The Alpha and Omega of the Somali Federal Government Politics – By Nur Bahal
When any two or more Somalis get together, they agree on one fact; that the current Somali government came way short of expectations. In other articles I addressed that the initial euphoria died before the ceremonies of its election were over and I attributed the demise of the euphoria and hope to corruption. Notwithstanding the cardinal role of corruption, tribalism, warlordism and sectarianism and their inherent relationships in Somalia are playing an important role in shaping Somalia continuing chaos.
Even though politics is at times a grisly dealing depending on the practices around the world, yet, it has a certain honorable elevation beyond the human ego. In contrast, a tribalist’s thinking is based on a rogue philosophy that no one but his tribe deserves help or deserves to lead. It is illogical, ineffective and inefficient. The Somali brand of tribal politics superimposes another layer on top of an already murky process: the ability to acquire a showy misrepresentation intended to conceal greedy inclinations of the tribe or clan. On close scrutiny many religious sects, civil society groups, NGOs and political organizations exist only to promote tribal agendas. A religious sect, a warlord(s) with armed militias, a civil society group, an NGO and a political organization all work in synergy to give their clan or tribe an otherwise underserved leverage, thus, extra share in a political process. This negatively versatile quality of tribalism, brigandage of sorts, has been the single most devastating factor in Somalia’s political life.
Twenty-four years ago, the knees of the Somali nation buckled and fell, ceasing to exist as a sovereign nation. While a few clans were engaged in creating opportunities for synergies between 1980 and 1990 to pressure the dictatorial from multiple fronts, the phenomena assumed gigantic proportions after the fall of the nation especially in the South – Central area. In the absence of the rest of the Somali clans, Mogadishu became a battleground between the Hawiye clans especially between Abgaal and Habar Gidir. The racy polarity and power struggle between these two clans ushered in the warlord phenomenon. The sum game was that he, who controls Mogadishu, controls Somalia and gets to be in full control of the exploitation of aid and the business creation thus, the becoming the ultimate power clan.
When Ali Mahdi, an Abgaal, was elected president in 1991 in Djibouti, Mohamed Farah Aidid, a Habar Gidir, also declared himself president. When a mediation attempt by the Hawiye failed to produce any result, the tribal council produced the verdict that has become the proverbial epitome of their powerlessness and failure to reach mediation for the sake of the nation: “Cali Gar leh, Caydiidna Jid leh” meaning that “Ali is veracious and Aidid is justified”. In 2009, when Sheikh Shariif Sheikh Ahmed became president, again an Abgaal, he was challenged by Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aways, another Habar Gidir. It is interesting to note that when Abdiqasim Salad Hassan became president, the Abgal clan did not oppose his election.
It was during the presidency of Abdulahi Yusuf that an intra-Hawiye movement, the Hawiye Action Group, an ultra tribalist organization with members inside and outside Somalia was formed. The HAG members are united by a common yearning to create a supreme Hawiye state – a Somali Nation whose branches namely the state, the civil society, the military and the economy are controlled by Hawiye. The creation of HAG was facilitated by the invasion of Ethiopia.
It has been said that if you see someone crying “Oh my Hawiye brethren” it must be a Habar Gidir. The seed idea for HAG was envisioned by non other than Habar Gidir who forged an allegiance of prominent civil society members, tribal elders, warlords and business people. This
small group of died-hard tribalists, who also belonged to all the possible religious sects in the South – Central stood behind Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, a prominent member of civil society who already had cozy relationship with the warlords as evidenced by his “one man’s warlord is another man’s savior” rhetoric during his first tour of the US. Hassan Sheikh Mohamed had one more criteria: he was more connected and sympathetic to the Habar Gidir cause rather than to that of his own clan. The reason is simple: Habar Gidir are more entrenched as warlords, civil society members and all the religious sects including Alshabab. Thanks to reckless bribery of parliamentarians, a stroke of luck and little naivety on the part of Abdiwali Gaas (1), the election was a hands-down affair.
Corruption can get you in a position; it is funny how it never helps you do a good job!- Nur Bahal
Political stability measures the likelihood of unrest, violence, assassinations, terrorist threat, and ethnic (tribal) tensions among other things. A careful examination of the current Somali government’s case of political stability reveals that the monopoly of violence is not controlled by the state. From 1991 and onwards, Mogadishu and its environs were in the grip of warlords who had an unimpeded monopoly on the security and the economy. The President has a soft spot for warlords, the core of which goes back to the conflict and competition between tribes. An armed warlord in a tribe is an asset for the tribe. The current government’s en masse recruitment of tribal militias aligned with Villa Somalia gives reasonable strength and credibility to the President’s special relationship with warlords. Furthermore, the warlords and their close former military associates are the highest ranking officers to the exclusion of other tribes.
The relationships formed between the warlords and various civil organizations in Mogadishu during this time are the fuel driving the lack of stability. The crux of these relationships is a particular group’s monopoly on the economy, the administrative structure and the security. The rogue politics pursued by this tribalistic, pseudo-religious group impede important issues in Somalia’s nation building. They demand to see prominent Hawiye representation even where the tribe is a minority such as Jubbaland or Lower Shabelle and Bay and Bakool. Through Hassan Sheikh Mohamed, they even twisted Siilaanyo’s arm to nominate a Hawiye into the Somaliland cabinet which surprisingly has been obliged (2).
The group’s shameless pursuit to exclusively control Somalia’s economic resources has also resulted in a devastation of genocide proportions. The burning of villages in Lower shabelle, Middle Shabelle and Kabhanley by the tribal militias dressed in the uniform of the national army is an attempt to take over farmland belonging to other tribes by force.
High ranking members of the military took part in this genocide and the Somali government has yet to apprehend one single culprit for the genocide committed against poor farmers in Jowhar, Km 50 and Kabhanly.
In Jubbaland, in exchange for recognizing Ahmed Madobe’s leadership, they asked for a Hawiye Vice-President and control of the port and the airport, both an important sources of income for the Jubbaland State. Without a priori motive, it is more reasonable to negotiate those things when the federal system are negotiated and completed. If Villa Somalia has not control on the port of Bossaso or Berbera it does not make sense to distress Jubbaland over the port and airport of Kismayo.
This unmasked greed for economic and military domination pitted the rest of the society against the FG. At a time when Somalia needs to take concrete steps towards peace and bury a protracted war, the current government connives with tribo-religious organizations and warlords that continue to derail peace and recovery. The government must provide incentives to the society in the form of justice – the most crucial thing that earns her the social trust, if it has to overcome the extremist group, Alshabab. Unfortunately, it is acting more like a tribal militia still obsessed with tribal gains without regards of how it affects others. The FGS under President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has not been able to elevate itself morally and politically above Alshabab. This dismal failure exposed Hassan Sheikh’s government, implicating the president’s relatives and ministers (3) , has shaken the foundations of what little trust Somalis and the international community had on this government. It has utterly failed to see beyond the mindset of tribal politics and thus is a liability and a detriment to stability.
It does not make any sense to attempt running when you cannot walk!
While all this devastation is happening the President is trying to smile his way into the pockets of the international donors without accounting first for what has already been given. Effectiveness
requires such accountability and governance dictates that you cannot be effective on certain levels or for certain groups; good governance must be nationwide. The mismatch between what is right for Somalia and what is right for the tribo-religious dissenting clique running the country has created disillusionment instead of effectiveness. The overall effectiveness of the government is paralysed by the executive branch’s insistence to centralize not only the day to day running of the public administration of the state but also that of the parliament and the duties of the Prime Minister. Effectiveness means running when you have the energy to, and walking when you cannot run or jog. The FGS is trying to show the international community that it is running to restore a nation when it can barley stand up.
“The rule of law is better than the rule of any individual” – Aristotle
The comprehensive definition of rule of law provided by the Secretary-General of the United Nations is as follows: “a principle of governance in which all persons, institutions and entities, public and private, including the State itself, are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards. It requires, as well, measures to ensure adherence to the principles of supremacy of law, equality before the law, accountability to the law, fairness in the application of the law, separation of powers, participation in decision-making, legal certainty, avoidance of arbitrariness and procedural and legal transparency.” (4)
How does the FGS fit into the above UN definition of rule of law? It simply does not and for the following reasons:
1. The executive branch has put the law enforcement in the hands of tribal affiliates who operate on both sides of the political spectrum.
2. Tribal interests take precedence over the rule of law. According to InsightNews, convicted killer of the two Doctors Without Borders in September 2011 has been freed after serving only three months of an eleven-year sentence (5). Hassan Dahir Aweys, a proven religious extremist is also free.
3. The national army is heavily implicated in the burning and looting of villages in Hiiran, Middle Shabelle and Lower Shabelle to fulfill the HAG wish list of land-grabbing.
All of the above is possible because of the current atmosphere of rule by tribalist groups who were fanning the flames of the civil war for the last 24 years. And the president has no power to contradict their wishes.
For the gluttonous and the tribalist, the transition from peace to war is a prime time to secure ill-gotten bounties. And that is what is happening in Somalia today. Law and order has been debased so much so that even AMISOM troops are involved in the loot. The sale of rations and fuel, the sale of weapons to Alshabab and so forth have been proven. Is it then ludicrous to imagine that groups within the government also have ties to Alshabab? The latest round of Alshabab military advances into Mogadishu, the killings, explosions and the intense lack of security in Mogadishu is not an accident. The scale of indiscipline and chaos in the national army is also indicative of the total absence of the principles of security and the existence of multiple layers of interests that contravene security.
Every soldier in the Somali National Army serves three interests: his own, his tribe’s interest and the interest of his warlord. This is the reason there are more checkpoints between Mogadishu and Afgoie than there are in the whole of Somalia. How else can anyone justify the army’s invasion of areas already liberated from Alshabab? Why have Jannaale, Km50, villages in Jowhar and
Kabhanley become targets when the locals have proven that they can control the security and the safety of their cities and villages? It is not a secret in Lower Shabelle that Shabab is more apprehensive of the local army than the national army or even AMISOM who lately became Alshabab’s major source of weapons along with the Somali National Army. In a report produced Thursday, 13 February 2014, the U.N. Monitor’s group describes a dire situation where “A key adviser to the president, from his Abgaal sub-clan, has been involved in planning weapons deliveries to al Shabaab leader Sheikh Yusuf Isse … who is also Abgaal,” (6).
It behoves the mind that the President would request and extension of waiver of the arms embargo when the world can clearly see that the weapons already in the country, donated by the international community, have so far been used only to shed the blood of hardworking, honest Somalis and sale to Alshabab. The international community must take the share of the blame for this blood as they provided weapons to a tribal government without going through the proper procedures. An election does not determine trust; a track record of trust which begins with ones own people proves that a government can be trusted. This is the mistake that the international community made.
In Germany, there is a written protest by some magazines not to send troops to train the Somali army. The reason for the protest, they say is that the Somali Army is directly involved in Human Rights Violations. The writer believes that because of the human rights violations committed by the Somali Army, the German trainers will be at risk (7).
The Central Bank scandals were probably the first alarm bells that all is not well in the Oasis of Corruption that is Somalia. Because of it, and a number of other shady contracts, the EU paused to release the New Deal money to Somalia. With the long awaited cash cow not coming any more, a rift began to develop in the alliance between Dam Jadid and its tribal affiliates and the warlords. The unholy triangle has begun to crack at the foundation. With the President and his Damul Jadid die-hards on one side and the warlords, their militias and the tribal elders on the other, it is not hard to imagine that these militias are showing the Damul Jadid mob who really is boss. Could this be why the President went to Turkey for vacation – too much stress? Could the stress and frustration be symptoms for the coming disintegration of his government and with it the debauchery vision of his unholy alliance?
All of the preceding contributed, in whole or in part, to the cessation of proper implementation of a transitional justice and peace building process. Instead, the transition has become an opportunity to manufacture a new tribal history to rationalize illegal land occupation and claims. The intentional delay, on the part of the government, to set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission is part and parcel of rewriting history and manufacturing new claims on the land of people who endured twenty-three years of repressions, torture and forced labour in their own farms.
Somalia’s transition into a peaceful state may be shaped by two factors; first the degree to which the current government is willing to undertake a complete and just reform in its vision for Somalia’s stability and cutting ties to the tribal elders and warlord militias who now determine the course of the government’s vision and mission for Somalia; secondly, its commitment to clean its house of corruption and embark upon a sound economic plan, a tangible social reconciliation and a total and sincere willingness to rebuild the nation justly. The politics of tribalism may work well for a tribe for a while, but will always become a barrier to the more pressing and decisive interests of the Somali people. And then even the tribe will loose the gains they made. Justice is always possible even within a tribal and contentious political environment like Somalia. And it is the job of the government to come up with a way to accommodate justice,
security and the interest of Somalia above their petty greed and tribal daydreams. Up to this point in time, the current government dragged its feet to explore any opportunities that can put this battered nation on the road to recovery. Somalia fell at the hands of Darood; it dived into the grave at the hands of Hawiye who have lost too many opportunities to plant their feet on the high moral ground. Will the new Prime Minister be able to man up; make justice, equality and reconstruction the only prime goals if not a reality? Can he redeem the name of his clan in whose hands the nation fell? It shall remain to be seen…
14 February 2014
1. Confident that Sheikh Sharif will not give him a second chance at being the Prime Minister; he openly endorsed Hassan Sheikh and asked his supporters to give their vote to him. There may have been promises made.
2. Vice-Minister, Ministry of Information Abdiwahid Abdirahman Abdiqadir
4. (Report of the Secretary-General: The rule of law and transitional justice in conflict and post-conflict societies (2004)
7.a: a translation of the Appeal to the German government is attached for those who not speak German.