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An official from Buffalo that pushed Somalia to the edge of the horizon.



NAIROBI, Kenya – During his years as administrator at the Northern New York Department of Transportation, Somali refugees have converted American citizenship into political science, absorbing the democratic values ​​he hopes. Can be sent back to his hometown one day

That dream came true for Mohamed Abdullah Mohamed in 2017 when he returned to Somalia and was elected president with a surprising victory that raised high hopes for him to reform. -Even change-A country imperfect and weary of war

But those aspirations were shattered since Mohamed failed to hold the election when the four-year term ended in February, and then moved to expand his rule for another two years, a step in which he had been elected. Many Somalia saw it as a vain seizure of power.

Fierce political conflicts turned violent on Sunday when a gunfight between rival militants in the capital, Mogadishu, stirred fears Somalia after years of little progress. But gradually it can go down to bloodshed according to the torn group. It was different in the 1990s.

Mr Mohamed’s democratic credentials are now in wrinkled and he is facing open confrontations with his former ally in the United States, where he still has a family home. Secretary of State Antony J.Blinken has publicly threatened to punish Mr Mohamed and other Somali officials, and this week, American officials reiterated urging Somalia to hold an immediate election.

“All his brain power is focused on his ascendancy and how he will dominate the scene,” said Abdirashidhashi, a former cabinet minister under Mohamed. Possible But now all those tactical moves have ended in the failure we were in. ”

In an effort to resolve the crisis, Mohamed agreed to join parliament on Saturday. But the capital is on the edge of the knife and the stakes are the highest in years, according to Somali leaders and Western officials. There are billions of dollars at risk in debt relief and relief programs, the Hope of Young Somalis is determined to find a better future and progress in the fight against the insurgents against Al Shabab. Is one of the best managed and funded Al Qaeda affiliates in the world.

Mr Mohamed did not respond to interview requests or questions sent to his assistants.

Known as “Farmaajo”, which comes from the Italian word for cheese and claims to be his father’s favorite food, Mohamed was once the one who carried the many hopes of the Somali people.

The gunfire erupted across Mogadishu in 2017 after an unexpected election victory, and he quickly garnered support among political and social groups from Somalis, supporting his pledge to Anti-Bribery and Anti-Shabab Crusade “The first month was amazing,” Col. Ahmed Abdullahi Sheikh, then commander of Danab, an American-trained commando. Will meet with my hero “

American officials were also impressed. Although at least five American passport holders will run for president that year. But Mr Mohamed is widely viewed as less corrupt, more reform-oriented and less likely to receive a foreign benefit than the 24 other candidates.

“This is the beginning of unity for the Somali nation,” Mohamed told supporters shortly after winning the election.

Mr Mohamed came to the United States in 1985 as a primary diplomat at the Somali embassy and, while his country was in conflict, decided to stay. A family friend said he applied for the first time in Canada for political asylum, where his mother and siblings lived and later received a Canadian passport.

But in the early 1990s, newly married Mohamed moved back to the United States, where his family eventually settled on Grand Island, next to Buffalo Falls and Niagara.

He studied history at Buffalo University, became an American citizen, campaigned for Republican candidates in district elections, and in 2002 got a job at the New York Department of Transportation.

This episode in Mr Mohamed’s lifetime offers a glimpse of the political style that has led Somalia to a dangerous crossroads.

Several Somali-American leaders said in 2007 a bitter dispute emerged within a Somali community group led by Mohamed in Buffalo. His two-year term is coming to an end. But some members accused him of trying to hold on to power by managing the election process, they said.

Somali-Americans, who spoke on condition of anonymity to defend ties with the president’s family, said the dispute ended with two community groups split.

Mr Mohamed entered Somali politics in 2010 when he impressed Somali President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed on a visit to New York where Mr Sharif appointed him prime minister.

But Mr Mohamed was on the job for just eight months, forced by Somali political mechanisms, and he was soon returned to his desk at the Department of Transportation in Buffalo, where he enforced the policy. Non-Discrimination and Confirmation of Action

Many of the great hopes that Somalia invested in Mr Mohamed in 2017 when he took the presidency out of all expectations, partly from his public image as a man of calm and perspective. If it’s technocrats that don’t care But soon disappointment came.

Mohamed plays a group-based politics and has begun to open open feud with the country’s regional leaders, undermining the power-sharing system that has bolstered Somalia’s stability.

In late 2018, he arrested a potential rival, sparking a protest in which at least 15 people were killed and weeks later evicted a United Nations ambassador, accusing him of meddling in Somali affairs.

Mohamed relied on influential chief spy Fahad Yazin, whose services provided the security, detention and torture of independent journalists, according to UN human rights groups and Western officials.

Al Jazeera’s former journalist Mr Yazin became an unofficial Qatar financier used to help Mr Mohamed get elected and he used to strengthen his political base. While he was in power, officials said – part of A. Broader proxy battles for influence between oil-rich Persian Gulf states in strategically located countries

Some of Mr Mohamed’s inner circle, including Colonel Sheikh, became disillusioned and quit. “I said to myself: ‘These people are bad news,'” he said.

In 2019, Mohamed gave up American citizenship. He did not explain the decision. But officials familiar with the matter pointed to one possible factor.

As Mr Mohamed surrendered, his financial passport was scrutinized by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, three Western officials familiar with the matter, speaking on terms of anonymity to discuss the issue. Sensitive about the state’s foreign chief

Mr Mohamed’s office did not respond to questions about the IRS audit.

While Mr Mohamed was considering further moves, his former American ally said he had to act quickly.

“It is time for President Farmaajo to step up and do the best for his country,” Robert F. Godec, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, wrote in an email to the Times on Thursday. ”

In interviews, several Somali politicians said the matter was also Washington’s fault, blaming the United States for failing to interfere with Mohamed when his dictatorial tendency was evident years ago.

A spokesman for the State Department said the United States has “repeatedly urged President Farmaajo to engage constructively with the leaders of the Federation member states to develop political reconciliation and to reach consensus on issues critical to Somalia’s stability.

Mr Mohamed’s success as president includes a massive debt relief deal in 2020 that canceled at least $ 1.4 billion of the country’s arrears. He also aroused a nationalist obsession by cutting ties with neighboring Kenya in December as part of a long-running diplomatic dispute.

His harsh demeanor was popular among ordinary Somalis, who were tired of foreign interference.

“The president is working in the interests of Somalia,” Abdihakim Ali, 43, said by phone from the southern city of Kismayo.

But Mohamed has continued to rely on powers in other regions, with ongoing funding from Qatar and is allied with Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki, whose military has trained Somali forces. Thousands of officers, Western and Somali officials said.

“It comes in cash and doesn’t count,” Abdirizak Mohamed, a former interior minister and current opposition lawmaker, said of Qatar’s funds.

Mr Mohamed is now imprisoned at Villa Somalia, the president’s agency in central Mogadishu, while a military unit loyal to his most powerful opponent – a coalition of supporters. Candidates for the presidency and leaders of two of the five states in the Somalia region – camped on a few key crossroads. Hundreds of yards away

Worried residents said they did not know the president’s latest concessions would offer real opportunities for new negotiations or pause before rival fighters reopen fire.

“I was terrified,” said community manager Zahra Qorane Omar by phone from Mogadishu. The bullets are not what the city or the people deserve. “

Hussein Mohamed contributed reporting from Mogadishu, Somalia.


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