Government in Exile

Back a year ago, College Guide reported on the unusual story of Mohammed Abdullahi Mohammed, a professor at a Buffalo community college who had recently been sworn in as prime minister of troubled Somalia.

It didn’t work out so well. According to an article by Esther Breger in The New Republic:

Mohamed thought he knew how governments worked. But the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia isn’t like most governments. “No budget! There was no budget!” he told me. “Nobody got paid!” Though it controlled only parts of Mogadishu and provided few public services, the government had more than 500 members of parliament (many of whom live in Nairobi) and 39 Cabinet ministers.

Mohamed got caught in a power struggle between President Sharif and the speaker of the parliament, Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden. The transitional government was set to expire, and elections were scheduled for August of this year; the president hoped to delay them, but the speaker wanted to run for president himself and opposed the postponement. A deal was eventually brokered to extend the government until August 2012. But the speaker saw Mohamed as a threat because of his anti-corruption stance and popularity, and he became the sacrificial lamb. “I never thought that they were so disingenuous and dishonest,” Mohamed told me. When the agreement was announced, riots broke out in Mogadishu, and Somalis as far afield as Nairobi and Minneapolis protested. Many wanted Mohamed to challenge the arrangement, but, on June 19, he resigned….

And so he’s back in Buffalo. He’s now working as a regional compliance specialist at the Buffalo office of the New York Department of Transportation.

“I don’t know why people love power,” Mohamed said to Breger: “I like this life. I like to sit here, get a newspaper or a book, and read here while I’m drinking my coffee.”

His office is a cubicle, which is decorated with photographs of his family, a framed diploma from SUNY Buffalo “and two certificates for employee excellence.” In seven years he can retire with a full pension.

There’s no word yet on whether or not he will resume teaching conflict resolution at Erie Community College, where he’d been before becoming prime minister.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer