Munir Ahmed Egal: Who is Abdirahman Irro’s communications chief?

Mohamed ‘Munir’ Ahmed Egal, a British-Somalilander, who serves as Chief of Communications for Waddani Presidential Candidate Abdirahman Mohamed Abdullahi Irro’s campaign, has been making headlines recently for attacking other politicians via social media.

Many know as Egal as a former news anchor with the state-run Somaliland National Television Station and Chairman of Somaliland Today, an online political news website, and daily newspaper based in Hargeisa.

What many do not know, is how Egal became the prominent politician he has become today, and the detailed story of his rise to fame.

Around a decade ago, Egal was working as a cook making low-wages at a restaurant in Burao, Somaliland. Like many other Somalilanders at the time, Egal was desperately seeking a way out of the country to have a better opportunity in life.

Egal began a relationship with a British-Somalilander woman who was in Somaliland and convinced her to marry him and sponsor him to come to the United Kingdom. Shortly after achieving his goal of obtaining British citizenship, Egal divorced the woman and began to embark on his dream of becoming a popular figure within Somaliland’s political and media circles.

Egal started working as an online reporter for Somaliland news websites such as Hadhwanaag News, despite having no prior journalism experience or formal education.

Egal caught his big break sometime between 2011-2012 after writing a defaming article on two distant relatives of current Somaliland President, Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud Silanyo. Egal caught the interest of his distant cousin, then-Presidential Affairs Minister, Hersi Ali Haji Hassan, who is now the party leader of Somaliland’s main opposition party, Waddani.

Hassan, who was already reportedly devising his master plan to unseat President Silanyo via a constitutional coup – that later turned out to be unsuccessful in October 2015 –  saw Egal as an important tool to push his political agenda forward.

Hassan was able to convince the President and his advisors that he could tame Egal and have him apologize to the President and the individuals he defamed and suggested that he should work as a news anchor for SLNTV.

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The President and his advisors, trusting Hassan, accepted the suggestion, thus marking the beginning of Hassan’s and Egal’s plan to build their own mini-government within President Silanyo’s government.

Egal launched Somaliland Today, an online news website and daily print newspaper, which raised many eyebrows, considering his resume and financial stature.

According to many close to the pair, Somaliland Today was funded by Hersi Ali Haji Hassan, with the purpose of promoting Hassan’s name and igniting rifts between government officials – that Hassan would later use to his advantage.

Egal began receiving a hefty salary from the Ministry of Presidential Affairs under Hassan’s tenure, and his normal salary from the state-run SLNTV.

According to senior SLNTV employees, Egal was the highest paid news anchor, receiving $2000 USD a month. Other news anchors and reporters with decades of journalism experience were only getting $200-400 a month.

In addition to the inflated dual government salaries, Hassan, who was also busy building his own power base within President Silanyo’s government, was able to convince the President and his advisors to take Egal on foreign Presidential Trips.

According to close sources, the Presidency was aware of Hassan’s and Egal’s schemes at the time but opted to limit Hassan’s power over the Presidential Affairs budget instead of firing him, fearing that an abrupt dismissal could play into the hands of Hassan and Egal.

Although Somaliland is a democratic and peaceful country, democracy in Somaliland is currently still in an infant stage and can easily be manipulated by powerful politicians who could ignite political and tribal violence.

Hassan’s powers were limited eight months before the 4th extraordinary leadership convention of Somaliland’s ruling political party, Kulmiye. Hassan and Egal began campaigning for then-Foreign Minister Mohamed Bihi Yonis’ Presidential Nomination, against the presumed front-runner, Kulmiye party Chairman, Musa Bihi Abdi.

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Abdi had the backing of President Silanyo and many long-time Kulmiye Party members, but had strained relations with Hassan and Egal. After President Silanyo publicly announced that he was siding with Abdi in late October, Hassan and Egal launched what political experts called a ‘constitutional coup’. Hassan and Yonis resigned from their posts at Presidential Affairs and Foreign Affairs.

Close to a dozen senior government officials who were allies of Hassan announced their resignation minutes afterward, stirring chaos and uncertainty across the country. The government survived the coup attempt and was able to rally the other three dozen cabinet ministers to show that they are still strong and united.

Egal decided to not resign from his position at SLNTV to avoid exposing his very close relations with Hassan. He then began using his government position to air reports sympathizing with Hassan and his allies after the failed coup attempt. Egal’s appearances on SLNTV were then reduced, and his employment existed only on paper for several months before being officially terminated in August 2016.

Egal joined Hassan and his faction as they began talks with Somaliland’s main opposition party, Waddani, and its leader, Abdirahman Mohamed Abdullahi Irro. Egal turned Somaliland Today into a pro-Waddani media outlet and was able to show Irro that he and Hassan could only join Waddani as a package.

During the negotiations with Waddani, Egal also announced his candidacy for Somaliland’s Parliamentary election. Egal failed to get support from his tribal representatives, who were staunch Kulmiye supporters and was arrested and charged with assault in mid-July 2016 for punching one of his tribal representatives during a meeting on his candidacy.

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Egal’s kinsmen dropped the charges against him, and he quit his parliamentary bid shortly afterward. Egal joined Waddani in late 2016 with Hassan and several of the former cabinet ministers that were loyal to Hassan.

After joining Waddani, Egal began criticizing President Silanyo and many of his former government colleagues, accusing them of the same schemes and corruption that he and his boss, Hassan, were notoriously accused of.

Abdirahman Irro rewarded Egal for his vocal opposition against Silanyo’s government earlier this year, appointing him to serve as his Communications Chief.