Today from Hiiraan Online:  _
Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein - HOL 2008 Person of the Year

The people of America (and to a certain extent the people of the world) gave Barack Hussein Obama a standing ovation simply because he preached hope and promised change. Likewise, Nur Hassan Hussein, the Prime Minister of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, gave the war-weary people of Somalia hope and delivered much needed change. That is, from war footing to the path of peace and national reconciliation. Hiiraan Online designates Premier Nur “Adde” as the 2008 Person of the Year for, among other things, contributing to national reconciliation in Somalia in the face of stiff internal and external resistance.

Over the past twenty years, hundreds of thousands of Somali citizens died in a senseless civil strife and many more fled to far-flanged corners of the world. In the past two years, thousands more perished as a direct result of the Ethiopian invasion and the occupation of Somalia. Similarly, close to a million of the inhabitants of Mogadishu become internally displaced in the outskirts of the Somali capital. This was also a year marked by unprecedented human rights violations, wanton destruction and further complication of the already intricate Somali politics. Bleak future enveloped not only the weak and squabbling TFG but also the overall intra Somali reconciliation and the very future of the Somali State. Then, on November 22, 2007, Nur Hassan Hussein, popularly known as “Nur Adde”, appeared in the Somali political scene as the new Prime Minister of the Transitional Federal Government.

The appointment of the new Prime Minister ushered in sense of optimism and Nur “Adde” did not disappoint the Somali people; particularly the people of Mogadishu, who unfortunately bore the brunt of the violence and who were under siege for the past two years. Prime Minister Nur Adde, who has been the Secretary General of the Somali Red Crescent Society, was a political outsider in the then prevailing transitional Somali politics.

To say, Nur Adde had to walk a political tightrope is understatement. The opposition called him a stooge and literally called for his head. The TFG President, who just came out of acrimonious fight with Nur Adde’s predecessor, wanted the new Prime Minister on a short leash. The Ethiopians, who militarily controlled wherever the TFG resided, were in a hyper-suspicious mode. The screaming agony of the people of Mogadishu (the PM’s hometown) was deafening and it required an urgent political remedy. The TFG coffers were utterly empty. The bribe-addicted TFG parliamentarians were already salivating for Nur “Adde’s” sacking. The international community was on the verge of abandoning the discordant TFG. The expectations from ordinary citizens and demands of Diaspora Somalis were also enormous. In short, Nur Hassan Hussein Nur “Adde” became the Prime Minister of Somalia the worst time ever.

Within this extremely challenging context, success is highly improbable yet the new Prime Minister persevered. He demonstrated political sophistication, humanitarian vision, superb nationalism and keen focus on the Common Good reminiscent of his namesake and founding father of our nation, Aden Abdulle Osman “Aden Adde”. During his short tenure, Prime Minister Nur Adde made all the right political and diplomatic moves needed to navigate through Somalia’s murky and turbulent political landscape. Consequently, Nur Adde exceeded the expectations of many including his avowed nemeses. All went well, because Nur Hassan Hussein is neither novice politician nor naïve peacemaker; rather he is a 69 years old former police colonel trained also in law. As a long time official of the Somali Red Crescent Society, he knew what was wrong in Somalia and how to use his office in order to put the country back towards the path of peace and national reconciliation. Nur Hassan Hussein did not waste any time on this crucial front.

Right after his inauguration, the new Prime Minister stated to all that peace was the scarcest and most needed commodity in Somalia and he proclaimed that he wanted a genuine national reconciliation. With that clear break of the lip service pronouncements of his predecessor, hope transplanted despair but Nur Adde did not stop there. He informed the insurgent groups as well as the opponents of the TFG that negotiated settlement was the only viable way to end the Ethiopian occupation and other destructive evils emanating from the anarchy. He also stated that he is ready to forgo his position if the opposition wanted to trade it for peace. He further convinced the edgy Ethiopian leaders that Somalia required political solution rather than military adventurism. Nur “Adde” further showed the international community that he is a credible politician whose primary focus is on the suffering Somali people. He even announced as late as March 2008, that to bring peace to Somalia he was even willing to negotiate unconditionally with the Al-Shabaab militants whom the United States branded then as a terrorist affiliated group. Incidentally, the International Crisis Group seems to appreciate Premier Nur Adde’s foresight, for they too, have recommended on December 23, 2008, that the inclusion of Al-Shabaab in the Somali peace process is indispensable for a lasting reconciliation in Somalia.  

Because of Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein’s insistence, the Transitional Federal Government entered a UN brokered direct negotiation with the Djibouti wing of the Alliance of Re-liberation of Somalia. As a result, the two sides reached a landmark peace accord. Among the terms of this agreement are the creation of government of national unity, equally shared by the TFG and the opposition, the immediate withdrawal of the Ethiopian troops and the creation of a mechanism to address issues of war crimes and impunity. The top leadership of the Alliance also returned to Mogadishu to further the peace and the leaders of the TFG accepted to renounce their political positions, alas, some grumblingly. More importantly, Prime Minister Nur Adde obtained the ratification of the peace accord by the TFG Parliament as well as the unanimous stamp of approval of the international community – from the Security Council to the African Union.

Prime Minister Nur Adde also set a historic precedent in the future working relations of, and constitutional boundaries, between future Somali Presidents and their Prime Ministers. The 1960 Somali Constitution, as well as Charters drafted during the transitional periods, clearly stipulates that the President is, more or less, a nominal Head of State and the full executive power rests solely with the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers. This is how the founding fathers – both Presidents and Prime Ministers - understood the Constitution and exercised political power.

Unfortunately, both Abdiqasim Salad Hassan, the then President of the Transitional National Government and the former TFG President, Abdullahi Yusuf, unconstitutionally usurped powers that explicitly belonged to the Prime Ministers and the Cabinet. The brazen power grab on the part of the transitional Presidents partially contributed to the persistent political conflicts and power struggle that rendered transitional governments inept and conflict ridden. With his successful pushback against the TFG President, Prime Minister Nur Adde somewhat advanced the future integrity of the office of the Prime Minister and constitutionally sanctioned powers of the Council of Ministers.

If one looks closer, it is obvious that Prime Minister Nur Adde accomplished extraordinarily achievements under extremely difficult situation. Granted that almost all of the Somalia problems are still there, but one also needs to keep in mind that all these problems predate the new Prime Minister. Instead, he was a dedicated humanitarian worker, a Red Crescent official, and when he took power, his sensible approach to politics – peace over war - put Somalia towards a better path.

Nur Adde brought HOPE and most importantly implemented much needed changes even within the TFG, however small these changes might seem. Notable examples of his positive changes abound, such as the releasing of political prisoners, sacking of the dreaded Mogadishu mayor.

Because of Nur Hassan Hussein’s contribution to the causes of peace and national reconciliation in Somalia, Hiiraan Online designates the TFG Prime Minister as our pick for the Person of the Year.

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