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Competing for Photo Opportunities with Foreign Ambassadors: Threats to Somalia's National Security and Reputation"

by Bare Osman Abdi
Friday April 14, 2023

Somali Police Commissioner with UAE ambassador to Somalia

It has become a common occurrence for government officials in Somalia at both federal and state levels to compete for photo opportunities with foreign Ambassadors and envoys accredited to the country. This trend has not only affected politicians and technocrats, but it has also influenced security agencies and other non-political offices whose jobs and mandates do not involve dealing with these foreign diplomats. Recently, the current federal Police Commissioner has been meeting with foreign Ambassadors and envoys in the country. He has met with the Saudi, UAE, Qatar, and Chinese Ambassadors at different times, even though he has only been in the job for a few months. This has been a long-standing trend with no signs of stopping, and if it is not addressed immediately, it will negatively impact the government's image and reputation both domestically and internationally.

Security officials at all levels should be apolitical, and their primary responsibility and mandate is to implement, execute, and follow the policies and instructions of the current government. Therefore, there is no need for them to meet and discuss with foreign Ambassadors because they are not politicians and do not have a mandate to negotiate or discuss with these envoys and ambassadors. However, if necessary, their parent ministries and department heads should be the ones who will do the discussions, negotiations, and work closely with these countries and entities on security issues. This problem has existed across all the different administrations, both past and present.

To safeguard and protect the national security and image of the government and the country at large, the government needs to establish a new policy and guidelines on who should meet with foreign diplomats and under what circumstances such meetings should be allowed. Also, who should moderate these talks if they indeed happen. The arbitrary and ineffective attempts of security leaders to arrange meetings with foreign diplomats pose a threat to national security and weaken the authority of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is the appropriate government department responsible for conducting such discussions. To fully comprehend this issue, it is essential to recognize the significance of having a cohesive and well-organized approach to foreign affairs.

Somali Police Commissioner with Saudi ambassador to Somalia

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was not present during the discussions between the police commissioner, security chiefs, and foreign ambassadors. It has come to light that the foreign ministry was not even aware of such meetings. It raises questions as to what the Commissioner of Police could discuss with a foreign ambassador. The best course of action would be for officials from the relevant ministry, who hold the official CEO positions, to handle discussions between the security chiefs and ambassadors. If the internal security and defense ministers deem it necessary to include the security chiefs, they can attend the meetings. However, it is not in line with international norms and protocols for police commissioners, NISA directors, SNA commanders, and custodial corps commissioners to frequently meet with foreign ambassadors accredited to the country. This practice leads to confusion, lack of coordination, and the risk of infiltration and interference in the security agencies, potentially leading to foreign countries establishing secret security agencies with or without government knowledge.

The conduct of hosting or being hosted by members of the diplomatic community without the involvement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is not limited to the security chiefs alone. Other high-ranking officials such as the Speaker of the House of the People and his Senate counterparts, their deputies, the Governor and Mayor of Mogadishu, and state-level leaders also engage in similar activities. This practice has become a norm, and it is unclear what is being discussed in these meetings or whether the information shared on their social media platforms accurately represents the discussions held.

I urge President Dr. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre to take immediate action and implement a policy framework and guidelines to address the issue at hand. If left unattended, it will worsen the division, confusion, and disagreements within the government, which will negatively affect the country's reputation both domestically and internationally. Furthermore, I implore them to prioritize rebuilding and developing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This department must be competent, transparent, professional, and capable of steering the country's foreign policy towards the best interests of Somalia and its citizens. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is a reflection of the country, and its image determines how the world perceives and interacts with Somalia.

Bare Osman Abdi
[email protected]
Ottawa, Canada.


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