By: Abdalla A. Hirad
Saturday, June 17, 2006


The mixed feelings of many Somalis and the international community about the new developments in Mogadishu northwards are not only justified, but clearly raise a cause for concern. What had seemingly started as a rebellion by the masses of Mogadishu against the control of the alleged US-supported warlords may now transpire into a headless, leaderless uprising all over the country. That should have been expected. An alliance of the warlords, with the US and Ethiopia in the mix of actors, is a natural anathema in Mogadishu, especially with the Islamists in the helm.


The containment of the fire started in Mogadishu now very much depends on the ‘Puntland’ and “Somaliland’ administrations ability to avoid its spreading into the whole country. However, there is no telling if these two clan-based administrations could stand against what some Somalis already call a “kacdoon”—a revolution. It is also unlikely that the so-called Islamists will ever come to negotiate with anyone. But even if they do, they will never be able to deliver. They neither have the right leadership nor the organization to do so. At best, they are loosely related, not even connected, religious sects, which are also structured by kinship. The only thing that unites them is a common enemy—the warlords, the TFG, secularism, and anything remotely to do with Ethiopia, the US and the Western world.


Hardly can the Transitional Federal Government, based in Baidoa, stand against them militarily, or can persuade them diplomatically, on its own, either. The fact that Sheik Sharif Ahmed has refused the mediation of the Yemen is already telling. Let us just hope upon hope that the Islamists do not attack Baidoa; or that some stupid local cleric does not claim his own “Court” in there, to complicate matters. Suddenly Somalia is a multi-headed monster.


The renewed American interest in the Somali question—which comes too late—is neither very clear nor immediately encouraging. At best, the contact group is a matter of an exploratory expedition. Several flaws are already apparent, which are indicative of the continued confused stance of the US policy towards Somalia.


The Contact Group mechanism does not reflect the urgency required to curbing the influence of those war-profiteers and warlords turned Islamists. It is not so much that the Mogadishu gangs, turned Islamists, have the military power to conquer the whole country. It is just that they establish an encouraging example for every power hungry cleric to claim a “Court” as is already happening in places north of Mogadishu. These comics have three mechanisms in their advantage: (a) the good will of the population to anything labeled Islamic (b) the public jubilation over the fall of the dreaded warlords (3) the media support in so far as the BBC Somali Service is concerned, which has shown more than tacit support for the so-called “Alliance of the Islamic Courts”. The BBC, Somali Services, is headed by one Yusuf Garad who uses the Institution as a tool for his Cayr sub-lineage and who, by all indications, currently and rightly sees the new uprising as practically an opportunity for the Cayr domination of Somali politics—an effort which had once failed under Abdiqasim’s presidency of the former Transitional Federal Government.  


What the world does not know is the fact that the so-called uprising is immediately a matter of an intra-Hawiye civil war disguised as an Islamist revolution by some. The Hawiye family sub-clan (Cayr) spearheading the upheaval have already been in control of a large junk of the country between Mogadishu and Kismayo, 500 km. South. Locals of the area in their control are already complaining that the Cayr militia have conscribed their youth for the war, against the will of the people, and in the name of Islam. Alternatively, these kids, poor and impoverished, see an opportunity in the bandwagon to feed themselves, at a minimum. Hardly do they have any idea of what they are into.


So far, the new American policy posture towards Somalia is focused on efforts to drum support for the “federal institutions” of Somalia. I do not know what to read into this phraseology; but it definitely falls short of explicit support to the Transitional Federal Government.  In fact, the Contact Group, by its composition, alienates all the relevant countries, sub-regional and regional groups, as well as the international organizations immediately concerned and traditionally interested in the Somali question—except perhaps, that is, Italy and the UK. I do not know what to make of this either. It gives mixed signals to the TFG and its friends all over the world. Unfortunately, the same policy has encouraged Sheikh Shariif and his mob to advance on more localities north of Mogadishu.


It seems that the US policy has hopped from support to the infamous warlords, which has brought about the current failure, to providing an unintended support to those Islamists-feigning gangs. It is understandable that the US is probing the political mood all over the place before it can pledge support to the TFG. However, treating other entities such as the “Islamic Courts”—which, at best, symbolize very local initiatives and sharing nothing but the past misery of the Somalia population between themselves—as an equal to the TFG is a greater mistake. It is tantamount to that, now defunct, earlier policy of supporting the warlords. The TFG, I believe, could fare much better than the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan under the current circumstances of Somalia. If the US is fully supporting those, the advantages are greater, if they do the same in Somalia and support the TFG now rather than later. 


The concern about the position of “Somaliland” in the mix of things, at this juncture, if at all, should be minimal and should be shoved to the back bench. It is true that there are some governments who are sympathetic towards the position of “Somaliland”. “Somaliland” will, however, cease to exist if a popular uprising erupts in the North, any way, which is about the only good thing that the “Islamists” can bring about, short of a disaster to Somalia. In fact, Somalia will fall into a greater abyss, if it falls into the hands of these mobs, with or without them sponsoring terrorism. But the concern that the immediate and explicit support to the TFG, by the US, may bring about the same result as in the lack of it is genuine.


Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, it would be prudent if the US would put its weight and will behind the TFG, which is already internationally supported. On balance, it might work as the better option in the immediate term. At a minimum, that may trim the claimed jurisdiction of the “Islamists” and their advances into other parts of the country. Such a policy would also, not only streamline the focus and inputs of the international community into the ongoing process of reconciliation; but would give the TFG enough clout to goad the “Islamists” and other challenging entities to seek to negotiate with it. More importantly, it would present the TFG as a clean-cut option for the people to choose vis-à-vis the “Islamists”, if they so wish. So, the US should make hay while the sun shines.



Otherwise, SOMALIA IS GONE FOR GOOD, UNLESS …, as the title, above, says: …GOD SAVES IT from its own.


Abdalla A. Hirad
E-mail: [email protected]



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