Having tried so many times to help Somalia with little success to show for it, the outside world may soon give up on Somalia as a failed state almost beyond salvation. The Nairobi Peace Conference could well be the last effort by the international community. Not since the creation of the United Nations has a member country been without a government for 14 years, not because of any deep-rooted and irreconcilable divisions among its people, whether ethnic, religion, race, colour, language, etc but because it has been denied to have a government by a bunch of power or money-hungry warlords in Mogadishu and by the failure of its people to rid themselves of these parasites.
As the rest of the international community would say, God helps only those people who help themselves. But how can one help a people who have themselves inflicted their own wounds and seem to be neither able to help themselves nor would allow others come to their help. The outside world may wish to wash its hands off Somalia after so many failed initiatives but surely there are enough Somalis who still refuse to resign themselves to the dictates of the warlords and the continuing absence of government in Somalia and its resultant lawlessness.
My own part of Somalia , what the secessionists call Somaliland , is relentlessly seeking recognition, proudly pointing to the contrast between their peaceful and stable part and the rest of strife-torn Somalia . Though happily no country has so far recognized Somaliland , this cannot be discounted for ever. And unless the people in the South, in particular those in the Benadir region, do what they have not done so far, that is to free themselves from the warlords and join nation building, there is danger that other parts of Somalia might give up waiting for peace in Mogadishu and decide to go their own way as Somaliland did (although a large part of that territory does not subscribe to the secession).
Unless we act now and ensure the survival and functioning of the government established in Nairobi , there might come a time in the not too distant future when Somalia would no longer exist as a state but only in history books. If that were to happen, we only have ourselves to blame for failing to act against the warlords We cannot blame anyone else, not even Ethiopia, although its hands are not clean and would undoubtedly be happy about Somalia's collapse and disintegration just as many of us would be equally happy about the collapse of the Ethiopian empire and the breakaway of the occupied Somali territory.
For months now, we had the faint hope that Somalia might at last have a government after the long-dragging and often circus-like Somali peace conference in Nairobi . For what it is worth, we do have a government, at least on paper, with a President, a Prime Minister and unelected members of Parliament. But that faint hope is already fading away as we face the reality of transforming the nominal government into a functional one based in its own territory and capital. It seems that the nightmare of the wretched and long-suffering Somali people is far from being over. That nightmare, of course, is how to get over the biggest hurdles in the way of the newly-born and fledgling government ever-taking effective roots in Somalia . Needless to say, those hurdles are the warring warlords of Mogadishu standing in the way of the overwhelming desire of the desperate Somali people –more so those in Mogadishu- for a functioning national government that would maintain law and order and would strive to improve their daily lives.
Our warlords are special in one sense. Whereas warlords in other warn-torn territories in the world have been taken to international tribunals in The Hague and Arusha for the crimes they had committed such as crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide, our own warlords had by contrast been rehabilitated as respectable statesmen. In dealing with the issue of the Somali warlords, the Nairobi conference had opted to include them in the conference, and in the ensuing government and parliament having weighed the pros and cons of the issue.
Undoubtedly, it was mindful of the fate of the Arta established government which excluded warlords and has thus ignominiously condemned the government of Abdulqasim Salaad Hassan as de facto prisoners in two hotels in Mogadishu . In other words, if you cannot defeat them reward them not only with immunity from persecution for their crimes but also membership of the Parliament and government. This was a blind gamble that these criminals might somehow be persuaded to give up their old bad ways and became redeemed Somali patriots abiding by the rule of law. Indeed, they do talk these days like patriots. But this is not because of any change of heart on their part but simply as part of their public relations campaign to be on board while at the same time indulging in their usual criminal activities. You only have to hear their cynical and sickening appeal to nationalistic sentiments as justifications of their opposition to foreign peacekeeping forces coming to Somalia or to the decision of the government to be base itself outside Mogadishu in Somalia until such time as law and order are restored in the capital.
The destiny of the government is critically dependent on being protected from those lawless elements no matter where it is based in Somalia . Under the prevailing situation in Somalia , a government that does not have its own forces has to necessarily rely on foreign peacekeeping forces for its protection until such time as they can be replaced by national forces, a process which will require both time and resources. Since no foreign peacekeeping forces are to be sent to Mogadishu , it would be suicidal for the government to return to the capital at the mercy of the warlords, regardless of their promises to restore order and peace in the capital and even to relocate their militia to camps away from the city. Such promises are worthless given the countless pledges they had broken in the past. Those who therefore advocate that the government should go to Mogadishu , or are against the deployment of foreign peacekeeping forces to protect it in Baidowa and Jowhar can only be contemplating its demise. There is no other interpretation. President Abdullahi Yussuf, is no fool whatever else you might call him. An old warrior, some would say a former warlord himself, he is fully mindful of the fate of Abdulqasim Salaad Hassan's government and its slow strangulation in the hands of the same warlords now enticing the president and his government to come to Mogadishu while still wielding their “veto” on foreign peacekeeping forces coming to Somalia.
As we all know, these warlords had been fighting for the last 14 years among themselves for control of their separate turfs in the capital and surrounding areas. If anything unites them, , it is their total disregards for the welfare and interests of the Somali people- particularly those under their occupation in Mogadishu- and their implacable opposition to the emergence of a national Somali government that will usher in the end of their lucrative, often criminal, activities in the South of Somalia. As they rightly see it, they have more to gain from the continuation of the status quo where in the absence of a government warlords rule supreme. Whether the Nairobi decision to co-opt them was right or simply a wishful thinking is now a moot question. They had been co-opted. What is more important now is how to deal with them since they are still bent on remaining warlords despite their membership of parliament or government. This article would therefore suggest possible actions against the warlords by the national and international community. It will also say something about the deployment of foreign forces, the leadership of President Abdullahi Yussuf, the role of the members of Parliament. It will conclude with an appeal to the Hawiya intellectuals.
1. Action against the warlords
Rather than molly-coddling the warlords, we should be dealing with them for what they are as outlaws. Pure and simple. Economic sanctions and denial to go abroad are among the most potent weapons that would need to be applied against them. A tentative, though not exhaustive, list of measures will, inter alia , include:
The above mentioned measures would need the approval of IGAD, the Arab League and the United Nations.
2.The role of President Abdulahi Yussuf
Under normal times, Mr Abdullahi Yussuf could not have been elected as president of Somalia considering his past. Here is a man for whom the end always justified the means. The pursuit of power at all costs has always been his goal and force to get it has been the means he unscrupulously adopted to get it. He is certainly no democrat and his patriotism is clearly questionable. Such patriotism as he may possess is secondary to his primary political goal. But that is something he shares with almost all the current Parliamentarians and also, sadly to say, with many present day Somalis
But we do not live in normal times and present day Somalia is no normal country. Now that Mr. Abdullahi has finally realized his ambition to become President, he may want to go down in history as the man who finally saved his nation. If Siyad Barre was the man who took Somalia to the edge of the abyss, and the warlords and their associates the ones who pushed it down the abyss, President Abdullahi Yussuf , close to 70 years of age, could well be the one to take it from that abyss, if only he could overcome the daunting opposition from the warlords and their associates or allies. He can only undertake such a monumental task if he can count on the support of the international community and the Somali people. Financial, diplomatic and security assistance are sine qua non for the president's mission in order to overcome the warlords and address the critical needs of the population in the short and medium term. This job requires perseverance, determination, single mindedness and strong will- qualities that President Abdullahi Yussuf has. He would need to use them positively and for the common good and not for the pursuit of his own personal ego.
Thus far, most of the fears about his dictatorial streaks have not materialized. If any thing, he has been acting presidential, leaving the Prime Minister to get on with the daily nitty-gritty affairs of running the government. He should not respond to the baiting of the warlords or those self-seeking members of Parliament who are out for a showdown. If appearances are any thing to go by, the president seems to have good rapport with his Prime Minister and that augurs well for the government and for Somalia . They need one another as they also need to retain the loyalties of the members of parliament, even if most of them are opportunists who are in the business for their own self interest.
3. Members of Parliament
Needless to say, the members of Parliament cannot claim to have been democratically elected. Be that as it may, we are stuck with them for better or worse and have no choice but to live with this reality. Not surprisingly, their record so far is not promising. Their brawl in a Nairobi hotel has served the outside world as a typical manifestation of present-day violence-ridden Somalia . If members of Parliament can behave like they did in a country where they were quests what can one expect from the unruly society they represent back home? Despite this shameful event, there is always the hope that they may still redeem themselves at least on occasions. They would need to be given courses on their on what is rightly their business and what belongs to the purview of the government. Some of them are under the wrong impression that all government business is also their business. A sometimes more de-stabilizing force is the Speaker of Parliament.
At times he acts as if he wants to unseat the president or as if his office is a parallel authority to the government. He is fully entitled to faithfully do his job as prescribed by the constitution while always putting national interest above all other personal considerations. This is not the time to play with fire. On the contrary, he should always put out all fires that are to the detriment of our national interest.
4. Forein Peacekeeping Forces
If there is one thing I agree with the warlords and most members of Parliament, it is our common opposition to so-called Ethiopian peacekeeping forces coming to Somalia . No matter how desperate we are, there is a limit to the extent we can shame ourselves and no shame is worse than inviting Ethiopia forces as our saviour. Since the fall of the government of Siyad Bare , Ethiopia has made no secret of its desire to see to it that the fallen state of Somalia should ever be back on its feet. As part of this policy, its forces have been regularly entering and occupying Somali territory. She has been active supplying weapons to one armed against another. If it has finally gone with the rest of the members of IGAD in supporting the Nairobi Conference and its outcome, it had little choice but to go along with the wish of the international community- at least in public. Now that Somalia has a government, albeit a weak one, Ethiopia is eager to continue controlling our affairs through its forces which will be more like an occupying force rather than peacekeeping one. If there is still one bad habit that President Abdullahi Yussuf has not managed to shed, it is his authoritarian streak to force his way irrespective of the wishes of the people and their representatives in Parliament. He should henceforth respect the voice of Parliament and the will of the people, the majority of whom are deadly against Ethiopian forces entering Somalia under any guise. That is what democracy is all about -Mr. President!
5. An Appeal to the Hawiya intellectuals
All previous initiatives by the international community to revive the fallen Somali State during the past 14 years have been hostage to the anarchy reigning in Mogadishu . In the meantime, other parts of Somalia have gone their own way like Somaliland , or have established their own regional administration like Puntland.. How long can we wait for peace in Mogadishu ? Not for ever. We either continue along the path of irreversible disintegration, or we have to find another capital for a temporary period and that is what the government has done. But in the long run, Mogadishu is irreplaceable. As such, we have to strive to liberate it from the warlords. In the absence of a national army to do so, and since the use of foreign forces is ruled out to enter the capital, we can only rely on our own resources. In the present day realities of Somalia , this is a task which primarily falls on the clan that dominate the city. Neither other clans nor the present government can directly intervene. Indirect support of course is another matter. Only when the dominant clan in Mogadishu has put its own house in order can we overcome the major stumbling block that has denied us a government for all those years.
Many Somalis wrongly blame the Hawiya people as a whole for failing to restore order in the capital. The simple fact is that the ordinary Hawiya people in Mogadishu have been themselves victims who suffered more than any one else under the occupation of the warlords. Like the rest of the Somalis, almost all the people in Mogadishu , except those criminals thriving on lawlessness, would like to have a government that would attend to their needs. Witness the impressive initial welcome to the Abdulqassim Hassan Salaads government, or the recent tumultuous welcome they gave to Parliamentarians. If there is any group among the Hawiya clan to be faulted, these are the intellectuals and the wider civil society organizations. Where is their concerted voice for all these 14 years? Judging by this silence, one would be tempted to conclude that there are no Hawiya intellectuals which is not the case. More than ever, there is urgent need that their voice be heard loud and clear. They should mobilize the silent and suffering people in Mogadishu and the Benadir region who had been desperately waiting to be liberated from the warlords. In rising to this challenge, you can count on the whole-hearted support of Somalis everywhere. Enough is enough. Time for Action. It is now or never.
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