Garowe Online (Garowe)

2 November 2013

Somalia: Central Bank Governor Resigns After Seven Weeks

The central bank governor of Somalia has unexpectedly resigned after seven weeks in the job, citing corruption concerns, in a blow to donors who have promised to pour billions of dollars of aid into the failed state.

Yussur Abrar, who was one of the world's few female central bank governors, was unavailable for comment on Friday.

Donors who support her were frantically trying to reach her on Thursday night. They believe that she sent her resignation letter, dated October 30, from Dubai, before travelling to an unknown destination.

One donor official said Ms Yussur was "scared for her life and so unlikely to return to Somalia".

In her letter to Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, Somalia's president, she said: "From the moment I was appointed, I have continuously been asked to sanction deals and violate my fiduciary responsibility to the Somali people as head of the nation's monetary authority."

In the strongly worded letter, seen by the Financial Times, Ms Yussur - a former banker at Citigroup who had not lived in Somalia for several decades - said she believed that these deals "put . . . frozen assets at risk and open the door to corruption".

Somalia is recovering from decades of civil war and also faces an Islamist insurgency from al-Qaeda-linked jihadis who mount regular attacks on the capital and claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack on a Nairobi shopping mall last month.

Donors have pledged billions of dollars to help secure and rebuild Somalia at recent conferences in the hope that it can make good on recent military gains against the militants.

But they fear that the new government - elected last year and seen by analysts as the most representative and promising for years - might repeat the gross corruption seen by its donor-backed predecessors.

A report from a UN investigative panel this year gave warning that the central bank doubled as a corrupt slush fund and said that it failed to account for transfers worth $12m. Ms Yussur said in her letter: "Unfortunately, the central bank has not been allowed to function free of interference, and as such cannot operate as a credible institution."

A government spokesman insisted on Friday that President Hassan remained committed to reforming institutions in his country. "All he wants is to ensure [that] public finance is managed properly and that there's no corruption," he said, adding that Ms Yussur was selected for her "impressive CV on finance", but had visited Mogadishu for "only a couple of days".

"For her leaving so early [it] is very sad. She was given the empowerment to reform the central bank and how the system works - most of the systems are manual," he added.

In her letter, Ms Yussur also said she "vehemently refused to sanction the contract" with Shulman Rogers, a US law firm contracted to recover overseas assets frozen since before the civil war started in 1991. The same company was also hired to discredit the UN allegations of financial mismanagement ahead of a Brussels aid conference at which donors ultimately pledged $2.4bn, in what UN experts said was a conflict of interest. The law firm has previously denied any conflict of interest and said the UN experts made unfounded allegations.

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