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The Portrait of a Grand Master Schemer
Sunday Nation (Kenya)
Emeka-Mayaka Gekara
March 11, 2012

Photo/COURTERSY OF NICC-KENYA An artist`s impression of the proposed five-star hotel with 450 rooms, five office blocks of 10 floors, a 300-room four-star hotel, modern tourist hospital with 200 beds, a power plant to complement the main grid, two boreholes, customs office and warehouses

Because of his appearance and dress, the mayor of a small town in Tsarist Russia mistook Hlestakov, a 23-year-old government clerk of the lowest rank who had lost all his money gambling and was unable to pay his bill at an inn, as a much-awaited inspector general.

Exploiting his mistaken identity, the hero of Nikolai Gogol`s Government Inspector is hosted by the mayor from whom he accepts generous bribes, and merchants who bribe him with baskets of sugar loaves before he flirts with the mayor`s daughter whom he promises to marry.

A clever fellow, Hlestakov flees before the real inspector arrives, and celebrations by the mayor and his people are cut short when the postmaster, using Hlestakov`s letter, reveals that the young man was not the government inspector, after all. They had all been duped.

In 2009, something similar happened in Kenya when a businessman from Haji Mohammed Yassin, a businessman from Puntland, flew into Nairobi from Qatar armed with what appeared like an offer made in heaven.

Mr Yassin persuaded the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) under the leadership of then MD George Muhoho to enter into a deal which could have seen the government lease a 90-acre piece of land at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to Afro-Asia Qatari Investment for 80 years.

The company, of which Mr Yassin served as chairman, would build a Sh27 billion airport city with a business and convention centre.

The Qatari investors were also to build a five-star hotel with 450 rooms, five office blocks of 10 floors, a 300-room four-star hotel, modern tourist hospital with 200 beds, a power plant to complement the main grid, two boreholes, customs office and warehouses.

Sources familiar with the discussions say Mr Yassin indicated that he would partner with the Prince of Qatar and other wealthy sheikhs in the project.

The now regular face in Nairobi mosques and restaurants owned by the Somali community presented himself as the link between the Qatari investors and the Kenya government.

The project had been hurriedly approved by Cabinet, the Treasury, the attorney-general and Public Procurement Oversight Authority.

But questions about the project led to its cancellation over concern that it was likely to turn into a scandal.

There were arguments that it was part of a scheme by powerful individuals in government to transfer government land to private hands under the guise of partnered investment.

It was also seen as a plot by a clique of government officials to receive huge kickbacks.

Cancellation of the scheme not only exposed the vulnerability of government officials in the contracting of dubious projects but also complicity in shady deals.

Three years later, the Mogadishu-born Yassin is on to another project: he wants to become president of the Republic of Somalia.

He is on record as saying he would offer his presidential services for free, if need be, and live off his vast businesses just to see peace back in Somalia.

The wealthy businessman, who first launched opposition against then Somali president Mohammed Siad Barre in 1978 and was defeated in the 2004 presidential elections in Nairobi by former President Abdullahi Yusuf, accused past leaders of failing Somalia.

In Nairobi, he promised to stabilise lawless Mogadishu within the first six months of his election.

“Once Mogadishu is under the control of the Transitional Federal Government, peace will eventually return to the entire country. Somalis need a homegrown solution without interference from other countries.”

In March 2010, Kenyan intelligence officials saved President Kibaki from embarrassment when they advised him against presiding over a groundbreaking ceremony.


Could He Be the Next President of Somalia?
The Star (Kenya)
June 06, 2010

Haji Mohamed Yassin a prominent Somali businessman recently launched his presidential bid for the troubled Somalia. A confident Haji announced that he was ready to offer his presidential service for free. He spoke to our reporter Ramadhan Rajab, on his plan to tackle piracy, Al-Shabaab and bring Somali to lasting peace

Who is Haji Mohamed Yassin?

I was born in 1951 in Mogadishu, all though my parents are originally from Puntland. I have grown up and gone to school in Mogadishu. Between 1972 to 1978, I worked as an auditor for the government of Somalia.

I then resigned to join an opposition group against former president Mohamed Siad Barre. The opposition group Somali Salvation Democratic Front was formed in Ethiopia and led by former president Abdullahi Yusuf.

I served the opposition for three years and when Barre`s government collapsed I resigned and got into the Real Estate business in Zimbabwe. I have my first degree in public administration and training in management, politics and business administration. I have three wives and 17 children.

Why would you want to run for president in a troubled Somalia?

This will actually be my second attempt at running for presidency. In 2003 I was a presidential candidate but lost to Abdullahi Yusuf.

Being a Somalia national I feel that I have a responsibility to make Somalia not only a peaceful country but a better place as well.

Somalia has had over 21 years of instability that has shattered its economic, infrastructure, lives and led to many splinter regions, religious and tribal extremism. Apart from that we are also plagued by piracy, poor leadership and Somalia is currently the most corrupt country according to the 2010 corruption index, making it a failed state. I am vying for presidency to bring the country back to its feet under a government that will revive the rule of law.

As a country Somalia never failed buts its leaders did. Especially the Sheikh Sharrif regime, they were handpicked and imposed on the people .They rose to power with no program or plan to tackle Somalia`s problems. Their aim was to acquire power through foreign sponsors and amass wealth for themselves.

They have sustained the crisis and war in Somalia, because they are using conflict as a cash cow with nobody holding them accountable. Sharrif`s regime has also used their influence to avenge against those tribes that don`t pledge allegiance to them. Through the help of foreign patronage they have intensified animosity between various communities instead of using money from the international community to build trust and promote reconciliation.

There have been three governments in the last 10 years all of which were geared towards, reconciling the rival groups and none has made any significant step. The past regimes were supposed to establish federalism in the country but they failed as well, they were tasked to prepare an acceptable constitution for the country but that failed. In actual fact they have been busy in keeping Somali in turmoil and lengthening their tenure so as they can continue accumulating their wealth.

I believe such failed leaders are responsible for the past and present crisis. Since there is no central government, other groups like religious extremists have taken advantage. They now control many regions in the country; equally piracy has become a huge menace at sea because there is no ground force which holds them to account.

In your own opinion how did Somali sink into this lawlessness?

During the Siad Barre regime it was one-man rule, there were no institutions governing Somali. There was no effective parliament nor judiciary and people felt duped and discord took over. When forced out of power, a civil war broke up the military which led them to join different tribal groups. This is the time warlords were reenergized and started controlling different regions. In this confusion some interested communities started arming and financing different warlords and since then no group has ever brought Somalia under control.

Look at this scenario even after the UN sanction on arms to Somali; there is still proliferation of arms into Somalia meaning foreign interests are at play. In 2006 after the Islamic groups formed the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) led by the present president Sheikh Sharrif Ahmed they defeated the warlords and made Mogadishu peaceful for the first time but this was only temporary as the government of Abdullahi Yusuf with the help of Ethiopian forces entered Mogadishu and defeated Sharrif leading to major breakaways.

Why did you choose to launch your presidential bid in Nairobi and not Mogadishu?

It is very unfortunate that no one has ever launched his presidential bid in Somali due to the security situation. Away from the security issues, Nairobi is a hub, a host to many Somali MPs, politicians, businessmen and the international community who work in Somali, thus the reason I chose Kenya for the launch my presidential bid here.

Do you think you are the best candidate to take Somalia from ruins of war to peace and economic stability?

I do not have all the answers to Somalia`s problems. However I think I am the most suitable candidate given my experience in Somali politics since 1978 and working as a businessman thereafter has endeared me to the people. I understand the people and their problems. I believe I can reach out to all rival groups with ease and no prejudice. I have the confidence, trust and respect of the religious groups, the business groups, civil societies and even the opposition groups.

I understand the concern of neighboring countries; equally those of the international community. What Somali needs now is a peace broker not a fighter or a hardliner or militant. Continuous offensive against Al-Shabaab or any other group cannot bring a lasting peace in Somalia. Military offensives have failed in Iraq, Afghanistan for over 20 years and in Somalia they can never win. There has never been a winner is such approaches, I am a big believer in diplomacy.

When are the elections and how will they be conducted?

On Tuesday last week the UN gave a roadmap for the elections. They plan to establish a preparatory committee in Mogadishu on June 15. The committee will prepare the groundwork for the elections and set the date and venue of the elections as well guidelines on who will be voting. But at the moment the voting exercise is done by MPs who first of all elect the speaker of parliament and his deputy before electing the president.

In hundred days if elected, what are some of the changes you hope to make as president?

Cease fire, reconciliation with the opposition and establishment of a workable government with a strong parliament and a loyal army these are key things that I must achieve.

If elected I will establish a Supreme Religious Council to look into religious acrimonies as well underlying religious factors that are behind the conflicts.

Also as a matter of urgency my government will form a National Reconciliation council made of of tribal heads, businessmen, civil society, religious leaders and all other concerned person to chat away forward of bringing peace.

We will also create a National Army of about 30,000 soldiers recruited from all the 18 regions of Somali, to keep vigil of the coastlines. I am very optimistic that the present crisis can be resolved.

On piracy and Al-Shabab what will be your approach?

In my opinion, the Al-Shabaab problem can be solved in two ways. First half of their attacks are targeted towards an individual Sheikh Sharrif whom they feel sold out on them. With him gone, 50 percent of their demands will have been met.

The other 50 percent of Al-Shabaab demands and that of other religious sects is to implement the Sharia Law and get rid of foreign troops from AMISOM who the official opposition claims are foreign invaders.

If elected I will implement the Sharia law in consultation with the Supreme Council of Religious Affairs. We will harsh out how and when to implement it given that the current parliament unanimously ratified its implementation. Lastly with political reconciliation and a competent local police and military we can ask the foreign troops to leave the country. The foreign jihadists will also be asked to disembark.

Piracy will need both local and international support. On our side we will strengthen our local system with a strong ground force to control the coastal borders of Somali.

Does the UN`s threat to halt financial aid to the government worry you?

It worries everyone. It is a threat to desert us at our greatest hour of need. Even though they have a reason to, they should not use a group of individual failures to punish a whole population yearning to see peace.

You said are ready to work for free if elected president what is your drive and how will you manage?

I am a businessman, I have made enough money and I can earn my living through my businesses. My driving force is that I want to see peace restored in Somalia and the country back on its feet.

Achieving peace is a possibility with proper leadership and I am ready to offer just that, because I understand the root cause of conflict in Somalia and have its prescription.

Many political leaders around the world have been using Somalia as an example of a failed state. However I believe with me and help of other like minded persons it is just a matter of time before we bring Somali under control and on its feet and dominance as the best example of reconciliation. I believe peace is what many Somalis are yearning for but they have never been shown the way.

Hoping for stability, Somalia moving toward choosing new parliament and president
August 22, 2003


NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) - Somalia is choosing a president in a process that people here hope will bring stability after a dozen years of violence and chaos - and 52 people are running for the top job, including the former dictator`s brother and a soft-spoken millionaire who hasn`t lived in the country for 26 years.

“The word peace is missing from the Somali dictionary,” said wealthy businessman Al Haj Mohamed Yassin, the latest to join the field of presidential candidates in this Horn of Africa nation.

“It`s high time someone stepped forward and said enough is enough,” he told reporters at press conference Thursday.

Somalia has not had a functioning government since clan-based opposition leaders joined forces to oust dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. They then turned on each other, reducing the country to a patchwork of fiefdoms ruled by heavily armed clan-based factions.

Although a transitional government was elected at an August 2000 peace conference in neighboring Djibouti, it has had little influence outside the capital, Mogadishu, and has been unable to disarm the gunmen. Its three-year mandate expired on Aug. 12.

After more than a dozen rounds of talks between warlords, clan leaders and members of the transitional government trying to end the chaos, the 366 delegates have agreed to create a parliament, which will appoint a president to govern the entire nation.

Ordinary Somalis won`t choose the 351 members of parliament. That decision will be made the heads of 23 clan-based factions, in consultation with tribal leaders, who signed a cessation of hostilities agreement last October.

The goal is to select a parliament by next month, but the process could well take longer, and there is no deadline. Meanwhile, delegates are putting the final touches to the country`s transitional charter.

The pool of presidential candidates is something of a looking glass into Somalia`s past.

Abdirahman Jama Barre, brother of the former dictator, is running for the job.

Also in the race is Hussein Mohamed Aidid, a former U.S. Marine and son of Mogadishu warlord Mohamed Farah Aidid, who managed to evade capture by American troops in 1993. A mission to apprehend some of Aidid`s aides in October of that year resulted in the deaths of 18 American soldiers.

There are three women running for president, including Asha Ahmed Abdalla, a former minister in the transitional government who has lived most of her life in the United States.

Two of the favored candidates are Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, the leader of Puntland, a region in the northeast, and Abdullahi Ahmed Adow, a former minister in Siad Barre`s government, who fled to the United States.

“These kinds of things are always difficult, but we`re trying to bring it together,” said Mohamed Qanyare Afrah, chairman of the so-called Group of Eight clan-based factions from central Somalia, and a delegate at the talks. “I won`t say everything is fine and smooth, but we`re trying.”

But he did say that by the end of the year, there will be a new government in Somalia and “whoever is president will have power in all of Somalia.”

Because he left Somalia 26 years ago, Yassin thinks he will be seen as neutral and without the political baggage of many of his adversaries.

Yassin was born in Mogadishu in 1951 and left the country in 1977. He has lived in the United Arab Emirates since 1992 and made a fortune in real estate and property development there and in Zimbabwe, of which he is also a citizen.

At his press conference Thursday, Yassin called the current round of talks in Kenya “just a gathering of warlords.” He also likened Mogadishu, where gunmen still rule the streets, to “a place full of wild animals.”

“But I feel it is a moral obligation to go back and serve,” he said. “It is time to jump on the wagon and go to the animal zoo.”

© Copyright 2003. The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.


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