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HORUSOCOD: Spoilers of peace and situational war profiteers

By Muuse Yuusuf
Friday, May 26, 2017

                         Factionalism                                                                                         Unity

Here we go again!! As the notorious factionalism and warlordism in Somali politics continuous to rip apart this war-ravaged country, another faction, calling itself “horusocod” was formed in Nairobi. Ironically. the faction is opposing the same government they voted for in a (s)election process in less than 4 months. Most Somalis and the international community welcomed the outcome of the February (s)election and saw it as a new era of hope for Somalia.

This faction’s action might have surprised some constituencies, but not those who follow closely behaviour of Somalia’s political elites.

History tells us that factionalism has always been part and parcel of Somalia’s modern political history. Indeed, anyone who looks back at historical political events in 1950s and 1960s could see how factionalism led to the formation of up to 60 “political parties”. Most of these “parties” were no more than expression of parochial and self-interest of some factions or even individuals with no ideological or principal rational. “Parties” were formed or dissolved to fulfil the desires and wishes of multiple factions, competing for power and meagre resources.

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From 1969 to late 1970s, factionalism was subdued by the grip of the iron fist of the powerful military regime with its sophisticated intelligence and security apparatus, hunting down any rebellious factions. Indeed, one only needs to remember the fate of those military officers and religious leaders in 1970s who challenged the regime for political or ideological reasons. All power was entrusted in the hands of the supreme leader, the late General Siyad Barre, who was raised to the status of “the father and teacher of the nation.”

In late 1970s and 1980s, which was the height of rebellion against the military regime, factionalism re-emerged, but sadly continued to destroy any hope of articulating coherent political strategies for national salvation. Indeed, “opposition” or rebel factions sprung up and multiplied with no clear ideological or political vision. They continued to mislead the Somali people with the adoption of the word “Somali” in their factions’ titles. Everyone knows the terrible outcome of this misguided factionalism, which caused the country to disintegrate along factions. Some factions threatening to dismember the country.

It is debatable whether factionalism is inherent in Somalis’ social structure (clan), Indeed, some anthropologists describe Somalis’ clan as an individualistic and egalitarian system where the individual and not the community has the final word and can act independently. Hence formation of multiple and competing factions/clans is inevitable. It is also human nature that people would create multiple and competing factions to resolve socio-political and economic challenges, and Somalis are part of that human behaviour and therefore cannot be blamed for being so.

 However, the man who articulated contemporary factionalism within Somalia’s political elites is Prof. Menkhaus, an American scholar. Writing in 2004 at the height of virulent factionalism and warlordism, the esteemed doctor explained:

“Situational spoilers are agents or factions which would do anything to distrupt reconciliation conferences and state-building for their own parochial interests/reasons This has been the case throughout the Somali conflict. Once a governmnet or a new state building initiative is proposed or constitued, existing or new factions would challenge it for different reasons.”

The current “Horusocod” faction fits well within the above description because, reportedly,  these characters are more or less people who failed to secure jobs in the current government. Some also  used to be part of the previous government. Therefore, their mindset or mantra is “if I don’t get what I want, then I would do everything to bring down the government” which they took part in its creation!!

The latest “horusocod” episode reminds me of a similar situation in early 2000 when factionalism and warlordism were rife, and some particular factions were formed.

 The year was 2000, and under the leadership of president Ismail Omar Geelle of Djbouti, the Arta reconcilliation conference, which was attended by thousands of Somalis, was concluded. A transitional national assemblly and government were established. The international community, including neighbouring states, accepted the new government, which was allowed to take Somalia’s seat at the UN for the first time since the collapse of the central government in 1991.

This conference was seen by many Somalis and observers as a success story, and people had high hopes in reconstituting the failed Somalia state through this process. This is because first of all the conference was held in and facilitated by brotherly country unlike  previous conferences held in Ethiopia and Kenya – countries that are hostile to Somalia’s national interest for historical reasons. Secondly, factional leaders and warlords who had been donimating previous conferences were excluded, and wider stake holders, including civil societies and traditional leaders were given prominent roles in the process. Indeed, the conference was seen as the bedrock or mother of all reconciliation initiatives.

After its inauguration in Djibouti and blessed by the international community, the TNG relocted to Mogadishu where thousands of people welcomed its president Abdiqasim Salad Hassan.

However, the notorious factonalism took control of the situation.  The TNG immediately faced overwhelming challenges posed by disgruntled Mogadishu warlords, factional leaders and other business people who viewed it as a threat to their interests. Furthermore, other factions in favour of the “block-building” or federal structure approach convened a meeting in 2001 in Elberde near the Somali Ethiopian border. They formed the National Restoration Council (NRC), another faction to oppose the TNG in Mogadishu. 

Accusing the TNG of having links with Al-Qaeda, the late Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia-a country that had been manipulating factional leaders for its national interest-encouraged Somali factional leaders to oppose the TNG. The same Meles Zenawi who blessed the TNG at the Arte conference, invited factional leaders, such as the NRC for a conference in Awassa in Ethiopia in March 2001. Sixteen factional leaders or “situational spoilers” as Prof. Menkhaus would describe them, attended the meeting, creating another factional group called the Somali Reconciliation and Restoration Council (SRRC) to oppose the TNG.

Under the new SRRC umbrella and supported by Ethiopia, in a series of clashes with TNG forces, militiamen loyal to Mogadishu warlords and other factional leaders ensured that the TNG and its weak institutions were no more than a political entity isolated in a few quarters in Mogadishu. The TNG, marred by accusation of corruption and association with Al-Qaeda linked Islamic extremists and terrorists was unable to extend its authority over Mogadishu, let alone to the whole country.

The momentum and huge goodwill generated at the Arte conference in the ambitious and inclusive process was lost because of conspiracy by foreign interference, and of course virulent factionalism and other powerful stakeholders. This practically killed the Arte process, and throughout 2001-2002 insecurity and lawlessness in the country had increased.

The similarity between the two political events in 2000 and 2017 is that both governments were born out of popular political processes and people placed huge expectation on these governments to usher political stability, security and economic revival in the country. However, disgruntled factions with parochial interests were/are determined to bring them down. This must be resisted.

Factionalism did NOT end there. As we all know almost all Transitional Federal Governments from 2004 were marred by factional squabbles. For example, the pro and anti-foreign troops factions, or presidents falling out with their prime ministers, or MPs in factionalised parliaments hurling insults at each other, or pushing the infamous “motions” through the parliament, using the usual mindset “if I don’t get what I want, then I would do everything to bring down the government.”

It also must be noted that Al-Shabaab, which was born out of Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia, is no more than a classical example of factionalism, hiding under the banner of religion.

The latest is “Horusocod” faction, which I would call “Dibusocod” because they are dragging the country back to the dark days of virulent factionalism. There is now a fully-functioning parliament, which can accommodate all factions, and if they have political grievances they should raise them in this institution and not in foreign countries.

I would also describe them as “peace spoilers and war profiteers” because today if they had military power they would have been spilling blood to topple the government to seize power, fuelling more insecurity and instability in this war-ravaged and drought stricken country.

Muuse Yuusuf
[email protected]

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