On 30 September, as the African Union’s Peace and Security Council (PSC) convened, all eyes were on one man: the National Security Advisor (NSA) of Somalia, Hussein Sheikh-Ali, popularly known as Hussein Maalim. His anticipated statement was awaited, given the escalating concerns around Somalia’s security transition. But as he began to articulate his views, many in the room found themselves navigating through a quagmire of contradictions and a perceived evasion of responsibility.
Mogadishu, SOMALIA. By Kheyr:
Participants at the PSC described Maalim’s statement as meandering—lacking focus and clarity. This was not the reasoned argument and precise narrative many had expected from the NSA of a nation on the precipice of major security decisions. Instead, there was an overt attempt to lay the blame elsewhere, with Maalim pointing fingers at the previous Somali administration for crafting the Somali Transition Plan (STP) that he now finds misaligned with the current government’s objectives.
This stance raised immediate eyebrows. Not only was it a departure from established protocols—publicly discrediting a strategic framework that the nation had committed to—but it also revealed an inconsistency in Maalim’s position. The international community, including the African Union (AU), had been reaching out to the NSA since his appointment in May 2022, offering opportunities to discuss, revisit, or modify the STP. Back then, Maalim seemed dismissive of the STP’s significance, confiding to close associates that the plan was merely a tool of foreign interests.
Last minute surprises
Further, this newfound scepticism towards the STP is at odds with Maalim’s recent pronouncements. As recently as 14 September, he appeared confident, asserting that the technical delay was unnecessary and advocated for adhering to the STP verbatim. This self-assuredness was so profound that during the same PSC meeting, not only did the Somali government support the withdrawal of the 3,000 ATMIS troops, but it also surprisingly pushed for an additional exit of 850 AU police personnel—a decision that wasn’t even on the agenda.
Even Uganda, traditionally sympathetic to the Somali government, expressed its displeasure at the PSC meeting. The Ugandan delegation was unimpressed by the Somali government’s actions, criticizing them for bypassing the AU and for springing surprises at the last moment, particularly after their assurances on 14 September that all was well.
It’s this erratic oscillation between dismissal, endorsement, and now criticism of the STP that confounds observers and stakeholders. The question many are asking is clear: If the STP was so discordant with the government’s objectives, as Maalim now claims, why did he champion its rigorous implementation just weeks ago?
Next plea in three months?
In the corridors post-meeting, the question on many delegates’ lips was about guarantees. How could the international community, especially the AU, ensure that Maalim would not be back in three months with another plea for delay? Given his track record of contradictory stances and last-minute changes, such concerns are relevant.
Maalim’s performance at the PSC has not just cast doubts over his diplomatic consistency, but it has also shone a spotlight on his ability to lead Somalia’s critical security transition. As the nation navigates the treacherous waters of geopolitics, security, and domestic stability, clarity, consistency, and diplomatic acumen will be paramount. One can only hope that Somalia’s leadership recognizes the stakes and steers the ship with more foresight and fewer contradictions.