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A Call To Arms In Somalia
ISSUE 235
Front Page
Index

This Week's Somaliland News

This Week's News coverage for Somaliland and Somalia

Headlines

Ethiopian Troops Moving Closer To Mogadishu‎‎

Is The Baidoa Show About To End?

US Cautions Ethiopia On Somalia‎‎

Ethiopian Foreign Policy: An Out-Dated, Misguided, Narrow, And Counterproductive Policy‎‎‎ ‎‎‎

‎Open Memorandum To The Au & Member States – Somaliland Forum Press Release

Somaliland - UN Encouraging Spread Of Violence In Somalia

Progressio Asks UK MPs To Support Somalilander’s Steps To Democracy

Somalia-Djibouti Troop Deployment Premature - Djibouti Govt‎‎‎‎‎

Regional Affairs

Somali Chief Calls For 'Holy War' Against Ethiopian Troops‎‎‎‎‎

Ethiopia: Pastoralists Say Ethiopia's Animal Resources Could Speed Up Economic Growth‎‎

Islamic Militants Navigate Clan Politics‎‎

Somali Islamists Open Court In Govt-Controlled Area

WRITTEN ANSWERS

AU May Yet Become Another Talking Shop

Somali President In Talks U-Turn

Editorial
Special Report

International News

International Group Urges Somali Government To Talk To Islamic Militants‎‎

U.S. Told To Back Somalia's Moderate Islamists

Dangerous Fiction in Somalia: A Tale of Two Cities, Part II‎‎‎‎‎

We Speak With One Voice, Except Eritrea - Frazer‎‎‎‎‎

Amnesty International Launches Global Campaign Against Internet Repression‎‎

FEATURES & COMMENTARY

Roda Mizan - Returning to a different homeland

Role Of Legislature In Budget Process

Horn Of Africa And US Diplomatic Mess

Examining Israel's `Right To Defend Itself

Somalia: The Powerful Islamist Leaders Warned G8 Leaders

Food for thought

Opinions

Book Review On Part 3: ‎
The Bedrock Of The ‎
Family By Mohammed Bashe H. Hassan

The African Union Met Again But The Hot Spots Still Remain Hot‎‎‎‎‎‎

Tough Times For Transitional Federal Government Of Somalia And United Islamic Courts‎‎‎‎‎

In Today's World, Is It Possible To Unify All Somalis Under One Flag?‎‎‎‎‎

Difficult Obstacles Of Somaliland Education‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎

Another Afghanistan Could Be Averted‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎

Letter To The Editor‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎


I.M.Lewis

In democratic societies it is normally taken as axiomatic that judgments about the nature and legitimacy of a government must be made by the general public, demonstrating its assessment in a free and fair electoral process. Nothing of this kind, of course, has occurred in southern Somalia since the civilian governments of the 1960s. In fact, only in Somaliland is there today a flourishing democratic process in the modern sense, and a government which can properly claim legitimacy. Col. Abdillahi Yusuf’s TFG has not contested any public election in Somalia that could enable it to claim popular legitimacy. In point of fact, it has not offered the public any declared political programme whose popularity could be tested by public opinion. Furthermore it is highly questionable whether Abdillahi’s team actually merits the title ‘government’.

‘Governments’ normally govern, but it is difficult to see in what sense and where (Kenya? Baidoa?) the TFG could be said to govern (or have governed). It has not established any administrative structures in any part of Somalia which could be further developed and extended to other parts of the country as part of a functioning democracy. In fact, the president and prime minister do not even control the members of their huge cabinet, expanded in the hope of keeping as many people as possible quiet. This, naturally, has had the reverse effect.

Part of the trouble, of course, stems directly from the formula imposed by the EU and UN mandarins that, after the unfortunate Arta experience which produced the failed UN’s ‘Transitional National Government’, this time, it was the turn of the ‘warlords’ as many of whom as possible were to be pressed into governance. Whether the candidates were representative of anyone other than themselves was not properly controlled, though it was considered helpful if they could claim some representative clan status.

Money flowed freely (as it still does from many sources, including, scandalously, EU aid budgets) and this helped, after a great deal of disagreement, in the formation of a ‘transitional parliament’ and, eventually, a ‘government’, without, of course, any test of democratic legitimacy in Somalia at large. The remarkable weakness of the resulting product has been seen in its bitter internal schisms, the ease with which even warlord cabinet ministers have left to pursue their own interests, its reluctance to move to the country it is supposed to represent, and, when it at last did so, to move into the capital (so far unachieved).

The fear of entering the forbidden city of Mogadishu was a remarkable demonstration that the TFG had no coherence, no corporate spirit, and could not even rely on the many Mogadishu warlords who were also ‘ministers’ in its cabinet to safeguard their joint security. It was hardly surprising that the TFG was manifestly ‘unfit for purpose’ and could not govern, legitimately or, for that matter, illegitimately. Thus the sudden appearance on the scene of the Islamic judges and their courts which, almost overnight, introduced law and order (however severe), and even had the international airport opened in days, has highlighted the impotence of the otiose TNG. Who needs it? Only it seems the competing EU and UN bureaucracies which, as usual in Africa, have little contact with reality, and whose main contribution is to complicate rather than ease tensions and conflict.

These organizations, urged on by the US, now seem to be engaged on the very dangerous project of encouraging a force of ‘African Peacemakers’ to join the Somali scene. This is mooted just at the point where they are least needed, and when their intrusion, as the International Crisis Group has already pointed out, can but inflame the situation and promote civil war. Of course Abdillahi Yusuf and his Ethiopian patrons (and the Americans in the background) may see such a development as a contribution to improving the marginal status of the TFG and checking the power of the Islamists. This coupled with the daft British proposal that the international arms embargo should now be relaxed, is from the perspective of the Islamists, obviously a hostile act.

That the result will strengthen Abdillahi and his assorted TFG gangsters and so secure what they evidently regard, from their point of view, as a favorable outcome, cannot be guaranteed however. It is at least as likely, if not more likely, that support for the Islamic courts’ militias will be strengthened and with the wider backing of Muslim North Africa and the Middle East will not be easy to defeat. Abdillahi Yusuf’s U.S. and Ethiopian connexions would almost certainly polarize conflict in a way that would backfire on him. Nor would it be surprising if ‘Ethiopian’ forces from the Somali Ogaden, mustered on clan lines to Abdillahi’s support, later changed sides. It is not out of the question that in such a struggle, increasingly polarized along religious lines, other Ethiopian Muslims would rise against the central government whose distraction by these events would also offer an attractive target to Eritrea. The prospects which the new external interventions promise are extremely worrying: through their casual carelessness (I hope it is no more than this) we could easily have on our hands a major new confrontation between Islamic and Christian fundamentalism, both equally deadly and destructive.

Beyond the immediate theatre of war, clan ties will almost certainly guarantee support from the BBC Somali Service. This is the most important international medium for the Somali people in the Horn and for their diaspora throughout the world. Ethiopia is generally good at propaganda, but does not have media with a comparable grip on Somali opinion.

What can be predicted with even more certainty is the terrible impact such developments will have on the civilian population of southern Somalia. The recent establishment of the rule of Islam has brought peace for the first time since 1991. What is now proposed by people and organizations with no political right (and even less moral justification) to control the destiny of Somalis, is almost certain to condemn Somalia to further suffering and devastation in a pointless proxy war. Whether with callous cynicism, or sheer ignorance of the current Somali and wider Horn of Africa situation, the UN or any other foreign officials who encourage this looming confrontation will have much to answer for. Once again the UN will have failed Somalia, producing and amplifying conflict where peace has already been restored.

I.M.Lewis
Emeritus Professor of Anthropology
London School of Economics
19/07/06


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