By Liban Ahmed
Somalis have different conceptions about justice. Nothing has prepared us for the legacy of twenty plus years of dictatorship and the subsequent state collapse.
The surfacing of a photo showing Yusuf Abdi Ali posing for the camera with the President of the Federal Government of Somalia, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed in Washington, DC, brings to light the persistent problem of having no a common understanding on how to deal with Somalis accused of human rights violations. An American court ordered Abdi to pay damages for torture that Farhan Mohamoud Tani Warfaa suffered at the hands of “soldiers under the command of Yusuf Abdi Ali.”
As a President of the Federal Republic of Somalia with a mandate to promote reconciliation President Mohamed should have been informed that Abdi was accused of condoning torture of a citizen and that he was not found guilty of an attempt to “extra-judicially” kill Warfaa.
If one holds President Mohamed to this high standard, one has to take into account the fact that Somalia has warlord and demagogue-infested federal institutions. President Mohamed regularly meets demagogue MPS and Senators, some of whom were warlords before the Union of Islamic Courts ended warlords’ reign of terror in 2006.
Former Presidential Candidate, Abdirahman Abdishakur and MP Ahmed M. Fiqi, who have criticised President Mohamed for meeting Ali, are content with the President to meet Muse Sudi Yalahow and Abdi Qaybdiid, two Senator-turned former warlords. Southerners agreed to a forget and forgive policy , a lesson they have learned from Northerners, who have not alerted Warfaa that his claim against Ali was in breach of an agreement that has been the foundation of peace in the North since 1991.
Somali National Movement leaders avoided to fall into the trap laid by the former military regime that used divisive tactics to stay in power. Both Ahmed Mohamed Mohamud (Silanyo), former SNM Chairman, and Saleban Mohamud Adam, the head of delegation that visited Mogadishu in September 1991, objected to reprisals against civilians. Their sentiments consolidated the 1990 Balligubadle Agreement signed with SNM by the late Garad Abdiqani Garad Jama and his delegation including Bashe Ali Jama and the late Sa’eed Ali Giir.
The core principle of the agreement – responsibility for wrongdoing lies with a person not with a clan – was also the basis for 1995 Erigavo Agreement. Since there was no judiciary capable of bringing alleged war criminals to justice and since some SNM fighters targeted communities in the North for not taking up arms against the military regime, Northern clans agreed to a let-bygones-be-bygones policy. The late Ibrahim Meygag Samatar warned SNM against emulating tactics of the military regime. Any violation of SNM principles was viewed not an organisation’s policy but a failure of commanders.
In 1991 the former SNM commander of Erigavo division invited members of a community from Huddun district to a meeting. SNM fighters killed more than 60 men at the meeting. Somaliland had been few months old when the massacre happened. The first President Somaliland, Abdirahman Ahmed Ali, did not denounce the massacre. For legal reasons I cannot mention the name of the man many people believe to have masterminded the massacre.
After the fall of the military regime SNM fighters began to organise themselves along subclan lines for influence. This unplanned reorganisation prefigured the intra-SNM war of 1990s.
What has this got to do with the case of Yusuf Abd Ali. Warfaa was obliged to honour the non-binding agreement of Northerners to forgive each other. He should have resorted to Somaliland courts because Yusuf Abdi Ali is a Northerner by birth. Ali should have been given the opportunity to be interviewed or defend himself in a Somaliland court in the same manner Colonel Ibrahim Ali Barre (Anjeh) was interviewed by the committee for investigating 1989 Jasira massacre.
Somaliland Government views the matter as a personal decision of Warfaa. In 2016 General Mohamed Nur Galal, the former commander of United Somali Congress militias paid a visit to Hargeysa. Mohamud Abdi Ali Duale, a veteran broadcaster, interviewed him. “Did you tell militias to kill people from other clans?” he had asked General Galal, who did not seem to have understood the question because of the way the Duale phrased it: Reero miyaad u sheegteen ? (Did you tell them clans?). It was an indirect way of asking General Galal “Why did USC militias kill innocent people and loot properties under your watch?”
If General Galal was spared questions about human rights violations that affected lives of many Northerners in Mogadishu, why does not this approach apply to a fellow Northerner instead of taking him to a court in the USA over crimes by soldiers of an army mismanaged my a military dictatorship?
Many Somalis have shown time and again that they lack a sense of justice. Opposition to the military dictatorship galvanised people to make a political change. When the opposition had succeeded to overthrow the dictatorship in 1991, opposition leaders and their supporters lost the moral compass and the goal to change Somalia for better. In 2006 the late poet Mohamed Hashi Dhama’ Gaarriye quipped : “When we were fighting the military regime we had a dream to change things for better. Now we have given up on that dream.” He might have foreseen that selective justice would become the bane of Somalis.
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