Somaliland: Who is Mr. Abdirahman Irro?


At Egal international airport Supporters give Irro a warm welcome back from international engagement/file

Count Down to Irro’s subsequent Victories and Lessons for New Post-Colonial School Generation Politicians: From Senior Police Officer’s First Son to Speaker, Party Chairman and Presidential Candidacy

Somalilandsun – Mr. Abdirahman Mohamed Abdillahi, the Speaker of Somaliland’s House of Representatives, and the Leader of Waddani Political Party as well as Presidential Candidate has vivid history of victories, one after another that an ambitious Somali person can learn something from. Well, someone might ask, why jump to this conclusion just at the start of this article, but let me say, without diving in to the success points of this man, his attainment of current credentials and titles from fragile contexts can make someone belonging to exemplary life. These victories which will be detailed hereunder do not only reveal Irro’s traits and character as an ambitious, hardworking, brave, confident and at all times fortunate, but serve a role model for those pursuing to win hearts of their opponents to say the least, for those who wish to involve in politics without sinking to tribalism, for those who desire to swim through the ocean-waves of the Somali clan-based politics without getting wet with the dirt of nepotism, favoritism and violence, for those who want to balance gaining support from diverse communities without losing their strongholds and lastly but not the least, for the new middle-aged generation who will substitute the old, colonial school leadership. Mr. Irro, is in fact an example of calm, sharp, diplomatic leader with vision and high level of confidence, a lot of what our future post-war generation leadership needs.

Brief Background

Mr. Irro was born in Hargeisa Group Hospital in 1953 as the son of a senior police officer, Mr. Mohamed Abdillahi Egal (Irro Weyne, the grey-haired) from whom he gained many of the disciplined life as his father was described as very straight-forward and last-minute speaker. Irro has studied elementary and intermediate studies in Hargeisa, Berbera and Burao, the center of Somaliland as his father was transferred time after another. His secondary education was at the prestigious Sheikh Secondary School which harbored only those with high scores from the elementary schools. During his childhood, he lived in Buuhoodle, Burao, Oodweyne, Berbera and Hargeisa and that has provided him a wide social network and context knowledge. In fact, most of the friendship networks penetrating party and clan-lines that he enjoys today are from his classes. For one glance, former mayors of Hargeisa Mr. Ji’ir and of Berbera Mr. Abdalle have been classmates of Irro in Berbera and Hargeisa. No doubt, the amount of support he gained from his childhood friends is unmeasurable. The first lesson here is, get acquainted knowledge of your people and country and leave legacy of your behavior to your friends. This is obviously helpful as you can see today a lot of politicians deprived of friends. During Sheikh Secondary School, Mr. Irro has tested the grip of leadership as he has become a member of the House Committee (vice-chairman) that represents students and manages their affairs. The lesson here is to take in charge of small responsibilities before endeavoring major ones.

After his completion of secondary education gaining the highest grade ever (kaalinta koowaad) from 7.7.77 final exam in Sheikh school, he joined SIDAM and studied Accounting as the first degree and Master Degree (MBA) from American University while working at the same time at the Settlement Development Agency (Dan-wadaagaha) in different parts of Somalia. From 1981 he started working in the foreign service of the Somali Democratic Republic. After a lot of disappointing and discouraging times where he was blocked from opportunities to work in foreign embassies by the leadership of the Foreign Affairs Ministry he was finally allowed to serve in the Somali Embassy as the first consular in Moscow which covered all over Soviet Union states, one of the two super powers at the time. In 1991 he resumed as the acting ambassador in the Soviet Union. During this period, he has supported tens of thousands of the Somali people who have fled from the civil war. According to some estimates, he has issued more than 20 000 visas for Somali people, while also helping those stranded in other parts of Eastern Europe. He also arranged plenty scholarships for the Somali people from all corners of Somalia, while supporting the living costs of many. It is estimated that more than 65 000 of those refugees in Europe and North America have passed Moscow with his assistance. Another very important support he facilitated at his personal capacity to the Somali people was the transfer of money through official bank accounts as there were no any transfer companies at the time. Not to mention here that he was serving his people completely on voluntary basis without salary or running costs at a time the Soviet Union has entirely collapsed. In fact, many of those who have voluntarily supported him throughout his political career from the 1990s until today are from diverse clans and throughout the world and those whom he helped at their difficult times. The third lesson here is to support all people regardless of their identity when holding public office. This can be a good lesson for those who believe the office they occupy is the share of their clan.

After serving Somali people since 1996, he moved to Finland to join his family who moved there some years before him, while he remained in Moscow to support the Somali people. Right after he was in Finland, he joined the Somaliland Finnish Associated where he selflessly worked with his close friend Eng. Faysal Ali Farah whom they become brothers. For the first time, Somaliland Finnish Community has received projects from the Finnish government ahead of other immigrant organizations. For the first time, a Somali NGO in Finland has received grants from the Finnish Foreign Ministry to support Somaliland or Somalia. The first Finnish-Fact Finding mission to Somaliland was carried out in 1999 followed by a plenty of projects that continue until today.

Stirred up by the wide destruction, human suffering and vulnerability of Somaliland people who have just recovered from a self-inflicted civil war and at the same time inspired by the great hope of the Somaliland people Mr. Irro has jointly formed the UCID political party with Eng. Faysal Ali Warabe. At the same time, Faysal was the chairman of Somaliland Finnish Association and Irro the vice-chairman for 3 consecutive terms. The trust founded by their amicable, friendship and sincere concern for the plight of their people was the foundation of their cooperation. Without much preparation in terms of funds, Faysal and Irro have finally returned to Somaliland and shared the same house for some years. UCID political party was the first opposition party formally formed in Somaliland after the ruling UDUB party while the other politicians simply opposed the democratization process because they did not see it benefiting their main aim which was to put down Egal (AHN) by any means. UCID also wholeheartedly supported the Referendum which put the foundation for the multi-party system, a process which many politicians have opposed and saw favoring Egal (AHN). In fact, Irro was at the center of UCID party together with Faysal almost managing the day-to-day business of the party.

The Beacon of Success

In 2005, Irro ran for the parliamentary election in Sahil region, winning the King-of-Votes position (boqorka codka) in Sahil not only within his party but in the whole region. He won with almost one-fourth (25%) of his parties’ votes. This victory together with the backing of UCID party and specially his friend Faysal Ali Warabe and other party comrades, he pursued to the position of the Speaker of the House of Representatives. This was difficult to even think about such position as UCID had only 17% of the House seats but the power calculation and the grit for his ambition has helped his determination. The calculated power ended to the fact that UDUB and Kulmiye could never share the leadership of the House and none-could get majority except UCID’s support. Strategically, the chairmanship (Shir-guddoonka) of the House which was seen as indivisible and thus spurring win-lose perceived outcome was broadened in order to accommodate the other party. On this basis, UCID approached UDUB and asked to share the chairmanship (Shir-guddoonka), being confident in getting the only needed 8 votes from opposition parties, UDUB offered the second vice-chairman of the House but UCID immediately approached Kulmiye who was desperate to get opposition House in order to pressure UDUB party through the majority House of Representatives. Finally, Kulmiye agreed to take the first and second vice-chairman positions. Against the full opposition of the ruling government, with its political, economic and clan-manipulation power, Irro was elected as the Speaker of Somaliland’s House of Representatives.

Soon after this, the real picture of Mr. Irro has come to the political arena of Somaliland. Some people characterize Irro’s political behavior as “rat-biting”style—mixture of calm and silent but strongly strategic and focusing to major gains than daily politics. Irro has kept acting with the end in mind, action than speaking, and thinking than talking while his colleagues especially Samale was critically engaged in expression of his opposition to the Riyale government. The main power which UDUB government was concerned was about the power associated to the Speaker of the elected House as independent organ of Somaliland state who had access to international community, neighboring countries, and international organizations and companies which cross-checked their dealings with the parliament. In fact, Irro had created broader diplomatic ties than the government ranging from international inter-parliamentary networks and other parliaments in different parts of the world including Europe, Africa and Asia. One tangible result of Irro’s achievements is the complete replacement and reconstruction of both Houses of Parliament buildings (Guurti and G. Wakiilada). In addition, Irro has emerged as an over-arching leader who sometimes mediates the opposition and the government (while he himself was an opposition). As a result, Rayale and his close advisors have realized the strength of opposition parliament and tried to replace him by firstly changing the bylaws of the House with absolute-majority (42) votes as they realized the difficulty of getting two-third (56) votes to directly replace him. As soon as the government started such campaign, Irro and his allies which were mainly from Kulmiye (because even some UCID members have worked against him at some point) have put together an impeachment as a deterrent which has exacerbated the situation and resulted instant defeat of Riyale’s government and eventual loss of public confidence. One can refer to US Wikileaks documents about this saga and Irro’s creative engagement with the international community as well as his involvement in the final six-points resolution.

Same History Again

(“History repeats itself”, by Ibnu Khaldun, Muslim Historian)

To be continued…… (ha sugiwaayin qaybaha dambe)

Dr. Abdiwahab Cabdillahi Iidaan


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