Amina Mohamed, Keny’s foreign minister (left) and Fauzia Yusuf Haji Adan, Somali foreign minister (right)
by Muuse Yuusuf
Thursday, April 25, 2013
A unique revolution in gender politics is taking place in East Africa, a region not known for giving political power to women. And as incredible as it may sound, Somalia, a county which has been accused of oppressing women, is uncharacteristically leading these huge changes. Indeed, Somalia is the fifth worse place in the world to be a woman. Genital mutilation, domestic violence, rape and lack of education are common. In recent years, women’s situation in this patriarchal society has made been worse by the arrival of a punch of Wahabiya inspired “Islamists” who forced women to cover their bodies from toe to head, as they stoned some women to death for alleged adultery. One only needs to remember the fate of a teen age girl, a victim of rape, who was barbarically stoned to death in Kismayo during the Al-Shabab’s reign.
Well, all that may well be becoming things of the past because of what has happened in this conservative Muslim nation. Out of the blue and uncharacteristically Somali, president Hassan Sh. Mohamoud appointed two women in his cabinet: Maryan Qasim Ahmed, minister for development and social affairs, and more importantly Fauzia Yusuf Haji Adan, foreign affairs minister. This is one or three high political positions that a handful of African women have ever held, including Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda’s minister of foreign affairs, Amina Mohamed, Kenya’s foreign minister, and of course Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia. Indeed, it is very rare to hear women being appointed to higher political positions in this male-dominated continent where women are treated as second class citizens.
For whatever reason behind the president’s decision, whether he meant to discredit and undermine “Islamists” who have been oppressing women, the decision was very important political event in Somalia that may well be a prelude to good things to come to women in the future, particularly in the politics of women empowerment and gender equality. The honourable minister has recognised the importance of her nomination when she said: “It turns a new page for the political situation of our country.”
Furthermore, if this sensitive but sensible political decision taken in a conservative Muslim country shows any thing about the Somali character, it shows that Somalis are intelligent, natural-born leaders and brave people who can make excellent decisions in certain difficult situations. Although the Somali character has been soiled by the never-ending civil strive, the Somali character still remains resilient, intelligent and brave, and this positive side of the character will come out of its cage once the dust of the civil war has settled down. Indeed, during the hay-day of the Somali state (1960-900, Somalis proved to be natural leaders and excellent diplomats in resolving protract red conflicts between nations.
Look no further to find out the positive impact of this brave decision on other countries in the region. The government of Kenya, a male dominated society, has accepted the wisdom of the Somali government’s decision to nominate woman to one of the highest political positions. President Uhuru Kenyatta nominated honourable Amina Mohamed, a career diplomat and lawyer, as his country’s foreign minister. What makes this news juicy and interesting is that the lady is Somali in a country where Somalis are considered as a minority group and are treated as second citizens. More importantly, it is her skills, education, and career achievements that have propelled her to the forefront of this competitive male-dominated society. Indeed before becoming foreign minister she was vying for the top position of the World Trade Organization (WTO), a huge international organisation that regulates trade between nations.
My taking from these political events is that we Somalis can be good models to others and can show the rest of the world that we are natural-born leaders, intelligent, brave, wise and hard working people. The only thing we need to do is to set aside our petty squabbles and disagreements that make us look stupid and ignorant
I cannot wait to see our Somali ladies meeting in Nairobi or Mogadishu as foreign ministers to discuss their countries’ political affairs.
And finally, le me say Kudos to Fauzia Yusuf Haji Adan, our foreign minister, for having persuaded the UK government to open its embassy in Mogadishu, the only EU country to do so.