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Professor Ali Khalif Galyr & The Art of Political Opportunism

By Abdi Ali Karanle (SanqadhYare)
Tuesday, April 10, 2007


 “Who is a hero? He who conquers his urges”     W. H. Auden

“True heroism … is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.”  Arthur Ash


Professor Ali Khalif Galyr

In a recent article in Wardheernews, Distortion of a Good Intentioned Conference1, Jamal Ali, in an apparent frenzied defence of the organization and outcome of a Somali Diasporas Conference held early this month in Columbus, Ohio, unfairly and maliciously criticized Dr. Ali Bahar2 for “defaming a respected national hero’. The ‘national hero’ that the writer refers to is none other than Professor Ali Khalif Galyr, a glaring omnipresence in post Siad Barre regime’s Somali politics and a frequent commentator on current Somali affairs.


Professor Ali Khalif Galyr may be a one time Prime Minister of a failed Transitional Administration, an academician and a successful businessman, but Jamal Ali’s bestowal of ‘hero’ status upon him is stretching the partisan accolades too far. 


Browsing through some English Dictionaries the most frequently mentioned attributes of a hero is altruism, self-sacrifice, and unselfishness. Reflecting on Professor Galyr’s political career none of these attributes comes to mind.  On the contrary, as Dr. Bahar aptly insinuated, Professor Galyr time and again exhibited a troubling tendency for blatant opportunism and an insatiable ‘lust for power’ at any cost, thus indirectly contributing to the continuation of the anarchic situation of the past 17 years and the incalculable human cost associated with it.    


Dr. Galyr’ Patriotic Credentials


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Another attribute associated with a ‘national hero’ is patriotism and devotion to the common good.  You hear Dr. Galyr these days repeating the mantra that Somali Unity is sacred and that the Ethiopians are our enemies.  But carefully examining his past record on Somali Unity you will find it wanting.


On May, 1991, few months after the collapse of the central government, the Isaq dominated Somali National Movement (SNM), in collaboration with Ethiopian Military senior officers, hastily convened a conference in the northern Somali city of Burco and unitarily declared the northern regions of Somalia as a separate state they named ‘Somaliland’.  This treacherous attempt to negate our grandfather’s struggle to unite all five Somali territories in the Horn of Africa was carried under the watch of Professor Ali Khalif Galyr.  Ali was one of the first diasporas delegates to attend the conference and actively participate in it.


An observer of Somali politics at that time was likely to give the benefit of the doubt to the Professor on the proposition that he may not have been privy in advance to the secessionist’s hidden agenda behind the  Burco conference.  But this wishful magnanimity was thrown to the winds when in January 1993 Professor Galyr flew from the United Arab Emirates to attend the Somaliland Borame Conference, where

he actively but unsuccessfully campaigned for the Vice Presidency. The Vice Presidency was given to an SNM loyalist from Awdal, Abdirhaman Aw Ali.


After Professor’s Galyr disappointment in Borame he quickly discarded the separatists’ label and put on the unionist anti-Ethiopian shirt.  The frequent changing of political stripes is one of the landmarks of the past 16 years without an effective central government.  Perhaps there is direct correlation between this dysfunctional phenomenon and anarchy.


Dr. Galyr stint as the Transitional National Government’s (TNG) Prime Minister


The key expectation of the long suffering Somali people from the TNG was to restore peace and order to the country, starting with the lawless capital, Mogadishu.  Furthermore, according to some delegates who attended the Arta conference (the birthplace of 4.5) where the TNG was formed, Abdulqasim Salad Hassan’s election victory as President was mainly due to the promise he made to the delegates that, as someone whose sub-clan wilds tremendous military and economic power in the capital, he will be more likely than anyone else to restore semblance of order to the capital city.  But that was not to be.  Abdiqasim, with tacit and sometimes direct help from Galyr, used the TNG, Not as a governance instrument to affect positive change, but as a tool to consolidate and promote Abdiqasim’s sub-clan hegemonic interests.


Following this strategy, the first task that Abdiqasim, with Dr. Galyr as his Prime Minister, carried out was to mobilize the clan militia belonging to his sub-clan and despatch them to the Lower Juba where they drove General Morgan from Kismayo. This event, which took place in June, 2001, was tantamount to replacing one clan Warlord with another, resulting in lethal blow to the credibility of the TNG as a perceived honest broker of the Somalia crisis.


Furthermore, consistent with Abdiqasim’s dubious short-sighted priorities, Dr. Galyr in collusion with his sub-clan traditional leaders soon embarked on a scheme to unseat the incumbent Puntland leadership, at the time under Abdulahi Yusuf; thus undermining a hard-won peace in one of the two northern administrations that escaped the chaos and lawlessness in the rest of the country. 


It was not surprising, therefore, that Dr. Galyr choose to play politics, this time clan-centred Puntland politics, at the risk of disturbing the lives of ordinary Somalis in that part of the country. This was not a sign of ‘national heroism’ but rather a symptom of crass opportunism at the expense of national interest.


Unfortunate for Dr. Galyr, in spite of his enthusiasm to go along with Abdiqasim’s destructive clan-driven agenda, he was unceremoniously dismissed as Prime Minister while on a trip to the United Nations.


Dr. Galyr at the Imbaghetti Peace Conference


Consistent with Dr. Galyr’s omnipresence in all Somali Conferences, big or small, separatist or unitary, Dr. Galyr was there in Imbaghetti Kenya in 2003 where the international community was convening yet another reconciliation conference. 


Soon it became apparent that he was not there to facilitate or mediate but to lobby and run for the Presidency against his adopted nemesis, Abdulahi Yusuf, the current President of the Transitional Federal government (TFG).  However, he failed miserably and in a sour loser mood returned to the US complaining that the conference was rigged and that Ethiopia was pulling the strings. We should remember the conference venue was not Ethiopia but rather Imaghetti, Kenya,


This was vintage Dr. Galyr playing the spoiler role and sitting in motion the subsequent aggressive efforts by others to sabotage the constructive outcome of two years efforts by the international community to find a solution to Somalia’s long running crisis.


Dr. Galyr and the Union of Islamic Courts


Dr. Galyr, on a constant hawk-watch over Somalia’s political shifting sands, saw a window of opportunity to dip one more time onto his favourite ‘power’ dish when in the summer of 2006 the Union Islamic Courts (UIC) emerged as a serious contender for power and drove the Mogadishu Warlords from the capital.  He quickly packed his suitcase and flew to Mogadishu from his current residence in the United States, where he lectures when not attending Somali Opportunity Conferences.  


According to sources in Mogadishu who were present in the capital at the time, Dr. Galyr, after many unsuccessful attempts to meet with the top leadership of the UIC, sought the help of a young man from his clan, who happened to be in the inner circle of the Shabaab Wing of the UIC, and persuaded him to introduce him to the top leaders of the organization, namely Dahir Aweys and Sheikh Shariff Sheikh Ahmed.


Judging from his hasty exit from Mogadishu after wards it became clear that his overture to work with the UIC did not bear fruit.  Not to be discouraged, he returned to the US where out of the blue he announced to his friends that he is on his way to the Hajj.  His friends were completely taken aback by this sudden transformation of the Professor from a self-styled Secular Muslim to a Born-Again one, determined to suddenly embark on fulfilling one of the five pillars of Islam.


Dr. Galyr’s detractors interpreted this sudden change as an attempt to curry favour with the UIC.  Perhaps he was told by the UIC Leadership to first upgrade his religious credentials before associating with them!


Dr. Galry and the next Somali Conference 


I hope the professor, whom I understand added Haaji to his title, takes time out from Somali conferences, forgives his enemies, and join us in ‘Du’ca that our bleeding country and its suffering people finally find peace and prosperity.  However, I will not be surprised to read tomorrow that he is either organizing or attending another anti-TFG Somali Conference, promoted as a reconciliation conference.




To be fair, as Dr. Bahar rightly observed in his article, Dr. Galyr is not the only one who adopted the trait of opportunism at a time when the country is hanging on the balance.  There are many others, including the Former Speaker of the Parliament, Sheriff Hassan Sheikh Adan, a former Khat trader, who at one time or another was allied with Warlords, the TFG, the UIC, and now with everybody else except the TFG.     On the other hand, Dr. Galyr, as a highly educated person, the Somali people in their hunger for sound leadership, peace and normalcy expected better from him than an obsessive pre-occupation with ‘lust for power’, bordering at any cost. 


This is taking place at a time when the very existence of the Somali Nation State is at stake. Perhaps  at normal times some degree of political posturing is acceptable. But we are not at normal times.


To realize Jamal Ali’s wishes that Professor Ali Khalif Galyr be seen as a Hero, may I suggest that he advises his friend to put a halt, at least temporarily, to his blind pursuit of political power and instead contribute to rebuilding the almost non-existent governance institutions of the country.  As a starter, he could, at least on consultancy basis, offer his expertise in Public Administration to the TFG and help them reconstruct the Civil Service. There is a lot to be desired from the TFG, especially in the rarity of seasoned technocrats among its ranks. But the TFG is the only representative and internationally recognized instruments we have at our disposable today and we should give them a chance to at least restore law and order and prepare the nation for election after the expiry of the two years and half remaining from their mandate.


In the meantime, Dr. Galyr and others who wish to serve their nation in an elected public policy role could each on his own or in a coalition establish national Political Partie(s) with a concrete platform and peacefully compete for power within the framework of foundational governance institutions in place.


I hope Dr. Ali Khalif takes my advice: please ‘conquer your urges’ to seize and take advantage of every political opportunity and instead follow Arthur Ashley’s road map to ‘heroism’:

“Heroism is Not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost”.

Abdi Ali Karanle,

London, UK 








2. Finding A Way Out: The Somali Diaspora Remains Divided  Ali Bahar, PhD.


Click here