Somalia: 'Abdiweli Gaas and the Art of Self-praise'


GAROWE ONLINE EDITORIAL| Abdiweli Mohamed Ali was the  fifth President of Puntland State after a stint as a Prime Minister of  the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (2011-2012). His memoirs, published in 2017 while still in power in Puntland, is an attempt to mislead the public about his political life.  Ali joined Somali politics in 2010 after President Mohmed Abdullahi Mohamed (Farmaajo), then a TFG Prime Minister, had appointed him a Minister of National Planning.

It was a quick transition from academia into politics in a country grappling with state failure and attacks from an extremist organisation. In less than a year he replaced the Prime Minister, who had been forced to resign for political reasons.

Ali's autobiography is the first book written by a  serving politician. Normally a former politician reflects on his/her political life after leaving politics. What is striking about the book is that Ali ( aka Gaas) is promoting his book in North America. He claims to have single-handedly prepared Somalia for the end of the transition. This claim about his role is enough to raise suspicion. Only Punland, and an emerging Galmudug, then based in South Galka'yo, were partners with the TFG in the process to phase out the  transition. Puntland organised two summits – Garowe I and  II –  to help Somalia move past a transition that crippled institution-building and nearly returned Somalia to a rule by a clique.

The decision to write the autobiography in his third year as a President of Puntland is intended to hide his failures as a President of Puntland in the bigger story of ending the transition in which he had a marginal role.

In 2014 Gaas took over Puntland from President Abdirahman Sheikh Mohamud Farole in a better position institutionally. Under the reign of Gaas Puntland became a byword for corruption. It has lost the privilege to receive funds directly from development agencies. A German development agency, GTZ, had to suspend a project after funds for renovating roads were embezzled under his watch. 

His administration weakened the standing of Punland within Somali federal politics and denied Puntland the right to have its forces properly funded to ward off terrorist threats from Al-shabaab and ISIS. Instead, he remained silent in the face of a Federal Government  policy to fund Somali Army soldiers from certain clans in South-central , Mogadishu and nearby regions. This is the most serious threat to Puntland peace. Puntland Defence Forces are not a part of the  Somali Army. The task to form an inclusive army is a political one. Gaas left that task to leaders of the Federal Government at an enormous cost for Puntland State. 

His book contains references to the Somali civil war. While the civil war is  a painful history of Somalia, it cannot be a history based on hearsay or victimhood. As a person who once held the second highest office of Somalia, he failed to see the cause of the civil war as a failure of Somali leaders. His aim is to set a bad example about mistaking self-praise for a political memoir.

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