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HOL Person of the Year 2023: Abukar Dahir Osman (Baale)

Thursday January 11, 2024


In an era where diplomacy often treads a delicate dance of words and wills, Abukar Dahir Osman, Somalia's Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations, has emerged not just as a participant, but as a master choreographer. His unparalleled achievements in 2023, including lifting the 1992 UN arms embargo and securing a monumental debt forgiveness, have rightfully positioned him at the pinnacle of global diplomacy. As Hiiraan Online's 2023 Person of the Year, Osman symbolizes the resilience and potential of a nation reborn from the ashes of its tumultuous past. 

Rising Through the Ranks

Osman's early career in civil service began modestly as a clerk in Somalia's Ministry of National Planning. His dedication and talent soon propelled him to higher roles, including Director at the Somali National Documentation Centre. His work during these formative years shaped his understanding of the complexities of national and international policy-making. 

Between 1996 and 1998, Osman served as a documentation specialist at the United Nations Centre for Human Rights in Tirana, Albania. This role was pivotal in exposing him to the intricacies of international human rights law and global diplomacy. His experience here was crucial in developing the skills that would later define his career as a diplomat. 

A Return to Public Service 

After a significant period in the United States, where he gained experience in various capacities, including as a supervisor at the Adult Medicaid Unit of the Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services, Osman returned to Somalia. His return marked a new chapter in his career, as he was appointed the Somali Ambassador to the United Nations in 2017. His academic pursuits, with a Master's degree from Illinois State University and later from Franklin University, Ohio, laid a solid foundation for his diplomatic acumen. 

Lifting the UN Arms Embargo: A Milestone Achievement

2023 saw Osman's crowning achievement: lifting the decades-long UN arms embargo. This was not just a diplomatic victory but a narrative-changing moment for Somalia, long perceived as a land of strife. The embargo, initially imposed to stem the flow of weapons to warring factions following the fall of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre, symbolized international oversight and restrictions on Somalia's sovereignty. 

Abukar Dahir Osman was pivotal in advocating for this change, emphasizing Somalia's progress in governance and security management. His diplomatic efforts were instrumental in convincing the international community that lifting the embargo was justified and necessary for Somalia's future. 

The implications of this decision are profound. It recognizes the strides Somalia has made and allows the government to rebuild its military strength, essential for combating insurgent threats, particularly from Al-Shabaab. This move is aligned with the Somalia Transition Plan and the national security framework, aiming to bolster the Somali security forces' capacity. 

Furthermore, this decision comes at a critical time as the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) prepares for its planned withdrawal by December 2024. Thus, lifting the embargo is not merely a symbolic gesture but a tangible step towards Somalia's autonomous security management. 

Securing $4.5 Billion in Debt Forgiveness: A Leap Towards Economic Sovereignty

Another monumental achievement under Osman's tenure is securing $4.5 billion in debt forgiveness from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The landmark decision was a result of Somalia's rigorous adherence to financial reforms under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative. 

The debt forgiveness marks a turning point for Somalia, drastically reducing its external debt from 64% of GDP in 2018 to less than 6% by the end of 2023. This financial relief allows Somalia to access crucial financial resources for strengthening its economy, reducing poverty, and promoting job creation. 

Minister of Finance Bihi Egeh's comments encapsulate the sentiment in Somalia following this achievement. The relief is seen not just as a milestone but also as a responsibility for Somalia to stand on its own feet and sustain the reform gains made over the years. This achievement also signifies trust and confidence from the international community in Somalia's ability to manage its finances and governance effectively. 

The debt forgiveness also holds a symbolic meaning - it is an acknowledgment of the progress Somalia has made despite facing challenges such as regular climatic shocks and ongoing fights against international terrorism. It is a testament to the resilience and commitment of the Somali government and its people in navigating a path towards economic stability and growth. 

As we celebrate Abukar Dahir Osman as the "Person of the Year 2023," we are not just honouring a diplomat. We are acknowledging a visionary who has redefined the art of diplomacy, a leader who has turned the tide for his nation, and a hero who has etched a new chapter for Somalia on the canvas of the world stage.


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