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Somali at the Crossroads: Consensus Building and Wise Policies are the Way Forward

By Daud ED

“I confess to you, I have seen enough of one war never to wish to see another[i]

                                                ---Thomas Jefferson ----


What happed in Mogadishu Somalis capital city last week did not nearly confirm the claim of warlords that they are legitimately in charge and their opponents are bunch of extremists Islamists who give safe haven to foreign terrorists. However, the victory of The Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) in the capital stirred emotions for Somalis who have suffered fifteen years under ruthless warlords without basic services, crumbling public infrastructure, deteriorating public health, chronic unemployment, and continues drought that have killed thousands of people for the last four month alone. It also created concerns to United States who was alleged to have been paying the warlord according International Crisis Group[ii].


Surprisingly the event have shifted the Transitional Federal government policy from isolating the Union of Islamic Courts in Mogadishu and begging the warlord ministers to come back to prevent the collapse of the government; toward more conciliatory and forward looking policy statements which started President Yusuf’s comment “we inter a new chapter in Somali history and I am ready to talk to the Union of Islamic Courts.” Thus, the Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi immediately fired three of the deposed warlord in the capital city Mogadishu.


The sadden defeat of the warlords by Union of Islamic Courts in Mogadishu - which is a grass root organization initiated by Islamic leaders and fully supported by the population, tribal elders and the business community - is an indication that the Somalis are ready to build a modern state based on democratic institutions, popular election, free media, civil societies, and good governance.  


In addition, before the collapse of the state in 1991 the notorious dictator Mohamed Siad Bare has been in power for twenty two years and during his tenure he pursued policies in tended to eliminate social capital and made a crime being a member in any association even your own clan. Therefore, civil societies started and evolved incrementally to feel the vacuum left by the state, and for the last fifteen years civil society organization has running schools; provided health services; broker seize fires; and cared the orphans and disabled persons who were mostly by products of the prolonged civil war. For Somalis to reach this level of social capital within the span of fifteen years is a great achievement.


So far UIC’s have handled the situation professionally their continues consultation with tribal elders; their press releases; their participation in radio and TV debates; and their open letter to the US government signal that they are not thugs of Islamic extremist who want to impose Taliban-model government, but are ready to deal with US government and international community, and to respond to any concerns they may have, as well as their invitation of international NGO’s to come and continue their work in the capital city which has been unsafe for the international NGO’s to operate. As result many experts in Somali affairs which included both former US diplomats and Somali academics who teach in American Universities criticized the US policies in Somali that supported and paid the warlord to fight The Union of Islamic Courts whom the US government alleged having ties with terrorist groups. For the time being the US government is adopting wait and see attitude.


Wise Policy option is Negotiation and Confidence Building, not Confrontation and Debate on Deployment of Foreign Troops 


The question one must ask is what kind of relationship the TFG will have UIC and how this relationship will develop reminding that the TFG was conceived in a process that marginalized civil societies and embraced the warlords. Another sensitive issue which the TFG must address is that many Somalis both academics and non-academics, as well as the reports of International Crisis Group suspected the Ethiopian government as architect of the TFG, and supported their claim the way the TFG behaved immediately after its creation by adopting divisive policies that undermined its legitimacy such as the deployment of peacekeeping forces which included Ethiopia.


International Crisis Group report on December 21, 2004 makes the following observation when the policy of deployment of foreign troop first initiated:[iii]


The Transitional Federal Parliaments choice for interim president, colonel Abdillahi Yusuf Ahmed, is a divisive and controversial. To many Somalis, his election represents not a step towards peace but continuation of war by other means……In order to cement his victory, Yusuf called for deployment to Somalia of a 20,000-strong multinationl military force. His choice for prime minister and the composition of the first TFG cabinet confirmed his pursuit of a narrow political agenda, provoking a parliament revolt, a no-confidence vote (ostensibly for other reasons) and dissolution of the Government.


Yet after the UIC accepted the TFG invitation to talk, the executive branch of TFG still continues its controversial policy of bringing foreign troops in the capital city. The argument for deployment of foreign troops when first initiated was that the capital city is not safe for the government to operate, that is then, what is the argument now. As I am writing this article the Transitional Federal Parliament approved bringing foreign troops in the country after three days of discussion, and even more disturbing is that they did not exclude any country. This kind of behavior on the part of TFG is what worries many Somalis who became optimistic after the defeat of the warlord last week.


After both sides agreed to talk, Somalis where expecting resumption of negation and final solution, because the Courts or Islamic leaders have never rejected any peace process before. And further more the head of the UIC Sheikh Sharif Ahmed repeated many time that they are not interested in getting cabinet position, and they do not what foreign troops in the capital since they are able to secure the cities they control. The problem of the TFG is that it is acting like another faction group, for example they pursue controversial policies and in the process they talk tough as if they have the majority of the population on their side and do not give a damn about what the minority of the population think of them, in other word seeking legitimacy is not the center of their agenda. In the next view weeks we will see where these policies will lead.

[i] Quoted in John P. Kaminski ed. The Quotable Jefferson (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2006), pg 327. Originally the quote is from letter sent by Thomas Jefferson to John Adams in April 25 1794.

[ii] International Crisis Group is a independent think tank based in Brussels, Belgium with over 100 staff members on five continents, which prepares objective reports to prevent and resolve deadly conflicts.  See “Counter Terrorism in Somalia: Losing Hearts and Minds?” Crisis Group Report No 95, July 2005  Pg 10

[iii] Ibid. “Somalia: Continuation of War By Other Means.” Report No 88 December 21, 2004 Pg i


Daud Ed 

Email: [email protected] 

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