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The Untold Story Behind the Replacement of Prof. Gandhi

Published: 31 August 2009
 The removal of Professor Mohamed Abdi Mohamed “Gandhi” from his portfolio as Somalia’s Minister of Defense was received by many as mind-shattering news. Before the cabinet reshuffle took place, who would have thought that Professor Gandhi, an intellectual man with a great deal of foresight, would be treated in such a degrading way?!

In comparison with the rest of the cabinet ministers, Professor Gandhi is a sincere politician who does not believe in tribal allegiances but fully committed in putting Somalia’s national interest above anything else. If he is not faithful to his country, he wouldn’t have left the university teaching career in the West and his dust-free, tension-free luxury life in Paris. Instead, he chose to serve for his country and live in Mogadishu, the most volatile and dangerous city in the world.              

Professor Gandhi has a wealth of academic and administration experiences under his belt and holds PhD in Geology and another PhD in Anthropology and History from Besancon University in France. He was awarded the prestigious International Laureate from French Academy and played a key role in shaping the Somali Civil Society since its inception. When I evaluate Professor Gandhi’s contributions to the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and I compare how he was treated in return, I can only recall Nuruddin Farah’s wisdom in his novel Close Sesame, “that a traitor can betray only the one who trusts him”.

As Defense Minister, Professor Gandhi was the driving engine and the towering figure in a government that never speaks with one voice. He did his best to produce something that was alternative to the propaganda that was being put out by the enemy of the Somali people. He is a leading Somali intellectual who believes the rule of law even in a lawless nation like Somalia. He is a man who seeks peace at a time when peace lovers are few and far between in Somalia. The change of his portfolio from Minister of Defense to Minister of Transport will only serve as another blow to the already fractious government that is hiding in Villa Somalia, the Presidential Compound in Mogadishu. 

When the Somali cabinet was reshuffled recently, I talked to my Somali colleagues about their views on who is behind the replacement of Professor Gandhi as Somalia’s Minister of Defense at this critical stage, is it the Somali President or the Prime Minister? Without any hesitation, their fingers of blame all pointed at one man, Meles Zenawi, Ethiopai’s Prime Minister.  

The answer I received from my colleagues will not be very much different from the responses you would get if you were to ask the same question to any truthful Somali who is living either in Somalia or beyond its borders. If you give a careful thought to this judgment, it seems that it makes sense, given the fact that many unproductive ministers with no performance culture still hold their portfolios. Worse than that, some corrupt yes-men, former warlords and potentially future tyrants remain key figures in the Somali cabinet ministers.   

Starting from his appointment as Somalia’s Minister of Defense in February 2009, Professor Gandhi has kept the flames going and has been riding a wave of popularity ever since. He gained trust both from his people and from the international community alike.

So what went wrong?! In other words: what are the things that Professor Gandhi has done that upset Ethiopia and gave the regime in Addis Ababa the jitters?

As Somalia’s Minister of Defense, Professor Gandhi’s strategy was to build a powerful Somalia army, which he believed is the only way to bring Somalia back on track. And to make this strategy workable, he brought together high ranking officers from former Somali armed forces in Washington from 1 – 5 August 2009 for in-depth discussions on the re-establishment of the Somali National Army and subsequently, disarming all armed militias. He urged the former Somali military officers to prepare to defend Somalia from both internal and external enemies and to secure the territorial integrity of the nation. Professor Gandhi was also against the TFG’s strategy of relying on clan militias and the so-called Ahlu Sunnah wa Al-Jama’ah who are indeed a deviated group that founded a most unholy alliance with the regime in Addis Ababa, and still hiding behind this beautiful name (Ahlu Sunna wa Al-Jama’ah).  

Many Somalis – including myself – believe that the sole objective behind the cabinet reshuffle was just to replace some influential key ministers who are not pro-Ethiopia such as Professor Gandhi and the former Foreign Minister Mr. Oomar, in exchange of political and military support from Ethiopia. To many Somalis, the “cabinet reshuffle” was just a cover-up to hide Sheikh Sharif and Sharmake’s total submission and obedience to Ethiopia’s Prime Minister from becoming publicly known.

Professor Gandhi wanted to build a strong Somali national army to replace those poor armed, poor trained clan militias who are now in government uniforms. And of course, these initiatives have angered Ethiopia, which is Somalia’s rival and historical enemy.

If truth be told, this is the untold story behind the replacement of Professor Gandhi as Somalia’s Minister of Defense. And as a final point, I would advise him to resign from his new portfolio.    

By: Dr. Mohamed Abbas



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