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The Disarmament Fiasco: Exception or an Emblem of Incompetence

by Rashid Yahya Ali


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In less than 48 hours after the fall of Mogadishu, Somalia’s Prime Minister (PM), Mr. Geddi, basking in elation under the victorious Ethiopian army, gave the two million inhabitants of Mogadishu an ultimatum to voluntarily disarm within three days or face the threat of forceful disarmament.


This demobilization venture was to be jointly implemented by none other than the Ethiopian invasion forces and platoons of Puntland militias in support role. The effect of the decree, instead of calming the jittery public, already reeling from the shock of the invasion, was to raise public anxiety in the city to boiling points, risking the eruption of hostilities anew and catapulting the capital city into an orgy of violence and bloodshed.


The PM’s ill conceived directive, oblivious to the psyche of the nation as a result of the long civil war, opened up old wounds, deepened divisions and served the exact opposite of its intended objectives. (Assuming the existence of goodwill and sincere intentions) Anyone with a nanogram of brain mass in their skull should have been alert to the potentially explosive nature of making such authoritative proclamations, not to mention the catastrophic implications of using one clan militia to forcefully disarm another, particularly under the prevailing combustible atmosphere and the rapidly changing political situation in Somalia.


Then, the question begs, was this an honest misjudgment or an underhand plot deliberately adopted and followed to once and for all silence the troublesome city through the use of brute force? Unfortunately, all evidence point to the latter, given the TFG’s pathologic obsession with absolutist power as the only tool for winning peace, nurtured by a philosophy of “using a hatchet to remove a fly from a friend’s forehead.” And, it is precisely this distinctive characteristic of the executive branch marred by incompetence and an appetite for shallow and divisively clannish outlook of the Somali polity which perilously drives the country to be precariously suspended over the cliff in continuum.


For instance, on the issue of disarmament, not a single dialogue session or consultation with affected communities was attempted. The parliament was not convened to debate means and methods of implementing this crucial matter to pacify the nation. No measures were put in place to guarantee the safety and security of citizens. To maintain peace, no single law enforcement official or police force patrolled the streets. Even the Ethiopian invasion forces and the accompanying Somali militias were garrisoned in heavily protected barracks for fear of confrontations.


Worse yet, there were reports of a thousand man strong and heavily armed militia, hastily air lifted from Puntland, the president’s tribal home-base and stronghold, to the outskirts of Mogadishu to forcefully disarm the population. It is sheer madness to ask anyone under such an extreme sense of insecurity to hand over their only available means of self defense to their perceived avowed enemy, without safety assurances firmly in place.


It is a miracle that a bloodbath was averted in the last minute by a belated retraction of the order; otherwise Somalia was on the verge of yet another irreversible descent to abyss.

Most certainly, the country is desperate for peace and every Somali is yearning for stability, willing to trade his/her Kalashnikovs, provided there is inclusive, legitimate and just government capable of safeguarding the right to life, property and liberty of every citizen, regardless of clan membership, political views or regional affiliation. From all indications, this TFG, in its present modus operandi, is incapable of meeting those fundamental entreatments, foremost in advancing the cause of comprehensive and just peace in Somalia. It is therefore imperative that those who imposed this regime on the Somali people reign on its trespasses and see to it that it fulfils its political and moral obligations to serve its people.


As illustrated by its actions, the failure of this administration to win wide popular support, especially in the South, is not because of blind allegiance to the Mahakim, nor is it based on tribal hatred or even anti US or western sentiments, but is solely a reflection of performance valuation and on judgment of leadership qualities, which the TFG, when measured against public expectations, has failed rather miserably to even score a passing grade.


To mention few of its leadership’s political blunders, in its most opportune time after the clerics fled the City, albeit the hard to remove stain of being a client of Ethiopia, both the PM and the President wasted the opportunity to use the prestige of their offices and address the nation from their pulpit. They fizzled when they could have allayed public fears, reassure and give comfort to the wary citizens. No appeals were made for peace and brotherhood, no explanations were given of intentions, and no justification was bothered for bringing the country, not only under foreign but enemy occupation. No direction was pointed to on how the glory of what once was Somalia would be reclaimed.


The President flew to Nairobi in the next day to ask for foreign intervention forces and the PM made the now famous reckless decree of disarmament. The dual tracks of those twin actions both merge on a common path leading to a dangerous pursuit of peace through force. And it is perceptibly these kinds of actions which cast doubt if the true intentions of this regime are indeed genuine in searching for lasting and just peace or are bent on imposing a top-down tyranny, reminiscent of the good old days of Siad Barre or even worse.


In essence, the TFG, except few parliamentarians from women’s groups and the civil societies, owes its birth and existence entirely to violence and warlordism. None of the major protagonists enjoys a semblance of a power-of-contract to legally represent his constituencies. Every one of them came forth into view or notice through the barrel of the gun. That is why Somalia continues to painfully linger in a nightmarish ritual of incessant violence and deprivation.


Furthermore, the interim charter itself, the constitutional blue print professed to usher the nation democracy and respect of the rule of law is full of contradictions and omissions. Its original design is seriously flawed. It was prepared for warlords, ratified by warlords, adopted though not always followed by warlords.


Despite those glaring nonconformities to the minimum thresholds of popular consent and acceptability, it is bemusing that the international community, contrary to the perceptions of the very citizenry whose lives are directly affected by the actions of this regime, bestows legitimacy and forcefully imposes it on the population.

Now that the Islamists are off the stage, picking sides in the murky politics of Somalia is an exercise of futility. Other than being secular, the TFG has no base of popular support or credibility to bring about national stability through inclusiveness and good governance. The repercussions of arming and financing it without setting forth stringent conditions of accountability and transparency are indeed sobering.


In the least probable pessimistic outcome, it would assuredly lead to deepening the conflict, more tribal fighting and violence engulfing Somalia, paving the way to further radicalization of society and a possible re-emergence of fundamentalism. More severe fallout will be throwing the expected peace keeping force into the middle of a raging bloody civil war and a spread of chaos throughout the region. And the gravest scenario is a chain of events which could spark the horrors of Rwanda to be visited upon Somalia as one group gets armed to the teeth and let loose on defenseless civilians.


According to the latest reports from Somalia, the President and the PM are demanding the imposition of arbitrary military rule. It seems that the train has already been set in motion. The rubber stamp parliament will give the green light for martial law.  Military rule will be imposed and the constitution will be abrogated.


If what propelled Ethiopia and the US to support this regime is to preempt an imminent threat to the security and peace of their peoples, then also the Somali people have an indelible right to live in peace and freedom. They must not be made the sacrificial lamb for the comfort and safety of Western citizens by imposing a warlord infested, suppressive regime on them.


It is incumbent upon the West, particularly the US, to use its influence to restrain the excesses and dictatorial tendencies of this administration. All aid must be made contingent on good governance, accountability, transparency, inclusiveness and respect to the rule of law. It certainly would be tragic if the aid given is used to further prolong the misery of people already teetering on the brink of collapse and on the edge of utter destitution.


In addition, the Ethiopian occupation must unequivocally and without preconditions end. Also, the planned peace keeping force must not be confined to Africa only, but must involve the European Union and forces from nations in the Islamic world, such as Turkey, Pakistan, Malaysia or Indonesia. This will go long way in winning public trust and cooperation and in   realizing a durable, all-encompassing and just peace in Somalia.

Rashid Yahya Ali

Baltimore, MD

E-mail: [email protected]

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