African viewpoint: Will Rawlings unleash mosquitoes on Somalia?

Jerry Rawlings (photographed in January 2009) Will Ghana's former jet-flying president be able to calm Somalia's chaos?

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.

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Whenever I have had a mosquito keeping me awake at night, I have cursed President Rawlings”

End Quote

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.

Somali Islamist fighters on a truck in Mogadishu on Thursday 11 November A young Somali man is given a gun as a rite of passage

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.

And yet I worry. The man used to be my friend.

Jerry Rawlings photographed in 1999 Jerry Rawlings took power in a coup in 1981 and then won two elections

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.

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As President Rawlings himself has said, he operates best without a constitution. He will do it with mosquitoes”

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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.

If you would like to comment on Elizabeth Ohene's latest column, please use the form below. A selection of views will be published.

Yep! what a satirist! As a journalist I was, may be one of the first to break the news of his appointment in Somali language, by that time I knew nothing about his background, little did I know he deals with mosquitoes, since then I read his biography from Wikipedia, I was impressed. Should I be given chance to talk to him, I will have advised him to start learning dealing with crocodiles, hyenas and wolves, only then will he be able to solve Somalia's problems. The only language those gun-toting guys in Somalia will understand is force and bullet, not lip service.

Abdinasir B Ahmed, Johannesburg, South Africa

This is not funny nor satire. What is at stake is saving a country from the brink. Pooh-poohing the situation is offensive to all Somalis who have been looking for a way out of their current anarchy. It would have been more constructive if, as a former journalist and someone in the know as far as Mr Rawlings is concerned, you focused on his ability to deliver what was asked of him. Please as a fellow African, try to be helpful. If you can, don't write about it in this unhelpful manner.

Mohyadin Rageh, Mogadishu, Somalia

Who ever thought of appointing Jerry Rawlings as conciliator-in-chief and peace ambassador to Somalia must be playing a cruel joke on Somalia; au contraire the plan must have been hatched to consolidate the fledgling peace and democracy in Ghana by getting rid of the one trouble-maker who could reverse all that, out of Ghana, as the 2012 elections loom large and closer. There is nothing in Jerry Rawlings character traits, skills and past that would make him suitable for the delicate job of saving Somalia. He Rawlings needs a compliant, gullible and risk adverse population to operate; something the brutalized and traumatized Somalis cannot offer.

Eric Bottah, Canada

This is a very comic way to express Rawlings' new assignment to Somalia. I hope he can perform miracles with the help of plane-loads of mosquitoes and bring sanity back to Somalia! I wish him well.

Ekong, Cheshunt, UK

Elizabeth, I respect Jerry Rawlings and salute him for restoring the honour of Ghana to what it is today. But I'm afraid the task of restoring sanity back to Somalia, Somaliland or whatever it has evolved into, is like flowing water up a hill. The current generation of Somalis know nothing other than violence. There are pirates, warlords, jihadists, megalomaniacs and you name them. Jerry Rawlings can no longer fly a jet to subdue rifle toting youths as he did with rebellious Ghanians in those days. But good luck Bra Jerry. I would rather he uses mosquitoes to subdue the protagonists in Somalia. Ordinary Somalis deserve peace.

Gassimu N, Edmonton, Canada

I think the article has been written with too much frivolity. As Africans we need to consider the Somalia problem a real threat to all of us, and therefore treat it with the seriousness it deserves. Look at how these tentacles of terror reached Uganda killing innocent people as they watched the World Cup. I think all of Africa needs to stand up and really pray that Jerry Rawlings has what it takes to bring peace to that troubled nation.

J Dincic, Heraklion, Greece

He is the best man for the Job if not only person to do this kind of job. This Elizabeth knows very well , so I simply do not understand her worries. Thank you.

Gideon Moffatt, London

I always dreamed of a day when the whole of Africa would be gotten rid of mosquitoes; indeed, I look forward to that graceful day when those who were purported to have perpetuated atrocities against their own citizens brought to justice. There seems to be a missing link between the facts, and if I were wrong on this issue, why should a man of injustice and criminality, be justified enough so as to be connected together with the criminals in Somalia all in the name of democracy and peace. This man Rawlings; always regretted in his heart to have taken Ghana to the path of DEMOCRACY. Former Namibia President (Sam Nujoma) came to the Ghana Parliament when Rawlings was a president and he posed a question before the honourable members: 'who is the best African soldier? no one could answer, not even Rawlings; and he answered himself. 'The best African soldier is mosquito'. If Rawlings had failed to answer this question, I wonder if he would be able to do the job in Somalia with the mosquitoes. on the other hand he had failed to deal with the mosquitoes in Ghana respectively because he is even not aware that they were responsible for the spread of malaria. God help him in Somalia though.

Charles Mensah, Northampton, UK

I think it is a shame for Elizabeth Ohene to make such frivolous comment on such an important issue. I'm sure the people of Somalia who suffer every day don't find her comment funny. Ghana has been fortunate to enjoy peace all these years so you have no idea what it means to live with war threats and suffering on a daily basis. If you have nothing good to contribute as a journalist, sit on your thoughts or hands better still. If you have a personal score to settle with your former president or 'friend', this is not the forum. Give peace in Somalia a chance!

Kathleen Nicol, Brisbane, Australia

Great write up, but come to think of it, the real mosquitoes are those Somalis you have described - the war lords who know nothing but violence. They are the ones sucking blood out of people and a once upon a time great nation. Perhaps Jerry Rawlings will be successful in ridding Africa of this species of mosquitoes.

Sojee, Lagos, Nigeria

I really think this article does nothing but show a high degree of insensitivity to Somalis. There is no need to rope in Ghanaian politics to such a very important situation in that country. The mention of a plane full of mosquitoes is total mockery. I would have thought every journalist, politician and opinion leader in the continent would pull behind every effort to salvage the situation in Somalia. This journalist who served in a previous government should have known better, let's learn to raise the bar.

Randy, London

I could not get the head and the tail of this article. I am not too sure it is the English that made me lost. I guess it has more to do with the subtle attempt by the writer to suppress her dislike for the man she describes in a way I may call a 'former friend' because as she puts it "once upon a time, former Ghanaian President Jerry Rawlings and I were friends". In any case if you failed to tidy your surroundings and consequently had mosquitoes as night time companions, you can curse Jerry a million times, but malaria will not be sent away by a mere curse.

Nshom Bah, Kumasi, Ghana

Elizabeth, I take your article as honest fun. However I think that former president Jerry Rawlings, would not have taken the job, if he wasn't sure to have what it takes. I'm sure he will surprise all of us and most of all the warmongering Somalis.

Ato Bob Hensen, Rotterdam, Netherlands

Those who have taken this article literally are clearly missing the point. Somalia is too serious an issue to be treated as anything less - which is what the appointment of Mr Rawlings as an AU representative to the country does. Once again Africa has 'dumbed itself down' by an appointment which in my opinion is nothing short of frivolous. Where a technocrat with experience at Disaster Risk Reduction and Management appears to be in demand, we are saddled with a charismatic and popular person. Sadly, I think this is the story of our African appointments, even our democratically-elected leaders have had to do little more than put on a show of charisma and call the name of God in every few sentences in order to win our approval. Until we learn to become more critical of ourselves as Africans and demand the highest of standards we will remain a beggar continent. We cannot continue to set lower standards for ourselves while asking to be treated as equals. So no, I won't support the appointment of Mr Rawlings simply because he was once the president of an African nation.

Sylvester, Ottawa, Canada

I think the article is unfair and embedded with old biases. President Jerry Rawlings played a pivotal role in getting Liberian warring groups to abide by agreements they had signed, after reneging several times in the past. As a peace broker, he flew to Liberia several times. Liberians do consider him to be committed to what he plans to do, and an effective peace maker.

Patrick Boima, Monrovia, Liberia

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