Hiiraan online - News and information about Somalia
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink



THE ISLAMIST TAKEOVER OF MOGADISHU: Freedom from Tyranny or Replacement by Theocracy

By Abdalla A. Hirad

In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

“Therefore do thou give admonition, for thou art one to admonish. Thou art not one to manage (men’s) affairs. But if any turns away and rejects Allah— Allah will punish him with a mighty punishment”    The Quran, Surah 88: Al Ghashiyah[1]

Many weeks have passed since the Islamists took over Mogadishu from the anarchic reign of the warlords which lasted sixteen years, and since the collapse of Barre’s government in Somalia. I hope it is not too late, or too naive of me, to ask the question as to what was the objective of the take-over. Many would argue that there could not have been a reason for the takeover, to start with. At least, they would argue: there was not one until it happened. The majority of people who adhere to this view were of the opinion that the Islamists are an innocent bunch of clerics traditionally filling in the vacuum of law and order in the capital and who were caught in the situation because of an unjust attack on them by the coalition of the Mogadishu warlords with the support of the US government.

 Those would further subscribe to the notion: that these poor clerics were neither militarily a match nor were they of any political influence compared to the warlords. Hence, it was merely a popular uprising of the people of Mogadishu against the warlords which had coincided with the desperate efforts of the Islamists to defend themselves against the warlords.  Not surprisingly, therefore, all had come to accept the Islamists as the princes of the people, the Robin Hoods of Mogadishu—the saviors of the masses from anarchy, tyranny and lawlessness. By extension, a significant proportion of the Somali people—as gullible as ever—also came to see a final solution to their decades-old political disillusion and impasse in the Islamists. Or, did they?


Now, only days before the resumption of the Arab League-sponsored talks between the TFG and the Islamists, scheduled for July 15, 2006, let us evaluate the prevalence of those early sentiments and assumptions and indeed check them against the reality transpiring since then. Indeed, the conquering Islamists have in the beginning shown a great degree of responsibility, both in terms of rhetoric and reality, not to mention that they have occasionally given mixed signals here and there. Their positive points have been topped by their participation in the Arab League-sponsored talks immediately and without any reservations, which ended with a seven-point agreement including the fact that they recognize the Federal Transitional Government and that, in turn, their capture of Mogadishu would be considered a reality by the TFG. That must already be hailed as a positive position to start from.


Still, many among the clerics in power have made statements that the Shari’a law will be applied in Somalia. Some have threatened beheading those who refuse to pray five times a day. At least one incident was reported where people were disallowed to watch the World Cup matches; and, the property of the owner in the make-shift theatre was destroyed. It is in these incidents that one finds cause for concern regarding what in the end is the goal of the Union of Islamic Courts. The question remains whether they will ever be able to strike a deal with the TFG—especially under the new leadership of Mr. Hassan Dahir Aweys—and whether they will be able to deliver the agreements on their side, if at all. Never mind mentioning that the TFG has recently been uttering statements of disinterest in resuming talks with the Islamists on the grounds that it is no longer viable for them to conduct talks with a “known terrorist” as they implied.


Even more obscure, at this stage, is what on earth can the two sides agree on, even if they finally come to the table? That very much depends on whether (a) the Islamists are willing to finally join and fit themselves into the existing TFG Institutions by abandoning their goal of imposing the Shari’a Law, and, that (b) the TFG is willing to accommodate the demands of the Islamists. Of course, the no-go-option for the Islamists is to demand the imposition of shari’a Law. Short of that, which can involve quantitative (not qualitative) changes of the Federal Transitional Constitution, there is room for negotiation but only just. For, even then, it is difficult to foresee the nature of points of agreement between the two sides.


Let’s for the heck of it suppose that the Islamists were willing to negotiate in earnest and have made demands on various posts including the Prime Minister’s and various powerful government posts. The way things are now with the TFG, there are only a few ministerial posts available—those vacated by some of those warlords defeated by the Islamists. In addition, the Islamists may demand parliamentary seats. Remember, Mogadishu happens to be the most important negotiation chip for both sides. The Islamist will be using Mogadishu as the most important chip to their advantage. The TFG would naturally seek to gain control on Mogadishu for the ultimate effectiveness of the TFG. Remember also the TFG institutions are built on the darned 4.5-formula—a disaster in itself for all practical purposes, but one with which we are stuck with for the time being.


That formula assigns a certain number of seats to each of the major clans, of which the Hawiye is one. Note also that the area which the Islamists claim to control is a Hawiye territory by kinship claims to land. In other words, the new Islamist Parliamentarians can only come from the Hawiye family if the 4.5-formula is to be observed as is. The question is whether the current members of the parliament from the Hawiye family tree would be willing to give up seats for their Islamist compatriots—in the name of God and country, that is. It is more unlikely than likely that they would. In this case, it, ideally, therefore, boils down to one thing—a negotiation between the Islamists and the Hawiye family parliamentarians, within a Hawiye political caucus, if the TFG is to exist as is—that is, in terms of the existing power-sharing formula. That is where it becomes a bottle-neck for the TFG too. Already, there have been some disgruntles among some parliamentarians in Baidoa as to whether to conduct talks, at all, with the Islamists on purely power sharing related issues—perhaps out of fear and concern of losing their seats to the Islamists.


The alternative is to increase the overall number of parliamentary seats by allocating an additional number of seats for the Islamists—say, for example, 5,7, 10 or 15 percent—on condition that these seats will be filled in along the lines of the same 4.5-formula—in other words distributed among Islamists from all parts of Somalia. Please note: these percentages are only hypothetical on my part. The increase will have been determined through negotiation between the parties. This over all increase, in my view, although expensive in terms of budget, is the least costly political approach to striking a practical deal between the two sides. In this case, the point of contention will zero on the percentage of the increase for the Islamists—which I am sure the Islamists will seek to maximize and the current TFG will seek to minimize for obvious reasons—sort of the half-full, half-empty, glass analogy. However, negotiations along those lines will fare better and less costly than continued impasse or a situation where there was no deal, at all—God forbid.


Of course, no sooner than the percentage is added to the Parliament, the requirement for dissolving the cabinet will loom high, which would involve the appointment of a new Prime Minister and the formation of the new cabinet—including Islamists. The negotiation would a priori also include what posts would be available to the Islamists in the federal institutions and which ones will remain untouchable. The Islamists may demand one among the three top posts and some powerful cabinet posts. In that case, the solution lies in the seriousness of the current leaders of the TFG to bring about peace and stability in Somalia. The Islamist ought to realize, on their part, that the time for introducing ideological parties (including an Islamic one) is yet to come. They ought to begin to share power now, so that they can campaign better for their ideas in a most peaceful manner and through a  future democratic process, if that happens to be an acceptable term for the Islamists.


If, however, the Islamists come to demand Shari’s Law or else, then I remind them of the self-explanatory quotation, in the beginning of this paper, from the Holy Qura’n. I also wish to remind them the famous story of the Ka’ba Stone (the Black Stone). Decades before Mohamed (Peace and Prayers be upon him) proclaimed Islam, there was a conflict among the Qureish family of clans as to which one of them would mount the sacred Black Stone in its current resting place in the Ka’ba, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. To resolve the conflict, after a while of posturing and polemics, they had agreed on consulting the first to enter the Ka’ba from outside within a given period of time. Perhaps, as a preamble for unity among the Arabs prior to introducing Islam, and as if by coincidence, the prophet, a young man at the time, was the first to enter the Ka’ba. Muhammad, already known for his honesty and fairness, was accepted by the entire clan representative. He then put the stone in the center of a large sheet of cloth and asked the clans to lift it together to its current resting place, where it lied for the last 14 centuries.


The Transitional Federal Arrangement, with all its conceptual and design faults, can yield fruit, if considered in terms of its initial unifying capacity, and with a view to working away from there. In this respect, it can be not unlike the Back Stone for Somalia. Ideologies aside, and barring the notoriousness ascribed to some political personalities in its helm, the TFG seems to be the shortest cut for unity and for reconstituting government in Somalia. I hope, therefore, that the parties soon to negotiate in Khartoum, the Republic of the Sudan, will arrive there in the spirit of fully committing themselves to the unity of the nation; and for consolidating the efforts already spent on producing the current transitional agreement, which was contrived with considerable national inputs and international will as well as  considerable financial and intangible resources. I hope also that there are more and better options available for consideration than my preferred option above.


If, however, the Islamists fail to negotiate or seek, instead, to impose Shari’a Law on their own, they ought to know that they would naturally be accountable to the very people they freed from the grip of the warlords. In the end, it very much depends on whether they (the Islamists) were interested in gaining the power for themselves and bring about a theocracy; or that they were merely interested in freeing the masses from the long lasting grip of the warlords. I hope that the people’s yearning for unity and the restoration of government is not failed once more in the hands of the Islamists, and that another opportunity is not wasted for peace and unity in Somalia. In this regard, The Islamist can begin to already make their mark in the political history of the nation by affording the people the opportunity to consolidate their hard won transitional arrangement and to help them maximize its effectiveness by simply becoming a part of it.


By the same token, Let’s all pray that the Government of Premier Geddi and the Parliament will be willing to facilitate for meeting the demands, by the Islamists, of a reasonable number of seats; and that they will accommodate their demands in terms of cabinet posts to remove one of the current major political hurdles in the way of the TFG. If they, however, fail to negotiate or fail to deliver the negotiated settlements on their part, they ought to know that Somalia, in my best view, is gone for good, unless God saves it from its own. I hope the leadership of the TFG is equally aware and wary of such negative consequences for the country. I hope they understand that they can save the nation, at least past this political knot, by simply by seeking and remaining focused on a positive future for the people of Somalia. 

[1] See Abdullah Yusuf Ali, the Meaning of the Holy Qura’n, with New Revised Translation and commentary, published by Amana Corporation.


By Abdalla A. Hirad
E-mail: [email protected]


The opinions contained in this article are solely those of the writer, and in no way, form or shape represent the editorial opinions of "Hiiraan Online"

Add Comment-- View Comment 
0 comment(s) with
0 replies.



Hiiraan Online 

Contact:[email protected]
Copyright © 1999-2006 Hiiraan Online