In our series of viewpoints from African journalists, Elizabeth Ohene, a minister in Ghana’s former NPP government, considers what it might take to bring peace to Somalia.

Once upon a time, former Ghanaian President Jerry Rawlings and I were friends.

And it is for the sake of those bygone days that I have been worrying about him.

Nothing to do with Ghana politics – on that we have agreed to disagree.

I worry about him because he has been appointed the African Union special representative to Somalia and charged with heading the efforts to resolve this intractable problem.

I was in the process of composing an appropriate sombre note of condolence to send to my one-time friend when I read in the newspapers that the current Ghanaian President, Professor John Evans Atta Mills, had sent congratulations to President Rawlings on the appointment!

With friends like these, I thought, who needs enemies?

Ghana glory

I am not quite sure where this idea came from – that some worthy job should be found for former presidents

I would have thought that after having been president, people would want to put up their feet and catch up with friends they had not had time for, but now there is this fad that has former presidents flying around the world and appearing to be even busier than they were whilst in office.

I recall when President Rawlings left office back in January 2001, we were told he was going to spend his time on the eradication of mosquitoes.

I just knew that somebody somewhere had it in for him. Eradicate mosquitoes indeed.

Since 2001, every time somebody told me he had malaria, the first thought that came to my mind was: “President Rawlings is not doing his job”. And whenever I have had a mosquito keeping me awake at night, I have cursed President Rawlings.

Talk about giving a dog a bad name and hanging it

And then now comes this AU special representative to Somalia job.

I know he prides himself on having brought peace, justice and prosperity to Ghana, and I have heard the claim that when the military took over Ghana, it was a collapsed state, (probably much like Somalia is today) and left it in 2001, restored to glory and multi-party democracy.

I can just imagine President Rawlings bringing the “Save Ghana” template to Somalia:

  • Impose a curfew? Worked like a dream in Ghana, in Somalia, nobody will take any notice
  • Democratisation of violence? It shocked Ghanaians into a 10-year culture of silence; in Somalia violence is an everyday thing One armed soldier can hold an auditorium full of Ghanaians captive; in Somalia that is impossible, a young Somali man is given a gun as a rite of passage to show he has come of age.
  • Saving Somalia might just turn out to be a touch more complicated than restoring Ghana to glory.
  • I know this because, as they say, I have been there. And I was not even trying to save Somalia.
  • I was simply trying to report from Somalia and I have not recovered from that experience how many years later.

Watch out

But maybe I need not worry. The flight-lieutenant probably has a secret weapon.

Perhaps after nine years of being in the mosquito business, he has found the secret tune, which he will play like the pied piper and lure all the mosquitoes on the continent and load them, eggs, larvae and all onto a jet plane; he will fly it himself from Accra to Somalia and there unleash the creatures.

By sundown, the Somalis will be suing for peace – pirates, warlords, clan elders, jihadists and all – they will sign up to bring justice to Somalia.

As President Rawlings himself has said, he operates best without a constitution.

Instead, he will do it with mosquitoes. In one go, he would rid the continent of mosquitoes and bring peace and reconciliation to Somalia.

It will be a small price to pay to have mosquitoes only in Somalia.

Intransigent Somalis better watch out.

They have not met our jet-flying, horse-riding, moral jihadist-crusader former president yet.

He will set them to rights.

And he will do it and still find time to turn his attention to matters at home and those who think he will be defeated by Somalia.



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