Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Time to walk the talk.

A lot has been said or written following the acrimonious dismissal of former Somalia Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, better known as Farmajo, who has since become a public idol amongst the Somali people.

Many Somalis were unhappy when Farmajo was stripped off his PM post last month in a dubious political agreement between bitter rivals President Sheikh Sharif and the Speaker of parliament Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden.

For the first time in Somalia's long feuding history, ordinary Somalis bitterly protested the decision to sack PM Farmajo. People demonstrated in Mogadishu, Europe and North America irregardless of their clan affiliations.

“They say everyone can differentiate bad from good. We want the world to know that Farmajo was our best hope. He proved himself and has paid a price for his vision and patriotism. History will judge him right. The issue of clans is no longer a problem in Somali, the people were simply held hostage by corrupt and egocentric leaders who did not care for the ordinary people. Farmajo was very different from the crop of leaders we have. It’s a pity he has been kicked out but we will never forget him.” Said one of the protestors in Mogadishu, draped in the sky-blue colours of his flag.

Even government soldiers were not left behind. They joined women and children in calling for Farmajo to be spared. They even threatened to leave their defensive positions if he was forced out. It took Farmajo himself to restrain people.

But what baffles many pundits and the ordinary folk alike is simply what the soft-spoken bespectacled Faramjo did to win such an unprecedented support across the myriad Somali clans who have never agreed on anything and everything before. Such unity of purpose has eluded Somalia for many years.

When he was appointment Prime Minister of Somalia on October 14 many people thought he would just come and go like the many other PM's who preceded him. But that was not the case.

Like any other politician, he set out his targets by giving himself 100 days to show results. That is where Farmajo differs from the rest of other Somali politicians who only seem too preoccupied with enriching themselves at the expense of their war-weary constituents and badly dilapidated war-ravaged country.

He chose to serve his people by breaking away from past practices of nepotism and corruption, which unfortunately were the order of the day. As soon taking office he centralized government finances by strengthening the central bank and directing that all monies be stashed there.

Briefcase ministries were a thing of the past during his reign. He even outlawed the hire of private jets, a common practice in the past, forcing himself and fellow cabinet members as well as top officials including the speaker of parliament to fly on regular public airlines. The President was the only official allowed to fly privately, which in many cases makes sense largely due to security related reasons.

He also warned government officers against sleaze saying anyone caught stealing public money will be prosecuted. In simple terms, he led by example in stopping unnecessary costs and focusing on result oriented projects.

He ordered port officials and airport management to remit their daily tax collection to the central bank where no one was allowed to withdraw money without presenting a signed cheque bearing his signature.

His efforts paid off as the government was able to save tens of thousand of dollars which initially disappeared without trace. The new financial savings allowed the government to pay off civil servants including government soldiers who rarely received any salaries before.

He even made sure lawmakers started receiving their monthly pay from the same public coffers.

Mogadishu city started glittering during his reign too as streets were lit and cleaned. Garbage collection was a daily chore in which he himself took part in the clean up exercise.

The best of all, government soldier were so happy with their pay roll that they started to seriously challenge Al-Shabaab in the various frontlines of Mogadishu. The government army with the help of AMISOM peacekeepers managed to unset Al-Shabaab from strategic and historical locations in Mogadishu including the former Defence headquarters and African village, which hosted the first OAU meeting in Mogadishu.

It was therefore a big releif of the whole world when a government soldier killed Fazul Mohamed Abdallah. Al-Qaeda most wanted man in East Africa on 8 June. Traditonally that governemnt soldiers who was manning a checkpoint would not have been in his post if it were not for Farmajo and his team's relentless efforts to pay off soldiers and ensure they are well catered for.

The Al-Shabaab loss to the government rekindled patriotism among many Somalis making PM Farmajo a favorite among the despondent population. In my opinion, this is what makes Faramajo the man of the moment in Somalia.

Sometimes I feel Somalia is so unfortunate. Every time the country takes one step forward, unknown forces fight back to take the country ten steps backwards. PM Farmajo might have left office but the people of Somalia know that he was the best hope for the country purely due to his openness and accountability.

I have no intention of ruling out the current PM, Dr. Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, who also served as a minister in Farmajo's cabinet. I believe in justice and feel that we should give Dr. Abdiweli and his team the same support we extended to PM Farmajo. After all what we seek to save is our dignity and our country Somalia.

I just want to thanks Farmajo for setting the standards so high. It is my belief as well as that of many goodwill Somalis and the rest of the world that Dr. Abdiweli will discharge his duties diligently and without fear or favor.

We might have lost a great leader in Farmajo, but who knows, Dr. Abdiweli might simply surprise us all by taking the country into greater heights. We are lucky that we have somewhere to start from thanks to the exemplary vision and patriotism of Farmajo and his team.

I pen off with a few lines from the Somali national anthem which will help us start walking the talk by coming together to support our brothers and sisters severely affected by drought and famine in Somalia.

Somalis wake up, wake up and support one another
Support you’re weakest
Support them forever.