Somalia: State Incapacitated by Corruption – a Perplexing and Bursting Reality

On May 25, 2023, Abdirahman Nur-Hashi wrote a perplexing and bursty article about corruption in Somalia. He cites former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s description of corruption as an “insidious plague” that diverts funds from development, undermines government services, and feeds inequality and injustice. Unfortunately, Transparency International ranks Somalia as the most corrupt nation on earth since 2007. Corruption has worsened since 2012, when President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud was first elected. Nur-Hashi describes Mahmoud’s government as an embodiment of “grand corruption,” which benefits the elite at the expense of the many and harms individuals and society.

Despite public sector reforms introduced in 2012 with international assistance, corruption has continued to permeate Somali society. The top government officials were not honest about fighting corruption but instead acted contrary to that, which led to unprecedented misuse of power in the public sector. The UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea accused Somali government officials of misusing the central bank as their “patronage system” where 80% of the bank’s withdrawals were exploited for private motives. The government rejected those accusations, and the fiasco led to the resignation of Abrar Yusuf within three months of being appointed as the governor of the central bank. This resignation was a big blow to president Mahmoud and his collaborators.

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The government has attempted to undertake fake approaches in curbing corruption, including the creation of a Parliamentary Finance Committee to monitor withdrawals from the central bank, the passing of the Public Procurement, Concessions and Disposal Act, and the establishment of the Office of the Auditor General. However, corruption continues to proliferate in the public sector, with the government accused of being involved in big dubious contracts associated with the management of ports and oil explorations.

Mahmoud was also engaged in insidious political corruption by appointing incompetent individuals to prominent positions, usurping all the powers of federal institutions, and instigating armed conflicts in Galkayo to subdue Puntland. Corruption has contributed to a contentious atmosphere filled with distrust, enmity, and rivalry, posing a real threat to Somalia’s stability. Despite Mahmoud’s bad record, UAE and Qatar contributed to his reelection in 2022, which is proving to be a disaster with a replicate of his poor leadership and brazen corruption.

Nur-Hashi concludes that empowering member states seems to be the most reasonable option in building a stronger, transparent, and accountable federal government in Somalia. The top-down aid is not working for Somalia as the corruption in Villa Somalia is incorrigible.

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