WHY DON’T (YOU) ETHIOPIA AND LIBYA UNITE?

This question may sound strange, and even absurd to many, until they find out that a Somali Northern Faction Leader dared to raise it in front of Mengistu Haile-Mariam of the DERG, Ethiopia, and Muamar Al-Qaddaffi of Libyan Jamahiriya. The context was in a response to a question Qaddaffi asked Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed and Yusuf Sheikh Ali Madar in Tripoli, Libya, circa 1983-4, in a meeting held between the four in a last attempt to try to unite the first Somali opposition forces against Siyad Barre Regime, and thus avoid a potential civil war in post-Barre Somalia. I was a witness and participant in these events.

Whatever sinister project on Somalia Mengistu Haile-Mariam had in mind at the time, there was no doubt that Qaddaffi was sincere in helping Somalia stay united and strong after the fall of Siyad Barre. Yusuf Sheikh Ali Madar, then the Chairman of the Somali National Movement (SNM), wanted to empress Qaddaffi and Mengistu how difficult it was to bring Issak clans back to a united Somali republic.

Because of the Tripartite Agreement in the early eighties between South Yemen, Ethiopia, and Libya, under the proposal and sponsorship of the Somali Salvation Democratic front (SSDF), all Somali opposition elements and entities should unite under the umbrella of the later; no separate Somali organization (front) would be allowed to operate from Ethiopia against the Military Regime in Somalia. SNM had no choice other than to announce its establishment in London, UK, in 1982. SSDF, in pursuit of its core policy of uniting all Somali opposition forces, had to persuade Ethiopian, Libyan and Yemeni leadership to facilitate negotiation talks between SSDF and SNM. SSDF sent a delegation led by Abdirahman Sugule Xaabsey, and late politician and technocrat, Jama Rabile Good, to SNM new leadership in London with the Late Mr. Duqsi as its Secretary-General. Under the sponsorship of SSDF, SNM leadership was invited to urgent unification talks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Talks proceeded painfully slow and difficult. Eventually, talks reached stalemate and kept on for years, on and off. In the meantime, SSDF was bank-rolling SNM with money and military hardware all the way to Col. Kosaar’s Chairmanship until SNM reached self-sufficient through its grass-root support. Finally, a minimum deal was reached to share SSDF’s Radio Kulmis with SNM to become Radio Halgan, the United Voice of Somali Opposition Forces. There was little cooperation in other areas. Mengistu leadership started showing its first signs of double-dealings in the talks and some masked sympathy to dissident elements against SSDF leadership of the day, a situation that even prompted some opting out to join the SNM. These included the late Hersi Magan (the Author of the Radio Kulmis Drama and Short Story, Laaska Daawada and father of Ayaan Hersi Ali, the notorious Somali-Dutch Anti-Islam lady), Mohamed Haji Adam (a one-time Minister of Puntland during Abdullahi Yusuf’s mandate), Captain Slaweyn (killed fighting along SNM fighters off Burco) and late col. Gardheere. Col. Gardheere eventually ended up disappearing in Afgoi War Front in a counter-offensive under the umbrella of Somali National Front (SNF=SSDF, SPM and SNF)) against the Late General Aideed’s militia after the fall of Siyad Barre. Nobody had discovered how he died. Some speculate he committed suicide after he lost the battle due to sabotage in ammunitions and fuel by Siyad Barre’s generals in a futile attempt to re-instate the Dictator and thus deny victories to Barre’s former enemies.

SSDF leadership finally came into an open clash and confrontation with the DERG leadership in 1985, with prominent members of the former ending up in Mengistu’s political solitary confinement cells, some losing their lives there. SSDF splits into United Somali Congress (USC) and inactive SSDF, later re-generating itself locally in North-eastern Regions of Somalia. USC wings of Rome, Ethiopia and Mogadishu concentrate and focus on Mogadishu. SNM embarked upon fool-hardy raids on Hargeisa and Burco. Clan cleansing starts in Mogadishu, Hargeisa, Berbara and Burco. Somalia starts to self-destroy. We are here today to witness the result of this national suicide. Any victors? Perhaps, the Somalia’s neighbours!?

Post-Barre Somalia is painful and beyond any human comprehension to describe today: the mass starvation and diseases, illiteracy, lost generations, mass exodus of human stock of those who barely managed to flee, clan cleansing, mass-rape of women, mass killings of innocent, looting and plunder of both private and public wealth and private properties particularly in Mogadishu in Mogadishu and lower Shebelle areas, but not limited to them, amid unprecedented in the history communal violence and barbaric treatment of human life unread even on ancient and pre-history societies. Some knowledgeable people say that that Rwandan Genocide cannot even measure up to what happened in Somali Civil War. But, because the Somali case was dismissed by the international community as traditional and chronic clan disputes and warfare, it never got a fair hearing or attempts to investigate the magnitude of the mayhem.

Post-Siyad Barre also saw many attempts by those who always try to walk the extra mile in saving Somalia. One such bold and long attempt in 1999-2001 was trying to persuade the Late Prime Minister of Somalia, Mr. Mohamed Haji Ibrahim Egal, to stand up for Somalia and re-claim his legitimacy as the last legal Prime Minister. As the world community had no alternative on Somalia, there was a 100% chance that he could marshal all necessary support to put Somalia together again. It wasn’t to be. Incidentally, Mr. Egal refused to attend a Qaddaffi’s Dinner for him, Abdullahi Yusuf and Hussein Aideed in Sirte, Libya, in which Mr. Egal would have be crowned as the next President of Somalia, subject to a National Conference to be held before Arta Conference or in the place of Arta’s. For the record, this is the main reason why Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed boycotted Arta Conference, despite the fact that many people were citing other factors for the boycott. Mr Mohamed Ibrahim Egal had to choose between the comfort of Somaliland Presidency and the unpredictable and highly contested high seat of Somalia’s State, which was in tatters and disintegration. The move also required a rare political courage from him, given the hostile, isolationist and myopic politicians and elite in Hargeisa. He chose to play safe during his remaining few years in life.

The Italian centre-left coalition government before Silvio Berlusconi becomes the Prime Minister in 2001 tried one last attempt to salvage Somalia and re-build it from the ashes of of the Civil War and subsequent vicious circle of violence and statelessness. The outgoing government represented by the Italian Foreign Ministry had three hundred million US$ projected for Somalia’s reconciliation effort. The initiative involved in bringing AbdullQassim Salad Hassan/Ali Khalif Galaydh of the TNG, Abdullahi Yusuf of Puntland and Mohamed Ibrahim Egal of Somaliland and have them agree to a minimum common platform of loose cooperation like joint development, humanitarian and security projects. Again Mr. Egal could not dare to test the waters. Abdullahi Yusuf, despite his well known disgust for AbdulQassim, Ali Khalif and TNG, accepted the deal for the sake of Somalia.

The failure of unification talks between SNM and SSDF in the eighties, and the absence, therefore, of unified national political and security plans, not to mention about political program and country’s stabilization platform, led to the proliferation of clan-affiliated militia organizations amid chaos and anarchy that ensued following the unplanned expulsion of Siyad Barre from Mogadishu. Here, both Somali and expatriate writers identify SNM with Somaliland unilateral secession attempt, but they abysmally fail to see or acknowledge the fatal damage done and vital role played by SNM-affiliated clans in helping turn Somalia into an ungovernable, primitive and clan-hatred enclaves that everyone has lost including the North-Western Regions of Somalia (Somaliland) – a national tragedy still unfolding with all kinds of difficulties and ramifications: extremism, sea-piracy, dangerous and debilitating illegal foreign fishing and plunder of national marine wealth, loss of sovereignty, environment destruction and above all, mistrust among the Somali clans to come together again, not only for a common good, but to preserve their very existence as human species in a country of their own..

An equal paradox in Somali body politics, if there is such a thing now, since the disappearance of Central Authority, is the people, who now claim the National Capital, Mogadishu, as exclusively their own, but maintain the notion that it is still the Somali Capital- people, who still wants to be Presidents of the Republic, ministers, mayors, civil servants, .etc, and yet want neither a functioning government nor a shared Capital City- an irrational and absurd situation. Look, the problem of disunity of purpose and national awakening extends beyond the borders of Somalia. It is solidly manifested more strongly within the Diaspora too. Their Fadhi-Gu-Dirirka (arm-chair fighting) on clan bashing and controversial local issues at home country has become a past-time and a favourite game of choice. They were expected to be more enlightened and experienced, having tested the bitter agony of life in exile and loss of possibilities of peaceful retirement at their home of birth.

But, the stupidest of all is to see and watch a so-called Somali politician, who got extremely lucky to get elected President of a State and has yet to understand his once in a life time opportunity to make a difference in his own country in need.

Ismail H. Warsame

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