Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Michael Ignatieff's Man in Somalia

Adam Esse wants to be President of Puntland

With Somali pirates continuing to grab headlines in the international media, one could have expected it would only be a matter of time until the issue was raised in Somalia.

Interestingly enough, it's become an issue in the Puntland Presidential election. Even more interestingly, it's being raised by a Canadian candidate, who is contesting the Presidency against yet another Canadian.

Puntland is a semi-autonomous region within Somalia.

Adam Esse, who also holds a Canadian citizenship, believes that the piracy issue in Somalia can be solved by creating more jobs there.

"I want to become president to change the bad situation that we have over here in terms of security, stability, the economy, education and equality between the genders," Esse recently announced.

Spoken like a true Liberal. And interestingly enough, it just so happens that Adam Esse is a member of the Liberal Party of Canada. He was a delegate for Michael Ignatieff during the 2006 Liberal leadership campaign.

Some may have considered Esse to be something of an oddity at the leadership convention, as he had arranged a meeting in which Aly Hindy accused Liberal deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety Anne McLellan of "terrorizing" Canadian Muslims.

"If you try to cross the line I can't guarantee what is going to happen. Our young people, we can't control," Hindy said at the time. "The police came to me and said, 'This is a kind of threat', and I said yes. But it's for the good of this country."

"We believe CSIS should stop terrorizing us," Hindy wrote in a pamphlet in which he encouraged Muslims not to cooperate with terrorism-related investigations. "CSIS is powerless. CSIS has no authority over you. If CSIS agents come to your door, do not open it for them."

Less than a year later, as many Canadians may recall, 18 suspects were arrested for a terrorist plot against the Prime Minister, Parliament and the CBC. While Hindy almost certainly was not involved in this, his encouragement to Canadian Muslims to not cooperate with terrorism-related investigates could have made this plot more difficult to detect than it had to be.

At the time, however, Adam Esse offered excuses for Hindy's behaviour. "Some people, when they talk, they get a little heated," Esse mused. "If you talk, you remove a lot of misconceptions, a lot of misunderstandings."

Of course, what Esse forgets to mention is that there are some things that talk is insufficient to address.

For example, Hindy noted to the media that six or seven young Muslim men had asked him about joining insurgent forces in Iraq or Afghanistan. Hindy wisely told them "people fighting in Iraq, they don't need more people," and told them to wage a non-violent struggle at home.

However, when asked by the RCMP if he knew the identities of any individuals who may engage in violent actions, Hindy told them "you just open the telephone directory" despite clearly knowing the identities of up to seven potential terrorists. In this particular case, these individuals had discussed travelling to Afghanistan in order to fight against Canadian soldiers.

Considering Michael Ignatieff's fairly vigilant stance toward Afghanistan in particular, it seems fairly surprising that Adam Esse would be a delegate for him while seemingly associating with individuals such as Aly Hindy.

The other Canadian in the race for the Putland Presidency is Mohamud Muse Hersi, the incumbent.

Hersi has faced international criticism for his inability to get the piracy situation in Puntland under control. Hersi has even been accused of collusion with pirates. More specifically, Hersi has been accused of allowing Somali pirates to operate out of Puntland's ports and hold hijacked ships for ransom.

Hersi has also been accused of personally profiting from oil contracts.

The wealth appropriated through piracy in Puntland -- an estimated $60 million annually -- is three times the government's annual budget of $20 million. Many blame the lack of a central Somali government, and its accompanying poverty, for the prevalence of piracy there.

It would be interesting to see how the Canadian government -- whether headed by Michael Ignatieff or not -- would interact with either Hersi or Esse as the President of Puntland. With the President of Puntland holding a Canadian citizenship, Puntland -- and perhaps Somalia in general -- could become a logical focal point for Canadian foreign aid.

With Canada already involved in the fight to prevent UN aid shipments from pirates, close cooperation with a regional President who is also a Canadian citizen only makes sense.

However, judging from some of the characters Adam Esse associates with while on this side of the Atlantic Ocean, some Canadians could find cause for concern should be become the President of Puntland, just as the accusations of corruption against Mohamud Hersi are very troubling.

1 comment:

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