Kulmis and Kulmiye: The Mujahidiin of Horn of Africa
July 03, 2010
In an interview he gave to Radio Halgan in August 03, 1987, SNM chairman Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo said that he has a confidence in SSDF [Kulmis] and SNM [Kulmiye] factions to lead the struggle of overthrowing the Somali regime; and their struggle gained ground until the regime was brought to its knees.
Twenty years after the collapse of the Somali Central regime, no effective Central Authority is on sight, and the possibility of al-Shabaab faction taking over Somalia has worried the West – particularly the US. It is primarily this fear that will lead the West to endorse the ambitions and plans of the clannish leaders and their clan-enclaves. This will give these clannish leaders the capability (both financial and military hardware) to prolong the civil wars in Somalia. Such frantic post-911 scenario that the West might buy from these regional leaders is not only misleading but also can have a negative impact on the long term security of the region.
As the Somali saying of “Fiqi Tolkii Kama Janno Tago” dictates us, there is a thin line between clan-based factions/parties and Islamists in Somalia. The history of the emergence of clan-based political/ and armed factions illustrates that factions mobilized their clansmen by utilizing what Roobdoon Forum refers as Islamic Liberation Theology. After lack of national consensus, these clan-based enclaves failed to create an all-inclusive government, which led to twenty years of intensive clan clashes, and ended up to establish Jiffo enclaves – which they see as clan sovereignty while forgetting that the term sovereignty implies responsibility. Here are glimpses of notes from Somali faction mobilization techniques:
[SNM]: We are the Mujahidiin of the Horn of Africa
Somali Rebel Chief Silanyo on SNM Aims
Nairobi DAILY NATION in English 23Nov 1989 p 6
Michel Sailham`s article on SNM: “Tactically Strong, Somali Rebels Lack Clear Politics”
[Text] Rebels fighting to bring down President Mohamed Siyad Barre`s regime have made spectacular military gains, but seem short on practical ideas of what they would do if they won the battle.
“The Mogadishu Government is of a brutality that has no parallel in the rest of the world”, SNM [Somali National Movement] President Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo told an AFP reporter at its headquarters south of the northern capital, Hargeisa.
“Barre has no parallel. We want an egalitarian system, a democratic form of government, free elections and a multiparty system,” Silanyo said, setting out the aims of the Somali National Movement, which was founded in London in 1981.
He accused troops loyal to Major-General Barre, who has held power for two decades, of killing and wounding more than 50,000 people in northern Somalia in the past 18 months, mainly in heavy bombing raids against civilians. Many victims are Issaqs, who consider themselves ignored by Mogadishu.
In May, the SNM launched a major offensive against main towns in the north. Though swiftly forced to pull out, it took control of vast tracts of territory east of the border with Djibouti and of several smaller towns, including Zeila and Loya`adde.
Four SNM divisions surround Hargeisa, a correspondent traveling through the region was told as he looked down on the abandoned town from the highlands with the rebel Commander-in-Charge. But Colonel Mohamed Ali Omar, a deserter, would not say how exactly many rebels fighters he led.
The SNM pulled out of Hargeisa for “tactical reason” in August, but sends reconnaissance teams in at night. Government troops hold a nearby barracks and airport. The 80,000 inhabitants have fled.
The rebels want full control over roads from Hargeisa to Borama in the west and the northeastern Port of Berbera, but government troops have mined access to the roads and shot at the SNM patrol taking in this reporter and a photographer early one morning.
Well-equipped, heavily armed, most of the fighters questioned by AFP were unable to give a clear account of the rebel movement`s goals, notwithstanding the policies sketched by Silanyo.
“People are fighting, but they don`t know why,” one SNM intellectual said of the war that has pitted Sunni Muslims of the same faith and the same language against each other. “All these ideas of democracy are on paper; it is not put into practice.”
As moderate Muslims, SNM militants reject any form of fundamentalism and often forget their daily duties of prayer. “First we fight, then we`ll see,” said one, Ibrahim Ahmed Musa.
Most often, the rebels compared themselves with the Muslim guerrillas fighting the Communist government in Afghanistan. “We are the Mujahidiin of the Horn of Africa,” as one put it. “Barre always regarded Issaqs as a threat,” said Silanyo. “The North has a lot of grievances, underdevelopment, and repression. We are at the receiving end.”
The intellectual, who asked not to be named, believes the political vacuum stems from the fact that “no leader has emerged so far from the fighting”.
“We believe we can win the war,” he added, “but there will still be a long way to go in terms of politics.”
Silanyo, who was a minister under major-General Barre until 1982, is not a fighter and his authority has been contested several times. The Movement`s Central Committee of 47 only includes seven soldiers; all colonels who deserted form the regular army and no guerrilla leaders.
There are also only seven Issaqs on the Central Committee, though most of the Movement`s thousands of combatants are drawn from the Northern clan. Last year, the SNM reached an accord with the neighbouring Issa people, on the fight against Central Authority.
But most of the high-ranking officers who have defected to the rebels come, like much of the Somali army itself, from the Ogaden clan. Internationally, the Movement could well find itself short of heavyweight allies.
The Soviet Union has in the past backed the regime in Mogadishu, which began as a revolutionary government but has over the years turned into what almost resembles a Barre family concern.
The Major-General [Siyad Barre] switched to Washington at the beginning of the Ogaden war against Moscow`s Ethiopian allies in 1977.
The United States has recently closely tied its backing for the government to an improvement in its widely criticized human rights records, but it is clear that the political future of the SNM rebels will largely depend on its ability to extend its support among the patchwork of clans in Somalia.
SNM Soldiers Explain Motivations
Paris LE MONDE in French 25 Jan 1990 p 7
[Article by Catherine Simon, special correspondent in Hargeysa]
[Text] Hargeysa (northern Somalia-A mere 13 years old, Mohamed Osman Elabi is the youngest recruit at the military training school in Toghoji, one of several cities in the coastal region “liberated” last May by the Somali National Movement (SNM). He has become the school`s mascot. There is no joy in his eyes and he speaks in a thin, young voice. “Siyaad Barre does evil things. He robs the poor of their money; he roughs up the Issaqs and steals their livestock. He is a plunderer,” he boldly recites, while his elders sitting on the dusty ground listen intently.
“Here, I am learning how to fight with rifles, knives, things like that....” Does he know any poems? Any songs? No, “but as soon as I have the time, I will study.
I want to be a schoolmaster in Hargeysa.” In the meantime, he is fighting alongside his “brothers.” He has already killed and is willing to go back into combat: “I am not afraid of being killed or wounded. I am not afraid of anything. Why should I be afraid?
In the Somalia resistance, not all the Mujahidiin (soldiers of God) have this young Toghoji warrior`s glacial aplomb. But many crossed the border as he did in 1988 to enter the SNM`s camps by the thousands. Some come from Djibouti and Kenya; others from Arab and North African countries.
Abdallah, a 23-year-old topographer, tells his story: “I arrived just after May 1988 and the big offensive. It was the battle of Hargeysa that decided me. I said to myself, `This is it. The guerrillas are finally coming out of Ethiopia and things are happening in Somalia. It`s now or never.` So, I left everything behind.”
Hussein, age 32, did not have as far to go. Once a nomad, he used to graze his camel herd in the wadis at the base of the famous “Nasa habloods,” the two mountains (or “breasts” as they are known here) that closely frame the capital city of northern Somalia. Even though livestock is returning to the “liberated zones,” Hussein remains faithful to his Kalashnikov. Rashid, a 26-year-old mechanic, has somewhat mixed feelings: He spent several years in the brush and has been hit by four bullets. The last one, from April, still gives him pain and “bothers” him at little when he runs. Rashid, Hussein and Abdallah, unlike the younger ones, are not embarrassed to admit their deep fear in combat.
Fear of Dying
“Even if you are highly motivated, even if it`s your 100th battle, you are always afraid of dying. Always.” Some, like Yusuf, readily admit their antimilitarist feelings. “To take up arms was a very difficult decision for me to make,” he explains. He wears dirty jeans, a leopard combat shirt and a green wool cap, Rastafarian style, over his thick head of hair. The anger is visible in his raised shoulders as he says, “How can you live when your freedom is subject to the arbitrary whims of soldiers? The only language they understand is the language of weapons.”
Despite their different paths and often conflicting visions of the world, the young Mujahidiin share the same hatred for the Somalia Government and its president. Not one of their families is unscathed by the war. Not one of them has not seen an uncle killed, a sister raped, a cousin imprisoned, relatives in exile. Wherever they come from, they also share a loyalty to Islam and its values.
Perched on trucks that transport them close to the fighting, the young guerrillas can be heard chanting at the top of their lungs: “In the name of the prophet and the faith, young people, unite your blood and drive out the tyrant and the murderer.” Muslims, each and every one of them. But, to varying degrees.
The Shari`ah? Why Not
Those who have traveled or studied abroad speak either English or French. “We read NEWSWEEK, LE MONDE, whatever comes into our hands,” says Abdilalhi, age 22, nicknamed “Schumacher” for his skill at soccer. Abdallah, who knows Rousseau and Voltaire, recalls with nostalgia the last book he read: “It was `The Plague` by Camus.” Here as everywhere else in Africa, when evening comes, they gather around the radio in a ritual. “Of course we are interested in Berlin and East Europe,” exclaims Schumacher ardently.
“It proves that socialism is not a good thing. Socialism is poverty. I have been to Ethiopia and Djibouti and I could see the difference clearly.” The fact that Ethiopia has become one of the SNM`s weapons arsenals does not bother him in the least. “Ethiopia helps us without asking us to become socialists. We are neither pro-socialist nor pro-democracy. Our goal is Islam,” insists the soccer playing Mujahidiin.
He himself is in favor of the establishment of an Islamic state “like Kuwait or Iran,” and the enforcement of Islamic law, the Shari`ah. The idea of cutting off the hands of thieves does not frighten him; neither does the exclusion of women who are totally absent from the ranks of the SNM. “Reactionary?” he echoes in surprise. “Women can cook and care for the wounded, but they do not have the right to fight in a war. That is Somalia tradition.” The only matter of importance is “to drive out Siyaad Barre. Then we will see about the rest,” he states with candor. It is said that the “minister” of religion and justice is one of the SNM`s most popular figures among the Mujahidiin.
Hard-line Muslims, although still a minority in the Somalia guerrilla [movement], complicate matters for the spokesmen of a movement that officially claims to be in favor of democracy and respect for human rights. “I am for a united Somalia, where the people will be able to freely elect their government,” argues Abdallah. “If we are in favor of reuniting the country, that means we are mindful of the diversity of views. We have to be,” he emphasizes. According to him, the attempts to apply the Shari`ah, which has been introduced in the “liberated zones,” are merely “provisional.” Perhaps.
In the context of terror, insecurity and disorder in which Somalia is now struggling, recourse to Islam-the only link to salvation-comes as no surprise. The economic, political, and moral chaos reigning in Somalia points to difficult days ahead. The disruption is long term. “Only the Romanians can understand the Somali system,” says Abdallah, breaking into a laugh.
SNM`s Abdirahman [Tuur] on Islamic Shari`ah
London AL-HAYAH in Arabic
27 Jun 1991 pp 1, 7
[Interview with Abdirahman Ahmed Ali [Tuur], president of the Republic of Somaliland, by Yusuf Khazim in Djibouti; date not given]
[Excerpts] [Khazim] Where is North Somalia or “the Republic of Somaliland” heading and how is the situation in that Republic now?
[Abdirahman] Security has been established in the country and we have formed a government comprising 19 ministers. Delegations are currently visiting Arab and Islamic states to explain the current situation in the country.
The Republic of Somaliland was known as British Somalia and it had its own borders until 26 June 1960, when we obtained independence. Four days later the South (formerly Italian Somalia) obtained its independence, and we joined the South on our own will. For 30 years the North, and especially its major cities, was exposed to total devastation at the hands of (former President) Mohamed Siyaad Barre`s regime. We engaged in a 20-year battle in which 50,000-60,000 martyrs fell and after which we succeeded in freeing the North from the South`s hands. True, Siyaad Barre played a major role in the North`s destruction, but all the forces that he used in his military operations were from the South, and there was not a single northerner in his army. Now we have 6,000 prisoners from the South. They were part of the army, police, and security forces belonging to the Barre regime.
After that experience the people of the North decided to return to the pre-26 June 1960 stage; that is, to the Republic of Somaliland. We held a popular conference that represented all northerners both at home and abroad and democratically decided to declare independence. [passage omitted]
[Khazim] Have you obtained international recognition for the “Republic of Somaliland?”
[Abdirahman] We have not yet obtained any international recognition, but there has been no condemnation of the independence declaration from any regional or international state. We expect international recognition shortly.
[Khazim] But the OAU has asked the Somali National Movement, which you lead, to abolish the secession decision, and Egypt has announced that it will not allow the North to secede from the South.
[Abdirahman] Egypt has no right to impose its tutelage on us since we are free to choose what we want for our country. As for the OAU, the decision you talk about was issued as a recommendation from the OAU Ministerial Council. The summit froze it and did not endorse it – which we regard as a victory for us. [passage omitted]
[Khazim] Do you have sufficient material, institutional, and economic resources to guarantee your state`s political, economic, social, and security stability and its continuation?
[Abdirahman] We need three years to rebuild the country, which has been completely destroyed. We have an abundance of livestock and fish. Before the state was announced, an American team was exploring for oil in the North. We have information that there is oil in the country. This is in addition to other mineral resources. Siyaad contracted an Italian company to start exploring for and exploiting minerals. Two weeks before work under that agreement started we liberated the North.
[Khazim] You announced your adoption of the Islamic Shari` a as a system of government. Have you actually started applying the Shari` a, and have you set up certain institutions in that connection?
[Abdirahman] The Somali people are 100 percent Muslim, and the Islamic Shari`ah existed in the Constitution even in the days of the British. During the Siyaad era it was the source of legislation and civil laws.
[Khazim] But Siyaad was a communist until 1978.
[Abdirahman] Despite his being communist, Article I of the Somali Constitution stipulates that the Somali people are Muslim and that Islam is the source of laws. We have formed committees to follow up the application of the Shari` a, and we have a minister for religious affairs. We will benefit from the Islamic states` experience in applying the Shari` a.
We will be flexible in dealing with the Shari` a, in view of present conditions. We must first establish a just society and guarantee employment and food for all citizens. [passage omitted]
[Khazim] Will you take part in the next Somali reconciliation conference in Djibouti?
[Abdirahman] We did not participate in the previous conference and we will not participate in the next conference. I told this to Djibouti President Hassan Gouled Aptidon, who expressed his understanding in that regard. We thank Djibouti for its efforts for the sake of Somalia`s stability.
[Khazim] Does the reception accorded to you yesterday by the Djibouti president constitute official recognition of “Somaliland?”
[Abdirahman] The Djibouti Government announced its rejection of the secession and informed us of this, but it also said: It is your decision and we will not interfere in your internal affairs.
Somaliland Republic to Institute Islamic Law
(Clandestine) Radio Hargeysa Voice of the Republic of Somaliland in Somali 1645 GMT 7 Jun 1991
[Text] A meeting attended by representatives of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Somaliland was held yesterday in the town of Burco. The meeting was also attended by Ahmed Ismail Abdi Duqsi, minister of religious affairs and justice; Suleiman Mohamed Aden, minister of interior and local government; Mohamed Kahin Ahmed, minister of defense; Hassan Aden Wadadid, minister of resettlement and reconstruction; and other members of the Central Committee. Matters pertaining to the restructuring of the Army and the maintenance of security were discussed. The leaders outlined the role they expect the Army to play in strengthening and securing peace, and how important it is that the forces should not carry firearms in the towns and that they confine themselves to their barracks.
The leaders stated that Islamic Shari`a law will be applied, and anyone who commits an offense will be tried by Islamic Shari`a. The leaders also spoke about the preservation and maintenance of law and order, which they said is the basis for serving society and development in the Republic of Somaliland. The ministers noted the responsibility of every individual to work honestly for the good of the country.
[SSDF] REBELS URGING `HOLY WAR`
(Clandestine) Voice of Front for Redemption of Somalia in Somali to Somalia 1900 GMT 11 Feb 1979
[Excerpts] Welcome to our religious program by Sheikh Abdullahi Ma`alim Abdirahman, which concerns the gangsters led by Mohamed Siyaad Barre and the position of Islam regarding them:
[Sheikh Abdirahman] In the name of Allah, the merciful, the compassionate. Brothers, let Allah protect you wherever you may be, and may Allah redeem us from the injustices we suffer under the gangsters led by Mohamed Siyaad Barre. Brothers, we are aware of your sufferings and trepidations, which are what led us to take up the burden of rescuing you from the misery, which is your life, and to restore to our people their honor, dignity and religion, all of which have been compromised by the gangsters of Mohamed Siyaad Barre. We are ever confident, because we are sure that we are on the right path and that Allah is on our side, because He instructed us to redeem ourselves from the injustices and corruption against Allah, against our prophet Mohamed, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, against the Ulama and those who believe in the words of Allah, to fight a holy war with out lives and our properties.
Allah tells us: fight those who corrupt the faith. Allah will give you victory over them, and they will suffer at your hands. And Allah will resolve the problems of Muslims: so fight. Why are you not fighting them? Fight Satan and his followers. Satan and his followers are none other than those who cause problems, corrupt or slight the Holy Qur`an and violate the sayings of our blessed prophet. No one fights against Allah and his prophet other than those who do so voluntarily. Their reward is but to be massacred; their corpses will be displayed in the streets; their arms and legs will be amputated; they will be swept from the face of the earth. This is because Allah says that such people deserve to experience (?suffering) and they will suffer the torments of intense fire in the next world.
Brothers, have faith in God and be grateful to your brothers who answer your God`s call, who do their duty by confronting evils with holy war and force.
[SSDF] CALLS FOR FIGHT AGAINST SIYAAD
(Clandestine) Voice of Front for Redemption of Somalia in Somali to Somalia GMT 10 Feb 1979
[Excerpts] The first item on our program tonight is the recitation of blessed verse of the Qur`an and their translation, and we ask you to listen carefully. The verses are from the Surah al-Nisa` and will be recited by Sheikh Abdullahi Ma`alim Abdirahman: Praise belongs to God and we praise him for having willed that the founding of our front, Front for the Redemption of Somalia, should coincide with a great day, a day that has a great place in history and the religion of Islam: The day when a light glowed at place most loved by God in the world, the most dignified place, the Ka`ba near holy Mecca, when our prophet Muhammad, God`s blessings and peace be upon him, was born.
We thank God for bestowing greater grace upon us than upon the people before us and for towing his mercy on us. God has enjoined us to disseminate his mercy and light to other people all over the world.
Out of loyalty to our Islamic heritage, we always celebrate the victories we win in disseminating our Allah`s mercy and light and his religion to people who thirst for it. ever, it is (?unfortunate) that now, far from celebrating any such victories, our en and children and those who need our help to be able to celebrate victories are mourning every year instead of celebrating joyfully. They have even forgotten the prophet and their religion because they are denied contact with them.
It is therefore the message of the members of this front that our joy should be to launch a holy war, that instead of celebrating – for indeed, there is nothing to celebrate – should launch a holy war against the ugly situation in Somalia, which used to be a cradle of Islam but where today women and children are not allowed to pray in mosques instead are forced to do other things.
Somali are today forced to applaud the one with [Siyaad Barre], instead of worshiping their God. Places where people should be learning the Qur`an have become places where songs about “the father of Africa, strongman of the world” are bean sung.
The people are more preoccupied with guarding him than in sending their children to mosques. A verse in the Surah al-Nisa` instructs us: Those who believe in Me, be vigilant against: the problems which can affect you caused by the unbelievers and their followers. Therefore, launch a holy war, either jointly or in groups.
And you must know, says God, that there are some who do not want you to launch a holy war, who will discourage you, who will be pleased that you have problems. When you do good deeds and achieve good things, they will say “we were with you,” pretending that they were on your side. These are the hypocrites who abound in our ranks today and who are usually called the demigods.
God commands us: Fight. Those who need heaven, fight. Fight for the sake of God. Anyone who fights for the cause of God, whether he dies or wins his cause will always be rewarded by God. `What is wrong with you that you are not fighting for the cause of God, while the weak, the children, and women pray to God: Burn this city to ashes, because it is full of injustice; rescue us from it, for from you we crave salvation.