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An Islamist View of Somalias Political Crisis: An Interview with Abdurahman

Abdullahi Baadiyow, Leader of Somalias National Unity Party

Posted on October 16, 2014 by andrew
Andrew McGregor
October 13, 2013
In recent weeks, Somali security forces working in unison with troops of the African
Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) have made significant steps in its battle against al-
Shabaab extremists, retaking the coastal towns of Barawe and Adale. Shabaab has
responded to the military campaign by mounting assassinations and terrorist strikes
within the Somali capital of Mogadishu, including an October 12 car bombing of a
Mogadishu caf that killed 15 people and wounded another 18. Amidst the ongoing
violence and security concerns, Somalias Federal Government continues to struggle
with issues of regional rights, development, foreign investment, corruption, federalism
and national reconciliation. In the following AIS exclusive interview, an insiders
perspective of the political struggle in Somalia is provided by Abdurahman Abdullahi
Baadiyow, a candidate in the 2012 presidential elections and the current leader of
Somalias broad-based National Unity Party (NUP). [1]
Abdurahman Abdullahi Baadiyow
1. Can you describe the political approach of the National Unity Party and its
relationship (if any) with the Somali Islah Movement?
After the collapse of the Somali state, the first national government was formed in 2000
through a traditional power sharing formula based on clan quotas that empowered
traditional elders to nominate members of the parliament. The current political trend is to
move away from a clan-based system to a citizen-centered approach in which political
parties are formed and elections are held. Along those lines, we have initiated the
National Unity Party (NUP), which was officially announced on February 26, 2014.
According to its principles, the party stands for the restoration and preservation of
national unity and social solidarity, espouses individual liberty, democracy,
institutionalism, federalism, protection of human rights, socio-economic development,
empowering women and youth and striving for the realisation of the regional integration
of the peoples and states of the Horn of Africa. The NUP is independent from the Islah
movement and its members belong to different social and religious affiliations. All
citizens have equal opportunity to join the party and internal democracy is exercised to
elect its leadership.
2. Two years after its establishment, has the Somali Federal Government made
progress in restoring security in Somalia? Have attacks on members of
parliament affected the ability of the government to move forward on essential
The Somali government has been trying to rebuild the Somali national security system.
However, progress is very limited for many objective reasons and due to low
performance. The continuous assassinations of MPs, attacks on the symbols of the
state sovereignty such as the parliament building, the state house and the regional
court, are clear evidence of the fragility of Somalias security institutions. Al-Shabaab
militants are still very dangerous even though efforts were made to fight against them
with the support of international partners.
With respect to achieving major milestones towards Vision 2016, which includes
completing the constitution, conducting a countrywide census and holding free and fair
elections, the government unfortunately lags behind. [2] The main reason is not security
alone, as the overall performance of the government is far from satisfactory.
Somali government troops in action alongside AMISOM armor.
3. In recent weeks there have been a number of cases of undisciplined behavior
by soldiers operating under the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM)
banner. Do you view the continued presence of AMISOM troops in Somalia as a
positive or necessary contribution to the restoration of security in the region?
AMISOMs presence is essential for restoring peace in Somalia and undisciplined
soldiers should be held accountable for their alleged crimes. On the other hand, Somali
society is very sensitive and suspicious of foreign troops and their presence is used by
al-Shabaab as the main reason for their sinister activities. Moreover, for Somalia to
stand on its own feet, building its security institutions should be given priority and a clear
exit strategy for AMISOM must be developed. Such a strategy is not yet known to the
Somali public.
4. The trend towards establishing new federal administrations in Somalia appears
to be a continuing process. Is federalism the answer to creating political unity in
Somalia, and do you see sufficient popular support to make it work?
The National Unity Party supports federalism. Without the adoption of a federal system,
the national unity that our party stands for will be endangered. Opposition to federalism
is narrowing and the majority of Somalis are now very busy establishing a federal state
in various regions. More established federal entities such as Puntland are adamant in
their support for federalism and will not compromise on it. The case for federalism also
strengthens the position of Somaliland unionists who can advocate among their
constituencies that the era of a strong central and oppressive state in Somalia is over
and the new federal but unified Somalia will be a win-win scenario for all Somalis.
However, the process of establishing these federal regions should be improved to
include all those living in each federal states territory while the monopoly of power by
certain clans over others should be avoided.
5. Resource-sharing has been one of the main issues to emerge during the
debate over Somali federalism, particularly in light of Puntlands insistence that it
has the right to negotiate its own deals for offshore gas and oil exploration.
Should regions have the power to make their own agreements regarding resource
development, or should this responsibility lie with a centralized government in
The issue between the national government and Puntland concerns not only resource-
sharing and oil exploration, which was a hot issue even during President Abdullahi
Yusufs tenure (2004-2008), even though Puntland was his constituency. It is about
different perceptions regarding how the national state should relate with the federal
states. Puntland considers itself an established federal state and demands more
autonomous federalism; it expects better engagement and a consultative role with the
national state. Besides the grievances and scars of the unresolved civil war that
continually nags and instigates clan sentiment, there are many failed agreements
between the two sides. However, resource sharing laws and procedures are still to be
completed so that there is a collective responsibility by the national and federal states.
Such laws are still in the making and hopefully will be finalised when other federal
entities are established. Finally, I hope the recent agreement during the official visit of
the Prime Minister Abdiwelli in Puntland will contain various grievances.
6. You have played a prominent role in the national reconciliation process. Do
you see this effort as making progress at this time? What are some of the
obstacles to national reconciliation?
True, I played important role in reconciliation since 1994 when I was elected as the
Chairman of the Somali Reconciliation Council, an NGO based in Mogadishu. I was a
member of the Somali technical committee in the Djibouti Reconciliation Conference of
2000 where the first Somali government was established since the collapse of the state
in 1991. Recently, I visited Puntland and the Juba administration to diffuse growing clan
sentiments and pave the way for reconciliation. Also, it is worth mentioning that armed
conflicts between Somali clans have to a certain extent faded away and conflict is now
mainly between the national government and al-Shabaab. There are also fracases
between emerging federal states. There is continuous wrangling within the national
state institutions such as the President and the Prime Ministers offices while the
government is frequently changed and parliament is busy with motions to topple the
government. However, genuine reconciliation is not taking place. What is happening is
mostly power sharing conferences without true reconciliation. I believe reconciliation
that addresses past grievances and a legitimate power sharing approach is what
Somalia needs to recover and prosper. The main obstacle is the vision of the national
leaders who do not see national reconciliation as a priority for state-building.
7. Alleged corruption in the Somali Federal Government has inhibited
development and even led to a temporary suspension of development aid from
Turkey (one of the largest promoters of Somali reconstruction) in February 2014.
What steps would you recommend to create greater transparency to assure
foreign donors that funds will be used in a transparent and responsible way?
Corruption is rampant in Somalia because various state institutions are yet to be
established. In reaction to alleged high profile corruption scandals, a donor-backed
committee that includes the Governor of the National Bank, the Minister of Finance and
officials from the World Bank, African Development Bank and International Monetary
Fund was formed. As a result, eight contracts, such as the agreements with Schulman
Rogers, Soma Oil and Gas, Favori and others are under scrutiny, since none of them
went through a competitive tender process, according to the World Bank. In Somalia,
corruption and commercialization of politics is openly exercised by the state institutions
and sometimes by the highest authorities. Somalia does not need to reinvent the wheel
in fighting corruption; it has to follow the internationally proven procedures of
transparency and those responsible must be prosecuted.
8. The southern region of Jubaland has developed its own administration with the
support of Kenya, which appears to desire the establishment of a buffer region
along its northern border under the influence of Nairobi. Is this an inevitable
process, or is there still room for Jubaland to return to greater integration with
the rest of Somalia?
Jubaland is part of Somalia and one of the emerging federal states of Somalia. There is
no tendency of breaking away and their leaders are hard-core unionists. Kenyan
involvement was motivated initially by the threat of al-Shabaab, which was endangering
the national security of Kenya. As a result, Kenya dispatched its armed forces to
Somalia, where along with the Somali army and militias they liberated the important port
city of Kismayo from al-Shabaab. Kenyan troops later joined AMISOM forces. We hope
that Somalia will be able to establish its own security institutions capable of maintaining
its security and that the foreign forces that helped Somalia will be offered an honourable
exit and appreciation.
9. What role do you see for Islamist political formations in the reconstruction of
the Somali state?
According to the Somali constitution, Islam is the ultimate reference of laws. The
constitution says: The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Somalia is based on the
foundations of the Holy Quran and the Sunna of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and
protects the higher objectives of Sharia and social justice (Article 3:1). Therefore, the
era of dividing the Somali people into secularists and Islamists is over since the
constitution resolved that issue forever. Thus, no particular group or political party
should claim a monopoly on religion and its interpretation. Political parties should be
established on political vision, principles and performances. This is a turning point in
which Somalia needs to move away from parochial politics based on clans and
affiliation to particular Islamic persuasions to a new political culture founded on the
choices of individual citizens without discriminating between any group or clan.
10. There is talk of impeachment for first-term president Hassan Sheikh
Mohamud. Is this a realistic possibility? Are Somali political institutions strong
enough to endure such a development without experiencing a general collapse?
Impeaching President Hassan is a very difficult task and is not the right way to solve our
difficulties, besides the fragility of state institutions and the judiciary branch of the state.
I believe Somalia requires stability in which differences and conflicts between the
presidency, government and parliament are contained. Such conflicts always weaken
emerging national state institutions and harm the national leadership. This culture of
conflict between the president and the prime minister on one hand and the government
and parliament on the other has continued since 2000, when every president appointed
three prime ministers within 3-4 years. However, I hope, we can overcome such a
11. You are touring Europe to establish chapters of your National Unity Party.
What is the importance of the Somali Diaspora for the party?
It is estimated that more than 20% of Somalis live in the Diaspora. A large number live
in Europe, North America, Middle East and the greater Horn of Africa region. They are
very influential in Somali politics and many of them have become members of the
parliament, prime ministers and cabinet ministers. The political program of the NUP
advocates for the improved political engagement of the Somali Diaspora, such as their
right to vote in the Somali elections while they are in their Diaspora constituencies.
Therefore, tapping their human and financial resources is very crucial for the party. So
far, we have formed chapters in Alberta (Canada) and Finland and are in the process of
forming other chapters in other countries.
12. You were a prominent candidate in the 2012 presidential elections. Will you
stand as a candidate for the 2016 elections?
In 2012, I was independent candidate in the presidential race. I was not a member of a
party. Now, we have established a party and our decision will a collective party decision.
If the party leadership decides to assign me such a position, I will not hesitate. I will also
accept and support the decision if the party decides otherwise.
1. See the NUP website: http://midnimoqaran.so/eng/index.php/en/ . For an earlier
interview with Abdurahman Abdullahi, see Andrew McGregor, The Muslim Brotherhood
in Somalia: An Interview with the Islah Movements Abdurahman M. Abdullahi
(Baadiyow), Terrorism Monitor 9(30), July 29, 2011,
2. Vision 2016 was a five-day national conference held in Mogadishu in September,
2013 to focus on key political process issues in the run-up to 2016 elections. For the
conference resolutions, see: Vision 2016: Principles and Recommendations,
Mogadishu, September 26, 2013,