Open letter to the Emir of Qatar: Has the news from Jubaland reached you?

Your Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani,

I write to you to deliver a message from the besieged people of Jubbaland, Somalia. Have you heard about the brutal blockade imposed on the people of Jubaland by the rogue Mogadishu-based government that misgoverns my country with your backing and blessing? Has the news of the human tragedy unfolding in the Jubbaland State of Somalia reached you? What have the poor and vulnerable people of Jubaland done to you and your country to deserve such savage and egregious assault on their humanity and dignity in the hands of the proxies of the Al-Thani ruling family in Mogadishu?

Your Highness,

Since the imposition of the blockade on your country by your Arab neighbors and former allies two years ago, you and your envoys have been going around the world to protest against the decision by Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt to punish and isolate your country. You have even spent a fortune to procure the services of highflying public relations firms to lobby great powers and influential global opinion makers on your and your country’s behalf. During the recently concluded United Nations General Assembly meeting, you spoke articulately and passionately about the hardships suffered by your people following the blockade slabbed on Qatar. Your speech included the following moving statement:

I stand before you while my country and people are subjected to a continuing and unjust blockade imposed since June the 6th {2017} by neighboring countries. The blockade involves all aspects of life including severing family ties…The blockade was imposed abruptly and without warning, prompting Qataris to consider it a kind of betrayal (highlights added).

Your Highness,

How could you reconcile the polar opposites so profoundly ingrained in your ways and so profusely esteemed in your governance? How can you so vehemently condemn and resist the isolation of your country by rival Arab nations and at the same time enable and empower your proxies in Mogadishu to blockade ‘abruptly and without warning’ and collectively punish a people much poorer and more vulnerable that ordinary Qataris? What gain is there for the ruling Al-Thani family in depriving the children of Jubaland of the vaccines so critical for their health and development? How can you remain silent when known Qatari assets in Mogadishu use and deploy funds and military arsenal provided by your country to deny the elderly, the sick and pregnant mothers the medical care they urgently need? Are the children, elderly and mothers of Jubaland less human than their Qatari counterparts? Do they not deserve the basic human rights, freedoms, and dignity you persistently and proudly proclaim for your people?

The people of Jubaland do not have the billions of dollars and huge investment assets that allowed you to transport by air herds of Holstein cows from Europe overnight to ensure that Qatari families and households have milk for their children. However, they, by the grace of Almighty God, shall survive the unjust and egregious assault on their lives, livelihoods and dignity.

Qatari’s current stance on Jubaland in particular and Somalia in general is all the more perplexing when one looks at the enlightened visions and generous contributions your small country has made towards global peace and sustainable development in recent years. In this connection I would mention the Educate-A-Child program funded by Qatar. As a former senior UN official, I had witnessed the positive impact of this program in Africa and Asia. In the case of Somalia, I was part of a team that worked on one such project that was implemented by UNESCO and UNICEF several years ago. It is difficult to understand how a country capable of showing such generosity suddenly allows itself to be linked to what is increasingly seen as a predatory cabal and associated criminal networks hell-bent on recklessly gambling away the sovereignty of my country and the dignity of my people. How could a rational royal mind reconcile showering a child with the blessings of education and subjecting the same child to unimaginable indignities, including debilitating levels of deprivation, even starvation?

Your Highness,

This humble open letter and the howls of gut-wrenching protests it carries would not be complete without bringing to your attention the piece published by New York Times on 22 July 2019, outlining how your country has destabilized mine with guns, cash and terrorism. The reputable newspaper revealed in great and graphic details the extent to which Qatar went to wreck the fragile peace in my country. The words of Khalifa Kayed al-Muhanadi, a businessman and reportedly a confidant of yours, and your Ambassador to Somalia clearly indicate Qatar has a dirty hand in the deadly business terrorist are conducting in Somalia. If true, this seems to confirm the serious accusation your gulf rivals leveled against the State of Qatar.

Your Highness,

You have every right to stand up for and defend the sovereignty and dignity of your country and people. But you have no right to bankroll the dirty war being waged against the people of Jubaland and Somalia as a whole. The $385 million you pledged reportedly to support education, infrastructure and humanitarian needs in the country are likely to be used to underpin the machinery of intimidation, terror and oppression routinely deployed by Villa Somalia against its own people. The same applies to the 68 armored vehicles you recently shipped to Mogadishu. Clear signs of this are already evident in Jubaland. The vast arsenal and loads of ammunition the Qatar delegation promised to deliver to Villa Somalia during the Somalia Partnership Forum concluded in Mogadishu yesterday will either be used to suppress all forms of dissent or will end up in the hands of Al-Shabab.

‘Just talk to our friends from the simple people of Somalia.’

One last thing Your Highness.

In the audio recording obtained by The New York Times, your close associate, al-Muhanadi, urged your Ambassador to our country: ‘Just talk to our friends from the simple people of Somalia.’ I do not know what he means by ‘the simple people of Somalia.’  However, this statement in my opinion smacks of the medieval form of racism many ignorant Arabs display towards black people. I do not believe that al-Muhanadi and your Ambassador to Somalia represent the views and judgement of all Qataris. But I am afraid many like them might be lurking in the corridors of power in the government and state of Qatar.

Your Highness,

Please keep your guns, cash and purveyors of terror away from my country and my people. And for God’s sake also keep the wealthy racists and ignorant bigots in your midst where they belong: their enclave of choice in Qatar. Somalia has just started the process of moving out of the degrading and deeply humiliating legacy of a failed state. Its Provisional Constitution (PC) is in disarray and highly contested. Its institutions are fragile and extremely vulnerable to infiltration, destabilization, corruption, and even takeover by internal usurpers and/or external predators. We do not need al-Muhanadi and people like him.

May the peace and blessings of God be upon you.

Prof. Hassan Keynan is a retired former senior UN Official who worked in Africa, Asia and Europe. He can be reached at keynanhassan@yahoo.com

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