Dr Abdinasir Abdille Mohamed, 51, probably never intended to join politics. Back in the days, while a student at Kenya’s Jamhuri High School in Nairobi, he was a talented footballer who also loved sciences.
He would later head to the US where he studied political science, genetics and zoology, and later earned a doctorate in Dental Surgery. Yet the bug of politics kept coming as he drew closer to the political situation back home.
This week, he told Nation.Africa that he wants to use his knowledge to solve some of Somalia’s problems.
“I am not new to the Somalia political scene. But I am new to political office. I believe that carries a lot of weight more than money or political affiliation. Being new means I have no political baggage,” he told the Nation.Africa last Wednesday.
Dr Mohamed, born in Somalia’s Galgadud region in the centre of the country, had contested the presidential race in 2017. He emerged 9th in a crowded race of 23 candidates. That race was eventually won by President Mohamed Farmaajo, after then incumbent Hassan Sheikh Mohamud conceded defeat before the third round of polls.
Before that, he worked as a researcher for the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences [NIEHS] in the US, and later co-founded Mohamed & Foulkes – a healthcare service firm in North Carolina.
As Somalia prepares for presidential elections, scheduled for October 10, Dr Mohamed thinks that experience across the world as well as lack of political baggage back home is his asset.
“People have grievances about many issues, including how states were built. When things happen when they are in power, it becomes their records with which they are judged,” he said.
This year’s race will ultimately be decided, initially, at the vetting stage by the country’s Federal Electoral Implementation Team [FEIT] which will verify the qualifications of candidates.
So far, Dr Mohamed is in a crowded race that also includes incumbent Mohamed Farmaajo, two ex-presidents; Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Sheikh Sharif Ahmed and a former Prime Minister Hassan Khaire. Others include former regional leaders or MPs.
In Somalia though, clan dynamics and money plays some role, which means that politicians will most likely first seek clan support before engaging in nationwide support.
Dr Mohamed comes from the Habar-Gidir sub-clan, a member of the Hawiye. The sub-clan hasn’t tested the presidency since 2004 during the tenure of Abdikasim Salad Hassan, which could make this year’s polls significant.
There are other factors. Somalia’s indirect elections are such that incumbents rarely come back. In fact, the country, in spite of its imperfect elections of collegiate voting, has never returned an incumbent in post-war politics.
“People consider them to have fingerprints of corruption, political power dispensation and even all the blame that comes from the mistakes they made in building new federal states,” he said in an interview.
If he beats the competition, he seeks to establish a Somalia where the rule of law and social equality is the norm rather than the exception. He promises to build institutions like functional courts, independent in funding and working and based on the law of the land, a responsive government to its citizens and a predictable pattern of governance where civil liberties are respected.
“To tackle these enormous challenges and threats, the next President of Somalia must bring a new vision that builds social and political cohesion.
“He must become an achiever who enjoys public confidence, and who commands the respect and trust of all major stakeholders, including leaders of Federal Member States, political associations, traditional elders, and civil society more broadly.”
Part of the criticism for President Farmaajo is that he drew a wedge between his administration and federal states leaders, something that contributed to the delays in this year’s presidential polls that should have been held in February.
Though a member of the opposition grouping of candidates known as the Council of Presidential Candidates, Dr Mohamed stayed neutral during the frequent wrangles between Farmaajo and the federal states, choosing instead to propose solutions rather than taking sides.
Ahead of elections, Somalia has found itself battling both local and foreign problems. There is a menacing al-Shabaab back home, biting drought as well as the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has added to Somalia’s on-off relations with neighbours.
Turning to his rivals, he says the returning former leaders do not have the same ability to tackle current problems as those in the past.
“The challenges of today are different from eight years ago. We need to tap into globalisation and trade… They do not have the same vision to handle current challenges,” he argued for fresh blood.
Yet Somalia isn’t exactly fighting new problems. Al-Shabaab threats are still as potent today as it was in 2011, in spite of significant gains made by Somalia forces, as well as the African Union Mission in Somalia.
He proposes a carrot and stick for Al-Shabaab; reintegrating the willing back to society and putting away the bad ones.
“I am offering to go to peace with them: Jobs and economic development. If you offer them peace first, the hardcores get isolated because 80 percent of fighters are in it because of poverty,” he said of the motivations behind joining Al-Shabaab.
“But the option of fighting them remains intact, because they may still feel like they are winning and have no motivation. Al-Shabaab is taxing people illegally, we will go after their finances.
“To me, the foreign elements in A-Shabaab are very small…they cannot even go back to their countries because they are outcasts today so it is an advantage we haven’t utilised.”
President Farmaajo, in spite of defending his case in fighting Al-Shabaab, is often criticised by his opponents for mishandling amnesty for Shabaab returnees. A case in point is the surrender of Mukhtar Rubow, a former Al-Shabaab leader who sought to get back into formal politics by vying for South West State presidency.
Instead, he was arrested and put under house arrest, ensuring he couldn’t contest. Dr Mohamed thinks that scared off would-be returnees.
To deal with the problem with finality, however, lies in rebuilding Somalia’s security forces, he argues.
“We have built security that doesn’t belong to the country. We must first build our security institutions which will have the belief to fight for the country. We are fighting people who are fighting for a course, however crude,” he said.
“Al-Shabaab equipment is rudimentary and yet they keep making progress. Until we give them an alternative way of life that is better, they will keep fighting. It is a matter of leadership, I think.
“It is a matter of priorities. Some federal states have succeeded against Al-Shabaab because they took security in their hands and have managed to push back Al-Shabaab. If the local people are able to push back Al-Shabaab, all we have to do is support them. We don’t have to be like Amisom or Americans who don’t want to die or be maimed on the battlefield. He will do the minimum to sustain the government and nothing else,” he said.