Somalia's ex-PM Hassan Ali Khaire enters race for presidency, but ...

Tuesday September 15 2020

Somalia Prime Minister Hassan Khaire resigned on July 25, 2020, after MPs passed a vote to impeach him. FILE PHOTO | AFP


Somalia's former Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire, who lost a parliamentary vote of confidence in July forcing him to resign, has returned to the limelight with a bid for the presidency.

But his message, which he posted on his Twitter account on Saturday, immediately elicited anger among his opponents, some of who claim he masterminded the failures in the current administration.

Mr Khaire, appointed by President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo in March 2017, claimed he has done a lot of work and learnt many lessons.

“Brothers and sisters, there is no doubt that over the last 20 years, the country’s state-building has been advancing gradually,” he stated as the preamble.

“During the fifth stage of that state-building, I have done a lot, serving the Somali people in a responsible way, and learnt a lot with Allah’s help.

“Now that we are looking forward to a new mandate for the Somali government, I inform you about my candidacy in the upcoming presidential race,” he said, underlining that he reached his decision upon profoundly thinking about it and after consultations.


Mr Khaire said he understands the opportunities and challenges related to the leadership of the country and that he wants to lead through “capacity, integrity, and honesty”.

The premier's position is yet to be filled and is being held in an acting capacity by his former deputy prime minister Mahdi Mohammed Guleid alias Khadar.

No surprise

Mr Khaire’s announcement was, however, not surprising.

Rumours had been swirling around Mogadishu's political circles since 2019 about his likely presidential candidacy.

His declaration means the race for Villa Somalia, the presidential palace, will be crowded with big names such as the incumbent Mr Farmaajo and former presidents Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud and Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.

Mr Khaire appears to be the odd one out of those expected to run for the post.

He was a little known former refugee, who worked as an oil executive, and was more like Abdi Farah Shirdon alias Saaid or Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed, who were picked by Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud as PMs during his presidency in ‪2012-2016.

Mr Shirdon was the premier from October 2012 to November 2013 and was succeeded by Mr Ahmed for another year before Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke took over.

Mr Sharmarke was premier under two presidents while Mr Ahmed and Mr Mohamoud were also prominent. Mr Sharmarke’s father had been both prime minister and president of Somalia in the post-independence civilian government in the 1960s.

Despite emerging as a little known, Mr Khaire immediately built his brand as a youthful executive leader who was very happy to be associated with youngsters.

His surprise nocturnal trips to spots in the city, where young boys often had tea and shared stories, made him more socially acceptable and open to conversations with them in slang.

Mr Khaire’s critics, however, dismissed his interactions with the younger generation as a move to build a name for himself, especially via the formal and social media. They said his actions would not grow his portfolio as a leader.

Abdirahman Abdishakur, leader of Wadajir Party, once labelled Khaire’s action as Igu-sawir, which means 'take a photo of me with everything'.

And on Sunday, Mr Abdishakur, a former planning minister, accused the former PM of being opportunistic about the presidency and running a government that targeted dissidents.

The party's offices were bombed on December 18, 2017, and several officials and guards were killed. Mr Abdishakur survived but he had often claimed the government under Mr Khaire masterminded the attack.

In a post on Facebook, the Wadajir leader said Mr Khaire's government suppressed free speech and worsened the relationship between the Federal government and federal states.

Impeachment charges

When MPs impeached Mr Khaire in July, they argued he had failed to ensure Somalia's electoral plan worked.

They also said he had failed to ensure a constitutional review, which would have given clarity on federal-state functions and facilitated timely elections.

Despite negative utterances from those opposing the government he led from March 2017, Mr Khaire resisted and continued impressing both fellow nationals and Somalia’s international partners as the PM who caused little headache to his President.

Three years passed without parliamentary troubles for Mr Khaire or President Farmaajo, earning the duo the reputation of being most stable since Somalia’s governance was restored at the Arta conference in Djibouti in 2000.

However, as the election fever spread and debates gathered momentum over the envisaged parliamentary election in 2020 and the presidential one in 2021, cracks appeared in the partnership.

Now that the bond has been severed following Khaire’s chaotic loss of the premiership, reactions by compatriots, in and out of Somalia have varied in many ways.

Based in Virginia, in the United States, Ms Kamar H. D. Hersi, a Somali-American professional, is among those who wanted the Horn of Africa country to be ruled by determined politicians who could lift the beleaguered nation out of its predicament and save it from years of misrule. Ms Hersi found in Mr Farmajo and Mr Khaire the ideal team but felt disappointed by their divide this year.

“I trusted Farmajo and Khaire to move the country forward. I was saddened to see them split,” she told the Nation Africa on phone.

“I blame Khaire because, in the end, he was disloyal to the President,” she added, citing a political partnership in the US as an example of a successful strategic alliance.

“Look at Biden (current Democratic Party presidential candidate Joe Biden). For eight years, he supported the President (Barack Obama), who was younger than him and in this country is considered a minority. Biden has had presidential ambitions for the last 40 years. However, he never diminished Obama. This is because he respected the office.”

Suspected strategy

Some think Mr Khaire is playing a designed fixture to the advantage of Farmaajo.

Within days of his dismissal, Khalif Raghe at Brunel University London tweeted, “His exit is a strategy to counter Hassan Sheikh and Sheikh Sharif’s alliance. The plan is to create an environment for Khaire to get sympathy from his backyard and run for the presidency to divide the votes of the former presidents.”

For the past 51 days that Mr Khaire kept quiet, his political rivals did not speak words against him, avoiding the classical dictum of ‘killing the dead and kicking the corpse”.

Many expressed sympathy because of the seemingly unfair manner in which he was removed from power but after his announcement, his critics struck almost immediately.

Mahad Mohamed Salad, a member of the Lower House of Parliament, on Sunday questioned why Mr Khaire did not arrange a big gathering to announce his candidacy.

Describing the politician’s move as hasty, he said via Facebook, “[He] could not hold one ceremony in just one evening in the city where he has been living as a prime minister. How [does] a nation trust him to lead as president?”

“How he announced his candidacy was unceremonious.”

Former presidents Ahmed and Mohamoud, who led the six-party coalitions known as The Forum for National Parties (FNP), are yet to react to Mr Khaire’s announcement.

FNP appears to have little time for Khaire’s public announcement as the former leaders appear to be closely monitoring a conference on election modalities that started in Mogadishu on Sunday.

The partakers are President Farmaajo and the presidents of the five federal member states of Jubbaland, Galmudug, South West, Hirshabelle, and Puntland, as well as the Mayor of Mogadishu.

It is labelled as the National Consultative Forum (NCF) meeting and is being held at Villa Somalia.

The popular belief is that Mr Khaire’s true intention will come to light once the NCF meeting is concluded.

Amusingly, Hussein Mohamed Mohamoud, a political analyst at Hamarweyne district in Mogadishu, suspects that Farmaajo and Khaire aim to play the now classical Putin-Medvedev tandemocracy in Russia.

“I suspect Farmaajo and Khaire want to play in Somalia a rare game like (Vladimir) Putin and (Dmitry) Medvedev did in taking the presidency in turn in Russia,” he said.