September 12, 2021
The political crisis in Mogadishu sparked by the kidnapping and murder of National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) cyber-expert Ikran Tahlil Farah continues.
To recap the last few days: After Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble fired NISA head Fahad Yasin, whom many Somalis believe ordered the hit, President Farmajo called on Yasin to remain. Yasin’s firing was popular across Somalia. Many Somalis see Yasin as the power behind the scenes enabling Farmajo’s dictatorial ambitions. Others distrust Yasin for his close ties to al-Shabaab. While Western officials see al-Shabaab as an Al Qaeda affiliate, many Somalis instead know it as a mafia that extorts money from them.
Every presidential candidate and President Said Abdullahi Dani’s government in the federal state of Puntland, meanwhile, supports Roble’s move. According to Harun Maruf, a Voice of America journalist and specialist on the al-Shabaab terrorist group, Roble and Farmajo met Saturday for several hours to try to resolve the impasse without success. Farmajo wants Roble to drop his demand for the file on Ikran’s murder, likely fearing that it will show he or Yasin sought to silence her.
While Somalis speculate, many believe she died because of her knowledge of the Somali conscripts illegally transferred to Eritrea, many of whom subsequently died during the Ethiopian and Eritrean campaign against Ethiopia’s restive Tigray province. Somalis rightly do not believe that to be their fight and question what favors or money Ethiopia or Eritrea might have given him in exchange for the lives of their children.
Roble, meanwhile, holds firm. Enter the State Department, United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), and other international partners. In a joint statement, they called on both Farmajo and Roble “to de-escalate the political confrontation surrounding this investigation and, in particular, avoid any actions that could lead to violence.” This is misguided and plays into the hands of those like Farmajo and Yasin who gamble that the international community’s fear of tension or violence will allow them to get away with illegalities. It also shows disdain for Somalia.
Both Washington and the United Nations must know: The only way to ensure that Somalia finds peace is to ensure that rule-of-law prevails. It is time for Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Chargé d’affaires ad interim Colleen Crenwelge, and UNSOM chief James Swan (himself a former US ambassador) to stand with moral clarity. They should demand the public release of the file on Ikran’s murder rather than be complicit in Farmajo and Yasin’s attempt at a cover-up. Somalis deserve to know what those who govern in their name have done.
Transparency, however, is not enough. If the evidence suggests Yasin ordered Ikran’s murder to silence her, he should face trial for murder. Ikran’s family deserve nothing less. She was a servant of Somalia, and Somalia should avenge her death. If the evidence suggests Farmajo knew about the plot, he too should face either conspiracy and/or murder charges.
Perhaps Blinken, Crenwelge, and Swan want quiet, but that is as misguided as it is shortsighted. The best basis for Somalia’s re-emergence from decades of disaster would be for every future leader to understand that he will not stand about the law and that, no matter what the political exigency, he will not get away with murder.