Although Somali authorities have yet to announce the outcome of the investigation into the death of young Minister of Public Works Abbas Abdullah Siraji, 31, the experiences of the past dominate questions about the future in a country that is still healing from a quarter century of civil war.Siraji, the youngest member of the Somali cabinet, was killed by the bodyguards of Auditor General Nour Farah close to a checkpoint by the presidential palace on 3 May. Farah’s bodyguards ordered Siraji’s car to stop and when it did not respond, they opened fire, according to Abdel-Fattah Omar, spokesman for the mayor of Mogadishu. Siraji was seriously injured and transferred to a hospital where he died, while another minister in the car survived, according to Major Mohamed Hussein, an official in the Somali police force. Hussein told a German news agency that several of Siraji’s bodyguards were injured during the gun battle with Farah’s bodyguards, two of whom were arrested for their “involvement in the shooting at the car of the public works minister”.Farah said his protection detail made a mistake when identifying Siraji’s car, and were worried it was a booby-trapped car that would carry out a terrorist attack.
Over the past year, there were attacks on the headquarters of several political (the presidential palace) and security (Ministry of Defence) headquarters, and hotels where foreign journalists, MPs and public figures live, using car bombs that the terrorist group Shebab Al-Mujahideen claimed responsibility for.Mohamed Ahmed Jamali, commander of the Somali army, survived a bombing in early April targeting his motorcade near an army command south of the capital. In February, the minister of transportation and two members of parliament were killed and the deputy prime minister injured in an attack on Hotel Central. As in dozens of other attacks, Shebab Al-Mujahideen claimed responsibility. The group controls large swathes of the country. President Mohamed Abdullah Farmajo cut short a visit to Ethiopia upon hearing of Siraji’s assassination, and ordered an investigation “into the tragedy and ensuring those responsible are brought to justice”. Minister of information and cabinet spokesman Abdul-Rahman Othman described Siraji as “a rising political star who was committed to serving his country”. He was indeed a rising political star, who managed a major upset win in parliamentary elections in the city of Kismayo last year.
Siraji fled with his family to Kenya in 1992, two years after the overthrow of Siad Barre (1968-1990), when he was seven years old. They lived in Dadaab refugee camp, one of the largest in the world, home to hundreds of thousands of refugees. Siraji attended school at the camp until secondary school, then moved to the Kenyan capital Nairobi to earn a university degree in business administration. Siraji then returned to the southern port city of Kismayo in Somalia where he became involved in politics only last year, winning a seat in the last parliamentary elections and leading the local government until Farmajo picked him for a cabinet position. Before taking up politics, Siraji worked for the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), and the private sector. Siraji was “polite and elegant”, tweeted Somali journalist Abdi Zaher, and “was very popular among youth” tweeted another journalist, Abdel-Razek Hussein.Siraji is from a renowned religious family, which benefited his political career in a conservative country where the families of clerics hold a special place. Nonetheless, Siraji was not known to have Islamist tendencies.According to Hussein, Siraji’s victory revealed the exasperation of Somali people with the political old guard, especially those who participated in the civil war. But did Somalia lose a future president with the death of the young MP and minister? We will never know. The political and parliamentary scene indicates it may be true because of the late minister’s personal distinction, but Siraji was part of a broader trend that may in time reach the summit of the Somali regime.
Source: Al Ahram Weekly