A US-educated son of the Somali warlord who battled American forces in the famous Black Hawk Down confrontation of 1993 has hired a US consulting firm to build support in Washington for his run for the country’s presidency.
Hussein Mohamed Farrah Aidid is a US Marine veteran who served from 1987 through 1995, notably during Desert Storm as well as in Somalia. After leaving the military he succeeded his late father Gen. Mohamed Farrah Aidid as president in August 1996 but stepped down a year later. He later served as deputy prime minister in 2005-2007 before defecting to Eritrea after denouncing Ethiopia’s intervention in the country.
Aidid retained Situational Advising Analysis Consulting Services (dba Independent Intelligence Agency) of Miami to act as his campaign adviser and lobbyist when he first announced his candidacy in November 2018, according to a newly disclosed filing with the US Department of Justice. The firm explains in its registration under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) that it “was not until late 2020 that he initiated a more active role as a candidate.”
The firm says it will engage with “national and international entities and/or officials or representatives of governments, including lobbyists and legislators of national and international origin” on behalf of Aidid’s campaign and his Somalia National Alliance Party.
In a separate filing, the firm disclosed that it had communicated via phone and text with the embassies of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates during the six months through April regarding Aidid’s candidacy. The outreach to the two Gulf countries sheds light on the role outside actors are playing in Somali politics, with their regional rival Qatar widely seen as backing incumbent President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and his powerful spy chief, Fahad Yasin.
Reynaldo Santana, the firm’s chief operating, told Foreign Lobby Report that he had worked with Aidid since the mid-1990s, initially providing security services. He said he was working on the candidacy pro bono.
Santana said Aidid has been out of power for years and would bring a welcome change from President Mohamed, who is widely known as Farmaajo because of his love of cheese (formaggio in Italian, the language of Somalia’s former colonial ruler). The first-term president’s aborted attempt to extend his four-year term for another two years has come under blistering criticism from a Joe Biden administration that is demanding that elections be held without delay after President Mohamed’s term officially ended in February.
“The majority of the people and other governments wish for a new face,” Santana said. “They know that [ Aidid] has not been a participant in any form of corruption that has tarnished the living status of the people and the country.”
Santana said that securing public support from the Saudis and the UAE could prove key to gaining approval from Somali parliamentarians, who are set to decide the next president after plans for direct elections were scrapped last year amid lingering instability in the country. Under the current agreement, clan elders will appoint special delegates to pick lawmakers who in turn will choose the president.
“I believe that when one of those countries, if they decide to say, ‘hey, we feel that the person to lead Somalia in the 21st century should be Mr. Hussein Mohammed Farah Aidid’, if that word gets out … then everybody else will join forces,” Santana said. “The United States, Europe, all the countries will get on board if the first country steps up to the plate, everybody else will follow.”
He said such a show of support would telegraph to Somali lawmakers that “if he’s in place, their country will get full support from those countries, and whatever support is put in place will be used appropriately.”
Older filings show that Santana repeatedly reached out last year to the UN special representative for Somalia, James Swan, seeking support for Aidid’s candidacy amid allegations of Qatari financial support for Mohamed’s government. The Qatari government has rejected those claims, telling the New York Times that Doha “wholly rejects the claims about transferring undeclared cash and operating a shadow relationship” and that the country “plays a constructive role in Somalia.”
The registration comes as President Mohamed has launched his own influence campaign. With US criticism mounting, the Somali Embassy hired New Jersey-based lobbying firm LFA Holdings in late March for $150,000 to help organize a US visit for President Mohamed, as this news site first reported.
In addition, Hashi Warsame Abdi-Nur of Minneapolis is registered as a pro bono agent for the embassy.
Meanwhile the self-declared sovereign state of Somaliland, which opposes Mohamed’s rule, has a $22,000-per-month contract with FGH Holdings (formerly the Glover Park Group).
Santana’s firm was also previously registered to lobby for the president of the State of Galmudug, Ahmed Duale Gelle Haaf until the end of his term last year. Lobbying disclosures show the firm also reached out to the UN’s Swan on Haaf’s behalf during clashes with President Mohamed’s government.