By Aggrey Mutambo
For most of the Somalia presidential aspirants the Nation has interviewed so far, the aspect of replacing an incumbent who has ‘failed’ in his mandate seems to be a motivating factor.
But for Abdikarim Hussein Guled, his bid for the presidency stems from his desire to apply what he learnt in Somalia’s grassroots to solve national problems.
That is besides the fact that he too criticises Mohamed Farmaajo’s government for failing to improve the security of the country.
In 2017, Mr Guled left his post as President of Galmudug State, one of the five federal regions of Somalia, on health grounds.
Two years later, he says he is fit as a fiddle and wants to lead the country’s rebuilding programme.
“I want to unite all Somalis. I want to develop all sectors of Somalia. It is the only way we can eliminate poverty, create employment for our youth and dissuade them from crime and terrorism,” he told the Nation in our continuing series on Somalia election aspirants.
“I want to lead a Somalia of Somalis who live peacefully among themselves and with neighbours in the East Africa region,” he said in an interview on Thursday.
“I have an ambition to see Somalia as an apex country in Africa, living side by sides and cooperating with our brothers and sisters on the continent.”
Mr Guled, a former relief worker with Direct Aid, a charity group based on Islamic values, was Somalia’s Minister for Interior in 2014, during the era of Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud, Somalia’s first President in the post-transitional period.
He argues that gave him a picture of both worlds – government circles and the private sector – enabling him to understand what ails the country.
Wearing a greying beard which he constantly massages, he told the Nation he understands Somalia’s problem because he is a “local lad”.
“I have lived most of my life in Somalia, and learnt and worked with both private and government institutions for the last 30 years,” he said.
“I am a new contender and I can be tested and proven. Besides, I have good networks within the government and the private sector.”
In Somalia’s legal regime, it may matter where one’s loyalty lies as clans select candidates who in turn vote for MPs who then elect a President.
Mr Guled told the Nation he has a proven record in uniting warring clans in Galmudug.
“I learnt that you cannot solve any pressing issues if communities are suspicious of each other. So I initiated reconciliation programmes in Galmudug which worked out so well. Political inclusion is what Somalia needs most at the moment and the experience in Galmudug can teach us great lessons to apply at national level,” he said.
“The biggest tool I have is friends at all levels. That is a resource to reach consensus on key issues that Somalia urgently needs to address.”
But Mr Guled may have enemies too as every politician does.
When he was Interior Minister, Jubaland state was just unfolding and militia groups across the country were engaging in fights that threatened to derail the foundation for the country’s future.
When he was elected President of Galmudug, a continual clash between clans there threatened his legacy.
That was nearly worsened by a clash between Puntland and Galmudug forces, forcing the leaders of both federal states to organise urgent dialogue forums.
In many aspects today, those challenges may have been resolved but Somalia remains a fragile country given the insurgency of terror group Al-Shabaab, which Mr Guled argues has profited from divisions in communities fueled by the continual wrangles between the federal government and federal states.
“The problem is that there has been a lack of clarity on the type of federal system to take. It is a mentality issue because there are those who have different ideas. The ultimate solution is to have a new Constitution,” he explained.
“In my time as President, we managed to sit and talk. Now, both Puntland and Galmudug are safe and stable. Dialogue is something I did even when I was Interior minister so my work across Somalia has been to negotiate on issues.”
As Mr Guled spoke to the Nation, President Farmaajo was holed up in Villa Somalia with the five federal state presidents discussing an electoral model suitable for the country.
On Thursday night, the leaders agreed to revert to the delegate system where clans and civil society, not political parties, nominate delegates to vote for each of the 275 MPs who in turn vote for the President.
The outcome of the meeting may have disappointed supporters of universal suffrage but there may be advantages for newcomers like Mr Guled to look out for.
Since 2004, when Somalia’s rebuilding began after the civil war, newcomers have often won elections and Somalia has never re-elected a President.
Mr Guled later said he supports an agreement to unify Somalis for a free and fair election but he did say the fact that he is neither a former or current President of Somalia gives him more chances to win over Somalia’s voters.
We may know when the actual election date is announced.
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