Former Somali PM named U prof

Seth Woehrle

Ali Galaydh has shuttled between the United States and Somalia countless times during the past 40 years. He came to the United States as a student and as a fugitive from a repressive government.

He returned earlier this year as the former prime minister of Somalia to bring his experience to the University as a visiting professor in the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, where he will teach classes for the next three years.

Born in northern Somalia, Galaydh received his primary education from a British colonial boarding school and received a scholarship to study in the United States. He earned his master’s degree and doctorate in public administration from the Maxwell School of Syracuse University.

In the 1960s, Galaydh held a position in the Somali Cabinet. He later took charge of two nationalized sugar corporations and became minister of industry.

He was forced to flee the country in 1982 on a small plane secretly flown in from Kenya after dictator Muhammad Siad Barre began detaining Western-educated Somalis.

In the United States, he became a fellow at Harvard University and returned to Syracuse to teach. Back in Somalia, Barre’s fall led to anarchy and famine.

A six-month open conference about the Somali government’s future resulted in Galaydh’s appointment as prime minister in September 2000. But he soon learned that his title came with many difficulties.

“You can’t create a state when you don’t have any resources or security,” he said. “Nothing I learned in my studies in public affairs had prepared me for this.”

Just over a year later, Galaydh lost a vote of confidence in parliament and was removed from office while he was in the United States testifying on Somali terrorism. He said the ousting was triggered by a constitutional disagreement with the president.

Last January, he returned to his family living in Owatonna, Minn., when his name came up as a possible candidate for a Humphrey Institute visiting professorship position.

His candidacy faced some objections. Abdi Samatar, a Somali and University geography professor, wrote a letter to former Humphrey Institute Dean John Brandl accusing Galaydh of embezzling millions while in charge of the sugar corporations. Galaydh said the rumor was part of a “whispering campaign” to discredit him.

Samatar did not return phone calls or
e-mail this week.

Brandl looked into the matter, and after consulting with U.N. and U.S. State Department officials, said that he thought the charges were unfounded.

“I have found no evidence whatsoever for these charges,” he said. “I’ve confronted people, and no one has said they have firsthand evidence of it. I’ve concluded that this man is being slandered.”

Ahmed Nur, who was Galaydh’s finance accountant at the sugar corporations, said the Barre government fabricated the allegations only after Galaydh fled the country, something he said was a common practice against enemies in Somalia.

He said even though he was from Somaliland, a northern area considered independent by residents who opposed Galaydh, he still believes the accusations to be false.

Hashim Mohamud, president of the Somali Student Association, said Galaydh is a good addition to the faculty and that most Somalis he knows think Galaydh did nothing wrong.

“I believe it is just the rumor-mongering that is part of politics in Somalia,” he said. “I think it’s a very good thing. He’s done a lot to bring together Somalis, and he’s going to bring a lot of experience to the ‘U’ of ‘M.'”

Seth Woehrle welcomes comments at [email protected]