Thursday May 12, 2022
Mogadishu (HOL) – Abdikarim Sheikh Muse, known as Qalbidhagah, who was once extradited to Ethiopia by the Somali federal government, returned to Mogadishu on Thursday. He was welcomed by government ministers and other senior officials at the Adan Adde International Airport.
Qalbi Dhagah was handed over to Ethiopian authorities on August 28, 2017, following a raid by Somali forces on his hotel in Galkayo, central Somalia. He was transferred to Mogadishu before being blindfolded and hauled off to a prison outside of Addis Ababa.
The extradition request came from the TPLF-dominated Ethiopian federal government.
Qalbidhagah’s rendition was met with uproar both online and through protests in Somalia’s capital.
Nearly five years later, Qalbidhagah, who is viewed as a war hero by many sectors of Somali society, met with Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble at his office.
The ONLF and its members, including Qalbidhagah, were designated as terrorists by the Somali government during the first year of Farmajo’s presidency. At the time, his Prime Minster was Hassan Ali Khaire.
The ONLF and Qalbidhagah protested the decision. Qalbidhagah was later released without charge from Ethiopian imprisonment following the meteoric rise of Abiy Ahmed as the leader of the Ethiopian government.
A 15-member committee formed in mid-September 2017 to probe the circumstances under which Qalbidhagax was handed over to Ethiopia unanimously agreed that his rendition was illegal.
Federal cabinet members said President Farmajo and PM Khaire presented them with inaccurate information and falsified documents to secure Qalbidhagah’s rendition to Ethiopia.
The Somali parliament later ruled the rendition of Qalbidhagah illegal and unconstitutional, but this was ignored by the federal Cabinet led by the then Prime Minister Hassan Ali Kheyre, who has not explained the circumstances surrounding the extradition of Abdikarin Qalbidhagah to Ethiopia.
Despite the parliamentary committee finding the move illegal, President Farmajo defended the decision to extradite Qalbidhagax.
Somalia’s Intelligence Chief at the time, Abdullahi Sanbalolshe, distanced himself from the controversial rendition, placing the blame squarely on Somalia’s the then leadership.
In January this year, the current Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble and his Cabinet apologized to Qalbidhagah and reversed the decision to designate ONLF as a terrorist organization.
In past statements after the Ethiopian government released him from his imprisonment without charges, Qalbidhagah spoke of ‘the betrayal’ he felt at the hands of a Somali government. Yet, despite this, he has not returned to Somalia until today.
The handover was deeply unpopular among Somalis across the political spectrum.
Earlier this year, Somalia and Ethiopia removed the ONLF from the list of terror groups.
According to some reports, Abdikarim Qalbidhagah served in the Somali National Army, rising to the rank of Colonel, and lived in Somalia before his extradition to Ethiopia.