Somalia’s former President Ali Mahdi Muhammad says he will return public funds he stole nearly five decades ago as a sign of seeking forgiveness.
Mr Mahdi who was technically Somalia’s first President during the civil war told a local media station in Mogadishu that he had consulted religious leaders who advised him to return the loot he had taken while an MP back in 1968.
“I visited to the Central Bank how much it will be at today’s rate the Sh25,000 I took. I visited (then President) Hassan Sheikh Mohamud in 2015 and told him I was ready to bring back the stolen public funds which I will deposit in the Central Bank,” he said.
Muhammad, a renowned hotel owner and businessman in Somalia became Siad Barre’s replacement back in 1993. But he ran the country largely divided along clan lines and warlords. His loyal supporters clashed with those of Mohamed Farah Aideed, turning the capital Mogadishu into a deadly war zone.
Having quit politics in 2000, he returned to his businesses where he is now building one of the tallest hotels in Somalia, at 16 floors on the Liddo beachfront.
Muhammad’s admission of taking Sh25,000 that didn’t belong to him came as he urged politicians to stay within integrity lines and stop stealing from public coffers.
He said Somalia’s first Transitional President Abdullahi Yusuf gave him $100,000 which he says he put into his chain of businesses.
As one of President Mohamed Farmaajo’s critics, Ali Mahdi’s revelations may have been targeted at the incumbent, knowing well the former leader enjoys significant respect in the community.