By Dr. Abdishakur Jowhar ([email protected])
Tuesday, May 08, 2012
On Dec 31, 2011 the Ethiopian army forced Al Shabaab out of Beledwayne. It was a one day affair. Al Shabaab reported that they withdrew for tactical reasons. Their opponents claimed that they were roundly defeated. There were celebrations in Mogadishu; the capital of Somalia’s weak Transitional Federal Government. For theTFG[i]
and its allies (the Pro-TFG militia’s,AMISOM[ii]
and Ethiopian and Kenyan forces and regional organizations ofIGAD[iii], UNPOS[iv]
the defeat of Al-Shabaab represents an expansion of the territory under its nominal control; pyrrhic though the victory might be, still a victory of sorts it is.(See the endnotes for informative analysis and explanation of these acronyms)
The liberation of Beledwayne is a shining example of the success of the strategy of low cost sub-contracting of an asymmetrical warfare. It is a feather on the decorated head of Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda whose forces are credited with breaking the back of Al-Shabaab in Somalia. Together with the liberation of Baydhabo and the withdrawal of Al Shabaab from Mogadishu there is an increasing sense of optimism among Somalia’s reconciliation professionals. There is hope that the shrinking territory controlled by Al-shabaab would allow Somalia a breathing space and the rare opportunity of finding a way to end the decades-long chaos and disorder that has brought this nation to its knees. A federal Somali constitution is just about to be passed; the transitional state of the Somali Government is about to come to an end finally and there is hope that this may be the beginning of the end of the Somali Crisis. Somalis are being warned again and again by top politicians of international status and generals of the African force that they should not spoil the impending dawn of their salvation.
In actuality nothing could be further from the truth. The rose colored scenario of Somalia’s future painted by those with vested interest in maintaining the myth of hope is as deceptive as it is powerful, cruel and disingenuous. In actuality Somalis are about to enter perhaps the darkest era of their history, one that will dwarf whatever horrors have been visited upon them so far.The price Somalis have to pay for the victory over Al-shabaab maybe far too great to bear.
The case of Hiiraan State should help open the eyes of those who still remain capable of seeing; those who might have escaped being blinded by the poisonous dishes of false hopes served by Somalia’s professionals of permanent wars and permanent reconciliation.
Hiiraan the Myth: According to views expressed by the TFG and its sponsors of Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya the people of Beledwayne are finally free from the clutches of the hand chopping, stoning-to- death Al Shabaab fanatics. Hiiraan is liberated. The region is finally under the direct control and governance of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government. On March 11, 2012 the president of Somalia HE Sheikh Sharif appointed a new Governor for the region after wide consultation with religious scholars, intellectuals, women and youth who hail from the region. Hiiraan is now a territory reclaimed from the wasted years of Al Shabaab. Hiiraan is now ready to take its place among the new regions of Federal Somalia, ready to help ratify the new constitution and to assist in ushering a new era of, dignity, hope and democracy for the Somali people. This is the myth that will fit the needs of Ethiopia and Kenya and that is propagated everywhere by the government they appointed for Somalia; the TFG.
Hiiraan: the Reality.
Beledweyne the capital of Hiiraan is under direct Ethiopian occupation. Occupation by foreign forces entails brutality by necessity; There is no other way to enforce occupation on any people. And the Ethiopian occupation of Beledweyne is no different. Force, brute naked force, is being used on the local population to inflict pain and fear and exact obedience. Human rights watch reports confirmed evidence of summary executions and arbitrary arrests that started on the first few days of the occupation and that has remained unabated. Schools have remained closed since the occupation started. The population lives in fear. There is dusk to dawn curfew that has remained in force ever since the Ethiopians took over Beledweyne. Even more bizarre and more economically devastating there is curfew in the business district of the city from Sunrise to noon to allow the Ethiopian occupation forces a peaceful time of completing their shopping needs without being exposed to the treacherous Somalis milling around in the vicinity. The people of Hiiraan did not fare much better under Al-Shabaab but residents of Beledweyne report that they knew the rules under Al-Shabaab and they could lead a normal life, free of harassment for as long as they dressed and worshipped in the fashions and manner dictated by Al-Shabaab. Schools were open, business booming and there were no curfews and no restrictions on the average Joe the Somali.
The Ethiopian occupation of Hiiraan is supported by local militia force whose primary responsibility is to beat Al Shabaab ideology and sympathy out of the people and to serve its creator and master Ethiopia. They can be best described as Ethiopia New Police in Beledweyne. In the Hiiraan conflict Ethiopia created and effectively used two groups of fighters; Ahlusuna Wal Jama and Shabelle Valley Administration. In spite of the often applied misnomer (Pro-TFG forces), there is no relationship between the TFG and the Ethiopian New Police in Hiiraan (SVA). These groups, like the warlords before them, take their marching orders from Addis Ababa not Mogadishu. For any armed group the central question is who the ultimate master is, and not the traditional Somali question of the tribal affiliation of the foot soldier.
The proliferation of Non State Armed Groups in Somali soil are in reality instruments for a new phase of tribal and warlord battles that will maintain the destabilization of Somalia for decades to come. This is a decidedly negative outcome for the Somali people. It is an outcome that is predominantly positive for those who might benefit from continuing instability of Somalia (Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda)
The formation of the current crop of Somalia’s Non State Armed Groups (Ahlusuna Wal Jama and its many independent branches and later on; Ras Kamboni group, Azania state forces and now SVA) harkens back to the Sunni Awakening movement that has helped tame Alqaida in Iraq. It is a strategy directly out of the Counterinsurgency Manual of the US army of 2006 adopted as it is to managing insurgency in an Islamic context. In the case of Somalia there is twist to the strategy with unfortunate consequences for the Somali. Here the war on terror is subcontracted to Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda. These three countries do have to fulfil the obligations of their contract but they will be foolish not to serve their national interest in the process. And unfortunately for all Somalis these three nations happen to have their own vested interest in Somalia’s territory or its vast sea shores or its hydrocarbons or in the funds that follow from international sources in the management of the Somali Conflict. And this entirely human and expectable twist of the subcontract has turned the war on terror in Somalia to a war on every Somali.
In Hiiraan the Ethiopians are local contractors for counterinsurgency against Alshabaab. The Ethiopian army has to balance its fear and distrust of Armed Somali tribes against its need for a local face that can both legitimize its occupation and act as an effective counterinsurgency tool against its determined enemy; Alshabaab.
Ethiopia has mastered how to utilize the Somali tribal system to defeat its enemies and reach its strategic interests. Kenya and Uganda are quickly learning from the Ethiopian experience. The formula that was used to build Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama was copied to the letter to build SVA and also Kenya’s Azania and Ras Kamboni forces. As I have noted previously in other writings here is the characteristic of all the emerging Non State Armed Groups (NSAG) in Somalia.
· The foot soldiers and leaders of every emergent NSAG belong to the same clan or even subclan. This is a return to the warlord days. It renders every such force persistently suspicious of the intentions of all other NSAGs and cements the relationship of the tribal group to the Ethiopian or Kenyan or Ugandan master.
· Each NSAG is armed, trained and funded by Ethiopia, Kenya or Uganda. Occasionally UNPOS indirectly supports this Non Estate Armed Groups to encourage a bottom up solution to the Somali problem (Federal Constitution of Somalia)
· The NSAGs have no allegiance to Somali national government only to their tribe and sub-tribe. And they owe complete obedience only to their master and creator as the very survival of the NSAG is dependent upon its sponsor and upon no one else.
· This tribal militia are fickle and essentially untrustworthy. They could turn over on a dime and start fighting the benefactor. So Ethiopia devised a 3 pronged strategy of maintaining control over the tribal militia. Kenya and Uganda are learning these lessons quickly.
o Rigidly controlling the logistic needs of the militia (bullets for the guns, gas for the vehicles, and food for the militia) to such a degree as to give the Ethiopian army a reasonable control of the militia’s movements, actions and behaviors, much like one would keep a dog on a leash to prevent it from wreaking havoc on the environment.
o Keeping two tribal militia functioning in the same territory; empowering one at first and later the other to keep both of them unbalanced and obedient (in the case of Hiiraan these are Ahlu Sunna and SVA.)
o Ethiopia being fully aware of the deviousness and resourcefulness of a Somali tribal militia does not trust passive methods of control alone. Ethiopia thus keeps a powerful army close to the tribal militia and uses this army with ruthless efficiency when necessary
Hiiraan and the Somali Constitution; the Synopsis
Hiiraan is now therefore a protectorate of Ethiopia. It is a brutally occupied territory. Force, Ethiopian force, is the only constitution that is applicable. It does not really matter what kind of Somali constitution is passed in Mogadishu; Monarchy, Democratic Federalism, Unitary State system.... etc. The law in Hiiraan is what the Ethiopian general says it is. The same is true in Somalia’s other areas of influence designated to Kenya and Uganda. A Somali Constitution, appropriately passed, and legally binding in the international arena is necessary as a legal framework for obtaining legitimacy on curving up Somalia into either spheres of influence or direct protectorates by the three hyena’s who has been given the task of looking after the Somali sheep. The urgency of passing a new constitution, the dire physical and financial threats against any “spoilers” who will prevent this constitution from being passed is dictated by the urgent needs of legal cover for oil exploration already underway. This is not a constitution for the interests of the Somali people. And so Beledweyne will remain an occupied territory for the foreseeable future ruled by a ruthless tribal militia under the auspices of Ethiopian generals no matter what kind of a well written constitution is passed in Mogadishu. And Hiiraan has become the unfortunate first, the prototype of what awaits all Somalis. The only consolation we can give to the good people of Hiiraan is bear with us brothers and sisters we are all coming to join you soon in hell of occupation.
The TFG resists and relents
The TFG tried for a time to resist Ethiopia mechanizations in Beledweyne. Prime Minister Abdiwali insisted that they it was the TFG that liberated Beledweyne and the TFG that will govern. There was initial hesitation to recognize the SVA. But Ethiopia insisted, twisted some arms here and there and prevailed. And on March 11, 2012 Sh. Sharif of Somalia accepted SVA chairman (Cabdifataax Xassan Afrax) as the president or governor or whatever he wants to be called of Hiiraan Region. In the very next day the Honorable president was summoned to Ethiopian prime minister’s office for a cup of coffee and a thank you. (/news/2012/Mar/wararka_maanta14-17282.htm)
Hiiraan: the Evaporating Mist of Diaspora Dreams
In these gloomy developments in Hiiraan whatever became of the Diaspora based Hiiraan Federal State of Somalia, its president and its council of Ministers. Or was it (like Awdal State) only a slogan for organizing slick dancing parties for frustrated Diaspora minds. Did the esteemed President Eng Mohamed Abdi Gaab ever reach Beledweyne? Did he find that the wisdom of the Ethiopian gun far outweighs the honest and collective thoughts of Diaspora Somalis of Hiiraan origin?Did he and other Somalis ever realize that one can use a strategy of tribal power only to kill a nation and not to save one?Did he, decent guy that he is, realise the unbridgeable gulf between political musings in nice meeting halls and ugly politics of gun and blood, clan and the knife in the back that dominates the real world of somalia?
[i]TFG(Transitional Federal Government of Somalia); not really a government in the classical sense of the term’ it controls no territory and wields power over no one. The president’s house and that of parliament are both actually protected/controlled by AMISOM. The TFG is thus more of politico- legal device created by foreign powers so that international bodies could interact with it on as needed basis.
[ii]AMISOM(African Union Mission in Somalia) AMISOM is headed by Uganda. It is a force that has remained chronically undermanned. It is projected to stabilize all of Somalia but has never really been able to go beyond the capital city of Mogadishu. Indeed it is only in this last one year that AMISOM was able to reach all of Mogadishu. In all honesty there is no conceivable way in which AIMISOM will take over all of Somalia unless of course the forces available to it are increased by an order of magnitude or two.
The Ethiopian forces are not part of AMISOM. Kenya forces even though they have been “re-hated” as part of AMISOM need to be considered by Somalis as a separate entity. They came to Somalia mostly in search of territory and oil. They found Al-Shabaab a reasonable pretext and “re-hatting” as AMISOM a good source of both income and legitimacy.
When you hear about AMISOM proper think Museveni, Mogadishu and Uganda and in that order. Dan Damon of the BBC in a March 2012 report considered the question of why Uganda is in Somalia (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-16853499). Dan Damon has put together a good review of Uganda’s rationale as seen by Ugandan intellectuals and soldiers. Two important issues not mentioned in that analysis will be noted here. The first is summarized by the two words land locked and by Somalia’s underutilized 3000 km of Shoreline. The second is that Uganda has been part of the war in Rwanda and Congo. In both of these confrontations Uganda played a secondary role of supporting a bona fide local force the first under Paul Kagame and the later under Laurent Kabila. Both of these local forces have become a stabile government in relatively short time in Rwanda and Congo respectively. In Somalia Uganda has left no stone unturned in actively preventing the formation of Somali National Army. This has been the consensus of the majority of al Somali officer who attempted this momentous task. In fact Uganda quickly and hastily breaks down every battalion of Somali Soldier s into headless, leaderless, utterly unfinanced and unequipped force more akin to Non-State Armed Group. This factor alone should raise the suspicion of all Somalis and should place legitimate and hard questions on Ugandan role in the Somali Conflict.
[iii]IGAD(intergovernmental Authority on Development) an organization of 6 east African countries (Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda and Sudan). IGAD is an arm of Ethiopian foreign policy when it comes to Somali affairs. For accuracy in political analysis consider IGAD euphuism for Ethiopia
[iv]UNPOS(United Nations Political Office in Somalia) this is the political arm of the UN operations in Somalia. It is responsible for the policy of bottom up reconciliation process that has succeeded to usher in the new era of tribal warlords and that has effectively facilitated and legitimized the balkanization of Somalia. It current Chief Augustine Mahiga has been most aggressive and quite instrumental in turning Somalia to spheres of influence of its neighbours.