By Liban Ahmed
Somalis have had enough civil wars. The tribulations Somalis have been through since 1991 should weigh heavily on the mind of any leader contemplating a civil war. War between forces of the Union of Islamic Courts and Transitional Federal Government troops will deal a massive blow to the legitimacy of the weak Transitional Federal Government. The TFG can try to avert a deadly war if the president and prime Minster remember that theirs is a government of reconciliation. Reconciliation needs a mindset that is hardly a rabble-rouser’s.
The assassination attempt on the life the president, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, was a sad event. Leaders of the Islamic Courts have distanced themselves from the assassination. In the absence of Criminal Investigation Department in Somalia, it is difficult to pin the blame on anyone except terrorists.
Since 2004 the TFG has been beset by the dame problems that made the Transitional National Government of Somalia led by President Abdulqasim Salat (2000-2004) stillborn. These problems range from powerful warlords and visionless leaders to squabbling and scheming parliamentarians. The verdict on the TFG will be harsher than the one reserved for the TNG because the TFG has had plenty of time to learn from the mistakes of the TNG. The neighbouring countries are arguably on its side as well.
Talks in Danger
Since end of the first phase of Khartoum peace talks, new events have taken place: Kismaayo city fell into the hands of the Union of Islamic Courts. The TFG wants the forces of the Courts to leave Kismaayo and other regions they conquered since August. It is a tough precondition that does not show readiness to share power on the part of the TFG leadership.
Why does the TFG want Barre Hiraale, the Minister for Defence, to recapture Kismaayo?. At the height of the war between the vanquished warlords and Islamic Courts, the TFG made it clear that the Mogadishu war was not a war between Anti-terrorism Alliance—the name warlords used in an attempt to rebrand themselves—and terrorists. The TFG stance was a sound basis for negotiation. Who has blown this chance? The TFG has a moral duty to accept the facts on the ground and avoid using the language that was discredited by the warlords: calling Union of Islamic Courts terrorists.
Deployment of Peace-keeping forces is a matter that can be dealt with through negotiation. Some people argue that any parliamentary volte-face on the peace-keeping troops is an unwise decision that can put the credibility of the Somali parliament at risk. I beg to differ. The credibility of the parliament and leaders will always depend on their ability to address legitimate questions posed by the power brokers.
President Abdullahi Yusuf has a large role to play in this matter. The Islamic Courts have won the hearts and minds of many people who were bedevilled by lawlessness. That is where their power base lies. President Abdullahi Yusuf rose to prominence through the establishment Puntland Regional Administration. Recognising the contribution of the Islamic Courts in terms of pacifying one-time lawless Mogadishu is a step in the peaceful direction.
The president’s and TFG’s legacy depend on development of a strategy that is based on reconciliation. The TFG ought to consider extending the olive branch to the Islamic Courts for the sake of war weary Somalis.
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