Search This Blog

Monday, June 8, 2009

Beware the BBC Somali Service

The fledgling government of Somalia does not only have to contend with the well-armed and well-funded warlords of Mogadishu but also has to face another mightier weapon at the disposal of the warlords: that is the regular propaganda support they receive from the BBC Somali Service sadly headed by someone by the name of Yussuf Garaad. For those who do not know, the name Garaad is a nickname which would normally evoke qualities such as wisdom and fairness. In Yussuf's case, it is a misnomer.

He is simply a warlord collaborator masquerading as a respectable BBC employee. From the time he took over the BBC Somali Section, the service has changed from an icon among the Somali broadcasting stations inside and outside the country to a mediocre service pandering to the personal agenda of the head of the Section.

Those who are old enough will no doubt recall with nostalgia those golden old days of the BBC Somali Service. A broadcasting service is of course as good as the quality of its broadcasters and those who manage it. The BBC Somali Service has been very fortunate in the past in both these respects- until unfortunately Mr. Yussuf Garaad came on the scene some years ago. Its first broadcaster, seconded in 1957 from Radio Hargeisa, was the well-known and highly respected Haji Abdi Dualeh, the father of Somali broadcasting. A stream of distinguished announcers came after him: men like Aden Farah, Mohamed Abokor Haji Farah, Mohamed Abshir Yussuf, Mustafa Haji Nur, Ismail Haji Abdi, Hussein Mohamed Bullaleh, Osman Suguleh, Ahmed Ismail Samater, Idris Hassan Deria-just to name a few. It has been headed for many years by the late. C.J Martin who will always be remembered for his deep attachment to Somalia and its people. After his retirement, he was succeeded by Hugh Walker, AbdiRahman Abby Farah, Patrick Gilks and Mohamoud Abdullahi, all of whom had maintained the highest standards and integrity of the Service that its listeners had came to cherish.

What Yussuf Garad has done to the BBC Somali Service is a mirror image of what his alter egos, the warlords, had done to Mogadishu. Just as the warlords unleashed a systematic and savage ethnic cleansing in Mogadishu soon after the fall of the Siyad Barre government and thereafter turned their guns on one another thereby reducing the once beautiful and historical city of Mogadishu into ashes and ruins to the detriment of future Somali generations if not mankind, so has Mr. Garaad eviscerated, some would say vandalised, the BBC Somali Service soon after his appointment as its Chief Editor.

In one swoop, he got rid of more than half of the staff of the service only to replace them with inexperienced novices from his clan. Those victims were highly experienced and popular announcers w hose only misfortune was to serve as sacrificial lamps to give place to Yusuf Garad̢۪s nominees.Parallel to his in-house revolution at the Somali Service in London, he also recruited correspondents inside and outside Somalia, most of them from his clan.

This brutal restructuring of the Service has given Mr. Yussuf Garaad almost total domination of the service which he now uses in pursuit of his personal whims but above all in support to the warlords. Those who know him close enough would diagnose his tribalism as typical of that mindless strain that would see anyone not from his tribe (****** ) as an enemy, and within the ****** anyone who is not from his sub-clan ***** as an outsider and in the end anyone who does not belong to his sub-sub clan ******** as no kinsman.
This is the worst form of tribalism. It afflicts not only ordinary folks back home in Somalia whose defensive psyche may have been shaped by their security and basic needs in the absence of government. But its carriers also include so-called sophisticated individuals among the Diaspora who peddle in this primitive evil from their safe distance abroad but in the end ensure that the ordinary people back home are the victims irrespective of their tribe or clan. Those who regularly follow the programmes of the Somali Services can doubtlessly point to numerous occasions when the Section under Yussuf Garad's supervision has been flagrantly one-sided and partisan. You only have to compare the different treatments meted to President Abdulqasim Salaad Hassan and President Abullahi Yussuf at the time of their election. In a nutshell, Yussuf Garaad's BBC Somali Service gave full backing to President Abdulqasim, his cousin.

Much as this smacks of nepotism, I would still continue to support such a stand which did not only benefit Abdulqasim but could also have served as the necessary catalyst for the revival and restoration of the Somali State. Has he treated President Abdullahi Yussuf and his government in a similar manner or at least remained impartial?. As it is, the BBC Somali Service has spared no effort to derail the government of Abdullahi Yussuf well before it sets its foot in the country.

This is the same objective as that of the warlords and their backers. Full publicity had been given to the wayward speaker of the national Parliament, to dissident MPs, and above all to the warlords, all of whom are united in their opposition to the deployment of peacekeeping forces from neighbouring countries.The worst examples of the use of the BBC Somali Service for propaganda purposes are the coverage given to demonstrations organized and orchestrated by the warlords in Mogadishu, Marca and other places.

On a number of occasions, the BBC correspondent in Mogadishu, Farxiya Cali, would devote her entire daily dispatch to the BBC to the mantra of well selected individuals almost all saying the same thing as if the whole show has been rehearsed in advance. This should not be surprising as the demonstrators may be the militia of the warlords or their hangers-on. I cannot recall a single individual interviewed who said anything different.

This is reminiscent of Siyad Barre's days when pro-governmen't demonstrators would predictably chant the same slogans with no discordant voice. How did the BBC come to be used in this sordid manner? That is the one-million dollar question. What is certainly true is that the BBC would have heeded listeners' concerns if they were to mobilise themselves and complain to the top echelons of the organization. This is essential not only to defend the new Somali government from Yussuf Garaad but no less importantly to save our beloved BBC Somali Service from his mischievous machinations. There will come a time in the near future, we hope, when Somalia will have an ambassador in Britain who naturally will look after our interest and ensure that Yussuf Garad is defanged and can no longer visit any harm on Somalia or on the Somali Service. In the meantime, protests through all possible channels, including email messages, would serve an important role. Silence is the worst option.

Mohamoud Oogle

Midnimadu waa lama huraan.