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|After Saddam, Liberate Somalia From Warlords|
Nairobi, May 5, 2003 (The East African) - Little Maimuna, eight years old, was wounded by multiple fragments from a shell that landed on their family house at Medina district in Mogadishu. Together with other victims, she was rushed to Medina hospital for life-saving treatment.
Maimuna was lucky to have found herself on a surgeon's bench and skilled hands removed metal pieces from her abdomen, but her right leg could not be saved from amputation. A meter away, Maimuna's grandmother had an almost similar amputation. They were victims of a savagery that had recently taken place in one of the southernmost suburbs of Mogadishu following a bitter confrontation between forces loyal to warlords Musse Sudi Yalahow and Omar Mohamed Mohamud (alias Finish).
The merciless battle in Medina district is but a microcosm of what has been happening in many parts of Somalia, including Mogadishu, where killings, mutilation, rape and displacement have become the people's permanent companions. Power-motivated confrontations are usually followed by equally devilish acts from opportunists who loot and inculcate fear. Social services and trading (except arms sales) are paralyzed, limiting people's incomes.
Leaders who once shared not only political affiliation but also close kinship have become bitter enemies. Struggle for supremacy in the Bay and Bakol regions (to the southwest of Mogadishu) broke the bonds of brotherhood and initiated armed confrontations that sent entire populations on the move in search of safety.
Hunger for leadership of Jowhar district, Puntland region or Medina suburb is the driving force pushing warlords to mobilize all their resources against each other. They certainly believe that victory in the battlefields would boost their bargaining power at the ongoing Somali reconciliation conference in Kenya.
That is why they are threatening to quit the process, convinced that without them peace agreements cannot be implemented nor lasting peace realized.
The cessation of hostilities agreement signed at the end of the first phase of he Somali peace conference in Eldoret, Kenya in October 2002 was largely welcomed by the Somali public. It was particularly exciting that a galaxy of diplomats from the international community witnessed and co-signed the document, a clear indication that the warlords were offered no chance to exercise their notorious tricks.
It is shocking that faction leaders, the very signatories of the cessation of hostilities agreement, are finding loopholes to deceive the international community to breach the agreed terms. Their mercilessness is given a green light by lack of authority to ensure the terms are enforced, and they are getting away with crimes, some of which have gone unpunished for 12 years.
As if all these killings, maiming and violations of the signed agreement mean nothing, the so-called political leaders are boycotting the conference, the very event meant to revive the hopes of the Somali people to restore their statehood.
To justify boycotting the talks, the factions have given various reasons. That Ethiopia was not sincere about its mediation role, especially about the long-term stability, unity and territorial integrity of Somalia. That Somali delegates have been denied the right to lead the conference proceedings instead of the IGAD committee, or that Djibouti and Ethiopia were siding with their own favorites, compromising their neutrality. Others said that they could not stand the sight of warthogs roaming the venue, having trespassed from a nearby game park.
Even the president of the Transitional National Government, Abdiqassim Salad Hassan, has repeatedly discredited the peace conference, saying that Somalis "would get nothing" from it and that his "government" was already organizing a substitute conference to be held inside Somalia should the one in Kenya fail.
This power-driven conflict has created conditions for freelance gangs to take advantage of the confusion and inflict further harm. How can one justify the crime of kidnapping a citizen, torturing, and then killing him before the body is taken to a remote suburb and thrown into a cactus bush, only to be found later putrefying? Many people wonder why the international community pretends not to know what is going on.
The world is getting tough on rogue authorities such as Saddam Hussein's Iraq and North Korea, by force in the case of Iraq. Why not get equally tough with Somali warlords and faction leaders?
It is good to call on the groups to stop atrocities, but it is better to establish mechanisms to force them to do so. Action needs to be taken against those breaking the arms embargo on Somalia. The people of Somalia expect more than mere sympathy from the international community.
The international community can force the implementation of the outcome of the first phase and facilitate the conclusion of the remaining phases of the Somali conference. Events in the Middle East should not be allowed to overshadow the only conference that could liberate Somalis from the ruthless clutch of warlords.
As the war in Iraq raged, people in Mogadishu and elsewhere in Somalia flocked to the mosques to pray for the people of Iraq for being subjected to attacks by non-Muslim forces. But the plight of Somali victims like little Maimuna and her grandmum seem to have sunk into oblivion.
Abdulkadir Khalif is former assistant production manager at Mogadishu Milk Factory.