By Omar Salad
The declaration of war by the Ethiopian prime Minister Meles Zenawi and his parliament’s approval that Ethiopia should go to war with Somalia on the baseless pretext that the UIC pose immediate threat to his country while several divisions of his army has already been deployed inside Somalia, and the Americans’ backing to Ethiopia and proposal to the UN that more African troops be sent to Somalia to fight alongside the weak TFG and against the UIC are very worrying developments that can bring about unprecedented catastrophe and human tragic of great proportions of genocide in Somalia similar to those happened in Rwanda and Iraq. So one has to speak out this about ominous prospect.
On August 8, 2006, I posted an article on some internet websites and circulated it to some foreign diplomatic missions based in Nairobi of the countries involved in Somalia’s affairs and other quarters wherein I denounced the illegal and aggressive intrusion of the Ethiopian military into Somalia and urged to all concerned to advise Ethiopia to withdraw its troops. I warned and predicted that invasion on the Somali national sovereignty could inflame the situation and escalate the conflict beyond the Somali borders as this reopens old wounds and hitherto dormant traditional enmity between the two countries and peoples unless Ethiopia is stopped. I also predicated that if the international community antagonizes the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) and sides with the dysfunctional TFG that would unify Somalis more and more around the UIC under the banner of Islam. Let’s look at the developments that have happened since then.
RAPID GROWTH AND EXPANSION OF THE UIC
At the time the UIC control was confined to Mogadishu City, and the two adjacent regions of Lower and Middle Shabelle. One remembers that their rise to power and control in these regions was triggered by the American intervention to back financially the much hated warlords who were defeated and chased away from these regions in the middle of this year. In a similar way the political fortunes of the UIC has dramatically soared since the intrusion of the Ethiopian troops into Somalia. The popular support to the UIC rose up and their influence and control spread like prairie fire to the central and southern regions where people gave them enthusiastic welcome and support. The additional regions that joined the to UIC so far include the Lower Jubba Region, Lower Jubba Region, Hiiraan Region, the Galgaduud Region, half of Mudug region ( Bandiiradley and Hobyo Port districts) and half of Bay Region (Burhakaba and Dinsoor districts). In the entire south and central regions only Baidoa city and Bakool Region, which are under Ethiopian troops control, are outside the control of the UIC.
In Puntland the passions and tension between proponents of Islamic law introduction and the Regional Authority run very high. In the last one and half months, several tribes ( Lelkase tribe of Galdodob, Mohamed Omar a sub-tribe Omar Mohamud tribe of North Mudug Region) have established their own Islamic courts and called upon others to follow suit while in Bosaaso another tribe named Ali Saleeban called upon the Puntland Regional Administration to adopt the Islamic law. Far in the north, the Dulbahante tribe in Sool Region also set up an Islamic Court in Las Anod town, of which the jurisdiction is disputed both by Puntland and Somalilad.. In another move, conscious and mindful of the dominant pro-Islamic law mood of the Puntland population and to pre-empt a possible eruption of conflict, the traditional, religious and business leaders in all Puntland regions proposed to the Administration that it should adopt Islamic law. The President of the Administration Mr. Adde Muuse appointed a committee to discuss and make recommendations on this proposal. But sensing that the Administration is not keen on adopting Islamic law tension and certainty remain high in the part of the country. In recent days there were reports coming out from Puntland that proponents of Islamic law publicly announced that they have begun to raise their own militias to support their demands and fight against and drive out Ethiopian troops from Puntland. They say that they are confident that majority of the Puntland population will support resistance against Ethiopia and they forge alliance with the UIC. In another development, in Somaliland, the Harbar Younis tribe of Burao Region, announced the formation of their own Islamic Court to be administered by a committee composed of 70 members. The regional authority of Burao declared that move illegal and detained a sultan who presided the formation of the Islamic Court with other notable members of the tribe. There is tension between the Somaliland authority and the said tribe over the issue of the Sharia Law and the arrest of the traditional leaders.
As noted above the rapid growth of support and spread of influence of the UIC have been boosted by the recent direct foreign interventions, namely the US financial backing of the defeated warlords and Ethiopian military intrusion, and the official declaration of Ethiopian government and parliament and the biased support to the TFG that has neither popular support nor legitimacy. Meles Zenawi’s declaration against Somalia ‘to crush the UIC ‘ while the UIC or Somalia has not harmed any Ethiopian interest or security what-so-ever , is not only mad and adventurous decision but that shows the real paranoia that the Ethiopian prime minister suffers from. He wants to divert the attention from and diffuse the increasing internal pressure of the opposition on his regime by creating an imaginary threat coming from Somalia or the UIC. Another obvious reason of taking such reckless decision is to jump on the bandwagon of the American ‘War on Terror’ to buy favour and recognition from the US administration so that they can relent the pressure on his excessive human rights abuses and to release more suspended funds for his regime. An additional reason can be that he is pre-booking for a political asylum in the USA in the event he loses power as it will be less likely for other countries to accept him.
The deployment of more African troops as advocated and proposed by the American Ambassador at the UN (at the moment of writing news came that he resigned because of the Senate’s disapproval for him to continue in his post) or a war by Ethiopia on Somalia will only exacerbate the conflict in Somalia which will in turn undoubtedly spill over beyond the Somali borders. If the intention and the exercise of the Ethiopian regime and/or the idea of additional African troops are to purge Islamic militants from the Somali society that is helpless misconception and miscalculation. The UIC are not ‘terrorist’ elements as portrayed by Ethiopian regime and its allies but it is a broad social movement which is part and parcel of the Somali society and enjoys rapidly increasing popular support of the majority of the Somali people. To separate the UIC from the Somali masses is like to wash earth from a termite dune ( waa dudumo ciid ka mayr) to use a Somali proverb. Also those siding with and trying to defend dysfunctional TFG should know that it is indefensible. Once again it has fallen apart into two factions – one faction comprised of almost half of the MPs and including the President and Prime Minister who completely lost confidence in the Somali people and rely for their personal protection and support on foreign military and political support; and another faction including the Speaker and almost another half of the MPs. If war breaks out the entire TFG members (President, PM, ministers and MPs) will flee from Baidoa and seek safe haven either in the other Somali regions and abroad. In anticipation of war more than half of the TFG members including the top executive leaders have already left Baidoa giving way to Ethiopian troops total control.. So, the TFG is destined to die with or without breakout of war and nobody can resuscitate it.. That is a fact. Thus any resources allocated to its upkeep and defence by the international community will be wasted as it has been during its two and half years of existence.
. COMPARISON BETWEEN THE TFG AND THE UIC
1- Most members of the TFG especially the top executive leadership have been handpicked
and favoured by Ethiopia and they defend the opinions and interests of Ethiopia and other foreign quarters rather than those of their Somali nation;
2- They are extremely unpopular and virtually supportless and considered by most Somalis as
Ethiopian agents devoid of the least sense of patriotism and concern for Somalia;
3- During the two and half years of their existence the TFG did nothing for the Somali
people in terms of building Somali security forces, or caring of the welfare and plight of their people, or at least building one clinic or one school class room despite the millions of dollars they have received from the UN and other international community members;
4- They controlled only few sites or camps in Baidoa city and now the Ethiopian troops took over the controls of these sites and camps;
5- Over the presence of the Ethiopian troops in Somalia and the war expected to erupt, the members of the TFG became divided – almost half led by the President and Prime Minister support Ethiopian intervention plans and for additional African troops for their personal defence and political survival while almost another half led by the Speaker opposes the Ethiopian troops presence or any other foreign troops;
6- In anticipation of the breakout of war most members of the TFG began to flee either to Mogadishu, some other regions or abroad;
7- They have completely lost confidence in their own people and totally depend for their personal security on foreign support and protection.
1- They established peace, law and order and equal justice for all in the Capital Mogadishu and all the other places they control after 16 years of total chaos and mayhem;
2- They rehabilitated the main public service infrastructures such Mogadishu Airport, Sea Port, roads, and banned health hazard narcotics, expired food and medicines, and pornographic and bad films intoxicating and corrupting the people;
3- They returned the houses and land plots looted during the civil to their rightful owners;
4- They speak for and uphold the welfare and dignity of the Somali people and for the
defence of the national territorial integrity, sovereignty, independence; and unity;
5- They care of the welfare of the people by running schools, helping the poor and
responding to the drought and floods disasters. When they were not yet not in power, the UIC collected over $100,000 donations for the drought stricken people in Gedo and Jubba regions and collected over $500,000 of donations for the victims for the current river
alluvial floods! and
6- They control seven plus two halves of two regions of the 11 regions in the south and
central Somalia and enjoy growing massive popular support in these regions and the rest of the country.
This is the true balance sheet of the two groups which should be taken into account by the international community. The issue here is not between ‘a secular and legitimate’ (misnomer given to a bunch of vulgar anti-Islam and anti-national warlords and hirelings) and a group of religious militants. But the real issue is between the pro-Ethiopian dying and indefensible TFG and the Somali people led by the UIC. The only way that some portions of the TFG (not all of it) cab be salvaged is to speed up and make the forthcoming Khartoum to succeed by agreeing a power sharing formula by the two sides.
Another problem which I must mention here is the foreign misconception and miscalculation based on prejudice, misinformation and ill-advice obsessed by smearing the image of the UIC as ‘Talaban like terrorist’ organisation and the futile attempts to separate the UIC and the Somali people. That same misconception underestimates the indomitable Somali personality, stamina, resilience and spirit visa vice their enemies regardless of conventional economic and technological resources.
MY SECOND PREDICATION IF WAR BREAKS OUT
War breakout of war between Ethiopia and the Somalis is inevitable Ethiopia unless the UN Security Council especially the US government orders the Ethiopian government to withdraw its troops from Somali soil soon. In the event of war between Ethiopia and the Somalis, with or without additional foreign troops on the Ethiopian side, both countries will pay a heavy price and the consequence will be dire especially for Ethiopia. The UIC will mainly use guerrilla warfare tactics engaging Ethiopian troops everywhere from the Ethiopian border (if not beyond) to Baidoa and from Galkayo (possibly whole of Puntland) to Jubba land and Gedo regions and possibly parts of Somaliland. Then the Ethiopian troops will be overstretched and their rear supplies will be disrupted. They will be devoured by vast hostile territory inhabited by brave warriors acknowledged by all invading foreigners in the past. Thousands of Ethiopian troops will be killed, captured or they will surrender themselves and their weapons.
The Somalis be may also sustain heavy lost – tens of thousands might be killed especially unarmed civilians or armed with light weapons or traditional weapons to fight against invading foreign Christian troops from their country and religion. When the going of the war becomes tough and desperate the Ethiopians might bombard the main infrastructures of Somalia such as Airports, sea ports, and river bridges and main trade markets in Mogadishu. The Americans might not might come to their rescue to give them air-reconnaissance, air-cover and sea blockage to strangle Somalis and cause tens of thousands of Somali civilians mostly children and women and vulnerable people to die for famine and diseases if the war is prolonged. I hope that the Americans will not intervene. The massacre or genocide by the Ethiopian troops might be similar to those occurred in Rwanda or Iraq. Even in that bleak scenario, God forbid it, the Somalis will win the war and the most of the four or five Ethiopian divisions or so thrown into the battlefield will be wiped out and the rest will retreat with ignominious defeat. Then the conflict will shift beyond the Somali borders – it means that upheavals will begin inside Ethiopia that will undoubtedly overthrow the Meles regime or be paralysed before it inevitably collapses. Kenya will be spared of the conflict if it stays out of the confrontation between Ethiopia and Somalia. The outcome of the war will be that Somalis emerge victorious and united.
SOME SIGNS OF HOPE
Despite the current American proposal to the UN Security Council seeking authorisation of the deployment of African troops and presence of Ethiopian troops in Somalia to protect the weak and dysfunctional TFG and fight against the Somali people led by the UIC, there are some encouraging signs that might defuse and avoid such unfortunate war situation. On 2/12/2006 representatives from IGAD and a delegation of the UIC met in Djibouti and discussed issues of interests for both sides. According to media reports the outcome was encouraging as they agreed on a number of points including recognition of the peace and stability that the UIC established in the regions under their control and that foreign troops have to be withdrawn from Somalia. Another good sign was that in the same day an Ethiopian minister approached the UIC delegation and that both sides exchanged views as a preliminary step. Ethiopian government also reported in the media that this meeting was preceded by previous contacts and attempts to reach out the UIC. It was also reported that on the same date, a UN delegation led by the co-ordinator of the UN humanitarian aid visited Mogadishu and met with Sheikh Dahir Aweys the Chairman of the UIC Shura and other officials to discuss with them about the return of the previously suspended UN humanitarian aid and to agree on a working memorandum between the UN and UIC in this respect.
But how can these preliminary positive postures by the UN, IGAD and Ethiopia be interpreted? I think there can be two interpretations. One assumption might be realisation by the international community of the importance to engage and deal with UIC which can bring positive results. Another assumption might to appease the UIC while bidding time to prepare a UN Security Council resolution (as pushed by US government) that authorises partial lift of arms embargo in favour of the TFG and deployment of additional African troops to assist the Ethiopian troops on the ground. But what about Ethiopian abrupt approach of contacting the UIC? Whether this has or has not link with the latter assumption, Ethiopia’s move is nothing more than a sinister intention of appeasing the UIC until everything is in place for them (Ethiopians). They also want to dampen the growing support to the UIC by Somalis in all regions to make an expression that the UIC has agreed with Ethiopia and then Somalis in the different regions have to start contacts and agree with Ethiopia and enter separate deals with it. This is a policy of divide and rule. But the moves by IGAD and UN are to be seen whether they are genuine and move forward or not.
SUGGESTIONS TO THE TFG PRESIDENT
I suggest to the TFG President, Mr. Abdillahi Yusuf: to:
1- forgive and forget any grudges with the UIC leaders for the sake of salvaging the country from further conflict and suffering which can go on for years to come, and take a bold step by sharing power with the UIC by offering the post of prime minister and fair share of ministers dispensed to the UIC while dumping the current Prime Minister;
2- agree to demand the Ethiopian government to withdraw its troops immediately from Somalia and refrain from asking other foreign troops unless the new shared government unanimously agrees on that;
3- ask and work for the repatriation of Somali politics to Somalia and the Somalis from the foreign countries that monopolise it;
4- Agree to begin building national Somali police and army forces involving ex-Somali police and army officers and expert trainers from neutral countries.
SUGGESTIONS TO THE UIC
I suggest to the UIC leadership to:
1- equally forgive and forget any grudges with President Abdullahi Yusuf regarding his past deeds and present views about the UIC for the sake of salvaging the Nation from further conflict and suffering and for the sake of restoring genuine and effective Somali central government;
2- share power with TFG taking the post of prime minister and fair share of ministers;
3- agree to build mixed national police and army forces involving ex-Somali police and army officers and expert trainers from neutral countries; and
4- allay the security concerns of the neighbouring countries as well as the concern of foreign states.
SUGGESTIONS TO THE INTERNATIONAL CMMUNITY
The UN Security Council has, under the UN Charter, obligations and responsibilities to keep peace and security in the world while protecting the stateless and weak peoples and nations from aggression and domination by big stronger aggressors. Even so, nowadays, it seems that UN Security Council is deviating its original noble mission of neutrality and protecting these vulnerable peoples and is increasingly becoming part of the problem in conflicts worldwide serving certain political agendas of certain powerful member states.. Somalia is case in point where the members of the Security Council or some members of it tend to take sides in the internal conflict by supporting one side against another ( e.g. in 1992-3 UNISOM intervention in Somalia) and current support to the dysfunctional TFG at expense of the UIC which controls most regions and has largest following. Another glaring folly of the UN Security Council which is discrediting its reputation as responsible and neutral body is the failure to speak out and denounce Ethiopian invasion on Somalia and order it to withdraw its troops. Instead UN Security Council condoning with that shows its partiality and tacit support for such invasion on Somalia. If the UN Security Council and UN members states or regional organisations whose voice carries certain weight such as EU, Arab League, and AU do not raise their voice and compel Ethiopia to take back its troops, the UN and all these organisations will be responsible before the history for any human catastrophe and massive genocide that happens in Somalia. Ethiopia is traditional enemy of Somalia and if not restrained it will take advantage of in this hour when Somalis are stateless and vulnerable. After mass genocide in the magnitude of tens of thousands or more takes place, any regret will not absolve the UN or its member states any culpability and disrepute. Any war unleashed by Ethiopia on Somalia will widen the conflict in the region and will translate itself as war between Christian and Muslim forces and will increase tension between Muslim and Western Christian countries.
Therefore, I suggest to the UN Security Council and the international community as a whole to:
1- call upon Ethiopia to withdraw its troops from Somalia immediately;
2- refrain from sending other foreign troops to Somalia as pushed by the US Government to defend the dysfunctional TFG or fight against the UIC;
3- stop antagonising the UIC, talk and engage them for they are the legitimate and most strong and popular organisation genuinely representing the Somali people;
4- Support unreservedly and constructively the forthcoming Khartoum Talks to make them succeed by pressuring the TFG and its mentor Ethiopia to agree to a settlement in which power is fairly shared between the UIC and TFG based on the territory and population each group controls;
5- return UN agencies and other international humanitarian NGOs to Somalia especially the peaceful areas controlled by the UIC, from which these organisations had withdrawn political reasons, in order to assist the millions of Somalis who are in dire need following the prolonged civil war, recent drought, and the current river alluvial floods which displaced, dispossessed and stranded over 400,000 people;
6- help repatriate Somali politics hijacked by Ethiopia and Kenya, countries which have vested interested in Somalia;
7- help invest and rebuild strong across-tribal Somali police and army forces which could keep the peace and security of the country instead of trying to bring in unacceptable foreign troops; and
8- help rebuild the country and revive the economy so that people can earn incomes to live normally and moderately otherwise, as it were, they will harbour hate and ill-feeling for foreign countries which they view dividing and sabotaging their country, in which case they will be tempted to violence and extremist calls by any one.
All in all, it is the UN Security Council and the rest of the international community that can avert such gloomy prospect war between Somalia and Ethiopia and bring peace and stability in Somalia if there is determination and goodwill based on the true spirit of the UN Charter and humanitarian principles.
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