The Birth of Two Decades of Mayhem
January 30, 2011
A USC mooryaan 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 USC militiamen pass through the streets of Mogadishu
For the “Looma Ooyaan” residents of Mogadishu, the warlords to which they were subjected to are now defined not only by their guns but also the claim to possess of al-xaqq, al-axkaam and al-AMISOM.
Introduction: Since the collapse of the Siyaad Barre regime in 1991 Somalia descended into chaos. Clan-based factions led by warlords have competed to fill the power vacuum and Mogadishu fell under their control. Mogadishu became a battleground of warlords. The devastating effects of war in Mogadishu destabilized the nation to the point of anarchy. Since then, major and minor warlords split the country amongst themselves and have misruled the Somalis.
The history of the emergence of these clan-based political and armed factions illustrates that factions mobilized their clansmen by utilizing clanism and what Roobdoon Forum refers as Islamic Liberation Theology.
Without a doubt, warlords had legitimacy issue in mind, when addressing to the public. In their speeches, the practice of referring to themselves as good-doers and their opponents as evil-doers was the norm. They trumpeted of themselves as saviours of Somali unity, nationalists, as well as religious men who realized the necessity to end Siyaad Barre`s dictatorial regime and thus willing to establish a new all-inclusive broad-based government.
Warlords preached moral codes that concerns all walks of life – from prohibition of Haram food and drinks to the preservation of unity and stability. At the same time, militias loyal to these warlords caused mayhem – haphazardly raping, pillaging, and murdering innocent civilians. When asked about their actions, these warlords put the blame on external factors, throwing the causes of their actions to the defunct Siyaad Barre regime.
As opposed to the 1990s wars, the current wars in Mogadishu and its surrounding regions, led by the Shabab, are indeed wars with religious shadow. But similar to the 1990s wars in terms of its hidden incentive, some religious leaders, such as Hassan Dahir Aweys and Sheikh Sharif, are probably driven by the notion of clan hegemony, in order to break the 20 years of no-winner situation in Mogadishu.
For the “Looma Ooyaan” residents of Mogadishu, the warlords to which they were subjected to are now at the center of Somali politics, defined not only by their guns but also the claim to possess of the al-xaqq, al-axkaam and al-AMISOM. This reality, which may correspond to a perception for some, may seem certain to create more agony and despair parallel only to that of the early 1990s.
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.
PM Arteh Ghalib: I Am the SNM, I Created It in 1964
London BBC World Service in English
March 21, 1991, 1709 GMT
[From the “Focus on Africa” program]
Somalia`s interim Prime Minister, Omar Arteh Ghalib, has been appealing for massive international aid to reconstruct Somalia after the fall of Siyaad Barre. He is going ahead in spite of the fact that the interim government set up by USC [United Somali Congress] rebels when they captured Mogadishu early last month has not been recognized by other rebel movements which opposed Siyaad Barre and that efforts to call a roundtable conference have come to nothing. Well, Omar Arteh Ghalib is in Saudi Arabia at the moment and he saw King Fahd last night. On the line, Robin White asked Omar Arteh how he got on:
[Ghalib] Well, it was a great pleasure for me to see King Fahd, His Majesty King Fahd, and after such a long absence, and I must say that it was not only asking for help, but also for consultations, and I am very happy to say that he was responsive both to the discussions we had on consultations regarding our crisis and the aid for which we have asked.
[White] What aid did you ask from him?
[Ghalib] Well, what we mostly need for our people is fuel and food and telecommunications. We are completely isolated. We have no telephone links, no telex links. All the telecommunications have been disrupted. So these are the three pressing needs: fuel, food, telecommunications, and then ordinary development projects that have been suspended.
[White] Has he offered you fuel for free?
[Ghalib] Well, I do not want to comment on that, but I must say that our discussions were very fruitful. He was very responsive to our needs, and I am absolutely satisfied.
[White] And what about help with telecommunications? What have the Saudis done there?
[Ghalib] Well, we are still holding the discussions now. The minister of telecommunications is with me on the delegation, and he is going to have discussions with his counterpart, and we are – I am optimistic that what we need and what we have asked for will be forthcoming.
[White] Presumably, you are asking for money. I mean, you are not going to put a lot of telephones in a suitcase and take them back with you to Somalia, are you?
[Ghalib] Well, not in that sense. These telecommunications are to resume connections with the outside world, but not... [changes thought] What we need is too big to be taken in our pockets.
[White] Does the Saudi Government recognize you as the legitimate government of Somalia, because there is a lot of dispute in Somalia itself as to whether you are the legitimate government or not. Do they recognize you...
[Ghalib, interrupting] Mr. White, we are not wasting time to know whether a certain government recognizes us or not. That is absolutely a waste of time. What we are concentrating on is to help our people, our helpless people who have been evicted from their homes, whose homes have been destroyed, whose properties have been looted. This is what we are concerned with. We are not talking about recognition.
[White] I asked about this question of recognition because I understand that other Somali movements, like the Somali National Movement [SNM], which controls most of northern Somalia, they have also been going around asking for money and help with communications, that kind of thing. Does it worry you that other movements are doing that?
[Ghalib] It does not worry us because there is no one, none of them can claim that he is more SNM than I am. I am the SNM, I created it in 1964, it was my party, and it was revived in 1981, and I was sentenced to death, as you know, for supporting that movement. So why should I wage a campaign against myself? We welcome... [changes thought] Both the president and myself have declared that any help that comes to Somalia should go both ways, both to the north and to the south. But it is only natural that any help that comes from a friendly country should be channeled through the government.
Hassan A. Mireh: We Do Not Recognize the Existence of a Government in Somalia.
London AL-SHARQ AL-AWSAT
in Arabic, April 02, 1991, p 5
Interview with Dr. Hassan Ali Mireh, leader of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Somalia, by Khalid Bafagih in Jeddah; date not given]
[Bafagih] What is the aim of your moves in the present situation? Why did you not make these moves earlier?
[Mireh] The danger that has befallen Somalia has developed over time, and through our experience of conditions in Somalia, we have found that there is a pressing need for the Arab states to put pressure on the warring groups in Somalia to bring them together at a conference to be held in an Arab capital, as happened in Lebanon`s case. The aim is to bring about a national political system in Somalia, not a one-party system. That is the only solution for stopping the bloodshed and building the homeland. Our cause was neglected because of the Gulf crisis. I hope it will once again return to the forefront and be given attention.
He added: We do not recognize the existence of a government in Somalia. It is one organization among many that occupies most of the country. We want to brief officials on developments with the Somali issue and to seek help or aid. I hope that aid to Somalia will reach all areas, not just one area, so that there will be a fair distribution of aid. This, in the knowledge that there are three Somali organizations: the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Somalia [DFLS], which I lead; the National Somali Movement; and the National Somali Front. These three organizations are rejected by the government on the pretext that they have no democratic base.
The DFLS is the oldest organization, having been established in April 1978.
[Bafagih] What is the direct effect of these disputes on Somalia?
[Mireh] At least 1,000 people have been killed as a result of tribal disputes. And some 600,000 to 700,000 refugees have left the capital for Kenya. Furthermore, Somalia`s crops have disappeared completely, and this could lead to an imminent famine.
[Bafagih) What about the Saudi position?
[Mireh] The Saudi Government has said that it is following what is happening in Somalia and that it hopes that security and stability will be firmly established in the country. Saudi Arabia has called on the Somalis to unite and to abandon their differences to establish a united, stable Somalia and to build a future that guarantees the Muslim Arab people of Somalia their freedom and dignity enabling them to play their historic role in supporting Islamic solidarity. Saudi Arabia has spared no efforts. It has made praiseworthy efforts, and we want more of these efforts and hope that aid will reach all areas and everyone.
`Provisional` President Ali Mahdi Interviewed
London AL-SHARQ AL-AWSAT in Arabic
April 03, 1991, p.3
[Interview with “provisional” Somali President Ali Mahdi Muhammad by Sayyid Ahmad Khalifah in Mogadishu; date not given-first two paragraphs are AL-SHARQ AL-AWSAT introduction]
Having greeted and thanked President Ali Mahdi for the speed at which he agreed to give the interview, despite his busy schedule, I asked him: How did you come to engage in such a dispute with your neighbor, Siyaad Barre, to the extent of destroying Somalia as a whole? Did his departure and your arrival have to cause so much destruction?!
He returned my greeting and spoke to AL-SHARQ AL-AWSAT, the first newspaper to arrive in Somalia after the incidents, and said: My neighbor, Siyaad Barre, acted against the people`s will for a long time. He did not understand it, or he understood it but pretended to be stupid-hence that price for his departure, not my arrival. I have not arrived yet, provisional President Ali Mahdi said, and I will not arrive without democracy. He also said: I had hoped that the Somali national conference would be held on its previous date, that is, February, to place power before the conference so the conference could grant it to, or take it away from, whomever it wanted!!
[Khalifah] Mr. President, I wanted to begin by asking about what you want from the world now, but it is clear that your country needs everything from needles to aircraft. How and why did this come about?
[Ali Mahdi] In brief, I can say that Siyaad Barre`s insistence on ruling the Somalis through military and tribal domination left no option to the people, including us, except the option of military confrontations, to which most of the Somali people resorted. So if Siyaad Barre and his supporters now say that what happened against them was a tribal matter, then he and they must remember that for over 10 years all Somalis have joined political groups that have-as a result of Siyaad Barre`s oppression and thirst for blood-turned into political groups with military wings!
For years we thought that Siyaad Barre would understand the situation and save himself, his regime, and his country from what was about to happen, by holding a dialogue with the Somali political forces before they formed military wings. We discussed the system at a distance, but he persisted in pursuing us, until we pursued him in the capital Mogadishu, hence that total ruin which you have seen during your stay here in Mogadishu! [passage omitted]
[Khalifah] Mr. President Ali Mahdi, what are you, politically? Are you a socialist, a democrat, or what?
[Ali Mahdi] I am a democrat. I believe in party pluralism and the freedom of the press. I am a Somali, Muslim, Arab, and African. If I am destined to rule my people, it will be through elections and competition. Otherwise, I will offer my own efforts as a citizen. Frankly, I wish to return to my ordinary life after the national conference and the establishment of a transitional, coalition authority!
[Khalifah] What is the scale of Somalia`s foreign debts inherited from the former regime?
[Ali Mahdi] We do not know. Banks have been burned down and their documents have been stolen. That includes the Central Bank. We are waiting for the creditors and their documents!
[Khalifah] Did these banks have anything in them to be stolen or burned?
[Ali Mahdi] Yes. According to our information, Siyaad Barre and his supporters stole some 280 billion Somali shillings, gold deposits, and cash in Somali shillings!! [passage omitted]
[Khalifah] Do you have any foreign funds with which to steer the helm of government in your country?
[Ali Mahdi] You can quote me on this: Somalia has not a single dollar either at home or abroad!!
In fact we as a government don`t have a single shilling in the state coffers, which no longer exist, since they have been burned!!
[Khalifah] I see the shillings in the people`s hands in the streets.
[Ali Mahdi] That is worthless paper. People use it purely for local matters. Who would believe that for example, a kilogram of sugar costs people over 20,000 shillings!! [passage omitted]
[Khalifah] Why was the national conference not convened in time?
[Ali Mahdi] An agreement was not reached. We believe that conditions are better now. I expect the collective national conference to be held at the end of April.
[Khalifah] What stage has been reached in the consultations between you and the northern groups, or the Isaaq ?
[Ali Mahdi] Relations are very cordial. Fruitful contacts are continuing. Their participation in the national conference is now certain. The same applies to our dialogue with the South, and the deputy prime minister will travel to hold a national dialogue with tribal chiefs in the South.
[Khalifah] There is talk about differences within the United [Somali] Congress [USC]. What is the truth? And what is the nature of your dispute with Mr. `Aydid [as transliterated]?
[Ali Mahdi] In a democratic party it is natural to have differing views and concepts of some matters. As for `Aydid, who is now in Mogadishu, he has ambitions based on an unsound and undemocratic approach. Furthermore, it is a big mistake to talk about `Aydid`s leadership of the USC at a time when he is not even an ordinary member of, or registered in, that organization.
[Khalifah] Do you feel that you are leader of all the Somalis, or are you just a tribal leader?
[Ali Mahdi] I am now leader of all the Somalis. This is how I feel and believe. Leading this crucial stage with me, are Somalis from all Somalia`s geographical and tribal tendencies.
Tribalism is an old disease that was revived by the Siyaad Barre regime. He exploited it to ensure his remaining in power. [passage omitted]
Read Part I & Part II & Part III & Part V