Somalia is going to the polls in August. The elections are going to be different as they will not follow the one-person, one-vote system favoured by many countries.There will be an electorate of close to 14,000, choosing the 275 members of the lower house of parliament. The electorate will be determined by traditional elders who hold important roles in their particular clans.
Complicating the elections (apart from insecurity) is the fact that Somalia has several self-governing regions like Puntland, Jubaland, South West State. All the same, the die is cast.
A few weeks ago, Mohamed Abdirizak threw his hat into the ring. He currently serves as the founder and executive director of Somali One, a non-profit organisation whose mission is to help Somalia achieve peace and stability.
When he was last in town, we met at Java, Valley Arcade, for tea and a chat.
This cookie is finally crumbling, isn’t it?
(Chuckle) It is.
Who are you?
Mohamed Abdirizak, born and raised in Mogadishu. After high school, I served two years in the military then I went to an agricultural school in Pakistan specialising in horticulture and fruit propagation, commercial agriculture. That’s my other passion – my family owned farms.
Civil war started in Somalia and I couldn’t go back home so I went to the US where I sought asylum in 1991 or 1992. I worked in the US until 2001, did my Master’s at John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies specializing in International Relations, National Government Systems and so forth.
All the while I had Somalia on my mind and always wanted to come back and do something in Somalia and since agriculture could not be the way and this was going to take time, I changed fields. In 2001, UNDP Somalia recruited me from Washington D.C and brought me to Nairobi.
How did you arrive here, vying for presidency, what instigated it? Was there a tipping point?
First, both my parents were civil servants. In fact, my father later on was in the military. He was what was called a Supreme Revolutionary Council member who along with Siad Barre took over through a coup in 1969.
I grew up in a house where people served the government. My father was the Minister for Education who oversaw the writing of Somali language in 1972. He took me along with him so I always had this sense of duty and wanting to work for my country.
But it wasn’t until around 2005/2006 after the Transitional Federal Government was formed right here in Kenya that I would write policy papers and so forth and go and meet with the President. I met him three times, in Nairobi, New York and in London. I always gave him these papers and my advice for free.