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 by Daud Ed
Thursday, June 07, 2007

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The argument of those who fully support the current leadership of Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and its disastrous policies goes: the TFG is the only entity recognized by the International community as the legitimate government of Somalia, and the Ethiopian troops are there, because they are provoked by the Union of Islamic courts (UIC) and/or they are the guest of TFG to help improve security, disarm the insurgents, implement the rule of law, and then, the end of TFG’s term approximately two years time, there will be a free and democratic elections that will but Somalia back to its lost status as a full member in United Nations (UN), and the accompanying privileges (such as international aid, world bank loans and development grants).” However the weakness of this observation is that it is very biased, and fails to take into account the major events of 2006 that weakened the dominant clan paradigm. 


However, the underlying this argument is the following assumptions: first the process that created TFG was inclusive, and the warlords truly represent their clans. Second the TFG came to power, pre-Union of Islamic Courts, to reverse a worsening situation. And third, there is no alternative other than the warlords to achieve the transition from failed state status to a state reconstruction and state building.


The TFG has many problems, but the biggest challenge it has been facing since its conception in 2004 is the lack of legitimacy, and the unwillingness of its leaders to present them selves as a credible leaders by wining the hearts and minds through genuine national reconciliation, listening the people they claim to represent, and reliance of the soft power of democratic forces (such as civil society groups, credible clan leaders, women’s groups, Islamic leaders, Diaspora and academics/intellectuals), instead of relying self serving Ethiopian military, through evasion and the expected outcome of popular resistance against occupying enemy, and the war crimes against unarmed civilians.


It’s astounding to hear diplomats, commentators, and the media portray the renewed Somali Conflict and the carnage in Mogadishu as inevitable and African Union effort to save a democratically elected government, from Muslim terrorists, as if it is a “war to end all wars in Somalia.” An interview with Voice of America Somali language, Undersecretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frezer have described this war as if its similar with previous wars, however, the truth is that, this war crimes are committed by a foreign army (Ethiopian Military), and the TFG which is a government recognized by international community.

The leaders of TFG new that the danger of involving Ethiopia (traditionally ruled by Christians, and has politicized Orthodox Church that exert influence on its leaders), which majority of the Somalis consider their classic enemy, with imperial ambition, and access to the see ports. Its naïve and indeed dangerous to think that Ethiopian invasion will bring order and stability in Somalia[1].  However the human cost of its invasion is what Congressman Donald Payne from New Jersey called “Mogadishu: Another Darfur in the Making” (the title of a press release on April 27, 2007). More than 1000 unarmed civilians were killed in cold blooded, 400,000 others were displaced, using tanks, and artillery in a residential area and to justification their savage behavior they said “we are responding to Al-Qaeda’s attacks.”

The fall of Bares regime in 1991 and the ensuing anarchy, and distraction of human lives, and property, created by clan loyalty with poor leadership, and bad choice of using violence to gain political power, combine with the clan leaders perception of politics as a zero sum, as well as, clans undemocratic nature and its leaders unwillingness to compromise, didn’t advanced clan members interest, Therefore, many people questioned their clan loyalty and became more conscious of alternative instruments to improve their security, rise their quality of living, and to influence politics through interest groups (that has a multi-clan members) such as businesses associations, Islamic organizations, women’ s groups, other civil society associations. However the events of 2006 were an indication and assertion of this political and social transformation, and a beginning of a new era for Somali politics.

When the media question the TFG’s poor performance, and the credibility of its leadership, the answer of TFG’s leaders are always the same, they underline the power sharing mechanism of 4.5 (which is clans power sharing formula), that created the TFG in Kenya in 2004, to justify their legitimacy, and failed to accept the fact that members of TGI are selected by the warlords form their sub-clans. If they truly represent their clans they wouldn’t have a difficult pacifying Mogadishu after five month of Ethiopian invasion and 1,400 African Union (AU) contingency from Uganda as well as financial assistance from European Union (EU) and the United States.

The irrelevance of members of Transitional Federal Institutions (TFI) was exposed when Ethiopian Generals conducted direct negation with the insurgent leaders. Even thought, the sees-fire they agreed was a temporary convenience for both sides (to bury their dead, and reposition them selves). What surprised many observers was the inaction of TFI members, which helped to confirm the allegation that they are held hostage in the city of Baidoa – the seat of Transitional Federal Parliament – and Ethiopian security forces are monitoring their activity. There is also another United Nations (UN) mechanism in place to make sure they stay in baidoa to earn their daily allowances. There are some intelligent and well intentioned members of parliament who doesn’t have other sources of income, who made their priorities to but food on the table for their families, and we shouldn’t be blaming them.

Therefore, any effort such as appointment of Department of States special representative as well as unconditional financial and logistic support of the United States and the presence of Ethiopian military might will not deliver the needed sustainable peace and state reconstruction, without genuine national reconciliation that brings major political players such as leaders of Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) and former speaker of parliament Sheriff Hassan and other members of parliament who left the country after Ethiopian troops invaded Somalia as well as other stake-holders: including tribal leaders, civil society groups, women’s groups, intellectuals, academics, expatriates, and Islamic leaders.

Thus, any national reconciliation conference that doesn’t take this approach to solve the protracted Somali conflict is short sighted, ill advised and will doom to fail. There is a debate going on now about the National Reconciliation Conference (NRC) which is expected to take place in Mogadishu in mid June. The delegates will come from all Somali clans - based on the current clan power sharing formula of 4.5 - to reconcile their difference. The question that many observers are asking is that the current conflict is not between clans its between TFG and the insurgency (which includes UIC sympathizers, people who feel they have no stake at the TFG, and other who are convinced to fight against Ethiopian invasion), therefore, the objective of any NRC should have been to bring TFG and the opposition groups to end the violence and create of Government of National Unity (GNU).

Furthermore, national reconciliation doesn’t mean bringing self appointed and irrelevant clan leaders who have made alliance with the politically bankrupt warlords, in order to sustain their importance, this time, with the barrel of Ethiopian tanks. One must accept the fact that international community’s recognition and support for the TFG is not substitute for genuine national reconciliation. Genuine National Reconciliation is the only route toward sustainable peace, and the creation of GNU. In addition, given the attitude of the TFG leaders, and their unwillingness to compromise, genuine national reconciliation cannot be achieved without international pressure.     

Recent interview with Voice of America Somali language Mrs. Jendayi Frezer was more realistic than she has been, when she said, the current leadership of TFG needs to change, but was short to embrace realistic approach to achieve this objective. By insisting national reconciliation conference must take place in Mogadishu under Ethiopian invasion and the warlords in charge of security and city administration, will not help to break the impasse and move forward, to end the ongoing suffering of poor Somalis.

James Swan, Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs speech at Ohio State University on April 21, 2007 to clarify U.S. Policy in Somalia said “the disturbing images of Somalia that we see on TV, the U.S. considers this to be a moment of great opportunity for the Somali people. With the routing of the Islamic Courts Council in January, the extension of the Transitional Federal Government’s presence to new areas, and the increased international attention, we believe this is the best opportunity in perhaps 20 years to establish first a functional transitional government in Somalia and then prepare for elections in 2009, as called for by the Transitional federal Charter.” To those who objectively observe Somali conflict, this is a simplistic assessment of the current stalemate, and continuation of same failed policies that led Somalia to its current predicament

The current situation in Mogadishu - which is opposite of what TFG leaders claim at the end of major military confrontations, could be characterized lull in major violence, and the insurgency rethinking their strategy and embracing unconventional/less intensive warfare, including land mines, and hit and run tactics. And the TFG leadership embarking a major government reshuffles to bring more warlords, less credible individuals, and secular “clanists”.

It’s true that the major events in 2006 provided hope, and raise the confidence for the Somalis to solve their problems, without less dependence on foreign help. However, downward spiral of Somali conflict is the result of TFG leaders’ incompetence, and ill advised policies that made possible the Ethiopian invasion. To reverse this trend Ethiopian invasion must end; reconciliation must bring together TFG and their opponents (leaders of UIC, former parliamentarians, clan leaders, civil society groups, Islamic leaders, Diaspora, and intellectuals/academics); reconciliation must be held in a neutral country.

In addition, genuine national reconciliation has been a precondition for the release of the with-held funds for the national reconciliation, and other development funds, as well as the contribution of other wise reluctant African countries to provide robust African peacekeeping mission in Somalia. Thus, genuine national reconciliation is the only viable solution; to end the violence; gain credibility for the TFG; and improving TFG performance by bringing credible people who know how to do the difficult job of nation building. To achieve this we need the U.S., EU, the Arab League, AU and UN to play constructive role, by pressuring TFG to break the stand off, and tie any future assistance for its performance.   


Daud Ed
Email: [email protected]



[1] The author have discussed the Ethiopian invasion and its implications in Somalia in an article entitled “Ethiopian Invasion of Somalia: Neoconservative Approach of Nation Building Democratization, and “Benevolent Hegemony””

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