Farmaajo’s atrocious five years: 2017 – 2022


By Abdi Ali
Saturday February 12, 2022

Farmaajo betrayed
the nation’s hopes and saw “Qabyaalad” and hostility in everyone and at every
turn. He leaves behind a deep reservoir of venality, countless bereaved
families, a plague of venomous politics and vicious insecurity. The
de-Farmaajofication of the country will not be easy.

On
the 19th of February 2017, three days after Farmaajo formally took
office, there was a terrorist car bomb in the Wadajir district of Mogadishu,
killing an estimated 69 people and injuring over eighty others. Three days
later (23rd of Feb), Farmaajo was off to his first foreign trip to
Saudi Arabia, celebrating his election – an auspicious start to his presidency.

The
Zoobe mass murder happened a few months later (14th of Oct 2017) –
the worst one-day terrorist carnage in Africa in which more than 2,500 innocent
people either lost their lives or suffered life-changing injuries. Rather than
taking the lead in the country’s response, Farmaajo was off again to his
foreign trips (Uganda and Ethiopia, 22nd of Oct) in the midst of the
country’s worst-ever terrorist atrocity. Yet again, on the 28th of
Dec 2019, when the Ex-Koontrol terrorist massacre claimed the lives or wounded
more than 350 people, Farmaajo was off to Eritrea (10th of January
2020) for a chinwag with his mentor.   

The
point here is not so much he was out of the country more than any other
president in modern times as the fact that horrific as these massacres were,
Farmaajo was always indifferent, often leaving the country, or staying abroad, in
the midst of national trauma and mourning. It meant what was happening in
Mogadishu over the last few years – within a few miles within his presidential
compound – never seemed to have troubled his conscience, let alone mattered to
him.

For many people, the idea of a president conjures up an image of a specific
type of person: one who can lead, show empathy and do everything he can to
protect his people. It is why the events of the 19th of February 2017 were prescient,
foreshadowing the character of the man who was about to lead Somalia at such a
critical period. It was this event, Zoobe and countless others over the years,
that would later define him as someone seemingly immune to the horrors of the
deaths and destruction around him, prioritising his dictatorial ambition over
people’s lives. He is the only president in modern Somali history who became a
willing spectator to immense suffering. Under his presidency, not a single one
of the thousands of lives lost in Mogadishu and elsewhere had ever been
investigated.

 

Faced with a country that was grabbling with serious terrorist threats
and aggravated by political deadlock, Farmaajo did nothing. Instead, he
prioritised his own dictatorial agenda by making sure insecurity was embedded,
the political discord was poisonous and social and economic reconstruction of
the country were left to crumble.  

The economy

The
fact that there was large-scale corruption under Farmaajo is hardly new. What
was particularly distinctive to Farmaajo’s time in office is how pervasive and
deeply-ingrained corruption became, and all in plain sight. Billions of budgetary
support were squandered on building personalised paramilitaries; buying off politicians,
creating servile parliamentarians and reviving the old “Kacaan” paraphernalia.
Prized national infrastructure assets were signed off in secretive deals with neighbouring
autocrats and foreign firms for off-the-books income, the scale and cost of which
is hard to quantify. There had never been a single year of budget
reconciliation for the billions of dollars raised and spent by the government during
the last five years. There was not a single school or hospital opened in the
last five years; the economically-important reform of the Somali currency –
which started in 2015 – stopped and significant milestones for the debt relief were
shelved; no effort was ever made to build adequate economic institutions; and
in every one of the past five years, Somalia languished at the bottom as the
world’s most corrupt country.

There
are more “Duufaan”, “Haram Cad” and “Gorgor” paramilitary units than there are
hospital beds or school desks, showing Farmaajo’s true priorities. The country’s
entire economy was subordinated to the needs and whims of one man and his goons,
feeding off Mogadishu and its inhabitants as a cash cow.  

Overall security

In
last week’s African summit, Farmaajo said with a straight face that Somalia was
ready to take over security, and under his leadership, terrorist threat
diminished. He knows that vast swathes of Mogadishu are no-go areas where
terrorists operate freely unmolested. That is why he can never leave Villa
Somalia without Ugandan troops in tow. Fearful for his safety, he never visits
any of Mogadishu’s districts or attends public events outside his compound. His
assertion demonstrates the remarkable mindset of a man devoid of reality.

The
security personnel Farmaajo touted at the summit are the animal-themed
paramilitaries that are used to suppress and brutalise the people and
politicians. The threat he talks about are the political opponents, the rule of
law and democratic norms, not terrorists. The booming domestic flights reflect
how the country became islands of insecurity as none of the roads is considered
safe. The security dividend Farmaajo inherited in 2017 is lost and large areas
of key towns of the country are under terrorist control.  

The consequences of this are felt right across the country and Mogadishu
in particular:  Businesses in Mogadishu –
from the small street hawkers to large corporates – are having to pay terrorist
levies in broad daylight – funds used to support the terrorist threat; the city
is largely blockaded, cutting off the livelihoods of millions. Up and down the
country, the security threat is much worse than it has even been for a decade
and daily terrorist outrages are creating countless bereaved families and
orphans without a future. The people are mentally as well as physically
drained.

Institutions of government

Farmaajo made no efforts to help finalise the country’s nascent
constitution. He blocked the establishment of key constitutional pillars: the
supreme court; the constitutional court; independent judiciary; the
anti-corruption commission; or codify the constitutional status of the capital
city. This was not simply because the circumstances were hard: He never wanted
any of this to progress. This was because Farmaajo knew the constraining effect
of proper constitution, and the deterring effects of laws and regulations
enforced by independent courts, would stymie his ambition to build an autocratic
regime.

Elsewhere, the rigging of the on-going elections is intended to ensure
enablers of Farmaajo’s misrule continue to hold positions of influence in public
life. That is why we see those accused of committing heinous crimes, chosen on
Qabiil or were instrumental as his enablers to his misrule, parachuted to
become members of parliament so that they can vote him back in. Many others are
given ambassadorial jobs or rewarded with exclusive construction, import and
export contracts. With a widely-rigged election, the likelihood of his return or
that of another wannabe dictator who is inspired by him, grows by day.

All of this means the corrosive impact of Farmaajo’s time in office will
continue to undermine the institutions of government for many more years to
come.  

Foreign policy – a new “axis of autocracy”

Farmaajo signed up Somalia for new “axis of autocracy” club in the Horn,
making the country a vassal state. He did this under the quid-pro-quo that he
would be able to use foreign troops to beat the country to docility to help
realise his dictatorial fantasies. The need for a coherent grasp of foreign
policy grounded in the national interest gave way to one where other countries’
interests and Farmaajo’s needs took precedence over Somalia’s. Somalia got
sucked into other countries’ squabbles, sauntering into costly diplomatic
isolation. Relations with long-standing allies and brotherly nations, including
those through which the vast majority of Somalia’s trade flowed, soured while
those that posed existential threat to Somalia’s sovereignty became new friends
under the new axis of autocracy framework. Poor attempts at asserting the
government’s authority meant friction with international bodies and damaging
diplomatic missteps. Ambassadorial posts were reserved for unqualified goons
and acolytes based on Qabiil, creating disastrous policy vacuum. Farmaajo
signed countless bilateral treaties over the years which no one knows what they
were or meant for the Somalia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. He
leaves behind a ticking foreign policy timebomb.

The suffering of the people of Mogadishu  

Much of the disarray and deadly insecurity that we see in Mogadishu is
largely by design. The taxes levied on the city’s people and businesses are
used to feed Farmaajo and his goons. Thousands of the city’s graduates are  jobless without a future; the city’s public
schools are deliberately defunded and education standards weakened; foreign
scholarships are ring-fenced and denied to those with promising ambitions but
fail to meet Qabiil suitability tests; the city’s best and brightest continue
to die in unspeakable horrors in unexplained assassinations and bombings which
is never investigated; the city has been in lockdown under emergency rule for
years, crippling residents’ lives to the point they had to resort to carrying
the dead and injured on their shoulders through check points. Mass murders,
including those of the city’s mayor, and terrorist atrocities are never
investigated, lest they bring to light the effects and culpability of what
Farmaajo’s security services are up to.    

Farmaajo’s power to appoint the city’s mayor is used to create a
political scene which is self-defeating and obedient to his every whim. Local “Qabiil”
entrepreneurs, masquerading as community leaders and prominent “Sheikhs” with
useful “Qabiil” identify tags and claim to speak for the people of Mogadishu, have
thrived. They are paid handsomely and housed in plush hotels, creating a buffer
zone for Farmaajo. Government-sponsored institutionalised online and offline “Moryaanism”
flourished, feeding a new genre of thousands of “Guulwade-type” armed ruffians
singing Farmaajo’s praise and terrorising people. Social media trolls are paid
to spread misinformation, hurling abuse and insults at anyone who dares to
criticise Farmaajo. The local media is muzzled and unable to report on the true
levels of crimes and atrocities happening in Mogadishu.

The whole city is in a bondage of fear.

The “de-farmaajofication” of the country will
not be easy

Farmaajo saw Qabiil and hostility in everyone and at every turn. Taking
the venomous toxins out of the political system and institutions, and halting
the erosion of basic liberties, will not be easy. He is still determined to consign
the country to the depths of permanent autocracy in his own image. The last
five years were therefore marked by Farmaajo’s dictatorial misrule, aided by
dangerous enablers, goons and ruffians at every level and a belief that he
could replicate the horrors of the last “Kacaan”.

Some
autocrats are fired up by the prospect of creating a legacy moulded in their
own image; some take the opportunity of office to stuff their pockets; others
try to engineer an autocratic dynasty that they hope would endure beyond the
grave. Farmaajo tried to combine all three, hoping to rot the political system
so thoroughly the country never recovers. He is not done yet.

Farmaajo
was an American citizen when he became president. He had exposure to the
workings of American democracy and rule of law from which he and his family
benefitted immensely. In office, he became a new breed of demagogue who was
perversely inspired by the destructive “21-year Kacaan” that doomed the
country. It is a bleak irony indeed that while he is doing this to the people
of Somalia, his family continues to enjoy the liberty, safety and opportunities
offered by US democracy and the American Dream.

Over the last five years, Farmaajo’s presidency therefore came at a real
cost to the people of Somalia: a deep reservoir of venality, countless bereaved
families, a plague of venomous politics and vicious cycle of mayhem and insecurity.
His was a truly bloody legacy.  

Aloow wadankeena iyo dadkeena usoo gargaar.

Abdi Ali
[email protected]



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