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Troubled Times: Optimism and Uncertainty


by Rashid Yahya Ali


A new dawn is merging in the distant horizon and there is hope and awakening from the long and the delirious nightmare. Militias that were hunting each other and wreaking havoc on defenseless civilians are hugging and embracing in a brotherly spirit long lost from the conscience of a nation. However, there is also anxiety if what has been achieved is sustainable and can endure long enough to carry this suffering nation through these troubled times and into an aurora of peace and brotherhood.

Whatever misgivings one might hold towards the Union of the Islamic Courts (UIC), one must congratulate them for the brilliancy of their strategic campaign and commendable actions in restraining their forces from harming civilians and preventing the victimization of entire communities because of tribal affiliations. This foresight averted a repeat of the 90’s blunders in unnecessary slaughter and massive internal displacement of populations. It is truly a laudable and encouraging first step. Nonetheless, formidable stumbling blocks remain on the long arduous journey to national recovery, both locally and international, which if not cautiously handled and conducted professionally would derail the hard won victories and plunge the nation once more into abyss.

National Challenges and Opportunities:

Sharif Sheikh Ahmed is the moderate chairman of the courts

The Social Component: The hardest task of steering Somalia back to the path of stability and lasting peace hinges on the promotion of inter-communal harmony and laying structurally sound foundation for an environment conducive to establishing social justice. And no justice could prevail under domination. It is therefore essential to let communities elect their leaders and run their local affairs without undue pressure or interference from outside forces.



The UIC has demonstrated political maturity and a good social strategy by allowing close relatives of defeated faction leaders to take charge of their properties. Transferring oversight of military hardware confiscated from their opponents under the direct control of immediate clan members is also a smart political move. Those constructive acts convey goodwill, build bridges of trust between communities and presents the clerics in a positive light and must be continued. Nonetheless, much more needs to be done particularly on the cantankerous, overbearing presence of non-member faction leaders and the extent of their influence on the gains and political objectives of the courts.


A rare political capital enjoyed by the clergy, that sets them apart from the traditional glutinous politicians, and also is accountable for the overwhelming public support, is credibility. It is a precious, non-transferable asset the loss of which is irredeemable. Associating with men of questionable moral characters or openly maintaining close military cooperation is damaging to that fundamental trust. The close alliance between the top leadership of the courts and regional strongmen is looked with suspicion and is a source of anguish in many communities. Some sectors of the population are at unease and enraged by the public display of authority and unabashed victory parade over their communities by those individuals. They wonder whether the true objective behind the veil of Islamism is but a ploy to be dominated by an outsider clan. The negative implications of these inconsistencies are very grave and could be interpreted as a sinister betrayal of the sacred tenets of Islam. A public breach of trust with the clergy, the last vestige of hope in these critical times, could potentially unravel the delicate social fabric holding the nation together and unleash renewed violence of cataclysmic proportions. In the interest of peace and tranquility, the UIC must come clean and distance itself from characters that could soil its image.


The first litmus test on the clear headedness and capacity of the clerics to accommodate communal sensitivities is finding peaceful resolution to the evolving skepticism in Northern Mogadishu.  Mr. Yalahow and colleagues, though defeated and weakened still enjoy considerable support and immense respect in their constituents and should be treated accordingly. Any attempt to humiliate them in the midst of their fellow clansmen is replete with danger and unnecessary provocations and must be desisted.

Following the footsteps of the Prophet (saws), in his final triumph and conquest of Mecca, the Messenger of Allah showed a superhuman gentleness in the face of unanimous feeling to the contrary in his victorious army1 when he boldly declared, "Who enters the house of Abu Sufyan will be safe, who lays down arms will be safe, who locks his door will be safe".2  This charitable attitude towards Qureysh and the magnanimity with which the Prophet (saws) treated people who so long rejected and hated him is surely worth admiration and emulation. Showing kindness to the defeated is an Islamic spirit and must not be overshadowed by passion or pursuit of vengeance.


In as much as the ubiquity of decadence and decline of social morale in the country as a result of the absence of law and order for so long a time, the Somali people remain ardent keepers of their faith and loyal to the sanctity of their religion. The restoration of stability and a sense of security weigh heaviest in the minds of the public. The nostalgia to freely walk in the streets without fear is the single most longed desire for every mother, father and child. It is therefore prudent not to rush blindly onto the imposition of draconian measures to force a rigid theocratic rule on the land. It would be wise to tone down the religious fervor and concentrate on security and rebuilding the economy.


The opportunities afforded by the recent political earthquake in Mogadishu are boundless and the potential of this nation to lift itself from drudgery to a viable peaceful and prosperous nation are within reach. Sheikh Sharif, the chairman of the UIC, appears to be genuine and sincere, pained by the misery of his long suffering people. A political realist, articulate with clear political vision and social pragmatism, he comes across as a moderate leader sincerely trying to change the lot of his people. His public remarks to let the people determine their fate are indeed encouraging. It truly is a new dawn if the moment is seized.


The Economics Factor:  


In 1775, Adam Smith, a prominent American economist was quoted, “Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism, but peace, easy taxes and tolerable administration of justice.” Peace is almost within reach as its shining rays of light appear on the horizon. None are more qualified to bring a just administration than sincere pious clergy if they remain true to their creed, hold the interest of the people above personal gain and maintain tolerance.


A nation’s economic wellbeing goes hand in hand with its productivity which in turn is contingent upon many others, but primarily on political stability, human capital and investment. Unfortunately the civil war drove the best and brightest into foreign lands. Their repatriation will entirely depend on the security situation and the political stability prevailing in the country. The overwhelming majority in the Diaspora are longing to voluntarily return and serve their people and country. A state guided by the rule of law and protection of individual rights will go a long way in attracting and expediting the return of its sons and daughters to contribute to the reconstruction of this devastated nation.


Economic growth also depends on national investment in infrastructure such as factories, transportation and on enhancing production factors. Existing conditions induce capital flight to overseas with devastating impact on local economy. The standard of living of the Somali citizen is among the lowest in this world. If this trend is to be reversed, political wellbeing and protection of personal property must be restored.


Furthermore, illegal activities of racketeering, piracy and plundering of national resources by individual groups must be brought to an immediate halt. It is incredulous that certain faction leaders have the audacity to authorize and disburse fishing permits to foreign entities along the national coast line for an average annual fee of $150,000.00 per permit. According to the latest UN Monitoring Group report, “In any one season over 500 fishing vessels may be encountered in the Somali exclusive economic zone”. The report continues to point out that the “Permits are issued in complete disregard for any international regulations or long-term sustainability of the fisheries, resulting in indiscriminate fishing and severe long-term degradation of the Somali fishery”.


Given the rich abundant natural resources of Somalia, not a single child should go to bed with an empty belly or miss a meal let alone perish in starvation. It truly is a shame the level of poverty and degradation our people have to endure despite the blessings Allah bestowed in this country.


To some extent, one’s material wellbeing is a measure of one’s ability to conserve self worthiness and maintain dignity. Mankind is endowed with dignity by the Creator. Man must therefore treat mankind with dignity. Destitution robs mankind of its noble qualities and reduces the human being into a lowly creature.  Restoring the economic power of our country is lifting up our people and helping them reclaim their Allah given dignity. Let the farmer farm, the teacher teach, the mason build, the fisherman fish. Let everyone do what they do best, laissez faire, and before we know the miracles of human ingenuity, insha-Allah, will work its magic.


International Relations: Source of Conflict or Partner in Peace


The triumph of the UIC over the faction leaders in Mogadishu, a city of about 2 million, has for the first time in decades brought about a sense of the attainability of peace in Somalia without complex international intervention or massive financial aid in expensive projects on demobilization and disarmament of militias. This is a testament to the potency of honesty in leadership and the will of the people when synergetic. The public rage against the status quo seems to have taken a momentum of its own propelling the country into long forgotten new heights of shared fate and destiny. Yet, the international community is agitated and up in arms with fear and concern of Somalia becoming a haven for international terrorism. It is up to the clergy to allay those fears in order to cultivate friendly relations with the rest of the world while maintaining the sovereignty of Somalia.


The greatest threat facing this fledgling hope for peace is proxy guerilla warfare pushed by foreign states to forestall a perceived threat, real or imagined, from an Islamic authority taking over Somalia. The defeated strong men and their associates are amassing military hardware and busy in foreign capitals spreading doom of an emerging Taliban government in Mogadishu. Likewise, the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) aware of its ineffectiveness, corruption and lack of solid public support, is shaken by the gains of the clerics.


 It is therefore of paramount importance on the part of the clergy to win the hearts and minds of the people to solidify their legitimacy and also to steer clear of avoidable provocations, at all cost, to stave off further polarization and resumption of hostilities. Furthermore, it would be wise to extend an olive branch to the rational ones among the defeated strong men. Promise of total amnesty from persecution and harassment and freedom to engage in business or pursue livelihood with full citizenship rights must be afforded in return for their disavowal of actions detrimental to the security and unity of the nation. This will deny the enemy an opportunity to recruit disgruntled opponents.


For instance, the humiliation suffered by Mr. Abdirashid Ilqayte in the hands of Kenyan immigration officers serves the interest of no one. The debasement of one Somali citizen is total, and is a degradation subjected to all who call themselves Somalis.


One of the most troubling accusations against the UIC is the harboring of international fugitives. Unless the clerics come clean, the implications are indeed serious. These charges, if not confronted forcefully with transparency and openness and in a spirit of full cooperation to parties concerned, have the potential to derail all progress and dash the hopes and dreams paid so dearly with the sweat and blood of the people.


Sober and judicious reflection is appropriate to weigh the gravity of the situation and to study carefully the alternatives. Somalia can’t afford to become a pariah nation, shunned, sanctioned or left to slowly perish in a painful disintegration if not dismembered or conquered and occupied altogether. Or on the other hand, establish just and honorable relations with the international community based on the principles of international law, mutual friendship and peaceful coexistence whereby Somalia could attract desperately needed assistance in rebuilding the country and help in alleviating the hardships crippling the nation. The choices are crystal clear.


We must not kneel down and ask permission to worship our Allah or seek permission from foreign authority to practice our faith, but we must not either risk the territorial integrity of our motherland and the aspirations and the freedom of our people for a handful of foreign nationals, if they are proven, beyond reasonable doubt, to be involved in terrorism.


Indeed, it is a new dawn in Somalia. Though there are mountains over mountains to be scaled and steep depths of gorges to be crossed, no single individual, group, or clan could alone conquer the heights of peace and relish the valleys of prosperity. Our destiny is so intricately intertwined; we will either collectively perish a painful death at the foot of the hill or assemble at the top - together, as one nation, under one Allah, united in peace and in brotherhood.



1Zafrulla Khan, Muhammad: Seat of the Prophets, p. 277

2Sahih Muslim, Vol. 3, p. 977.


Rashid Yahya Ali

Baltimore, MD

[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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