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The Asmara Gathering: The only post-Embagathi conference with positive ending

by Abdirizak Omar Mohamed
Wednesday, September 26, 2007


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The bogus clan reconciliation conference that was concluded in Mogadishu last month produced zilch results when taken into account the huge resources and efforts invested by the international donors. From the outset, major donors of the conference envisaged that the twice delayed clan conference would not yield positive outcome due to its ambiguity and flaws with respect to the framework for the reconciliation as well as the parties to be reconciled, yet the donors, mainly EU countries decide to fund the conference after they were pressured by the USA. However, in private many of the donor countries resisted funding such sham clan reconciliation; because conceptually they knew for a genuine reconciliation to take place the adversaries of the conflict should be brought to the negotiation table.


It started with corruption as reported by many reliable local websites that potential clan participants of the conference were asked for entry fee in the amount of $100.0. duplicating names of participants who were not in the conference were widespread and such corruption continued through with more blemishes and ended in failure with no tangible outcome, and when the dust settled more accusation of mismanagement of funds by the Reconciliation Commission became very public, there were press conferences by clan participants that organizers of conference failed to pay  regional clan representatives for their transportation allowance to travel back to their respective regions and many were left high and dry in Mogadishu for weeks. Hotels refused to accept any promissory notes from the conference organizers. In fact this clan conference may have serve the opposite of its stated objectives by reviving healed old wounds and thus creating new clan hostilities as evidenced by the scandalous allegation made by members of the Digil and Mirif that members of their clan were replaced with non Digil and Mirif thus depriving them from traveling to the pilgrimage for the symbolic signing of the imaginary agreement between clans.  


While this sham clan reconciliation conference was being concluded in Mogadishu, in Asmara another conference was being organized and planned. For almost two months a technical committee comprised of intellectuals, diaspora, Academics, members of the Union of Islamic Courts, free parliamentarians and civil society were in full gears in putting together the final touches of the agenda of the conference, identifying any flaws and refining them.


The rationale of the conference was to unify the loose opposition groups inside the country and abroad and to reverse the dire situation faced by the Somalis as well as the neocolonial agenda imposed on the will of the Somali people by the Ethiopians and its US ally with the help of the TFG.  Here, it is worth repeating the atrocities committed against the Somali people by the Ethiopians and the TFG, so that the victims of such atrocities are not left in vain, and to build a case why it is necessary for such a gathering to take place in Asmara, Eritrea.  In its latest report the Human Right Watch implicated the USA for bombing innocent nomads in Lower Jubba region and put the USA in par with the Ethiopians in committing human rights violations. Similarly, the TFG and its  militia committed grave human rights abuses and crimes such as pillaging, looting, rape, arbitrary arrests and killing of anyone who resists Ethiopian occupation, it prevented aid agencies from distributing clean water to children, women and the sick, they have forcibly taken the wounded from hospitals and imprisoned thus depriving them from getting needed medicine. It is paradoxical the Prime Minister who deprived people from the right to live and prevented aid agencies to deliver clean water to (IDPs) internally displaced people would host the marriage of his son in five star hotels and spend thousands of dollars and foolishly invite members of the donor communities whom he had been begging for handouts to attend such extravagance ceremony.


 In the same way, the president’s obsession with power has contributed to the devastation wreaked on Mogadishu people and was quoted in public that “yes we will bombard civilians” as reported by Washington post, it is an open secret that when a delegation from the UN visited him in the uphill presidential palace, the Ethiopians were shelling civilians and in the midst of their meeting it became unbearable to continue communicating with the delegation due to the sound and frequency of the shelling, the president then asked the Ethiopians to halt the shelling, not because he is concerned with the Somali civilians being killed and not because he felt social responsibility, so to speak, over the victims of the Ethiopian shelling, but he halted them from shelling civilians because he needed an interval to have an uninterrupted meeting with the delegation.  Literally, Mr.Yusuf and Gedi do not act on their own, but on orders from the slim built and short physique Ethiopian General Mr.Gebre, and ever since the occupation, they have been acting just like two wounded dogs backed in a corner        


By reflecting on the events of the past 16 years it is obvious that Melez Zenawe had succeed in keeping Somalia in a perpetual chaos to realize his dream of balkanizing Somalia into fiefdoms and into the hands of stooges who take orders from him. The fact that Ethiopians make up almost more than one quarter of the population of puntland, another one quarter of the population in Bay and in Hargeisa almost every family has an Ethiopian nanny working in the house, not only that but now every Somali is given an Ethiopian passport, almost half the Somalis in the middle east travel with Ethiopian passport. In hindsight, this slow but destructive neocolonial agenda of Ethiopia is drastically reshaping the identity and social fabrics of Somalia and should be a wake up call, because now Melez’s interest converges with the empire state’s (USA) interest and those who are giving their blind support should stop running amuck the sovereignty of the country with their narrow personal or clan interest.


Due to the lack of political acumen that is intrinsic in the TFG leadership the USA is now, at least in  private contemplating and even questioning whether the TFG is worth the United States’ unwavering support any longer. However, privately and publicly the US is consistent with its support for Ethiopia to remain in Somalia as evidenced by the recently announced 96 million aid to Ethiopia. The US is saying it is of no relevance whether Melez violates human rights and commits atrocities in Ogaden and it doesn’t even concern us if he refuses human rights groups to investigate these atrocities. In other words as long as Meles Zenawe is doing what want him to do he is our man, a typical American hypocrisy.                                                             


The Asmara gathering


In contrast, the Asmara meeting was not a reconciliation conference, but a gathering that should be praised for the simple notion that indeed Somalis can sit down without outsiders facilitating the conference and come up with the formation of unified organization that produced a very progressive document outlining their agenda. Indeed, its success is mainly due to the commonality of their vision and statesmen participants of the likes of Sheikh Sharif, Jama Mohamed Qalib,Yusuf Dheeg and Dr.Omar Iman who co-chaired the conference. By taking moral high ground, the delegates of the conference succeeded in expending their base support for their cause and generated a sense of paranoid guilty among the TFG ant its inept leadership. By rejecting the 4.5 clan representation espoused by the TFG and adhering to high moral principles of social justice and equality they have enhanced the integrative power of the organization and garnered the support of all Somalis.


What makes the Asmara conference different from other past conferences is the fact that it was a Somali owned process; it was organized, planned and facilitated by Somalis, something unheard of before. The process was also an inclusive whereby delegates of diverse background and skills from different parts of the globe participated in the conference without making clan background checks. Similarly, the election of its leadership was open and transparent, whereby candidates campaigned for votes.

This is the only conference worth supporting, and we should not leave only the members of the organization to do this daunting job of re-liberating our nation, but we also have collective responsibility to do our part and help us all attain that goal.

Abdirizak Omar Mohamed is and independent researcher and a member of Somali Canadian Diaspora Alliance who holds Masters degree in post-conflict development from York University, Toronto and can be reached at Email: [email protected] 

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