Sunday, May 07, 2006

Somalilands Diplomatic Breakthrough And Somalias Street Boy Politics

Somaliland Times, Issue 224, May 6, 2006 Editorial

Muhammad Dheere, the man who controls Jawhar once described Abdillahi Yusuf and the so-called government of Somalia as a bunch of “street boys” (ciyaala suuq). Evidence confirming Muhammad Dheere’s observation is coming out with an almost predictable regularity. Let’s take the reaction of the so-called Parliamentarians in Baidoa to the appointment of a new Ethiopian ambassador in Somaliland.

In typical “street boys” fashion, members of Somalia’s “parliament” engaged in a lot of shouting and chest-beating over this matter. In their wild frenzy, it looks like they never asked themselves (1) Is it wise of them with all the work that is awaiting them to spend so much of their time on Somaliland, (2) are they in a position to do anything about it or (3) what can they do about it. Anyone who is familiar with the situation of Somalia’s hopelessly dysfunctional government, knows that the answer to the three above questions is a big no, which means Somalia’s politicians were wasting their time over something they could do nothing about. But again, those who were acting upset the most did not really want to do something about it. What they wanted was to embarrass and score points against the hapless “prime minister” Ali Geedi who is known to be close to Ethiopia.

Feeling cornered, Ali Geedi showed that he is no different than the rest, that he too, politically speaking, is one of the street boys, so he manufactured a letter and attributed it to Ethiopia. The letter basically said that Ethiopia has not recognized Somaliland. But in his hurry to get himself off the hook, and being “a street boy” who is neither used to working under pressure nor well-versed in the art of composing and deciphering diplomatic messages, Ali Geedi provided several clues that he made up the letter. One of them was that it was a weekend and Ethiopian government offices were closed. Two, the letter was sent by one of his associates in Addis Ababa. Three, the letter ended with the Arabic phrase “Wa-billahi al-Tawfiq”, a phrase that the Ethiopian government is very unlikely to use.

Somalia’s parliament and Ali Geedi having shown their political poverty, it was the turn of their head honcho, “president” Abdillahi Yusuf to expose his ignorance and amateurism to the world.
It happened in an interview he gave to the Associated Press. In that interview, he criticized the US for arming and financing Mogadishu’s warlords and ignoring him. He did not stop there, but went on to instruct the US to order the warlords to work with his “government”, so that his “government” could then help the Americans in their fight against terrorism. Again, in the typical “street boy” style that is characteristic of him and the rest of the crowd that recently moved to Baidoa, it seems he never asked himself why the US would want to deal with him when they know (a) he is scared to death of going to Mogadishu, (b) their targets are in Mogadishu, and (c) they can hire some people already in Mogadishu to get the job done.

When asked about warlord Abdillahi Yusuf’s comments, the Associated Press wrote, “State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said he did not know ‘the origin of these remarks in terms of what he has in mind’”, a polite way of saying we know Abdillahi Yusuf, he is an idiot, don’t listen to him.

And just like in the case of Ali Geedi and Somalia’s benighted parliamentarians, the evidence that we are dealing with just another Somali street-boy who only knows street politics and does not understand higher level politics is provided by Abdillahi Yusuf and his government. The Associated Press summed it up this way: “Somalia has not had an effective central government since clan-based warlords overthrew the government in 1991 and then began fighting each other. A transitional government headed by Yusuf was formed in October 2004 but its members quickly split over what the government's priorities were and where it should be located. It only controls a few cities and Yusuf spends much of his time out of the country.”

Being someone who functions at the level of street politics, when he sat for being interviewed, Abdillahi Yusuf probably thought he could tell the Associated Press correspondent whatever he wanted and get away with it. He most likely never thought that the correspondent knew his government was not much of a government, and he almost certainly never thought the correspondent knew and would write that “Yusuf spends much of his time out of the country.”
A president, parliament or government that does not know its priorities, spends most of its time outside the country and makes unreasonable and unrealistic demands on foreign governments, is not, and should not be taken seriously. Somalia’s “president”, “parliament” and “government” fall squarely within this category. Neither Somaliland nor Ethiopia should be distracted by their gimmicks and temper tantrums. Somaliland-Ethiopian relations are too important to be affected by a bunch of street boys in Baidoa. Welcome to Somaliland, Mr. Ambassador.

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