Heritage Institute for Policy Studies Responds to Monitoring Group Allegations

The July 2013 UN Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (UNSEMG) report contains false and damaging allegations against the Heritage Institute for Policy Studies (HIPS), and its director, Abdi Aynte.

The allegations are made without evidence. At no point was the Heritage Institute contacted by the UNSEMG to comment on the allegations. Such false allegations undermine the validity of the report and the UN’s commitment to transparency, accountability, and integrity.

The response below addresses each of the false allegations aimed at Heritage Institute for Policy Studies and its director, Abdi Aynte.

Allegation 1: The report alleges that Mr. Aynte was one of two “important carriers of cash donations from Qatar” to President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud during his election campaign.

This is categorically untrue. During the 2012 presidential campaign, Mr. Aynte was a journalist with Al Jazeera English in Doha, Qatar. He was neither involved in any political activity nor supported any of the presidential candidates. Mr. Aynte was not present in Somalia throughout the campaign.

Allegation 2: The report alleges that Aynte is a “prominent member of Ala Sheikh political and business association of former TFG President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.”

Mr. Aynte has no affiliation with “Ala Sheikh” or any other political or religious group in Somalia. This allegation is not only unsubstantiated, but also contradicts Allegation 1 suggesting Mr. Aynte provided support to TFG President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed’s opponent, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. Such a contradiction is counterintuitive, fails a basic argumentation test and makes no sense to any right thinking person.

Allegation 3: The report alleges that HIPS was “established with financing from Qatar.”

HIPS has received no funding from Qatar. Nor would it attempt to hide this information if it had. HIPS is actively seeking funding and would welcome funding from Qatar. HIPS is accountable to a Board of Advisors and is independently audited. HIPS’ financial statements will be publicly available on its website in its annual reports.

Allegation 4: The report alleges that a person by the name of “Fahad Yasin,” another former Al Jazeera journalist, is a “senior figure” and an “associate” of HIPS.

The names of the staff and policy fellows at HIPS are published on the organization’s website. Mr. Yasin is not and has never been affiliated with HIPS.

Allegation 5: The report alleges that HIPS is “aligned” with the Federal Government of Somalia.

HIPS was established as an independent, non-profit, non-partisan think tank in Somalia. This allegation is refuted by HIPS’ publication record over the past six months. HIPS has not shied away from making critical observations on the performance of the Somali government’s policies and actions. Neither has it refrained from giving credit to the government where credit is due. The objective of HIPS as an independent think tank is to provide constructive feedback to the Federal Government of Somalia and other authorities in the interest of reconciliation, peace, and development.

Reflections

The consequences of false allegations against individuals and institutions are serious, but more alarming is the impact this has on the reputation of the United Nations in Somalia. The Somali people are entitled to expect the United Nations to abide by the same standards of accountability and transparency that it expects from them.

The allegations in the report bear a striking resemblance to an article that appeared on “Africa Intelligence” in February 2013 – a source known to have published fabricated stories. The report makes claims that, while untrue, do not imply illegality or wrong-doing on behalf of HIPS or its director. It is not illegal to receive funding from Qatar, to be affiliated with a political, religious, or business group, or to support the Federal Government of Somalia. The approach taken in the report demonstrates a lack of due diligence and reliance on rumor mills. The Monitoring Group’s willful disregard for facts is worsened by the use of “guilt by association” techniques.

The unsubstantiated allegations against HIPS and its director are an attempt to discredit Somalia’s first independent, non-profit, non-partisan, think tank, which promotes evidence-based research and analysis, and actively advocates for transparency and accountability in Somalia. That a report of this importance, and sponsored by the United Nations, apparently ignores the principles of evidence, transparency, and accountability is deeply unsettling.

We call on the Somalia and Eritrea Sanctions Committee to carefully review our response to the report’s false allegations, publicly acknowledge its mistakes to limit the damage already caused to HIPS and its director, and expunge these baseless accusations about HIPS and its director from the report. Having received no communication thus far, despite filing a formal complaint, HIPS would welcome the opportunity to discuss the allegations with the Monitoring Group.

In the meantime, HIPS will continue to offer organic solutions to local problems, providing an independent, non-partisan Somali narrative, from Somalia.

The Heritage Institute for Policy Studie

Hassan Ali Gesey is an experienced correspondent in Mogadishu, Somalia.