Interview with Dr. Zakaria Mohamed Haji Abdi, Candidate President for Somalia - Dr. Zakaria, would you acquaint our readers with your family background and the socio-economic and political situation in Somalia at those days? |
Dr. Zakaria Mohamud Haji Abdi - I am from a typical Somali family. My family roots originate from the strategically well situated northwest tip town of Bandar Bayla in the Bari (northeastern) region of Somalia. My grandfather, Haji Abdi, happened to be a religious and community leader as well as politician in his early age. He was actually an orator who was well respected in the region. Later, after he returned from a hajj (pilgrimage trip) to Mecca, which was at the time in itself was a special privilege in terms of wealth and social hierarchy, as well as a religious duty, he was appointed in the second highest position in the Bari Dynasty after the King, as a politician. After the death of my grandfather, my father, Sheikh Mohamud, relocated to Galkayo, the capital city of the central Somali region of Mudug, where I was born. Both of my parents shared, by coincidence, numerous characteristics. They were small scale entrepreneurs, religious scholars and poets, and also political activists in the forefront of the national freedom movement SYL (Somali Youth League) against the European colonialists in the country.
- Would you give us an insightful into your early formation years, studies and first political considerations and activities?
Dr. Zakaria Mohamud Haji Abdi – I studied at the Egyptian School in Somalia, in the primary and intermediate levels of the Al-Azhar branch in Galkayo. I pursued my secondary education at the Jamal Abdul Nassir secondary school in Mogadishu. Both schools where run by Egyptian administrators and teachers dispatched there by the Egyptian Ministry of Education.
Subsequently, I studied in King Saud University in Riyadh (then known as Riyadh University), and I completed my B. Sc. in Agricultural Engineering in 1986. Later on, in 1991, I obtained a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from State University of New York at Albany, and in 1998, I held a Master of Science in Agricultural Science and Economic Development from Middlesex University in London, and I am currently a DBA Laurite (Dr. of Business Administration) and Member of the Royal Institute of International Development in London.
- What is your evaluation of Somalia’s progress in the period 1960 – 77?
Dr. Zakaria Mohamud Haji Abdi – This period of 17 years contains the most important part of the modern history of Somalia. Firstly, Somalia achieved its independence and unity, as the Southern and Northern regions made up the present Somali Republic on the 1st of July 1960. The newly formed state enjoyed a civilian government with a fully-fledged parliamentary democracy system of governance for the first 9 years. The foundations of a modern state were duly laid down in this period. All state institutions were established and fully functioned, including the national armed forces.
The three branches of power, executive, judiciary and legislative functioned perfectly well and independently from one another. In 1969, after more than two years of tenure, the second elected Somali president was assassinated, and six days later , on October 21st 1969, a bloodless military coup d’état sized the power.
In the following 7 years, Somalia entered a new era of military rule, which was characterized with a strong nationalistic sentiment, public mobilization toward nation building, and the introduction of many new developmental and infrastructural projects, which were intended for economic advancement and social progress. Many industries, schools and higher education institutions, roads, agricultural and fisheries projects were launch, whereas massive campaigns were undertaken in Health and Education (with a focus on literacy).
- What is your opinion about the assassinated president Abdirashed Ali Sharmarke?
Dr. Zakaria Mohamud Haji Abdi – I was very young, when he was assassinated in 1969; I was going in the elementary school in Galkayo. Nevertheless, I remember how the people were shocked. My opinion is that he was a good man and, after all, he was democratically elected as president of Somalia.
- What is your opinion about the late president Siyad Barre?
Dr. Zakaria Mohamud Haji Abdi – Although I was not a fan of the military regime, I believe President Mohamed Siyad Barre was a nationalist leader whose achievements outweighed his mistakes in the balance. However, the country plunged miserably into a devastating civil war during his reign. I will leave the rest of the judgment for the next generations and the History. - Several specialists and analysts support the idea that the troubles Somalia has faced over the past 20 years are due to the Ogaden War, which was undertaken by the late president Siyad Barre. Do you believe that the two events, the Ogaden War and the Somali Civil War, are interconnected?
Dr. Zakaria Mohamud Haji Abdi – There is no doubt that there is strong relationship between the two events, but the question that arises is: was it right or wrong to try to liberate Ogaden region by the Somali government? The act of liberating people from the yoke of an illegal and brutal occupation is by itself a noble one all along the history of mankind. Yet, the 1977 war was an effect of a much deeper rooted, malignant cause. So, the real blame lay on the shoulders of the occupiers and their accomplices, who are in this case the British colonialists.
It is England that deliberately and maliciously annexed this purely Somali region to Ethiopia, a country that happened to be not only a systematic collaborator of the European imperial powers but also their natural ally, being actually a co-imperialist in the notorious Africa scramble Berlin conference of 1884-5.
In the same token, the blame goes also to the 20th century Western and Eastern blocks, led by both super powers, the United States and Soviet Union, which for the first time had common interest and shared same objective, by siding with the Ethiopian occupation and by starkly using their military might to defeat the winning Somali Army and to support and save the defeated Ethiopian army.
- Did you foresee the eventuality of a Civil War looming over Somalia in the 80s?
Dr. Zakaria Mohamud Haji Abdi – Certainly yes. It was obvious that the forced defeat of the Somalia would not easily sway away. More importantly, in the post war era, the western and eastern powers, in other words, the US and the USSR continued to plot against the Somali Republic, not only by providing material and military support to Ethiopia, but also by playing a pivotal rule in destroying the Somali state through various multi-dimensional measures, including using Somali agents and traitors to engage guerrilla war and to instigate tribal conflicts against the state of Somalia, until they achieved their goal and secured the collapse of the Somali state in 1991 no less than 14 years after 1977.
- Let’s make a time lapse, and see what can be done in today’s and tomorrow’s Somalia. After 21 years of civil war, the selection of a new President of Somalia will probably be a landmark. Less than two weeks ago, you announced your candidacy. In your Political Manifesto, you stated the pillars of your policy. What would be your priorities in terms of National Reconciliation, if selected?
Dr. Zakaria Mohamud Haji Abdi – I would first establish a Truth and Restitution Commission geared to bring closure to past corrupt crimes, via a process of Justice, Truth, Reconciliation and Restitution.
To this end, I am determined to set up a fully legitimate and thorough system, involving a “Restitution Instrument” that will facilitate the entire process. For those who admit, declare and repay, there will be forgiveness at the national level.
For those who forget or pretend to forget their past abuses, they will face the National Somali Justice, before being exonerated. In my view, this system will trigger a process driven by justice, fairness and equity; there will be reward and compensation for past loss, damage or injury.
I also intend to greatly facilitate the process of re-attributing to the Somali people their rightful properties. In this regard, I want to remind you that the principle of Restitution has Ancient Somali roots.
As part of my National Reconciliation policy, I will guarantee a progressive and constructive disengagement of all armed groups across Somalia.
- How would a Zakaria Haji Abdi Presidency look like in Somalia? What will be your basic axes of policy as regards Governance in Somalia?
Dr. Zakaria Mohamud Haji Abdi – As preamble I must tell you that I will govern in the interest of all the Somali, and I will build a nation in which we all have a stake. I will renew the faith of the Somali people in our politics, by providing sound leadership based on the principles of Consensus, Fairness, Equity and Inclusiveness.
Under my stewardship, I will ensure that in every Somali institution not just one interest group or clan will be represented. I will actively seek to remove all obstacles of any type - clan, gender or financial condition - that may hinder any Somali’s individual achievement. I will also address the issue of ethnicity in our country.
I will introduce an independent Presidential Public Appointments Commission with the task to ensure that appointments to public offices be based on merit and reflect correctly Somalia’s diversity. The Commission will have to publish its appointments on an annual basis so that every citizen be able to check that all groups of Somalis are given equal opportunity to serve.
Subsequently, In the place of the defunct system of governance, I will introduce a new system that will empower local communities, thus promoting decentralization. By so doing, I will also guarantee that local communities be equipped with strong democratic and accountable local level governance structures, and I will then enable the power transfer to communities.
Engagement, empowerment and participation are my principles, and I intend to fully implement them across Somalia. By delegating power to local communities, I will engage our people in active citizenship, and I will have them directly involved in the management of their neighborhoods, and of the services they use. I will do so, because I am convinced that devolution without grassroots democracy is merely tyranny at the local level.
(to be continued)
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