Over 1,300 delegates from four major Somali clans and a coalition of smaller sub-clans were in Mogadishu under the so called 4.5 formula, which Somalis have been forced to use over the past 10 years.
By ABDULKADIR KHALIF Special Correspondent
Monday, July 30, 2007
The large turnout was the result of the widely promoted national reconciliation conference, which was officiated by President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed on July 15, after two successive postponements since April 2007.
Critics say the 4.5 formula is an unfair way of splitting Somalis along undesirable clan lines. “This approach is a diversionist one, which may actually delay the healing process of the wounds inflicted by nearly 20 years of civil war,” said Elmi Ali Yare, a school teacher in Mogadishu. “It will make Somalis never feel like one nation.”
Promoters of the 4.5 formula, however, trust that it is the only realistic way of encouraging Somalis to sit down in fair proportions and have a near equal voice in sorting out their differences.
Whatever the views and perceptions, the formula is the only approach that has so far given Dir, Darood, Hawiye and Digil/Mirifle on one hand, and the coalition of smaller sub-clans on the other, the chance of producing any semblance of a government. The first serious attempt to employ the scheme saw the formation of the Transitional National Government (TNG) in Arta town in neighbouring Djibouti in August 2000.
The formula was again used at the end of the Mbagathi conference in Nairobi, producing 275 Somali parliamentarians, the election of a president and the institution of a Cabinet to serve in the TFG. The peace convention ended with traditional clan leaders being flown from Somalia to Kenya to give it their blessings in June and July 2004.
Now, the formula is once again being tested in the reconciliation conference. Clan leaders received letters from the appointed reconciliation conference led by Mogadishu politician Ali Mahdi Mohamed and his deputy, businessman Mohamud Jirdeh Hussein, who hails from Hargeisa. The responses appear promising.
Almost all traditional clan leaders have referred the invitations to send delegates to their consultative councils, better known as Guurti.
The near unanimous response and rapid selection of representatives indicates acceptance of the idea of a national conference. The fact that many others are sulking at missing the chance to be in the conference shows how popular it is.
Delegates selected for the conference were secretly enlisted and their identity never disclosed until transportation and accommodations were ready. Their hotels and dormitories are heavily guarded for security reasons.
Militias and insurgents serving those opposing the reconciliation conference publicly threatened to attack any individual or groups supporting or taking part in the conference being held at a former police transport workshop in north Mogadishu. The issue has become a duel between those in favour of a lasting solution for Somalia and those who want to wreck the current peace efforts.
The pro-conference camp encompasses all those individuals and communities who are fed up with violence. They welcome any force or institution that can offer a helping hand. “We do not mind whether helpers of Somalia’s stability come from Ethiopia, Uganda or Surinam as long as they contribute to the containment of violence in the name of nationalism, clan hegemony or religious fundamentalism,” said a conference participant from Middle Juba region.
Those who detest the TFG’s plan to stabilise the country reportedly include radical groups within the Islamist movement best known as Al-Shabaab (the youth wing). They are alleged to be responsible for extreme measures, including planting of roadside landmines, grenade hurling, shelling and even engaging in character assassinations.
A new phenomenon is the use of the Internet and other media to illustrate deeds of suicide bombers.
Whatever the outcome of the reconciliation conference, it is the first time that over 1,300 Somalis have agreed to discuss, among other issues, whether radical Islamism is good or undesirable for the nation. It indication that Somalis are overcoming the barrier that separates religion from government.
This article was originally published in the East African weekly magazine on July 30, 2007
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