Ali Galaydh isn’t followed by an entourage of bodyguards anymore.
But six years ago, when the University professor was serving as prime minister of Somalia, he rarely traveled without one.
Galaydh accepted a position at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs in 2002, less than a year after he was voted out of Somalia’s parliament.
Public affairs professor John Brandl, who was dean of the Humphrey Institute when Galaydh was hired, said he was proud to welcome the former African leader to the faculty.
“A lot of us here have government experience in legislature or Congress Ö but there’s no one else here that’s been the prime minister of a country,” Brandl said.
Somalia has had no centralized national government since 1991, when warlords ousted former dictator Siad Barre, plunging the nation into civil war.
In 2000, Galaydh attended a Somali peace conference in Djibouti as a representative for the Somali Business Council. As one of more than 600 delegates, he helped draft a constitution and form a transitional parliament during the six-month meeting.
Galaydh ran for president against 45 other candidates and finished third in the primary.
“As one does in politics, I made the choice of joining forces with the number two (vote-getter). When he was elected president, he appointed me as prime minister,” Galaydh said.
The parliament had trouble establishing its authority in the country’s capital, Mogadishu.
“We went back to Mogadishu with absolutely no resources, no police force, no offices, no accommodations, no revenue, no nothing,” Galaydh said.
At the time, five warlords ruled the capital city, he said.
“The only thing we could do was negotiate and reason with them,” Galaydh said.
But because of Ethiopia’s adamant support of the warlords’ fight against the new parliament, security was never established.
“Ethiopia sees a Somali state as a potential rival and would like to do everything possible to make sure there is no strong national government,” Galaydh said.
Because of the tense situation, Galaydh’s life often was in danger, but he said he refused to live in fear.
“If you want to swim with the sharks, you better not bleed,” Galaydh said. “You have to have really cool nerves if you want to be in a place like that.”
Galaydh was forced to step down as prime minister in December 2001 because of disagreements with the former president, Abdulkassim Salat Hassan.
“(Hassan) didn’t believe in what was in the constitution; the only thing he knew was that he was the next dictator,” Galaydh said.
Galaydh serves as a role model for the Twin Cities Somali community – one of the largest in the United States, said University pharmacy junior Jibril Hamud, vice president of the Somali Student Association.
“It’s good for the Somali students at the ‘U’ and for community members who look up to him, go to school and maybe even (aspire to) become a professor like him someday,” Hamud said.
But there was some concern in the Somali community at first, professor John Brandl said.
“People started sending me letters and e-mails objecting to him and accusing him of corruption,” he said.
After speaking with members of the U.S. State Department and the United Nations, Brandl said he concluded the objections were “baseless.”
Somalia’s political situation has changed since Galaydh left.
The capital is now controlled by the Union of Islamic Courts, a militia that drove out the secular warlords who ruled the city for 15 years. The weakened transitional government is based outside of Mogadishu, in the city of Baidoa.
Some suspect the United States of supporting the transitional government – teaming with Ethiopia and the warlords who oppose the Islamists – with weapons and funding, Galaydh said.
Abdulahi Hussein, an economics sophomore who was born in Somalia and fled the country in 1994, said he hopes ongoing peace talks stabilize the country.
“I think it would be better if the government compromised with the Islamic Courts,” Hussein said.
But after a car bomb and gun battle killed 11 people in Mogadishu Monday, in what’s being viewed as an assassination attempt on the president, Galaydh said it’s likely the situation will worsen.