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The Somalia Crises: Reality Check & the Road Ahead

By Abdirashid K. Hashi
Sunday, October 07, 2007


The Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFG) and the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) plus the offshoot Shabaab group emerged as the finalists of the decade-long contest for the control / leadership of Somalia. The question many are asking now is who will carry the day: the TFG, which is the nominal incumbent, or the opposition groups spearheaded by the Alliance?


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Diplomatically, the TFG is somewhat backed by who is who of the international community be it the United Nations, the US government, the African Union, IGAD, the Arab League, EU and many Arab and neighboring countries. The opposition i.e. the Alliance and the Shabaab, on the other hand, has the unqualified backing of the tiny Red Sea State of Eritrea.  The Somali people, whose judgment is the most important seem to be against the Ethiopian occupation but not against the TFG per se; they also seem to appreciate the opposition’s legitimate role in Somali politics but not necessarily the adventurism, latent tribalism and holier than thou attitude of certain segments of the Islamists / opposition groups.       


The significant international diplomatic (not necessarily financial) support for the TFG and the fact that the US government is hostile to the Alliance (and at times charges some of its leaders as friends of terrorists, if not a bone fide terrorists) make many observers conclude that the TFG is the potential winner of this contest and that the opposition is a disparate and desperate non-entity whose demise is certain.


If one puts aside sentimentalism and closely examines the essence of the TFG and the opposition and what has transpired during their existence, one could clearly notice a certain pattern that suggests a grim future for the TFG and potential success for the opposition.


The TFG is the older of the two competing entities and since its birth the TFG was mired in self-inflicted conflicts (among its members or with the Somali people whom it was supposed to serve). For instance, since its inception, Prime Minister Gedi’s government was subjected to three votes-of-no-confidence motions and the fourth and possibility the final round is being cooked as I write.


In his short premiership, Gedi, has fired or appointed, four foreign or international cooperation’s ministers (Jurrille, Abdullahi Sh. Ismail, Buubaa and Elabe); he also appointed and sacked three defense ministers (Gen. Abdiwahab, Col. Barre Hirale, and Col. Bihi). Two out of the three Deputy Prime Ministers defected to the opposition (Mohamud A. Jama (Sifir) and Hussein Aidid) and the third was demoted (Salid H Aliyow Ibrow). The seat of the government itself had changed three times (from Jowhar, to Biadoa, to Mogadishu.)  


The source of the TFG’s persistent conflict (which resulted in its current and embarrassing non-performance record) has to do with the very essence of the TFG. The first layer of the TFG is the warlords who by nature thrive in conflicts; the warlords also lack the basic political skills needed to run a “transitional” authority for such as a responsibility requires an immense patience and extraordinary political finesse.


The second layer of the TFG comprises of the most of the MPs and civil servant apparatus who are ex-officials of the dictatorial military regime. This cadre has no deep principles, overriding mission, or entrenched vision – they are, for the most part, just after power, money and fame – and whoever delivers the goodies (or even makes credible and at times tantalizing promises) gets their pay-as-you-go attention and fickle stirrings-attached votes. The self-serving and high-maintenance MPs-for-hire would fall over each other to back anyone with money – even if the merchant is the devil himself.


The third layer of the TFG is made up of educated but inexperienced auxiliary team, who for most part, are from the diaspora. The majority of them lack the political maturity and thoughtful judgment needed to heal the wounds of a collapsed state such as Somalia. The reflex-mode of this supportive group is often to present to their respective leaders what that “leader” wants to hear - even if that means repeating the mistakes of oneself or those of others again and again and again.


In other words, rather than the opposition groups, what keep the TFG in its current fledgling status are the very people who make up the TFG.  Most of the TFG apparatus used to work for the military regime, as well as the transitional authorities of Ali Mahdi and that of General Aidid’s as well as the Arta government(s). For the oodles and oodles of enterprising functionaries, whoever takes control of the helms of the Somalia government – even if that control is symbolic or fleeting - that person is their bosom uncle, as we would colloquially say in Somali.


These freeloaders who are sinking the TFG are unemployable and they were not and are not able to leave Somalia. In order to survive in this forsaken country, their modus operandi has been: serve anyone who sets a shop in Somalia, hence many people’s versatile ideologies (if we can even use such a term) and brazen wheeling and dealings.   


If one dispassionately ponders on this very fact and it’s indeed a fact, one would realize that the TFG faces a grim future. For, if the TFG’s core constituent is simply a pathetic punch, then the chances of this constituent doing wonders are not that great. What further compounds and complicates the troubles of the TFG (and trouble is understatement word) is the fact that Ethiopia’s life-support system is what gets the TFG going. The Ethiopian factor thus breeds the ever-growing, deadly and daring insurgency; and they kill or maim each day, half dozen, if not more, TFG / Ethiopian soldiers and TFG officials.


Unlike the insurgencies, the TFG has a short time left of its allotted five-year lifespan. As a “transitional” government, it has till August 2009 and both the international community and its Somali supporters / political base expect the beleaguered TFG to deliver; and delivering it is not. Among other structural problems, rift (which some describe as irreconcilable) between the TFG President and his Prime Minister is now becoming a public affair. The question is not if, but when, Prime Minister Gedi will be sacked and what this brewing internal strife will entail. Will Gedi and his protector Mohamed Dhere retaliate with another expulsion of the TFG / President or could an all-out political / actual war between the highest echelons of the TFG result in the TFG’s fizzling out? 


One only needs to remember what had became of the TNG (the predecessor of the TFG), when the then, TNG President Abdiqasim and his Prime Minister, Hassan Abshir, part ways – the TNG died a sudden death – and a surrogate fetus (i.e. the TFG) was planted in its place!


There is a high chance that there will be no TFG in the event of fallout between the current President and his Prime Minister. In the opinion of many of the MPs-for hire though, the TFG Charter particularly Article 11 (paragraphs 8 and 9) is a built-in clause which is about to trigger, anyway, the fall of Prime Minister Gedi’s government as early as October 13. Some of the MPs and even pro-President media outlets argue that the President sees this clause as a God-sent opportunity to get rid of Prime Minister Gedi and bring about revitalization of the ailing and beleaguered TFG.  


Article 11 of the Transitional Federal Charter, namely paragraphs 8 & 9, reads: 


The Transitional Federal Government shall ensure that the process of federating Somalia shall take place within a period of two and a half years from the date that the commission is established;


 In the event that the Transitional Federal Government is unable to complete the process of federalism all over Somalia within the

prescribed period of two and half years, the Government shall request Parliament for a vote of confidence, failing which the Transitional Federal Parliament shall withdraw its support and a new Transitional Federal Government shall be formed in the manner set out in this charter;


 Article 71, paragraph 9 of the Charter, often cited, by those who are impatient to sack Premier Gedi, further reads as follows;

The present Charter shall be the basis for the federal constitution whose draft shall be completed within two and half (2 1/2) years and be adopted by popular referendum during the final year of the transitional period.


The anti-Gedi forces claim that the aforementioned Charter provisions are not met - and hence Prime Minister Gedi’s pending dethroning.  


The internal TFG politicking, the built-in constitutional problems, the stepped up destabilization campaigns of the opposition clans, Shabaab, and de-legitimization efforts of the Alliance point to a difficult if not a precarious road ahead of the TFG. If one further takes into account the prevailing Afro-pessimism and Somalia-fatigue in the international scene, the decimal performance of the TFG (in terms of public service delivery, institution building and genuine reconciliation), and the Ethiopia’s total military domination of the country ( which feeds and emboldens the insurgency) as well as the oil-related conflict between Puntland and Premier Gedi’s government and the all-time-high and deepening conflict between the previously peaceful Puntland and Somaliland – one can conclude that the TFG’s graph will most likely be going down in the foreseeable future; if these challenges do not result in the downfall of the TFG before the designated August 2009 cut-off date.


The case of the opposition group(s) is a bit different. For one thing, unlike the slacker-infested TFG, the opposition groups are highly motivated and they deeply believe that theirs is a just cause and that they are fighting for self-determination. The fact that the opposition is unfazed and are moving a full speed in spite their almost non-existence international support attests to their super self-confidence. Also, unlike the ever-weakening TFG, the opposition is metamorphosing into a nationalist alliance in which religious and secular Somalis are joining in an administrative entity aiming at a common cause – this, itself, is a unique and unprecedented development in the annals of Somali politics. 


What makes the opposition better positioned to emerge as the victorious in this contest is the make up of its personnel. The bulk of the opposition people are Somalia’s religious groups of all ideological stripes, the intellectuals (mostly based in the diaspora), business groups and nationalist politicians. Again, never did these groups join forces in the history of Somali politics.


Historians underscore that - throughout world history - determined resistance groups had always defeated occupying forces no matter how powerful the occupiers were. Since the TFG owes its very existence to the Ethiopians who propelled them to Mogadishu, once Ethiopia folds its tents from Somali soil, then there will be no TFG, one can assume. In Mogadishu and its environs, the opposition also enjoys much stronger popular support vis-à-vis the TFG. Furthermore, it seems the opposition groups are making their mantra Henry Kissinger’s famous maxim of guerrilla warfare: The conventional army loses if it does not win. The guerrilla wins if it does not lose.


I am not rejoicing the impending problems for the TFG. Neither do I believe the demise of the TFG would herald an era of peace and prosperity in Somalia. I also do not believe the victory of the opposition will trigger a dawn of peace and progress. Our problems are much more complicated than changing of the guard. Ours is a collapsed society that requires decades and decades of rebuilding; that is; in terms of the actual infrastructure and trust among citizens.


What Somalia needs is peace and reconciliation. This could only be attained if we build on what we have already achieved. I would therefore end my article with the following suggestions:


  • If and when Prime Minister Gedi is sacked, I would advise him to accept his fate and move on. Mr. Prime Minister you will not accomplish, now or in the future, what you were not able to achieve in the past, and mind you, you are the longest serving “transitional” Prime Minister since Omar Arte’s time!
  • For the President, genuinely reconcile with opposition and as an act of good will, propose to share power with them; perhaps by giving the post of premiership to one of the leading members from alliance.  I would even suggest names: Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed or Professor Ibrahim Adow. I do not know them in person, but I heard their speeches and read their interviews and they come across as genuine, solid individuals who will give it their best shot if appointed as Prime Minister;


  • To the next Prime Minister (whoever he maybe): You may be delighted once appointed, but rest assured at the end of your term, you will be as unpopular as any politician you despise. Leading any Somali government is thankless and daunting task;


  • To the TFG and Opposition groups: Sign a peace treaty and commit yourself to settle all disputes in a peaceful manner. Also Somalia should sign with Ethiopia a non-aggression pact that forbids the two countries to engage armed conflicts; this should steer Somalia and Ethiopia towards a path of cooperation and mutual respect; wars, meddling and manipulation is not the long term interest of either country;


  • To the International community and the US government: immediately replace Ethiopia’s occupation forces with Egyptian / Yemen / Muslim / Arab troops. Removing Ethiopian occupation forces from Somalia and accommodating the veteran Islamists is the only sure way to disentangle Somalia from Al Qaeda;


  • To the Shabaab, in a way you are the best hope for Somalia for you are battling, with bravery, the occupation forces in the alleys and laneways of Mogadishu when most of our people simply deserted the county or capitulated in the face of the invaders. On the other hand, you seem to me as the most dangerous forces against the very existence of Somalia. You see, your open and strangely bragging association with Al-Qaeda, a pariah entity) is making the whole world turn against our country. Also, if it were not your irresponsible claims / relationship with this outfit; Ethiopia might not have received the current global endorsement of its aggression against Somalia. Similarly, if you do not cease and desist your radicalism and put an end to your dangerous involvement with Al Qaeda, Somalia will forever be a battleground between Al Qaeda and its hunters. Your arbitrary and extrajudicial executions of fellow Somalis is also very, very troubling; and if you do not stop it now, I fear your next victims will be members of those you refer as “the Alliance of Islamists and Secularist” and then you may turn your little pistols to yourselves; 


  • To the rest of Somalis, particularly diaspora Somalis – let us push for reconciliation. War and Ethiopian meddling are the two most dangerous sources of our national problems. The world does not owe us anything. Somalia would only be peaceful and prosperous, when we, Somalis, do our duty and the key is doing away with hatred and hyperbole

Abdirashid K. Hashi

Former Deputy Chief Cabinet,

Somali Prime Minister’s Office

Comments are welcomed;

Email: [email protected]

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