Somalia: In Defence of the VOA and its Staff

By Ibrahim Sheikh-Nor

Not so long ago, a person using a pseudo name published a scathing article about the chief-editor of the Voice of America Somali Service, Abdirahman Yabarow, and some of his staff. Beyond its vitriolic tone, which is beyond the pale, the article was remarkably un-substantive, unintelligible, irrational, and more egregiously, contradicting.

The one intelligible and constant thesis in the article is that the writer accuses Mr. Yabarow and some of his colleagues of belonging to the “Hawiye” clan, as if that constitutes a cardinal sin.  

Published by few notoriously sectarian websites, the article, written by a person whose name bears “Dr” is full of outright lies, such as the following:  

  • That Yabarow hired Ibrahim Hassan Dandurey, Abdirahman Aynte, Abdiaziz Saddam and Abdullahi Colomo, “all Hawiye” staffers, even after they failed an admission test.
  • That “Hawiye elite” helped Yabarow somehow get around the process and hire those Hawiye staffers.
  • That Yabarow refused to hire other candidates solely for their own clan.
  • That Yabarow himself is incompetent and undeserving of the job.

In my humble attempt to refute these hateful claims, I struggled whether I should present a verifiable data that, inevitably, will smell to some as another clan vendetta. My one and only goal is to present the facts in the form of making comparisons, and let the world know that, contrary to the crazy writer’s claims, the VOA is representative of the Somali fabric.  

    And here are the facts:  

  1. Whether he’s inept or not, a competent and objective panel of federal experts, concluded that Yabarow, who has a Masters Degree, is the best qualified person to lead the VOA. If you’re qualified, Dr. Whomever you’re, you should have applied and got the job, (hence cease crying).
  2. Before Yabarow became the VOA chief-editor just a few weeks ago, neither he nor any other Somali staffer had the administrative capacity to hire and/or fire anyone. In consultation with other managers, the former chief, Fred Cooper (who, by the way, is NOT, Hawiye), hired everyone who works there, including Yabarow. (By the way, Mr. Cooper also fired Mahamud Abdalla, an innately unqualified person, who tried to help his cousin get a job by leaking an exam to her. The upshot was history!).
  3. Th only person Mr. Cooper didn’t hire is Abdullahi Colombo. With over 25 years of radio experience, Colombo has more cumulative experience than most other broadcasters at the VOA. So to claim that he failed a rudimentary radio test, much less being helped by “Hawiye elite,” is a serious truth-stretching. Moreover, the writer makes it sound as though the VOA hiring process is hapless as he’d like it to be.
  4. Despite the hateful accusations, the VOA has more non-Hawiye broadcasters on staff. (Just for empirical evidence, check this out: Harun Ma’aruf, Asha Uudd, Farhiya Absie, Ali Haraare, Abdisalaam Jama, Hussein Barre and Khadra Gurey).
  5. With the exception of Asha Uudd, neither of the other six has had radio experience before joining the VOA Somali Service.
  6. Conversely, ALL five Hawiye staffers (Yabarow, Colombo, Dandurey, Haydra and Saddam) have had extensive radio experience. With the exception of Saddam, the other four have between 20 to 30 years of radio experience under their belt.
  7. One of the flawed and contradictory claims made in the article is that Yabarow also hired Abdirahman Aynte, after he failed the writing test, and then Yabarow helped him secure a position with the BBC. Ironically, the writer, apparently unaware that he’s speaking from both sides of his mouth, later concedes that Aynte has superior writing skills, for which he, the writer claims, helps Yabarow write letters.  

As if that embarrassing contradiction isn’t enough, the rancorous writer accuses Yabarow of being clannish. Wait a second: Isn’t that the same person who just uttered all those clannish epithets and even derogatory and condescending remarks against all Hawiye people?  

Indeed he is. But this clan-totting, hate-mongering, foul-crying fool, who doesn’t even dare to unveil his true identity, is spreading hate like a fire.  

What he and his cabal fail to understand is that the VOA is not ground zero for 4.5, the disastrous clan distribution model, which incompetent people like the writer always invoke, so that they can leap to positions they otherwise wouldn’t qualify for. Isn’t that how we ended up Abdullahi Yusuf as “a president” of Somalia?  

Opportunities at the Voice of America are federal openings. Bring unmatched qualifications and you’re hired. Stop nagging about it if you, Dr. Psuedo-name, wasted your valuable time palling with clannish armchair worriers at tea shops, which you probably do.  

Ibrahim Sheikh-Nor, a businessman in Dubai, writes about media and media personalities. He can be reached at 

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