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By Mohamed Shariff

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Somali Map: Power largely defines sovereignty and self-determination

The boundaries of contemporary nation states are fundamentally imaginary, arbitrary and are merely formed by lines drawn on the sand. Although complex networks of societies, geography, and legalities shape states, their sovereign existence is practically defined by power. States typically strengthen their sovereignty through military, and/or economic muscle. At this stage of globalism, and communication, Power largely defines sovereignty, control and self-determination. Therefore, for states to exist, they must define not only their boundaries, but in addition, their enemies, their friends, culture, their foreign policy, and the backbone of the ideology that shapes their objectives, and aspirations. To minimally take shape, states must make strong claim to sovereignty. Hence, there are those who may make counter claim to a state’s sovereignty, or may seek an adjustment to that claim. Ethiopia, in my view, is the only state that seeks to alter the self-determination of the Somali nation. Although other states may seek to bend the ideological concept of the Somali state, Ethiopia, dutifully and unsurprisingly labors for the permanent absence of the Somali state. But the role of the international community concerning Ethiopia’s objectives towards Somalia is on the face of it, contemptuous of Somali sovereignty. In the context of the current Somali political climate, I am not surprised by Ethiopia’s actions; I am rather sadly bewildered by the objectives of many other countries, supposedly concerned about Somalia.


I do not think that the Somali pundits of other countries are simply naïve as to think Ethiopia is seeking the stability of Somalia. The UN, the AU, and the Arab League were all silent, or complicit as the warlords armed by Ethiopia, raped, tortured, maimed and raked havoc on the population; in attar disregard for human rights, the rule of law, and Somali sovereignty. It is needless to say that Somalis have committed, and continue to commit much of those crimes against themselves. I am, however, confident that if left on their own, Somalis would have found away out of the chaos.

Beside the Somali people themselves; it seems there are plenty of people busy fueling the Somali conflict. The international community led by the toothless UN, and the ineffective AU apparently seem to be troubled by the fact that the Mogadishu warlords have been deposed. All over sudden, the semi-Somali government currently based in Baidoa is strategically important to them. Unabashedly, the UN refers to the legality of the warlord government without mentioning the interest of the Somali people, the composition of the government, and the crimes against the Somali people by key members of the Warlord Government. Before the warlords were unseated from Mogadishu, the UN contended that the warlord Government was merely an acknowledgment of the “reality” on the ground, and not on solid legitimacy. That seemed pragmatic idea, balancing the warlord power and the interest of the Somali people. After the miraculous defeat of the Mogadishu warlords, however, without any hint of irony, the UN and AU champion for the lifting of the sanctions that were nominally in place since the collapse of the central government. They seem to be sour, and indicate nostalgia for the unseated warlords, and desperately legitimizing the Ethiopian representatives in Somalia.

Beside cursory humanitarian involvement, the international community decided to forget about Somalia. In its rare engagement, it deceitfully assisted Ethiopia in its endeavor to increase turmoil in Somalia. It empowered the warlords, by arming them, or legitimized them in its series of sarcastic peace conferences. The last one held in Kenya, unjustifiably lasted for two years, to give Ethiopia time to exclude those Somali politicians who were actually concerned about Somalia. Ethiopian involvement in the Mbagathi “Peace Conference” is humiliatingly legendry to many patriotic Somalis. The result was the current government “of the warlords, by the warlords, for the warlords”. For that reason, as far as the international community is concerned, Somalia can only exist as state, as much as Ethiopia wishes.

In that case then, the UN, the AU, the Arab League and the world have abdicated their rights to have a say in the Somali political affairs. The international community may have the right to be concerned about the rise of the Islamic Courts, but does not have the moral high ground, the credibility, and trust of the Somali people to criticize any political entity in Somalia. Nor is it politically wise to invite Ethiopian forces into Somalia in order to moderate the views of the Somali people, and isolate the Council of Islamic Courts (ICU). By supporting the lifting of the arms embargo and campaigning for foreign troops, the AU and the UN simply approved Ethiopia’s line. For many Somalis, it is not that the deployment of foreign troops is necessarily abhorrent, but they are past due, the timing is poor, and they are more likely to lengthen the conflict. And that is Ethiopia’s goal. Why peacekeepers now? What peace are they to keep? Is it really the peace of the Somali people that the UN and AU are concerned about? Is the world merely approving the stated goal of the political enemy of Somalia?

Ethiopia is largely defined by its struggle against the irredentism of Somalia towards western Somali communities. After the collapse of the Somali state in 1991, Ethiopia saw a lasting solution to the historical conflict with its eastern enemy. Although the conflict is largely to blame on Somalis because of their shameless clannish nature, and power hungry individuals, the Ethiopian interest fueled the civil war. Although cruel, understandably, Ethiopia seeks the permanent destruction of the Somali polity, if not the Somali nation. Therefore, according to the political culture of the current international political system, Ethiopia is plainly doing its natural and national obligation. Short of seeking long-term destabilization of the Somali state, Ethiopia would have put its safety in danger. If its leaders were at least indifferent, or sought the stability of Somalia, they would perhaps be guilty of incompetence.

Likewise, any Somali individual or group, who seek Ethiopia’s counsel and support, is guilty of high crimes and treason. In the pursuit of power, there should be limits in the means to power. That “parliament” that recently invited Ethiopian forces into Somalia committed a crime that is comparable to signing the doted lines in surrendering Somalia. They have violated the sacred will of the people, and the territorial integrity of Somalia. They have collectively committed historical crime, extremely treasonous and unforgivable. That is, if there is such thing as Somali entity real enough for anyone to commit crimes against. Remember, states are perceptions, as much as they are practical. In the long run, it is Ethiopia’s supreme national interest to see fragmented or nonexistence Somali state. For that reason, to seek the national interest of Somalia in the presence of Ethiopia is tantamount to mockery, and oxymoron. In addition, in its claim to establish law and order in Somalia, if the international community were to actively involve Ethiopia, it would be analogous to, if India were to decide the interest of Pakistan. Therefore, as far as the Somali entity is genuine, the current “Government”, the brainchild of Ethiopia, relinquished its lawful right to govern Somalia. Because of its saturation with warlords/terrorists, and due to its unambiguous loyalty to Ethiopia, the “Government” is invalidated. Consequently, the international communities’ recognition of the “Government” is affront to the sovereignty of Somalia. As an alternative of embracing the terrorist warlords, the UN should commend the Somali people for throwing the terrorists out.

Instead, the international community, particularly the UN and AU, in apparent suspension of morality in politics, recognized the current warlord government in Somalia. If they find the government distastefully acceptable simply because the warlords held power (realpolitik) in Somalia, then, the international community must tolerate any political entity with power. In his resent statement concerning Somalia, the UN secretary General Kofi Annan did not use that opportunity to call for the criminal prosecution of the Somali warlords, a missed opportunity indeed. Manifestly, no crime is horrible enough to warrant a crime against the Somali people. If the international community is to be involved in Somali affairs, and wishes to regain the respect of the Somali society, it must first seek war crimes prosecution for the warlords. It must also ask Ethiopia to respect the sovereignty of Somalia and give peace a chance.

As Ethiopian forces flood into the country, and occupy Bay, Bakool, and Gedo, the UN and the AU have not yet called for the territorial integrity of Somalia. Unthinkingly, or mischievously, -I do not know which- they continue to parrot Ethiopia’s line that the ICU is an extremist organization, and the government must be protected. Every real Somali must term it as invasion, and violation of Somali sovereignty. The patriotic individuals in the Baidoa based warlord government must resign, and leave in defense of our collective honor.

It should be upon the Somali people to decide the legitimacy of any Somali government. The UN, and the AU, should not force warlord government on us. Instead they should appreciate that Mogadishu is stable and administered by one group. If the world finds the ICU unacceptable, rather than forcing the warlord government on the Somali people, the world should help Somalis hold general election within months. The power based flawed international system that supported, and funded the Mbagathi conference, and continues to legitimize warlords/terrorists must stop. Mogadishu has seen peaceful nights in sixteen years, and the economic warlord/terrorists have been defeated. For the first time in eleven years, a plane landed at Mogadishu international Airport. For the first time in sixteen years, all the roads in Mogadishu are accessible. For the first time in sixteen years, women are not raped at will, property is not stolen at will, and men are not killed at will. For the first time in sixteen years killing is a crime in Mogadishu. For the first time in sixteen years, girls can step outside without the fear of gang rape, and mutilation. Is that not a huge step towards peace? What is the UN excuse, then, for not calling for the warlords’ trial in The Hague? The warlords have no place in any government; they should follow Charles Taylor to The Hague.

Mohamed Shariff
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"

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