Gandhi in Somalia

The writer is skeptical about whether his friend, a mild mannered historian and anthropologist, can do his new job: "President" of an autonomous Somali republic.

Mohamed Abdi Mohamed aka Gandhi.

I have known Professor Mohamed Abdi Mohamed aka Gandhi for many years. I read his books and pamphlets devoted to the history of his native Somalia. A longtime resident of Besancon, France, we occasionally met in Paris or in Djibouti. A former researcher at the IRD (Institut de recherche pour le développement) in Paris, Gandhi, have suddenly become an international political figure.

On April 3 2011, Professor Gandhi was sworn in as the interim president of the newly-created state called Azaaniya in Nairobi. Originally known as Jubaland, Azaania comprises lower and middle Juba and Gedo regions on the Kenya-Somalia border, a region partly occupied by Al Shabaab troops and inhabited by 1.3 million people and the focus of media attention in the last few weeks.

Professor Gandhi hardly engaged publicly in politics before 2000 when he became an active member of the Peace talks held in Arta, Djibouti, and resulting in the establishment of the Transitional National Government of Somalia (TNG). Yet I can’t still imagine the soft-spoken, mild mannered and almost sly scholar in the roughest political arena of East Africa.

When I heard he was nominated Minister of Defense of the TNG in 2009 I was speechless. A few months later he was dismissed. I thought he would soon vanish in the the slippy soil of Somalian politics. I was wrong.

It is no secret that Professor Gandhi lacks both experience and charisma. Gandhi is the mere creation of Nairobi and not the face and voice of a tangible grassroots movement similar to the experience of Somaliland. But again I might be wrong.

Further Reading