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Somalia: Traitors’ Paradise

by Mohsin Mahad

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No one should be surprised if I call our nation as one not only infested with traitors but also run by traitors for their own benefit, their cronies and clans, but above all for the service of their foreign masters. Where in other societies, leaders look to the democratic will of their people for their political sustenance and legitimacy, for our unelected, foreign-imposed lot, it is Ethiopia’s support and patronage that underpins their survival.

The beaten track to Addis Ababa and regular endorsements from Meles Zenewi is now an absolute imperative for all those holding power in Mogadishu, Garawe, and Hargeisa or those aspiring to it. For Meles’ Somali lapdogs, trooping to his capital for "consultations", at his behest and at the drop of a hat, has higher priority for them than attending to pressing domestic matters crying for their attention. Beleaguered as they are in their foreign-protected residences, they rarely venture out to meet the public in the capital or to see the rest of the country for all the time they had been "power". For all practical purposes, Nairobi and Addis Ababa are their preferred domiciles and are only quartered in Mogadishu purely for political necessity.

Competition for Meles Zenewi’s eyes and ears is so fierce that the standing of any Somali leader is measured not by how much support he earned from his people but how many times he visited Meles in a given period. Those at the lower end of the collaborators’ league table will have to make the necessary extra sacrifices in order to enhance their standing with the new superman in the Horn. Since the top rank of the table is reserved for the super collaborator whose long-standing track record s is unbeatable, the rest of the pack can only scramble over the leftovers. These behavioural manifestations are indisputably the hallmarks of traitors.

Ethiopia’s only gift to Somalia, apart from spreading AIDS, is breeding traitors in our midst. There are so many of them around these days, their treasons so common, that it is becoming increasingly internalised in our collective psyche as part of the normal daily reality. Such is the change that not everyone will see these collaborators as less honourable than any one else in our society. It has not always been like this, and one has to go back to our history to trace the genesis of the act of national betrayal and its proliferation to its current level.

The year 1967 is a special one in the Somali political history calendar. It would be remembered for the year when the second government since independence, headed by President Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke and Prime Minister Mohamed Ibrahim Egal, .was formed. But it will also be remembered as the year when the first Somali espionage case in our history as a nation was uncovered. The person concerned was Ahmed Yussuf Dualeh, who at the time was serving as foreign minister in that government. He (together with another government official) was found to have committed the ultimate, unthinkable and unpardonable crime: any Somali could have engaged in, not least by the very person in charge of the nation’s foreign affairs. Needless to say, he was found out to have been spying all along for the country’s arch enemy- Ethiopia.

The shockwaves that the event generated rocked the young nation to its foundations and its tremors were felt further a field wherever Somalis lived. In the newly independent country, this reaction was to be expected among a people who were until then nationalists and morally uncorrupted. If that episode was to be the only case of its kind, it would have remained a mere solitary story in our history books and the nation would have recovered from its psychological trauma. Unfortunately, that was only the beginning of worse things to follow. The story of Ahmed Yussuf Dualeh is instructive in how far we have changed in our perception of traitors.

Today we live in times where barefaced treasons committed by holders of the highest offices of the state are so commonplace and where serving Ethiopia’s interests is second nature to them. But no matter how bad Somalia has gone down the road of a failed state, nothing has prepared us for the shock of 2007, another year which will also enter our political history calendar. Yet, by all accounts, there was a far greater shock in 1967 when Foreign Minister Ahmed Yussuf Dualeh was accused of passing state information to Ethiopia than 40 years later in 2007 when President Abdullahi Yussuf invited them to invade the country and, worst of all, let them occupy the Somali capital. Nothing could better portray the sea change in our national values and sentiments than our different reactions to these two epoch-making events.

Unlike the country-wide shock to Ahmed Yussuf Dualeh’s espionage case of 1967, the reaction to Ethiopia’s occupation of Somalia, and particularly its capital, is at best one of localised, transitory and muted indignation and at worst one of indifference if not outright undisguised approval. For the pro Ethiopian invasion camp, the irreparable damage to our sovereignty and national esteem is of little concern, swayed as they are by crude clan sentiments and the primitive urge to score points against the other "side". This permissive accommodating mindset towards Ethiopia may have now reached its pinnacle but has been long in the making ever since the overthrow Siyad Barre’s government in 1991.

The sweeping transformation in the perception of Ethiopia, among certain circles of our population, from a foe to a "friend", is a process that began decades ago and pioneered by no other person than Abdullahi Yussuf himself. It was him, in his insatiable quest to wrest power from Siyad Barre, who went over to Ethiopia in the 1970s, where he established bases for his SSDF rebel movement and from where he subsequently launched attacks against Somalia in collusion with Ethiopia. While most Somalis saw him as a traitor, others, clan related supporters, considered him otherwise.

Once Abdullahi Yussf braved the taboo attached to collaborating with Ethiopia, and weathered the inevitable stigma he incurred as the first former Somali military officer to betray his country, it was only a matter of time before other power-seeking individuals or rebel movements would follow in his foot steps. And so did the SNM and USC. Doing Ethiopia’s bidding, these three rebel militias succeeded in their different ways in toppling Siyad Barre. But they also brought down the Somali State in the process. What they gained may be a moot question but for the Somali people as a whole, the collapse of their State has engendered incalculable dire consequences whose fallouts will continue to blight them for the foreseeable future.

Just as the political careers of Abdullahi Yussuf and his SSDF comrades blossomed despite their treacherous connections with Ethiopia, likewise none of the leaders of the other equally clan-based rebel movements have met with any opprobrium from their clan constituencies. On the contrary, they have been received as liberators in the aftermath of the collapse of the Somali State. Against this background, it was not surprising to see the amazing turnaround in Ahmed Yussuf Dualeh’s political fortunes from a former pariah to the Honourable Minister of Education in "President" Egal’s secessionist government in Hargeisa. His past crimes, far from being held against him, are now seen in Hargeisa as heroic actions against a Somali State that all secessionists are working or praying for its irredeemable disintegration.

The high-water mark of Ethiopia’s creeping colonisation of Somalia since the fall of Siyad Barre’s government must be the capture and occupation of Mogadishu with hardly a shot fired in anger. Hitherto, they contended themselves with launching occasional incursions into small border towns but occupying Mogadishu unopposed is something beyond their wildest dreams. No less incredible for the Ethiopians is the low ebb of Somali nationalism, graphically symbolised by the burning of the Somali national flag in Hargeisa by mindless secessionist mobs, and the proposal by Hussein Aided calling for the border between the two countries to be abolished and one common passport be adopted.

Much as Hussein Aideed’a proposal sounds like a daft outburst by an unthinking former USA mariner, it should not be dismissed as idle talk. He could well be airing Meles Zenewi’s agenda. Having lost Eritrea, Ethiopia is desperate for access to the sea. Swallowing defenceless Somalia with the connivance of its unelected and unaccountable leaders would serve Ethiopia the dual purposes of shuttering the dream of Greater Somalia and at the same time ensuring it access to 3000 km coastline. In any other country in the world, a minister committing such a gaff would have resigned and, if not, sacked. But not by one headed by Abdullahi Yussuf and Gedi whose views on our relations with Ethiopia very much conflate with those of Hussein Aideed.

No less an Ethiopian "man" is Prof Gedi. Here is a man with no previous history in Somali politics or in the struggle against Siyad Barre and yet was sprung out of no where and made Prime Minister on Meles’ orders. Gedi’s only claim for the post is his unquestioning loyalty to Ethiopia. It did not take much time before he disclosed his true colours when he expressed, not in so many words, his indifference to the secession of Somaliland. That amounts to supporting it. Throughout the first week of Mogadishu’s occupation, when most Somalis were in shock and morning, this man was shamelessly going around stridently justifying the legibility of the Ethiopian invasion. At least President Abdullahi Yussuf had the sense to keep a low profile for a while until the dust settles even if he approves of this invasion as much as Gedi.

.The incomprehensible and humiliating submission to the enemy and the support it received from Somalis is a knockout blow to our national honour. It will continue to haunt us for generations to come just as the French have not come to terms to this present day with their own humiliations when their enemy, Germany, occupied Paris during the Second World War. Considering the crimes committed against the country, Abdullahi Yussuf deserves to be tried for treason one day, just as Norway and France did to their own Quislings and collaborators with the enemy and as Somalia once did to Ahmed Yussuf Dualeh. For the time being, he remains crowned for what it is worth as Somalia’s president, albeit presiding over the graveyard of a country he did his best to destroy. That will be his everlasting epitaph when he departs, physically or politically. Not that he cares about his place in history so long as he remains president, regardless of what happens to this country in the process. Siyad Barre is often quoted as saying while in power, perhaps unfairly, that there will be no country after him. It may well come to that after Abudllah Yussuf

The UIC, their rise and fall

Somalia’s deepening political malaise has for over a decade defied all attempts by the international community to resolve it and revive the defunct Somali State. But like providence from heaven, it took the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) only a matter of mere weeks to achieve what the international community and their umpteenths reconciliation conferences have failed to accomplish: they brought peace and order throughout the territory under their control. The UIC succeeded where others failed because their words and actions have struck a deep chord with the long-suffering public.

The military defeat of the UIC was partly of their own making. Intoxicated with their initial blitz against the warlords and their unopposed expansion into other towns and regions, they came to overestimate their military prowess. But above all, it was their reckless creeping onslaught on the TFG base, and their bravado and irresponsible brinkmanship to threaten Ethiopia with a Jihad all the way to Addis Ababa, often mouthed by the wild-eyed self-appointed Sheikh, Yussuf Indhacade, that did their final undoing.

Sheik Yussuf Indhecade’s provocative threat to attack Addis Ababa was as credible as President Ahmadinejad of Iran’s call for Israel to be wiped off the map. Such empty threats only serve to play into the hands of Ethiopia and Israel and provide them on a plate the pretext they need for pre-emptive action against their antagonists in the name of self defence. Ironically, when the Ethiopian invasion came, Indhacade was the first to take to heels and seek shelter abroad deserting the young men and boys he misled to be slaughtered in the marshes and mangroves of the lower Juba.

The UIC were of no direct immediate threat to Ethiopia but only remotely so, to the extent that the movement supports the Somali aspiration of Greater Somalia. Ethiopia’s backing for the TFG is for strategic reasons. An important pillar of that strategy is to keep in place a pliant government it created in the first place that would allow it access to Somali’s sea and at the same time to forestall Somali irredentism ever again rearing its head in the Horn. If the TFG were to collapse under pressure and replaced by one dominated by the UIC, Ethiopia’s worst fears would have materialised. It was the need to save the puppet TFG rather than any immediate threat to Ethiopia that prompted its invasion of Somalia. Like other anti-Muslim governments fighting Muslim militants, Ethiopia has invoked the war on terror ad nauseam as a handy cover-up to keep Somalia under its tutelage. In this, it has been aided by overt and covert USA support and an international community preferring to look the other way.

The UIC allowed itself to be high jacked by some disreputable criminals, masquerading as Islamists who brought them nothing other than to alienate many potential Somali followers as well as to draw the hostile attention of all those in the West dogged by Islamophobia notably the American government. With friends like Sheikh Indhacade who needs enemies. The blame, though, squarely lies on the shoulders of the leader of the UIC, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Awais. This is the second time he led a militant Islamic movement against Abbdullahi Yussuf and Ethiopia and lost both times mainly because of his misguided tactics and poor leadership. When there are repeated defeats of such disastrous proportions, there should be accountability. In this regard, Sheikh Dahir Awais is now a liability to what is left of the movement and the sooner he steps down and retires for good, the better for all concerned.

The UIC as a coherent functioning body has been defeated militarily- at least for now -but their fundamental appeal, based on Somali nationalism and Islamic values, has not been destroyed but remains alive. To replace that appeal, it will require the emergence of a Somali government that would embrace those core values of the UIC that endeared them to the Somali people of every clan and region throughout the country, north and south. The TFG represents the very antithesis of what the UIC stood for and therefore has no appeal for the wider Somali people except for those motivated by myopic clan loyalties to one leader or another in the TFG. As such, the need for a better structured and led UIC has not diminished by any means. Despite their mistakes and shortcomings, what they stood for is beyond reproach. With time and with help from within Somalia and from the Diaspora, those mistakes could have been corrected, Ethiopia permitting, which they never did for obvious reasons.

By Mohsin Mahad
E-mail: [email protected]

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