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Toronto (Canada)

12th November 2001

M. M. Afrah

Finally, the search for a new Prime Minister has ended on Sunday with the surprise nomination of Hassan Abshir Farah as the new PM to replace Ali Khalif who lost his job while he was out of the country on an official mission on a non-confidence vote by rookie parliamentarians. Many Somalis abroad described it as the world's first civilian coup de etat.

Surprise because few people expected that Abdiqassim would nominate the flamboyant former mayor of Mogadishu and later as governor of the Middle Shabelleh region during Siyad Barre's rule. (He never held a cabinet post).

Those who knew him say Hassan is a man of action. Others say that, as amilitary man he had a reputation of heavy-handed treatment of civilians as well as soldiers under his control. Politicians made famous by the clan wars believe that Hassan has "a shared political solution" to the continuing crisis in Somalia with Abdiqassim and that he was in a position to encourage the breakaway Puntland Autonomous region to return to the union folder "as urgent as possible". It is a prophecy backed by the simple reason that he belongs to one of the northeastern (Bari) clans. But politicians of the old school scoffed the idea of Hassan Abshir as Prime of a country that's struggling to cleanse its tarnished image abroad. They say the country needs a man who is properly versed in diplomacy and international affairs at this critical moment in the world. A man who is capable in dealing with our nervous neighbours and at the same time could end our prolonged agony once and for all.

Personally I don't know much about the man. However, discussion of events as they happen is useful for two reasons - not only keep getting new knowledge in this age of Super Information Highway but also for a feeling of "we're all in this together."

Given their track records, the former officials of the late Major-General Mohamed Siyad Barre did not adequately respond to the basic needs of the ordinary Somali. Rather they complicit in perpetuating the suffering of the people of Somalia who are now at the end of their last gasp after more than ten years of upheaval. These former Revolutionary officials used to mimic their Master's Voice like parrots, reminiscent to Stalinist Russia. No one disputes that the country urgently needs a Prime Minister who knows what he is doing without mimicking his master's voice. A man who knows how to deal with the rookie parliamentarians, a man who can end his ministers living under house arrest (or hotel arrest) with gun-totting teenagers at the gate. A man who can sleep without worrying about losing his unpredictable job. A man who cannot easily be upset by a bunch of rookie parliamentarians who thought they had the exclusive right to dismiss the country's Prime Minister at the drop of a hat. That's especially for a man who experienced past crises or find that new ones trigger previous reactions. But as far as I can recall Hassan Abshir was never reprimanded or detained by his former boss during the revolutionary period. Unlike his colleagues Osman Mohamed Jelle, Ismail Ali Abokor, Salaad Gabeere, Abdulqadir Dell, Khorshel, Ahmed Mohamoud Adde "Qoorweyne" and a host of lower ranks in the army, Hassan Abshir had survived the tentacles of General Barre. Perhaps a future historian would be able to research these flashbacks.

Was he just another Kobe Qaade, a yesman? All the former party and government officials I talked to reported negative. However, the political situation in the old country is familiar enough to warrant us having concerns of our own, even if we are living in the Diaspora and are not directly involved. But we are all yearning for normalcy to return to a country that we used to call home in happier days. We want recovery and no more bereavement.

M.M. Afrah 2001


Mr. Afrah is an outspoken Author/Journalist and a member of the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) and the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). He contributes hard-hitting articles to Canadian and international newspapers and magazines on the Somalia situation "through the eyes of a man who covered the country for more than two decades".

Many of us remember his critical articles in his weekly English language HEEGAN newspaper, despite a mandatory self-censorship introduced by Guddiga Baarista Hisbiga Xisbiga Hantiwadaagga Somaaliyeed in 1984 and the dreaded NSS. I am very proud to know that Mr. Afrah openly defied the draconian censorship laws and went ahead to write what he thought was wrong in the country. He received several death threats from the warlords and was briefly held hostage by gunmen in 1993. But he remained defiant and continued to send his stories of carnage and destruction to Reuters news agency. He still is!


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