by Abdullahi M. Arale (Bulac)
The struggle for political power and influence in Somalia has been raging for the past 18 years. To this date, we have not seen anyone of the people in leadership positions in Somalia, genuinely, striving to establish an inclusive Somali state. In the course of the noted period, various warlords fought against one another to gain power, some of whom claiming to fight for the people’s interests, some, under the influence of foreign governments claiming to fight against terrorism and religious extremism in Somalia, while others passionately seek and actively engaged in the division and dismemberment of the country for unexplained objectives. Today, the people of Somalia are less confident and more pessimistic about the future of their country. Somalis of all regions feel that their sovereignty and nationhood, dignity, safety and security and decent living are slipping away from their horizons by the hour. Additionally, they feel their living conditions were better off under Siyad Barre’s brutal regime. This is how the situation in Somalia stands as of today: in the south, a fierce fight rages between Abdullahi Yusuf’s Transitional Federal Government supported by Puntland militia and Ethiopian forces, and the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC); Puntland, acting like an independent state within a divided country is locked down in territorial confrontation with Somaliland; and the absolutist Somaliland’s strongman Rayale Kahin and his associates are engaged in deadly tribal ideologies with Somalia proper with an intention to establish an independent one tribe-state with own flag, armed forces and own constitution. The difficulties with these three-party positions stem from their own divergent objectives which, each one of them is committed to fight for, while the Somali people endures misery on the sideline.
Thursday, September 04, 2008
For instance, the TFG president’s position is incompatible with the UIC in the south; he would not sit down and genuinely negotiate with these forces who are the true representatives of the central and southern tribes for a lasting peace settlement. Similarly, Rayale Kahin would not even consider talking to his-would-be peace partners in Somalia, never mind entertaining ideas pertaining to national reconciliation. Likewise, the Puntland authorities would not talk to Somaliland until they vacate the disputed Soul and Sanag regions. However, except for the UIC in the south, all the other parties have one observable fact in common; they are allied to/and respondent only to an Ethiopian dictator sitting in Addis Ababa. Apparently, this Ethiopian dictator finally succeeds in invading and dismantling the very core DNA and construction of the Somali people’s pride and dignity through individuals who apparently lack positive personality attributes and self-esteem, sound judgment, foresight and true sense of care for their people. Watching these phenomenal occurrences on the sideline, Somalis in all stripes of life and regional affiliations are asking one simple question: are these so-called leaders, delusional fools or gifted politicians.
Anybody who possesses a minimal knowledge of the internationally established definitions of a state, nation and country would disagree with the current Somali warlords who explicitly advocate for a new kind of state under which strictly blood related clans would thrive and function as a modern state, with effective government institutions, armed forces, thriving economic infrastructure and most of all a constitution that would guarantee the universally accepted human rights principles of liberty freedom security and democratic plurality to their tribe members. The desires of these power-driven maniacs do not seem to be based on casual daydreams and wishful thinking, but based on serious rhetoric they have communicated to the world and on concrete steps they have taken lately, such as sending delegations to establish diplomatic missions abroad and soliciting recognition from international organizations for their illegal separatist schemes. These individuals are not learned, credible visionaries by any standards, but delusional fools at best who would do anything to put a whole nation’s national aspirations, pride, dignity and honor in perils and would equally turn the existing international state systems and laws into a mockery. The truth of the matter is that these warlords share common tribal principles with the infamous Rwandan Hutus who massacred their fellow countrymen, the Tutsis to establish a state in which everyone is a direct descendant of the governing tribe. The references here is the president of the TFG, the respective leadership of the break away Somaliland region and the Semi-autonomous Puntland who have proven to be hard core militant tribal chiefs committed not only to divide the internationally recognized Somali territory into tribal enclaves, but also to tear apart the integrity and completeness of the Somali people as a nation. To this date, these individuals in question have not explained their motives for seeking power other than re-iterating their usual rhetoric “we act in the best interests of our tribes”. Regrettably, it is this ploy upon which the Somali nation has been divided and dismembered.
However, the notion that the Somaliland’s self-loving-narcissist-rightwing separatists could establish a viable state in the north-western enclave without the Somali people’s input; the double take-bizarre behavior of the current Puntland leadership that on the one hand pretend to be honest, peace-loving Somalis who patiently wait for the chaotic south to settle down, and on the other hand, supply both arms and troops to their beloved son Abdullahi (the current TFG president) to quash the southern tribes’ will to secure their territories and establish self-rule; -and the argument re-iterated by the TFG’s president that there will be no peace in the south until the southern tribes completely disarm and submit themselves to his authority, is outright dishonest, delusional and simply ludicrous. Since their vision for Somalia will not stand in any reasonable court of public opinion, both nationally and internationally, these close-minded ignorant dictators better reverse their nonsensical stance while they have time and do the following: rise above the tribal partisan politics designed to discredit any efforts made by the world to unite Somalia and free up the Somali people to gather and sit among themselves to make a lasting peace for themselves and posterity. Closing their ears to the calls of peace and reconciliation, these immoral morons will face an unforgiving trial for destruction of a country, war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity.
This paper begins its analysis of the issues at hand in the following structure. First, a brief historical background of the origins of the Somali conflicts followed by a brief description of the way the former colonies (the British and Italian Somaliland) came to form a sovereign republic followed up with a brief description of siyad Barre’s ascendance to power. Next, it gives an account of how Somali warlord/dictators have usurped the Somali people’s will and managed to divide the country into clan enclaves and tribal states. The paper will concludes its analysis with a suggestion as to what these leaders in question should do in order to avoid prosecution for destruction of a country war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity.
The origins of the Somali conflicts
The Colonial period
The integrity of the Somali land was torn apart by the European colonizers. At their arrival to the territories, the European colonizers partitioned the land into various pieces among themselves. According to the authors of “History and Politics” Somalia was partitioned into French Somaliland, British Somaliland, the British area known as the Northern Frontier District (NFD), indirectly ruled by Kenya, Italian Somaliland and Ethiopian controlled parts of the Ogaden (p118). The Ethiopian annexation of Ogaden territory was a devastating blow to the clan interaction system. By closing the borders and preventing the Ogaden clans to cross over to their fellow clans in the south, disrupted the generational north-south migrations among the clans. Also, the British Protectorate Government forced the livestock commercialization which disrupted as well the entire social, economic and political culture of pastoral-nomadic life style, food supplies and the relationship with the environment. As well, the long established rule of law and way of life of the Somali tribes was disrupted by the colonial forces. As noted above, the division of the tribes into enclaves disrupted the follow of trade in the clan land. Moreover, the British and Italian colonizers had imposed their own laws on to the people, confusing and creating contradictions between the tribes’ relationships and their loyalty to each other. As a result, the northern tribes became cut off from the southern ones, and the movement from the western tribes to the east was blocked by the British and the Italians in order to make their ruling of the colonies easier and convenient. After fifty years of hard fight with both the British and the Italian occupiers, the two colonies established their independence together in July 1960.
Post colonial period:
The formation of one republic
July 1st, 1960, Somalia as an independent republic was formed from a union of two European colonies, one in the north, occupied by Great Britain and the other, in the south, by Italy. The republic of Somalia was basically a union of two newly independent regions who had a set of different official languages and different systems of education. In the south, the official language of the government was Italian, whereas the north had English as its administrative official language. The union of the two regions was a mutual recognition of coexistence and good will by the founders of the republic. In accordance with this good will, the power was to be shared between the two regions in a balanced manner. The president was customarily from the south for its population excess and the Prime Minster from the north.
Siyad Barre’s ascendance to power
The democratically elected republic that reflected the northern and southern tribes’ agreement to live under one modern, powerful state was dashed in 1969 when the Siyad Barre’s military regime took over the country, canceling the constitution and imprisoning the elected members of parliament, the president and the Prime Minister and in the process destroying the intra-national-power sharing accords established between the union of the two independent regions. For the following 20 years the country was under siege. The regime targeted Somalia’s major tribes that he expected to revolt against him. Specifically, the regime targeted the Isaacs in order to silence them from any claim of their previous statehood status. Consequently, following the collapse of Siyad’s regime, the Isaacs reclaimed their lost independence and without further a do, consolidated their power in the north. In the south, the historical conflict between the Puntland clans and the central-southern tribes continues and will go on until Puntland’s imposition of itself on the southern lands is removed.
The start of the civil war:
The chaos, the violence and the ensuing disintegration of the Somali society is without a doubt as a result of 20 long years of Siyad Barre’s oppression. It is this paper’s contention however that as much as Siyad Barre’s offensive policies and oppressive tactics were cowardly and inhumane, they were never intended nonetheless to divide the country into tribal regions as they are divided now. Siyad Barre’s main objective was rather to concentrate power into his hands. This meaning that there is a huge difference between Mohamed siyad’s political goals and the ideologies currently employed by the TFG president, Puntland and Somaliland leaders. In Siyad Barre’s rule, there were neither consorted efforts and policies in place to cut entire geographical regions off the main land Somalia for tribal gains, nor there were alliances and secret treaties with Ethiopia, Somalia’s traditional enemy, as Rayale Kahin, General Adde Muse and Abdullahi Yusuf have done, which will surely have far reaching consequences in any future efforts to restore Somalia’s territorial integrity. Furthermore, as many Somalis would agree with me, Siyad Barre’s political goals were centered to defeat whoever opposed his authority and to retain power in all costs. The north being the most vocal in their opposition to his authority, Siyad Barre carried out atrocious aerial bombardment against them while bombing other parts of the country to a lesser extent. Undoubtedly, the atrocities committed against the people of the north were sadly appalling and beyond imagination: big cities such as Hargeisa, Berbera, Burao were bombed to a scale never witnessed in the history of the Horn of Africa and the Near East’s civil war warfare. In these cities, economic infrastructure, public facilities and source of sustenance such as water holes, food reserves and livestock were deliberately targeted in order to force the population into submission. The details of the atrocities committed against the north and other parts of Somalia are well recorded in the United Nations human rights archives. Rightly so, siyad Barre’s regime was finally fought against, unanimously by all Somalis in the north as well as in south until his defeat.
What Somali leadership was expected not to do---?
Post-Siyad Barre leaders, deceased or alive alike, namely, general Aideed, Ali Mahdi, Mohamed Haji Ibrahim Egal, Abdullahi Yusuf, general Adde Muse, Ali Gedi, Rayale Kahin and Nur Adde have not taken serious steps to help their people regain their sovereignty. For instance, soon after Mohamed Siyad Barre’s fall, Aideed and Ali Mahdi childishly quarreled over clan priorities in their ascendance to power in Mogadishu; squandering the biggest opportunity for Somalia to regain its statehood. Instead of rising above typical clan politics, they engaged micro management politics that led them to all-out clan warfare, killing in the process any possibilities for the Somali people to escape, destruction, disdain and delirium. Likewise, Mohamed Hagi Ibrahim Egal lost a lifetime opportunity to leave behind a great legacy for himself. Mr. Egal, capitalizing the relative peace established in the north and utilizing his well-established past patriotic achievements could have brought the country together, but he did not; instead he succumbed to the lowest points of tribal practices, creating in the process tribal hawks like Rayale Kahin who claims that the north-west enclave does not belong with the Somalia proper. Yusuf, another figure that many Somalis thought to be a good candidate for bringing changes in Somalia for his long years of dissidence and opposition to the policies of the deposed dictator, proved to be nothing more than a flip flop. His actions symbolize the deeds of the famous Somali folk legendary bird which “ran away with a stick of fire and burned down her mother’s bird net”. Similar to the bird, after long years of asylum in Ethiopia, he came back with Ethiopian forces only to burn down his country’s capital city. In other words, at this point in time, Yusuf has not distinguished himself from his colleagues, even though he has been given countless opportunities by the international community to bring together all Somalia’s worrying parties for a comprehensive peace settlement.
Impotence, lack of patriotism in their intentions, ineptness and extreme receptiveness to foreign governments has been a phenomenon that Yusuf shares with the rest of the so-called Somali leaders. These leaders, namely Adde Muse, Hussein Adde and Rayale Kahin have done something that no other Somali leader in the history of Somalia has done before. These individuals permitted an Ethiopian dictator to invade and occupy the most symbolic place in Somalia, Mogadishu, acquiescing the destruction and occupation of Somali national symbols including the presidential palace, national armed forces headquarters, centuries’ old religious shrines and countless cultural sites. This was all done under the pretext of eliminating foreign terrorists even though, a single foreign terrorist has yet to be produced and shown to the world.
What is so strange about the marriage between the Somali leadership and the Ethiopian dictator is the fact that the Somalis are the inferior party; they have become so docile to their newly found master to the point where they have no agenda of their own for their country other than following orders dispatched form Addis Ababa whose content is all too familiar: suppress the southern liberation movement with the intention of blocking any rebirth of a free south; keep Somaliland and Puntland in short leashes and basically watch the Somali people rot in their misery. This civil war not only has humiliated the Somali people in front of the entire world, but also corrupted the Somali leaders’ character traits, personalities and integrity. For example, Gen. Adde Muse and colonel Abdullahi Yusuf are two brilliant former Somali military officers who fought against the Ethiopian forces in the 1964-epic war for the liberation of Ogaden territory, now they both stand shoulder to shoulder with the Ethiopian dictator whose intentions are clearly in conflict with the Somali people’s aspirations for sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The worst among these individuals in discussion is Kahin Rayale who wants not only to obey and serve the Ethiopian ruler, but also wish him to physically occupy the port of Berbera for his own use. Furthermore, to the bewilderment of the people of the north, now, thousands of Ethiopian nationals roam in the streets of Hargeisa, which is a small prologue of what Rayale Kahin would do if his crazy ideas were granted. To speculate this man’s wild ideas for a moment, one would suggest that he would probably annex the northern enclave to Ethiopia and erect a tall electric wall between Somaliland and the rest of Somalia. Nobody knows the political goals behind Somaliland’s disgusting display of affection to the Ethiopian dictator, but, an educated guess would suggest that Rayale is trying to complicate things for any possible resurgence of a Somali state, in the hopes that Ethiopia as a stake holder in the territory’s affairs would help him protect his desire for independence. In short, Ethiopians now hold unmatched authority over the leaders of Somalia in making crucial decision affecting Somalia’s internal and external affairs. Now, in effect, Ethiopia decides who should become a political figure in Somalia, whether or not Somalia will ever be a complete country again or not, and most shockingly whether Somali citizens should have the liberty to live and reside freely anywhere inside their country.
In the south the people’s feeling and perception regarding the Ethiopian occupation is very much different from the other regions in discussion. The central and southern regions have never accepted the presence of Ethiopian forces in Somalia’s sovereign territory. They wonder why the other Somali nationals in Puntland and Somaliland are not outraged by the Ethiopian invasion as they are, and would not take up arms, like them, to defend their sovereignty as they did in the previous Italian and British colonial occupations. In any case, the people of the central and southern regions are in deadly armed struggle with the Ethiopian forces without much of a help from their brethren in Puntland and Somaliland. The people of the south do not have any faith in their current leaders: they see them as sold-out-unpatriotic-traitors who betrayed their trust and simply there to fulfill the wishes of the Ethiopian dictator and equally serve the imperial strategic interests of the current United States administration. Due to the extreme receptivity of the current Somali leaders to foreign governments’ strategic purposes in Somalia, the people of Somalia are left in limbo; they cannot unite to fight the Ethiopian occupying forces because their own Somali leaders would not allow them to do so. Similarly, they cannot organize themselves through associations in order to voice their opposition to the occupation in a peaceful gathering because the Ethiopian forces along with Yusuf’s special militias would not allow them to do so therefore the country is in a lock down situation.
What they must do now:
Free up the Somali people to gather and sit among themselves to make a lasting peace for themselves and posterity. Rise above the tribal partisan politics designed to discredit any efforts made by the international community to unite Somali people. The Somali leadership must capitalize the international offices that are availed to them and organize the necessary forums for vigorous reconciliation among the political rival groups in the country; build the necessary law and order institutions for securing the country from both internal and external threats; mobilize the population for mass civic education against the evils of civil wars, corruption favoritism and tribalism; appoint a body of lawmakers truly reflecting the make up of the people, a caretaker state that would implement all the above mentioned concepts followed by democratic elections in all levels of governments. Under such state, the concerns and the circumstances of every region would be addressed and accommodated just like Canada. Furthermore, under this state, the component regions/provinces would have unequal political and economic rights based on their population numbers, production of good and services, but citizens regardless of their gender, creed and tribal affiliation would have an absolute, unalienable rights, freedoms and equality under the law.
Failing to heed the calls of the Somali people and the calls of the international community for genuine peace, this leadership may face charges for human rights violations war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity. Here are samples of potential crimes that could warrant prosecution for these leaders: The Somali leadership in general and specifically the TFG leadership and their Somali and Ethiopian allies in charge of the daily human rights violation in Mogadishu and in the south in general, Puntland and Somaliland’s divisive ideologies aimed to create new tribal states of their own could spark war crimes and human rights investigation by the United Nation’s Security Counsel if it is not already in progress. As we speak, these leaders propagate their tribal ideologies through intolerant views against non-members of their tribes, promote views of tribal homogeneity rather than plurality and diversity in their regions of control, obsessively, organize territorial wars aimed to remake the territorial map of Somalia proper and at the same time expand their respective tribal territories by annexing lands confiscated from other districts and regions, ideologically mobilize citizens under their rule against efforts toward the reunification of the Somali people under a pluralistic multi-tribal state.
Continuing on this mindless path, nothing will be solved; it will only further complicates the situation, leading to more human rights violation and bloodshed. The Somali people and the world expect this leadership to do the right thing: abandon the status quo; denounce violence and accept reconciliation and peace building as the only viable alternative for settlement; denounce and abandon any policies in place for dividing and disintegrating the Somali territory; clearly communicate to the occupying force that any formal or informal agreement between them without the consent of the Somali people is illegal and therefore a violation of Somalia’s sovereignty and its territorial integrity. Short of that, these leaders will face judgment for the crimes listed above.
Abdullahi M Arale (Bulac)
E-mail: [email protected]
“History and Politics”. Somalia-History and Politics march 2005. 11 November 2006. www.iss.co.zal/AF/profiles/somalia/politics.htm