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President Farmaajo: US or Somali passport?

Storyline:National News

Taking up policy-level positions such as president or foreign minister by US nationals in foreign countries amounts to an expatriating act.

President Mohamed Farmaajo addressing the media during a joint conference with UN chief in March. Photo: courtesy

President Mohamed Farmaajo skipped the UN General Assembly for the second year in a row this past week amid concerns a visit to the US could be constrained by his American citizenship.

Farmaajo who lived in the US for a better part of his adult life since the 1980s subsequently acquired US citizenship and would later be elected President in Somalia February 2017. Acquiring US citizenship involves swearing allegiance to among others defend the constitution and bear arms in defence on behalf of the US if required by law.

President Farmaajo also swore allegiance to protect and defend the constitution of Somalia when taking office last February.

Analysts opine that the President’s failure to attend the UN General Assembly in New York could be informed by concerns he could surrender his US citizenship. According to the US immigration laws, nationals (including dual) travelling out of and into the country must use their American passport. It follows therefore that President Farmaajo would leave behind his Somali passport in place of American one should be choose to visit the US.

US based lawyer Abdiwahid Warsame told Goobjoog News it remains unclear if President Farmaajo made known to US authorities of intent to either retain or relinquish his citizenship. “That possess some potential risks,” Warsame said. “As an America citizen, Farmaajo is required to work in the interests of the US. His actions however do not indicate that; he presides over a corrupt regime, his military have provided wrong information which led to the recent killings of US soldiers in Somalia.”

Farmaajo, Warsame said, should come out ‘and declare where his allegiance is.”

According to the US Immigration and Nationality Act, a dual national who takes up a policy level position such as President or Foreign Affairs minister in foreign land commits a expatriating act (relinquish one’s allegiance/citizenship). In such instances, one could automatically lose their citizenship.

“Certain policy level positions may be inherently incompatible with retaining U.S. nationality. Cases of this nature generally involve heads of state or foreign ministers,” section 349 (a) (4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act states.

International relations expert Dr. Abdiwaab Abdisamad told BBC Somali President Farmaajo could be weighing his options given the limited time he has in office.

“It is possible he does not want to surrender his passport because he has limited time and he is not sure if he will get the job (as president) back.” Farmaajo is expected to defend his seat in the 2020 elections and could be facing stiff competition from the opposition and his Prime Minister Hassan Khaire who has also signaled intent to run.

Another expert in international relations, Dr. Ibrahim Bursalid, shared a similar view. “Perhaps the President has reached a political maturity (he can delegate responsibility) or he could be afraid of losing his [American] passport.”

The President’s potential dilemma over his dual citizenship could inform ongoing debates on the new citizenship bill in Somalia.