The apology of the chief of the tribal militias of Somalia for the 1980's atrocities against the civilian population of Somaliland is unacceptable; and the admission of liability for the damages is not a sure ticket to gain a new foothold in Somaliland. Available video footage of the destruction of Somaliland cities shows Col. Ahmed Omer Jees, Col. Abdulaziz, and Col. Aweys, and others, directing the heavy artillery guns[madaafiicda goobta] towards the masses huddled at Geed-deeble. This is the same man who engineered and supervised the assassination of the Italian nun in Borama; the execution of the British couple at Sheikh; and the ambush of the head of the German NGO on Berbera-Hargeisa road in which a Kenyan citizen lost her life. He is the same terrorist devil who hired disillusioned young men to carry out assassinations in Somaliland a few days prior to our parliamentary election of last year.
Is he not the same shady character who said, “We should exterminate the infidels who worship the peace??” Is he not the same person who signed off recently the death sentences of: the President and vice-President of Somaliland, the chairmen of the Political parties of Somaliland, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Finance, etc. etc.? The execution of the wounded in time of war is an abominable act under the Islamic Sharia; certainly not according to the interpretations of the school of Abu Abdallah Mohamed Bin Idris. In the recent skirmish of the courts militia and those of col. Hirale, a col. Hassan Turk carried out the capital punishment on ten individuals. The Muslim faith does not condone such barbaric acts under any pretext.
It is a shameful joke that the indictable war criminals of yesterday have the courage and the moral decency to apologize to the victims of their past crimes. Anyway, on whose behalf is the former colonel acting to offer a compensation package and the accompanying apology? Is he acting as a sovereign head of a legitimate government? Even if Mr. Awes is acting on behalf of his fellow clansmen, the probability of paying off the total debt in full is nil. The sum total of the damages is in excess of US$184.00 Billion. Very conservative estimates of the sum total of human and material loss in 1988 was pegged at US$50 Billion; the current value of that liability [as of November 27, 2006] is US$183.7902 Billion. This being the magnitude of the war reparations, I hope Col. Awes and his minions are intelligent enough to secure, through the Lloyds of London or a similar corporation, enough insurance coverage for the indemnity. The assets of the Col. Plus that of the whole lot of Walaweynian Somalia is not sufficient to pay off the reparations claim.
The Courts versus the Embagathi Government:
The common denominators between 'the courts' and the 'Embagathi' government are recklessness, power obsession, and lack of any sense of responsibility. The 'courts' intend to achieve their aims under the cloak of Islamic Sharia; while the Embagathi camp is banking on the introduction of foreign troops to consolidate its power. Both are equally determined to eliminate each other. The loss of human life and property and the ensuing disaster in the cross fire is a matter of no concern to either camp. On top of all that, the prized target is the Republic of Somaliland; Col. Aweys and Col. Yussuf are indomitable on this issue.
Suddenly thrust into the political limelight as a result of their defeat of the ruthless warlords of Mogadiscio, the disarrayed and often confused coalition of the 'Islamic Courts' have embarked on a belligerent campaign of empty rhetoric. Like the discredited government of Embagathi Swine Stock Exchange fame, this new alliance has neither the competence nor the vision to lead the masses. The days of Pan Somali nationalism are gone for good. Instead of addressing the most pressing needs of their strife torn society, this mutated progeny of the infamous warlords are threatening the region with a jihadist war.
The current confrontation in Somalia between the confederacy of the Union of Islamic courts on one side and the transitional government on the other is combination of economic and political struggle. Their aims and agendas are exactly identical. The survival of the transitional government depends on the deployment of foreign troops in Somalia so as to legitimize the authoritarian rule of Col. Abdullah Yussuf. The leadership of the Islamic Courts is exclusively from one community fighting to impose its hegemony over southern Somalia and beyond. The undeclared manifesto of the Courts is the revival of the long forgotten dream of Greater Somalia. The ulterior motive of the Islamic Courts Alliance is to consolidate and legitimize their territorial expansion into areas outside their tribal homelands under the false turban of Islamic Shari rule. The tribal militias from the desolate wastelands of Mudug, Hiran, and Majertenia have descended on the fertile agricultural areas of Benadir, Lower Juba, and Upper Juba. The rightful owners of the territory between the Shabelle and the Juba Rivers have been evicted from their property at gun point and the illegal occupants have no intention of ever relinquishing their new found prosperity. The demographic composition of these regions has permanently changed.
On Third Party Involvement:
The continuous proliferation of arms in the region adds to the possibility of an out of control escalation of hostilities throughout the Somali inhabited regions of Northeastern Kenya, Region 5 of Ethiopia, the Republic of Djibouti, Somalia, and Somaliland. The first collateral causality of a religion-based confrontation in the region will be the government of Ethiopia because of the ethnic composition of population. With sizeable recalcitrant Muslim communities of Oromo, Sidamo, Affar, and Somalis, the Ethiopian government should act with prudence rather than on impulsive reactions. The Oromo which constitutes the largest single ethnic community [over 45% of the population] in Ethiopia feels alienated and historically marginalized in Ethiopian politics.
The Ethiopian government is overreacting to an imaginary and an impending destabilization threat from the Union of Islamic Courts and without consulting the other governments in the region has unilaterally decided to deploy its troops in Somalia in support of the unpopular transitional government of Col. Abdillahi Yussuf. Understandably, the Ethiopian decision is an extension of centuries old apprehension: a Christian country located in an isolated environment surrounded by hostile Muslim regimes. The premise may sound logical under the current political situation, but never the less, the timing seems to have questionable and opportunistic ulterior motives and therefore, the suspicion of the masses against the deployment of any foreign troops is justifiable.
Over the span of two decades, the failed Somali state and Ethiopia fought over the Somali-inhabited region twice in 1964 and 1977/1978. The human casualty on both sides was very high and the latent effects of that lead to the downfall of the Somali military regime as well the government of Emperor Haile Selase of Ethiopia. The age-old mutual suspicion and animosity is a major deterrent to a lasting peaceful coexistence. The Ethiopian government might be tempted to spearhead the war against terrorism in the Horn of Africa region but the outcome of unilateral decision should be weighed very carefully. Under the present political climate, the lifting of the arms embargo is out of the question as well. Unless southern Somalis take the ownership of their problems, external manipulative forces with vested interests will set the agenda and the outcome of any peace process to the detriment of southern Somalis. The governments of Ethiopia, Uganda, Sudan, Yemen, Iran Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Eritrea and others have taken sides in the Somali conflict and the outcome of an armed proxy war is unthinkable.
The deployment of foreign troops with or without the sanctioning of the international community will not help stabilize the situation one way or the other. The Union of the Islamic Courts in Mogadiscio and the majority of the population in southern Somalia identify any troop deployment as an occupation army propping up the transitional government. Any front line state taking a lead role in the deployment is perceived as taking sides in an issue that concerns only the Somalis. In other words, this plays directly into the hands of the clan politics.
On The U.N. Arms Embargo:
The United Nations should never lift the thirteen year old arms embargo against Somalia. Instead, the United Nations should establish a verification mechanism to stop the flow of arms at the source. Any gradual easing of the arms sanctions or the authorization of the deployment of foreign troops:
- Confers the transitional government an explicit and a false sense of recognition and jurisdictional authority throughout the territory of the failed Somali Republic while the political reality on the ground for the past fifteen years indicates otherwise. Upon the collapse of the military government of the late Somali dictator on January 29th 1991, the country devolved into two defacto territories reverting to pre-independence boundaries. The government of Somaliland does not recognize the legitimacy of the transitional government of Somalia. This is a fact the international community has to deal with sooner or later;
- The United Nations' Security Council's persistent insistence on maintaining “the territorial integrity, the sovereignty, the political independence, and the unity of the Somali state” is a further impediment to any lasting peace in Somalia. The disintegrated Somali Republic came out of a voluntary union of two territories in 1960; its dissolution rests solely with the two original parties. The union malfunctioned and lead to the present quagmire. It is about time to change the dynamics of the approach and respect the decision of the masses of the people of Somaliland in accordance with their legal and constitutional rights to chart their own future. Any attempts to resuscitate the old Somali state will eventually lead to more violence and bloodshed. The Eritrean conflict dragged on for more than thirty years for fear of tampering with the existing boundaries. At the end, the international community realized that it is inevitable to stop the bloodshed;
- The transitional Somali government in Baidoa has failed to exert its authority anywhere in southern Somalia primarily because of the quality of its leadership. The majority of the transitional government members are former generals of the Somali national army, the notorious National Security Service, and hangovers from the various state security apparatus. They simply do not have the integrity, the credibility, and the credentials to lead a modern nation state. For example, over thirty percent of the 275-member parliament is from the Somali populated regions of Northeastern Kenya, Region 5 of Ethiopia, and the tiny Republic of Djibouti. During the proceedings of the Somali peace conference in Nairobi, the diplomats of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Djibouti added their own representatives to the future parliament in order to maintain a fictitious formula called the 4.5 clan `model. In short, the lack of mandate from the ruled masses puts a question mark on the mandate and the credibility of the leadership of the transitional government.
The Clan Card:
The silhouette of the rainbow colours of the clan lineages of the Somali creed overrides any other characteristic of commonality- culture, language, origin, religion. The century’s fallacy that states Somalis are a homogeneous society is no longer valid. The intricate clan system is a social security safety network where the individual Somali person seeks refuge at times of danger. During the pre-colonial era, this complex spider web of clans, clan families, sub-clans, and sub-sub clans etc. worked perfectly well and it actually evolved into a unique form of conflict management that maintained peace among the various groups competing for water and pasture. At the instant of any perceived or real external threat, the most adversarial clans unite and rally for the common defense of their turf.
However, in post-colonial times the clan card has proven to be the most destructive and divisive factor that castes an uncertainty over the development of a nation state. In a continent where the individual at the helm of the power structure is portrayed as the benevolent hand that sustains the well being of his/her clan, the negative impact of this potent card has lead to economic and social stagnation. The competition for the limited resources of the nation was simply not sustainable.
The Model Solution:
The northern region [present-day Republic of Somaliland] was embroiled in a protracted civil war with the Somali government from 1982- 1991. On May 18th 1991, the leadership of the Somaliland Clans convened at Burao and made a unanimous decision to withdraw from an ill-fated union with southern Somalia. This congress declared the reclamation of Somaliland statehood in accordance with colonial boundaries at the time of independence on June 26th 1960. The clan elders [Guurti] authorized the Somali National Movement to run the country for two years. At the end of this mandate, the February 1993 Grand Convention of the Somaliland Clans in Borama, adopted a provisional national Charter and elected the late Mr. Mohamed Haji Ibrahim Egal as President for four years.
At the end of the civil war and the collapse of the central government, the people of Somaliland have faced the overwhelming task of negotiating peace and reconciliation among the various communities. The retreating Somali national Army razed all the major cities of Somaliland to the ground, destroyed the infrastructure and the institutions of the region, and left behind more than three million antipersonnel landmines haphazardly laid throughout the country. To this day, this unmarked ordinance poses serious threat to the population and the livestock.
The political and the traditional leaders of Somaliland have the foresight and the intuition to concentrate initially on the demobilization, the disarmament and the reintegration of the armed militias into a small army and a national police force. This was not an easy task at all. Then the effort was channeled to establish a semblance of a central authority based on a proportional clan representation at least temporarily acceptable to all parties. The traditional sultans, chiefs, and Ugases took a decisive role in curtailing any armed confrontation between the different clans and this has directly and effectively eliminated the culture of warlord ism to take root in Somaliland.
Form 1991 to 2001 Somaliland was in a transition state that finally metamorphosed into a constitutional democracy. This process of democratization in the Republic of Somaliland started on May 31st 2001, when this new nation adopted a national constitution ratified in a nation-wide referendum with over 97% approval. On December 7, 2002 municipal elections were held in Somaliland and on April 14th 2003, the people of the Republic of Somaliland went to the polls to elect a president. Three national parties contested the election and the margin of victory between the two top contenders was only 80 votes- a feat unheard of in the Horn of Africa region or elsewhere in the African continent. The quintessence of the progression concluded with parliamentary election on September 29th 2005 where the two opposition national parties captured 49 seats out of 82 contested throughout the country. This is a first in contemporary African political history that an alliance of opposition parties controls the legislature. International observers from around the world verified the authenticity of the referendum and the subsequent elections.
Change of Approach:
Comparatively, from the time of the collapse of the Somali government in January 1991 until the conclusion of the Embagathi, Kenya, Somali peace and reconciliation on October 10th, 2004, the international community and the regional governments have arranged fourteen conferences to establish a functioning government in southern Somali. To this day none of these efforts had been fruitful. The Somaliland approach is a classic case model of conflict resolution and crisis management at a fraction of the cost of the endless peace conferences for Somalia.
To stabilize the situation, a pragmatic holistic approach will diffuse the tensions. The engagement of all stakeholders in the conflict is the most practical and the least expensive method. The role of the traditional leadership of the society, the moderate elements among the religious scholars, and the civil society groups without any political baggage from the past should not be underestimated in a revitalized bottom up, all inclusive peace process. The crisis of southern Somalia needs an urgent departure from the failed attempts of the past that empowering the architects of Somalia's destruction- the warlords. The civil society and the ruled masses had no input in the failed peace and reconciliation conferences of the past. The international community has catered to the criminals for too long and it is about time to explore other options.
This process worked remarkably well in neighbouring Somaliland- a combination of the traditional system of governance coupled with modern institutions of a nascent democracy. In the final analysis of the current intractable quagmire in Mogadiscio, Somaliland's exemplary model of conflict resolution and crisis management is the only viable hope for southern Somalia. This concept is the most cost effective and adaptable to the local environment. Had Somaliland been granted its overdue recognition, southern Somalia would have been stabilized a long time ago? The Somali creed is fiercely independent by culture and very resistant to an externally imposed authority. This has been the major obstacle to any government formed outside of Somalia.
Ahmed Ali Ibrahim