Today from Hiiraan Online:  _
The wobbly walk of a warlord-President

Abdulkadir Mohamed
Friday, January 25, 2008

Abdulaahi Yusuf and Frist LadyJust few days ago, some Somali sites run by the supporters of the ineffective Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia showed photos and video of the warlord-cum-president of the TFG, Abdullahi Yusuf having some kind of sluggish stroll by the side of a lush walkway in London, UK. The TFG president was accompanied by his wife, the " first lady". Circumambulating around him were few men, probably his bodyguards and lackeys. Another photo showed the president shopping in department store and browsing through a rack filled with what looked like casual shirts. The cheerleading websites posted video interview of the president conducted by UniversalTV, a budding newcomer into the struggling Somali media.


In the video, Yusuf was seated but in a floppy pose. His whole body was in tremor, hands and legs shaking non-stop. Besides, other trivial TFG issues, Yusuf talked about his "good and improving" health and his eventual return to Baidao, Somalia, the seat of his weak government, to embark what is left of his transitional mandate against the clock. He lamented the ineffectiveness of the preceding government of former Prime Minister Ghedi, and the three years time the TFG wasted.


The leisurely walk was a premeditated response to dispel rumors about president's health spread by anti-TFG websites. Some sensationalist anti-TFG sites reported that Yusuf is bedridden, that his health is worsening and speculated that Yusuf could be in a coma or is on a vegetative state reminiscent of that of Ariel Sharon, the former Israeli Prime Minister and military leader whose political career was shortened by a stroke.


The walk was intended to set record straight that the president was not "out of Somalia's messy political theatre" as well as to tackle any potential parliament motions to dethrone warlord Yusuf of his coveted presidential seat. Close to 30 years, warlord Abdullahi Yusuf sought and fought to one day become Somalia's president.


Yusuf had liver transplant in 1990 in the same London hospital that he is now receiving medical treatments. Within the span of 30 days, from early December last year to early January this year, the president was twice rushed to Nairobi and Addis Ababa after he collapsed but his spokespersons played down the president's health complications. The TFG president is believed to be an octogenarian but widely said to be in his early 70's.


Abdullahi YusufThe walk, instead of countering any rumors about the TFG president's health conditions has indeed proved the opposite. It is now clear to all that Yusuf is frail in terms of health and would not be able to dictate the day-to-day goings of the TFG as he used to. This could bode a new course for the TFG but depends how boldly the new Prime Minister, Nur Hassan Hussein, Adde and his small cabinet assert their autonomy.

The paradox here is while this entire political dramatic piece was being played in London and the cyber-space, in Somalia, the TFG militia and the occupying Ethiopian troops were bombarding civilian areas in Mogadishu.  In the same week of this presidential walk in London, two dozens of innocent civilians were killed and 150 wounded while another civilian massive flight started that could make Mogadishu not only the most violent capital in the world but an "uninhabitable capital," according to human rights group.


 "The president is shopping and strolling in London while his people are being shot and slaughtered in Mogadishu! Eesh Calaa Madaxweyne!what 'unsympathetic' president?! " a friend of mine summed up the whole irony of the un-protocoled and impromptu walk in such a somber sentence.


Abdulkadir Mohamed

E-mail: [email protected]