and who is the minority. It is so rich that it can accommodate the entire Somali population and more. Certainly, there are multiple factors for and against building Juba-land regional state. These include neighboring regional states with economic and security interests, perceived clan hegemony and marginalization of some clans, lack of prudent policy from the federal government, deep mistrust between national leaders and local leaders, the notion that national leaders are against federalism and represent the interest of a specific clan and so on. Instead of instigating unnecessary conflict, the best interest of Somalia lies in the genuine negotiation between the Federal State and Juba-land aspirants and accepting a win-win deal through dialogue that does not contravene constitutional provisions.
WDN: What are the main challenges faced by the current government? Can the current military pursuit of AMISOM win the war with Al Shabab or is there a need for a dialogue to win the hearts and minds of Somalis?
Dr. Baadiyow: The major challenges and tasks of the government in the next three and half years include creating reasonable security and justice system; generating adequate financial resources; acceptable capacity building of the national institutions; completing and adopting federal constitution though referendum; restoring national unity (negotiation with Somaliland); establishing federal states; legislating political parties; and conducting census and carrying out free and fair election. The most important of all these tasks is security which could not be restored through military means alone. The major security threat emanates from Al-Shabab which requires, besides the use of force, a comprehensive strategy of winning the hearts and minds. Various strategic and tactical options should be applied to win the war including negotiation and persuasion. After all, except small number of foreigners, most of Al-Shabab forces are Somalis with specific grievances and agendas that may require sagacious Somali solution.
WDN: How do you see the way out of the current malaise of the regime?
Dr. Baadiyow: This regime, as it stands today, is incompetent to achieve national goals and to deal with the growing enormous challenges. The availing internal and external opportunities are unprecedented; however, the capacity of the regime to make use of these for the benefit of rebuilding Somalia is very limited. My personal take is that three major conditions must be fulfilled to improve the performance of the current regime and to restore its credibility.
- The president should be advised, and, perhaps also pressured, to be accountable to abide by the constitution and to stop overtaking government affairs as if the system of governance is presidential. The president’s unconstitutional power grabbing have marginalized the Prime Minister and Ministers; ruined institution building processes and created unbalanced power sharing among various clans, which has instigated clan sentiment and created divided communities.
- Forming national unity government capable of discharging bequeathed responsibilities. The new government must include qualified and experienced individuals of hig standing within the society. Also, it should be wide enough to accommodate various clans to quench their desire for power and prestige without compromising quality and capacity.
- The government should encourage, instead of blocking, various regions and communities to hold their conferences in order to establish federated regional states avoiding any imposition of leadership from the top. The role of the federal government should be limited on coaching, facilitating, mediating and making sure that these regions are complying with the national provisional onstitution. Moreover, the Boundary and Federation Commission, responsible in dealing with the issue of federalism, constitutionally required to be established within 60 days after forming the cabinet, must be immediately formed as well other commissions (see article 135 of the constitution).
WDN: How do you foresee the future of Somalia?
Dr. Baadiyow: I am very optimistic of the bright future of Somalia. I have witnessed a changing Somalia to the better since the civil war eruption in 1980s. Somalis are better educated, acquired more wealth and gained great experiences and entrepreneurship qualities in the Diaspora. Somalis became a trans-national community capable of transferring technologies from all over the world. The new educated generation of Somalis is more nationalist, principled and conscious about Islamic values and societal heritage. Moreover, the world interest of Somalia, in terms of investment due to its strategic location, is growing. Somalis are getting integrated in the Horn of African states and their businesses are thriving in the whole region. The exploration of oil, gas and minerals is under way and its discovery is highly probable. Therefore, there are great opportunities in Somalia, and the main aspect that we are still lagging far behind is the governance sector which requires extensive capacity building and coaching.
WDN: Thank you so much Dr. Baadiyow for your time.
Dr. Baadiyow: Thank you Abdelkarim for the opportunity to share my thoughts with the Somali people through WardheerNews media.