|Zooming into the Past|
M O G A D I S H U C I V I L W A R S
Zooming into the 1990s interviews and statements, given by the spokespersons and leaders of Somali factions, enables us to prove that clan-animosity account of the Somali civil war has not been given the scholarly attention that its magnitude warrants, even after sixteen years of clan-warfare. This clan-animosity feeling can in fact be derived from faction joint communiqué and statements; and therefore, posting selections of these public relation statements should be a matter of concern to all Somalis – particularly, to those who are in the field of Somali Studies.
After all, clan factionalism disguised in English acronyms (formed from three or four initial letters which include the sacrosanct letter “S”) are now facts of life for Somalis. The words and deeds of the turbulent faction followers have ordained to presuppose that faction spokespersons assumed a monumental role in fuelling clan-hatred. As a result of that, the Forum rushes in to investigate and share with you excerpts of faction communiqués, hoping to find solutions to the current tragic political situation in Somalia. From our perspective, these selections are indeed those that Western scholars/(Somalists) most neglected, or could offer hints to the causes of the civil war.
J A N U A R Y 1 9 9 2
Somali gunmen drive through the streets of Mogadishu
OLD MAN BEGS FOR HELP FROM SOMALI GUNMAN IN CITY OF BAIDOA, SOMALIA
A young Somali smokes and holds a weapon as he and his friends sit on a car
Children pulling a donkey cart watch a carload full of armed militiamen pass through the streets of Mogadishu
Peace Effort in Somalia Meets Initial Failure
One Feuding Side Rebuffs U.N. Mediation
Washington Post Foreign Service
January 04, 1992
The Washington Post
The United Nations and the Arab League today stepped in to try to halt the fratricidal bloodshed in the East African nation of Somalia, but a U.N. mediator said his effort initially had been rejected.
James Jonah, United Nations undersecretary general, flew to the Somali capital of Mogadishu, which has been thrown into virtual anarchy by weeks of intra-clan fighting, but reported on his return here that the leader of one of the two feuding sides, Gen. Mohammed Farrah Aidid, rejected any kind of foreign mediation.
In Cairo, Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa told news agencies that the Arab League will hold a special session on Sunday to deal with what he called "the deteriorating situation" in Somalia, which belongs to the 21-member body.
Reports late today from some relief agency officials said a cease-fire scheduled to take effect during Jonah's mission had failed and that shelling had continued all day.
However, Jonah described the firing as controlled. He said he had only succeeded in meeting with Aidid and would try to meet with Somalia's nominal president, Mohammed Ali Mahdi, during a return visit Sunday.
Jonah said Aidid viewed the fighting as purely an internal matter, and he added, "I don't think it is useful for us to pursue the issue of mediation," Reuter reported.
Unlike other civil conflicts that have moved toward resolution with the end of the Cold War - in Angola, Cambodia and El Salvador - the battle in Mogadishu involves no competing ideological issues and was not fueled by the U.S.-Soviet geopolitical rivalry.
At stake in Somalia are power and the competing egos and ambitions of two strong-willed men from the same tribal clan, each of whom claims to be the rightful successor to the longtime dictator, Mohammed Siad Barre, who was ousted a year ago this month.
When Siad Barre fled the capital to take up a guerrilla struggle from the south of the country, the victorious United Somali Congress party, under pressure from outside powers including the former colonial power of Italy, installed Ali Mahdi, a businessman, as interim president. A few months later, the congress chose Aidid as its chairman, setting off the bitter power struggle. The fighting has been intermittent, with this latest round of artillery duels beginning Nov. 17. Unlike previous skirmishes, which lasted for a few days, this round has continued unabated for nearly seven weeks.
Interpretations of the conflict as to who started it and who is currently winning, vary widely.
Ali Mahdi claims he is still the rightful president, even though his forces have been pushed back in relentless artillery attacks to the northeastern section of the city. Aidid, according to foreign relief workers who have met with him, charges that Ali Mahdi is corrupt and is enriching himself at the expense of the Somali people.
Relief workers, diplomats and other longtime observers of the Somali violence say they believe the new peace overtures have little chance of success as long as both men continue to cling to their respective power bases.
"One or the other will clearly have to be defeated," said a Nairobi-based Western diplomat. A doctor who visits Mogadishu regularly said, "As long as those two are both in power, it is not going to be resolved." He suggested that only the clan elders could step in to decide which of the two men should prevail.
So far, the war has left an estimated 5,000 people dead and twice as many wounded. At the outbreak of the fighting in November, medical workers said they were treating an average of 500 victims a day and that the number has now dropped to about 300.
But relief workers say that while casualties during the first few weeks of the conflict were mostly shrapnel injuries, they see more serious wounds now because the combatants in the capital have shifted to using cannon fire and antiaircraft guns.
Both sides are heavily armed because huge quantities of high-powered weapons had poured into the country for two decades - first from the Soviet Union and after 1978 from the United States - when Somalia was seen as a strategic gateway to the Middle East on the Indian Ocean.
Many of those guns have now fallen into the hands of untrained militiamen and hoodlums who have taken advantage of the political feud to turn the capital into a virtual free-fire zone.
"It's incredible. It's anarchy. Everyone is running around armed," said one relief worker. "The whole city is armed."
Another relief worker described how the violence has become more random as street gangs - sometimes only children or teenagers - have taken to using automatic weapons to hold up foreigners or anyone with anything to steal. "You've got these kids, 10, 12 years old, who run around with AK-47s," he said. "It's just a bunch of random people with AK-47s. . . . They used to hold you up and then run away. Now they shoot you first and then rob you. . . . There's no finesse about it. It's just bloody."
The various relief workers also described the practice of ripping the tops of four-wheel-drive vehicles and mounting them with machine guns and antiaircraft guns to roam the city. These have been dubbed "Mad Max" vehicles after the movie about the state of anarchy in the world after a nuclear war.
The chaos has caused many Nairobi-based diplomats to express skepticism about whether Somalia as a nation can be saved, or whether it is even worth the effort to try.
"It's sad, because the Somalis themselves are unable to come up with a vision for their country," said one Western diplomat. Another here added: "The prospects don't look to good for any kind of a prosperous, stable government, much less a civil society. The common sentiment is that the whole place should be paved over into a parking lot."
A U.S. government official in Washington put it this way: "Somalia has ceased to exist," he said. "And right now, nobody cares."
© (Copyright 1992)
SOMALI GUNMEN DRIVE THROUGH THE STREETS OF THE CAPITAL MOGADISHU
Somalis loot U.N. barracks near the Mogadishu port