06-07-2006, 08:52 PM
"Mogadishu Is Not Kabul"
By Raphael Legendre
Le Nouvel Observateur
Wednesday 07 June 2006
An interview with Roland Marchal, a researcher at CNRS specializing
in the Horn of Africa.
Are the Islamic Tribunals that have just captured the Somali
capital, Mogadishu, piloted by al-Qaeda?
Not at all. The Islamic Tribunals were born in reaction to security
problems experienced in Mogadishu where a veritable kidnapping industry
had developed. At the creation of a transition government in 2004, the
leaders wanted to abandon the capital to the armed factions that reigned
there. The Tribunals refused to move the Somali capital and decided to
re-establish a semblance of order and justice in the streets of
Mogadishu. Clans were formed this way according to location, also
according to religious sensibility, to try to settle these security
problems. The Tribunals are not the jihadists that people describe. If
this union was effectively created around an Islamic base, it may
absolutely not be reduced to an al-Qaeda-controlled movement. The
Somalis are too proud to allow themselves to be controlled by Arabs.
What has the United States' involvement in Somalia been?
Between 2001 and 2005, the United States favored a campaign of
targeted assassinations similar to Operation Phoenix during the Vietnam
War that struck those close to the jihadist movement. Then, with the
appearance of the Islamic Tribunals, the Americans opted for the "Afghan
technique": to finance warlords to fight against the Tribunals in the
framework of an anti-terrorist alliance headed by Ethiopia. But
Mogadishu is not Kabul, and if the Taliban were not much loved by the
Afghans, the Somalis have nothing against the Islamic Tribunals, which
have no governmental function. Consequently, the latest declarations by
the American president are very disquieting. The United States risks
rearming the Ethiopians, the armed factions, and returning to the model
of the 2001-2005 years.
Does the Islamic Tribunals' victory risk sweeping away the fragile
federal transition government created in 2004?
The transition government is out of the game no matter what.
The Tribunals view the government as the instrument of the
Ethiopians who organized its Constitution, and they will never agree to
obey the orders of a government that they consider has no legitimacy.
That said, no one knows today what's going to happen in Mogadishu, and
the Tribunals themselves have not decided on what is to happen next. It
is altogether possible that a rebellion will break out if the Tribunals
were to decide to take power. The Tribunals were united against the
violence in the Somali capital, but the structure of that organization
remains clannish and territorial. Divergences already broke out the
first day after the capture of Mogadishu over who was to take over the
arms of the losing factions. The situation is fluid at the moment; new
balances of power are in the process of being created; everything is
Go to Original
"Mogadishu Is Not Somalia."
By Christophe Ayad
Wednesday 07 June 2006
Roland Marchal, a CNRS researcher, analyzes the capture of the
capital by the Islamists.
The day after the capture of Mogadishu, the Islamic Tribunals'
militias pushed their advantage further north, approaching Djohar, the
fief of the warlords supported by the United States, 100 kilometers
north of the Somali capital. "We'll pursue [them] ... until we've
obtained an Islamic state," promised the Tribunals' leader Sheikh Sherif
Ahmed. Roland Marchal, a researcher at CNRS, considers the significance
of the Islamist victory in Mogadishu.
Who Are the Islamic Tribunals?
It's a very heterogeneous mixture, as much on a religious as on a
clan level. There are Sufi brotherhoods like the Qadiriya, former
members of the Muslim Brotherhood and what remains of the Islamist
al-Ittihad party. There's also a young generation of jihadists, framed
by people who trained in Afghanistan, and extremists like Takfir
wal-Hijra. But the Islamic Tribunals are not monochromatic. Their
composition is very much influenced by local clans. The big merchants,
who finance the Tribunals, also see to it that they are not exclusively
in the hands of Salafist fundamentalists. Their application of sharia is
highly variable. The Tribunals are characterized by real religious
divergences, even in the heart of the most radical ones.
Why did the warlords lose Mogadishu so easily?
They were illegitimate in the eyes of the population and there was
no coordination among them. The militia system is only effective when
it's opposed to itself, but in the face of a coherent and motivated
force, it can't sustain the shock. We can also wonder whether the
warlords threw all their forces into the battle, hoping to push up the
bidding with their American sponsors. Finally, one of the principle
sub-clans in the capital kept out of the fighting.
Can the Islamic tribunals unify and lead the country?
Mogadishu is not Somalia. Up until now, the Tribunals have limited
themselves to assuring security, but governing a city with a million
residents on a daily basis is not the same thing. Extending its
government to the 6 million inhabitants in the South is still more
difficult. The Tribunals were very united in battle, but it's not very
likely they will be so in a planned administration, given their
heterogeneity and the clannish contradictions that will inevitably
emerge. There are also other actors: the United States, Ethiopia,
notably. Will they rearm the warlords?
Translation: t r u t h o u t French language correspondent Leslie
06-23-2006, 03:20 PM
SOMALIA: WHO ARE THE REAL TERRORISTS?
SOMALIA: WHO ARE THE REAL TERRORISTS?
Tajudeed Abdul Raheem asks who the real terrorists are in Mogadishu:
Those who have held the people to ransom for two decades or those who
have chased them away?
When a people have suffered for a long time under a dictatorship the
tendency is to declare that nothing could be worse than what they
were experiencing. Lived experience does teach a different lesson. No
matter how bad the situation is it could always be worse. But the
opposite is also true. No matter how good it is it can always be better.
Who would have thought that the jubilations at the exit of Somalia's
long term dictator, Mohammed Siad Barre, in 1991 would quickly turn
into a prolonged nightmare for his compatriots who have not known
peace or even enjoyed the protection of a legitimate government since
then. Siad Barre lies reburied in Mogadishu after his body was
returned from Nigeria where his life ended peacefully after being
given a 'safe haven' by the Nigerian government. The country he led
with 'iron fists' and 'velvet tongue' for more than two decades is
wasted and wasting between different pretenders to Barre's crown, who
are all warlords well-equipped to destroy states but possess no
skills for building a nation.
Somalia also tragically epitomises a number of contradictions for
those of us who proclaim 'African solutions to African problems' and
Pan Africanism, rightly eschewing external meddling by imperialist
powers in African affairs but sometimes ambiguous about the sub
imperialist meddling of fellow African states. One, is our loyalty to
a state or to peoples? The state of Somalia has collapsed and
probably may never be one state again, but somehow the international
system has kept it existing because it remains the unit of discussion
whether at the AU or UN. Somali peoples, like all victims of
colonialism, are divided among many countries: Kenya, Ethiopia and
Djibouti in addition to Somalia itself. In Somalia itself the south
is claiming to be Somaliland while Puntland is also claiming to be
independent of both Somalia and Djibouti. Though the Somali state has
collapsed the Somali people continue to exist.
Two, it is not about fixing the Somali state but actually looking at
it beyond the colonial borders and finding a regional solution to it.
It points to federal and con-federal arrangements of the East and
Horn of African states. But this logical political conclusion
challenges the basis of all our states. That is why even the laudable
work of the IGAD states backed by the AU and supported by genuine
friends of Africa internationally is falling short of achieving peace
and stability in Somalia and the region. They are looking at it as a
Somali problem (and a hard dose of prejudice of them being
'difficult' Muslims prone to clan violence) instead of being a Pan
If we respond to it boldly it will not be limited to Somalis. It will
address the historical problems of being part of but not belonging,
of many arbitrarily nationalities across this continent: Banyarwanda,
Banyamulenge, Bafumbira, Ewes, Ja luos, Ba samia, Hausa, Yoruba,
Tswana, Basuto, Tigre, to mention just a few. But it will also change
the map of Africa. It is the lack of political will to face the
inevitable that is making our leaders engage in half-measures that
often give disproportionate influence to war lords at our negotiating
tables. IGAD states did a great job in patiently facilitating and
negotiating for peace in Somalia, leading to the formation of the
transitional government two years ago. However the reality now is
that that government has been overtaken by major political
developments. To insist on it and deal with it as though it is a
normal government risks making not just the TFG but also the IGADD
and the AU irrelevant in resolving the Somali issue.
There are a number of reasons for this. First, though the TFG is the
result of tortuous and complex negotiations that seemed all-
inclusive, the warlords had more power and influence in the shape of
it. Their crimes, many of them qualifying as 'crimes against
humanity' were rewarded with impunity.
Two, precisely because they were rewarded instead of them changing
their old ways they continued business as usual in Mogadishu, trying
to gain advantage over each other. That's why the TFG has
metamorphosed from a refugee government based in Kenya into an
internally displaced government first hosted by the warlord, Mohammed
Dheere, in Jowhar, but now relocated to Baidoa, and why the interim
president, Abdulahi Yusuf, is being hosted by yet another war lord.
Three, while the TFG enjoys the diplomatic and political recognition
of the AU and internationally, it does not seem to enjoy popular
legitimacy and it is unable to impose its legal authority at home.
Can the world force Somalis to accept a government that is
ineffective and doomed to remain ineffectual? This is the context
which some of the neighbours of Somalia and global geo-political
power mongers are exploiting. While officially publicly offering
support for the TFG their actions have helped to undermine and erode
its fragile legitimacy. Chief among these are the US and Ethiopia.
The militias in Mogadishu have used both countries' unprincipled
alliances in Somali politics and their obsession with 'Islamic
fundamentalism' to gain support. Meanwhile Somalis fed up with the
militias and wanting a 'law and order' environment and a guarantee of
personal and group security for their lives and property turn to
their culture, traditional structures and religion. The Union of
Islamic Courts led by an ordinary teacher Sheikh Sharif Sheik Ahmed,
is the umbrella under which ordinary Somalis have united to get rid
of militias and warlords backed by various foreign interests. The
ease with which they have moved from Mogadishu to other areas of the
country should caution us from joining the sponsors of defeated and
fleeing warlords who call them yet another 'Muslim fundamentalist'
group. They are giving indications of being a popular movement . As
yet they are unclear of their purpose as a government and probably
ill-equipped to govern a modern state but they are able to bring
security and peace based on notions of Islamic rule of Law and social
justice. They have rendered the TFG a dead horse. For how long are we
going to be insisting that Somalis ride this dead horse?
What is now happening in Mogadishu, Beledweyne and other cities is
quite similar to what has happened in Somaliland, where a coalition
of similar Islamist forces (up to now not recognised by any other
state in the world) have managed to maintain peace and security based
on a mixture of cultural order and conservative Islamic values.
Neighbours and other foreigners should not be allowed to hide their
sub imperialist and imperialist interests behind support for the
TFG . There are reports (denied by Addis Ababa) that Ethiopia has
sent troops to Baidoa and is arming the TFG, while the Americans have
also denied supporting the defeated and fleeing warlords. Two of
them, Bashir Rage and Sudi Yallaow, were allegedly rescued by
American marines off the coast of Somalia while they were fleeing.
Another war lord, Mohamed Abdi Qanyare is reported to have fled to El-
Dheere while his name sake Mohammed Dheere is reported to have fled
to Addis Ababa.
Meanwhile the other warlords in Mogadishu, Hussein Aideed and Ali
Ato, have willingly surrended themselves to the Union of Islamic
courts, hoping to join 'the storm' thy could not stop. Ato reportedly
compared the highly successful routing of all the warlords by the
Islamists to being 'hit by hurricane'.
As the AU meets in Banjul, Gambia next week our leaders have to
reflect very seriously on the admittedly difficult challenges posed
by the latest twist in the tragedy of Somalia. The IGADD states and
the AU need to be sufficiently flexible and nuanced in handling this
new situation. It is possible that the Union of Islamic courts may
cooperate with the TFG but as long as the TFG does not insist on
formal legalism. The TFG could also use the Union to build a popular
legitimacy if they are seen to be cooperating. So far the Union has
not been imposing leaders - rather they ask all the residents to
choose their leaders to work with the new order. In some cases,
significantly in Mogadishu itself, where people have opted for the
leader put there by the TFG, the Union has not refused to honor that
choice, hence the mayor of Mogadishu remains the same.
There needs to be clarity as to who will have sanctions imposed on
them. Is it those who are now restoring order or the fleeing former
warlords? If the AU encourages Ethiopia, the USA and other meddlers
to continue to arm the TFG in the name of being the legitimate
government it will be fueling more death and destruction and giving
the fleeing warlords a new lease of life. For decades, the Somali
state has been formed and reformed and deformed around the interests
of various militarised local elites and various external geo-
political interests. Now the voice of the people of Somalia seem to
be coming out loud and clear. So the fundamental question is: Are you
for the state or the people? Who are the terrorists in Somalia? Those
who have held the people to ransom for two decades or those who have
chased them away?
* Dr Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem is General-Secretary of the Pan African
Movement, Kampala (Uganda) and Co-Director of Justice Africa
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