Just seven weeks into her appointment as Somalia’s first female Central Bank Governor, Yussur Abrar has resigned. In a letter to President Hassan Mohamud dated October 30th, Abrar explains that she gave up her post because of political interference to sanction deals that would go against the interest of the Somali people.
Abrar was appointed in September after the previous governor, Abdusalam Omer resigned after just 7 months.
Somalia was due to receive billions of dollars from donor and financial agencies. In light of Abrar’s resignation donors must now wonder if the government’s commitment to recovery, and change are real. Ms. Abrar, who holds a M.B.A from Oklahoma State in the US, was appointed because of her stellar resume as an entrepreneur, and banking. By 2002 her company Warsun International Communications, already had 50 employees at its headquarters in Vienna. After Warsun, she later served as Vice President both at Citigroup, and at American International Group (AIG).
Although she was threatened, and pressured by the same President who appointed her, Abrar held firmly to her sense of right. She refused to sign documents to allow Shulman & Rogers, a US based law firm pre-selected by the President to recover assets frozen since the 1991 fall of Siad Barre’s regime. In her letter to the President she explains why she resigned.
From the moment I was appointed, I have continuously been asked to sanction deals and transactions that would contradict my personal values and violate my fiduciary responsibility to the Somali people as head of the nation’s monetary authority. To use one example, as you are aware based on our multiple conversations on this matter, I vehemently refused to sanction the contract with the law firm Schulman & Rogers, regarding recovery of the Somali financial institutions assets frozen since the fall of Siad Barre’s regime.
Your Excellent I have read both the Agreement and Power of Attorney which your office instructed the former governor to sign with the law firm. I don’t believe that these documents serve the interest of the Somali nation, and I believe that they put the frozen assets at risk and open the door to corruption. My suggestion to let me share these documents with a Central Bank appointed legal counsel for a second opinion fell on deaf ears.
The message that I have received from multiple parties is that I have to be flexible, that I don’t understand the Somali way, that I cannot go against your wishes, and that my own personal security would be at risk as a result. I am the least concerned about the security threat, but I am truly disappointed that I have not received your support and leadership on this matter so that I could objectively perform my duties.
As of today the whereabouts of Ms Abrar are unknown, though it is certain that she is no longer in Somalia for security reasons. Where ever she may be however, we would like to salute GoWoman Yussur Abrar for speaking truth to power and for refusing to be corrupted by the system. Not too many in her position male, or female would have had the courage to step down.
Side Bar: The lesson here for all us is not to let others use our shine to hide their dirt, because sooner or later it will rub off on you. A GoWoman must always live, and serve with integrity. Don’t let the system change you, change the system, and if you cant do that, leave it alone.