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''Somalia Drifts Toward Fragmentation As Regional Powers Polarize''
Report: September 20, 2006
As forecast by PINR, the interim agreement that was reached on September 4 in Khartoum between Somalia's failing Transitional Federal Government (T.F.G.) and the Islamic Courts Council (I.C.C.), which is the dominant power in Somalia and seeks to establish an Islamic state in the country based on Shari'a law, did not signal progress toward political integration of the stateless country.
Far from ameliorating the polarized power configuration pitting the I.C.C. against Ethiopia, which is determined to defend the T.F.G. and prevent the emergence of an Islamic state in Somalia, the second round of the Khartoum process -- brokered by the Arab League (A.L.) -- intensified the confrontation and spawned new conflicts. With all the players under severe duress, all of Somalia came into play, regional actors polarized as Western powers watched from the sidelines, and cracks appeared within Somalia’s society as local and clan conflicts surfaced, portending the possibility of civil war and a return to the extreme political fragmentation that had characterized the country before the I.C.C.'s surge through its southern and central regions in early June, after the Courts movement had expelled the ruling warlord coalition from Somalia's official capital Mogadishu.
The I.C.C. is Constrained to Focus on Defense and Loses Momentum
From early June into late August, the I.C.C. had enjoyed an unbroken string of successes, establishing order in the regions under its control, instituting rule by Shari'a law, opening up Mogadishu's airport and seaport, establishing relations with the United Nations for the distribution of humanitarian aid, and expanding its territorial scope. As the I.C.C.'s star ascended, Addis Ababa sent armed forces across its eastern border with Somalia, into the provincial town of Baidoa where the T.F.G. is isolated and into the breakaway sub-state of Puntland, which is determined to resist I.C.C. penetration from the south.
The pressures exerted by the Ethiopian presence forced the I.C.C. into a defensive posture, stalling the momentum of its social revolution. The Courts movement responded to the threat from Addis Ababa by clamping down on opposition in the areas under its control, attempting to mobilize popular sentiment against an African Union (A.U.) sponsored peacekeeping mission supported by Addis Ababa, and devoting its attention to recruiting and training its armed forces.
Addis Ababa's principal interest is to prevent the I.C.C. from becoming strong enough to give effective support to the flaring insurgency in Ethiopia's ethnic Ogaden region, which borders Somalia.
As the Courts' militias swept northwest toward the Ethiopian border from their Mogadishu base in June, Addis Ababa responded almost immediately by massing troops on the border and mounting incursions into western Somalia. When the I.C.C. took control of the strategic town of Beledweyne -- capital of the Hiraan region -- Addis Ababa increased its military pressure and has sustained it, with new infusions of troops reported in mid-September.
The stand-off between the I.C.C. and Ethiopia in the northwest has placed the Courts movement under duress and forced it to tighten control in Beledweyne. On September 19, the local court in Beledweyne arrested a journalist for Simba radio, Osman Adan Areys, while he was covering an I.C.C.-inspired demonstration against the deployment of peacekeepers in Somalia. Local sources reported that Areys had been detained because of his reporting of Beledweyne residents' opposition to a court decision.
Signs of conflict and opposition also appeared in Mogadishu, the center of I.C.C. power. The Courts administration faced a strike by workers at the El Maan natural harbor who had not been paid for three months and whose jobs were in jeopardy due to movement of traffic to Mogadishu's port.
On September 12, in response to an I.C.C. takeover of his offices in early September, the chairman of the Banadir region and mayor of Mogadishu, Ade Gabow, declared that I.C.C. leaders were "power hungry" and had pushed aside those who had helped them against the warlords, yet were willing to bargain with the T.F.G. In his most telling criticism, Gabow accused the I.C.C. of acting out of clan interest. Gabow's statement does not reflect the emergence of a power center in Mogadishu that could contest the Courts effectively; it is an indication of the lines of potential discontent.
The I.C.C.'s problems in dealing with the non-Islamist sectors of Somali society that have supported them against the warlords and the T.F.G. are illustrated by the Courts' continuing tensions with civil society organizations (C.S.O.s) in Mogadishu. In early September, immediately before the Khartoum talks, the I.C.C. had backed off from its plans to deny autonomy to C.S.O.s and issued a new policy based on cooperation with them. On September 12, the I.C.C. reversed course again when the head of the Courts' office of civil affairs and regional cooperation, Sheikh Abdillahi Farah, called on C.S.O.s to register with his bureau.
On September 14, Sheikh Abdirahman Janaqaw, who had been appointed to mediate the I.C.C.'s relations with C.S.O.s, met with members of 40 women's groups, urging them to form umbrella groups and "not to imitate Western women." The coordinator of the women's groups, Amino Haji Ihri, reminded Janaqaw that they had helped expel the warlords and that the I.C.C. needed their continued assistance.
The I.C.C. has persisted in its efforts to rid Somali popular culture of erotic content, concentrating on raiding and shutting down movie venues that show popular Bollywood films. On September 10, the purity campaign ratcheted up when Sheikh Mohamed Mohamoud Abdirahman, vice chairman of the Central Shabelle regional administration, closed down Radio Jowhar and said that he would allow it to reopen only after it promised to cease broadcasting love songs and to air only poems and patriotic songs.
Radio Jowhar, which has pursued political independence, complied, but stated that the change of playlist threatened to bankrupt it. Radio is Somalia's primary public medium and popular music styles are widely followed. If the I.C.C. presses on along the same lines, public disaffection is likely to surface.
As cracks began to appear in the Courts' control, the I.C.C. turned its major attention to mobilizing the population in areas under its rule against the introduction of peacekeepers into Somalia and to training forces to resist foreign troops. On September 8, demonstrations against peacekeeper deployment were mounted throughout the Lower Shabelle region, which is governed by the I.C.C.'s warlord ally Yusuf Indha Ade, who faces growing unpopularity with his rule. Similar protests occurred throughout the regions under Courts control and even in Baidoa.
The I.C.C. also continued its campaign to recruit and train resistance forces as quickly as possible. Most importantly, the Courts extended their military basing into Somalia's deep south, gaining the consent of clan elders in the Middle Jubba region to open an I.C.C. training camp that would attract recruits from throughout the region. Approximately 100 recruits were reported already to be in training in the town of Gadudey, marking the first time that the I.C.C. had extended a permanent military presence into the deep south.
Although the I.C.C. has yet to face serious opposition in the areas under its control, signs of strains are appearing, it has not made any recent social and economic advances, and it has had to focus its attention on mobilizing resistance to military threats. Blocked in the north and west for the time being from further territorial advances, the Courts movement has struck into the deep south, where -- if it gains control -- it will reach Somalia's border with Kenya.
The prize in the deep south is the port of Kismayo -- Somalia's third largest city and the capital of the Lower Jubba region. Kismayo has been controlled since 1999 by the Jubba Valley Alliance (J.V.A.), a loose coalition of four warlords who are divided among factions favoring accommodating with the I.C.C. and those throwing their lot in with the T.F.G. The importance of Kismayo is enhanced for the I.C.C. by the fact that it would be a key source of supplies for the projected A.U. peacekeeping mission.
Anticipating a move by I.C.C. militias into the deep south, I.C.C. opponent and governor of Lower Jubba Col. Barre "Hirale" Adan Shire moved to create a Jubbaland state, comprising Somalia's Middle Jubba, Lower Jubba and Gedo regions, through the T.F.G., by which he was recently named defense minister, awakening dissent within the transitional government's parliament. In response, the J.V.A.'s military commander, Mohamed Roble Jim’ale Gobale -- heading the pro-I.C.C. faction -- went to Mogadishu to secure the Courts' support.
Although it is in the I.C.C.'s vital interest to extend its influence into the deep south, any efforts in that direction force it to choose sides in the face-off between Hirale and Roble, who not only disagree in Somalia's political conflict, but are also in dispute over the division of port revenues. Despite the I.C.C.'s policy of moving in only where it is welcome, the Courts leadership decided to back Roble's faction in order to gain territorial advantage and mobilize resistance to foreign troops in the strategic deep south region.
As tensions deepened within the J.V.A., instability precipitated in Kismayo. On September 10, a mass looting of a meat processing plant in the city erupted that J.V.A. forces did not contain, and fighting broke out between militias allied to the respective J.V.A. factions.
On September 12, two columns of I.C.C. forces were reported to be moving into the Jubba regions, one of them led by Roble headed toward Kismayo, and the other led by I.C.C. Shura Council member Sheikh Hassan Turki advancing toward a base in Jubba at which he would mobilize resistance fighters and "monitor" Kismayo.
On September 13, as Kismayo businessmen and religious leaders worked to gain popular support for the I.C.C., Hirale issued a ban on political meetings and speeches in the city. Roble insisted that he was not plotting to invade Kismayo, but observed that in view of wide support for the I.C.C. in Jubba, he would not expect Hirale to reject the Courts.
By September 13, 30 I.C.C. battlewagons were reported to be on the outskirts of Kismayo, as Hirale's forces went on full alert. On September 14, Roble entered Kismayo with several battlewagons and a complement of bodyguards and was not opposed. He came with I.C.C. demands that the J.V.A. allow courts to be established in the city and that it break its ties with the T.F.G. On September 15, Roble warned that he would not allow Kismayo to be used as a debarkation point for peacekeepers and their supplies. Hirale, in response to questions from local media, said: "Wait until I finish this whole business." As a stand-off set in, members of J.V.A. militias were reported to be switching to the I.C.C.'s side.
At present, the fate of the I.C.C.'s advance into Lower Jubba is uncertain, but it is clear that even if it gains a victory, it will either face opposition or have to cut a power-sharing deal that will compromise its Islamization project.
In light of the cracks surfacing in areas under its control and the problems of clan divisions that it has encountered in its advance south, the I.C.C. appears to have run up against the localism and clan rivalries of Somalia's fragmented society. Administering a fractious society requires decisions that are bound to favor some sides and disaffect others. The I.C.C.'s revolutionary program has come under a serious test, which it is not certain that it will pass.
As the I.C.C.'s revolutionary momentum was blunted, the T.F.G. continued to collapse and was threatened in its bastion of Baidoa. Always divided among clan, warlord and regional interests, the I.C.C.'s ascension severely weakened the T.F.G. and split it into factions led by its president, Abdillahi Yusuf Ahmed, and its prime minister, Ali Mohamed Gedi, who rely on Addis Ababa's support; and its parliamentary speaker, Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan, who favors a power-sharing deal with the I.C.C. Those strains led to a cabinet crisis in late August, which was stemmed by an agreement that charged Gedi with submitting a new cabinet list to parliament by September 7, on pain of losing his position in accordance with constitutional provisions.
The September 7 deadline passed without parliamentary action being taken on the list, which Gedi had produced but had refused to submit. Nonetheless, Gedi met with his cabinet on September 14 to discuss a six-month action plan.
A more serious crisis for the T.F.G. emerged in mid-September in the wake of a firefight at Baidoa's airport on September 4 in which T.F.G. forces ousted militias from the Digil and Mirifle clans that had been providing security to the facility and, according to the T.F.G., had been extorting tolls from travelers. Seven members of the clan militias were killed in the incident, setting off a wave of local protests against the T.F.G. in Baidoa.
On September 7 and 8, officials of the Baidoa municipal administration and the Bay region, of which Baidoa is the capital, and members of the transitional parliament from the Bay region called for the removal of the T.F.G. from Baidoa, demanded "blood compensation" be paid to the families of the dead militiamen and accused the T.F.G. of being a clan-based government that did not represent the Somali nation as a whole. Gedi responded by meeting with clan elders and apologizing for the incident.
Gedi's efforts were insufficient to diffuse the tensions and on September 9 the Baidoa administration banned T.F.G. presidential guards from carrying arms or driving battlewagons in the town. T.F.G. transport minister, Mohamed Ibrahim Habsade -- the former warlord of Baidoa who retains control over his militia -- warned: "The government should vacate Baidoa peacefully, or else we will eject it by force." Yusuf responded by meeting with his political allies in the Digil and Mirifle clans in order to build support against the ouster move. The I.C.C. website Qaadisiya reported that T.F.G. forces were withdrawing from the town, that the battlewagons that the T.F.G. had seized in the airport raid had been returned to the clan militias and that the T.F.G. forces that had taken part in the raid had been flown out of Baidoa.
By September 12, Yusuf had been pushed to promise that compensation would be paid to the dead militiamen's families and that the T.F.G. would take care of the medical expenses of the wounded. Habsade, who had recently returned to Baidoa from a two-month stay in Libya, which sympathizes with the I.C.C., repeated his threat to oust the T.F.G. from Baidoa by force.
On September 13, the T.F.G.'s parliament met in a closed session chaired by Adan in which members from the Bay and neighboring Bakool regions agreed that T.F.G. forces should be expelled from Baidoa and that militias from the Digil and Mirifle clans should take control of the town's security. On September 15, Adan held a private meeting with Yusuf and presented the president with the parliament's request, which Yusuf rejected, responding that the T.F.G. would move to disarm the clan militias. The Puntland website Garowe Online reported that Adan cut short the meeting in anger after Yusuf's rejection of the parliamentary initiative.
With the T.F.G. broken as an institutional force, the I.C.C. made inroads into Baidoa. On September 15, the first protest demonstration in Baidoa against a peacekeeping mission was mounted and was dispersed by local police who fired into the air. On September 16, a counter-demonstration in favor of peacekeepers and inspired by elements of the Bay regional administration failed to come off. The Bay administration blamed "technical hitches"; local sources reported that the officials were afraid of a confrontation when warlord Adan Saransoor had deployed his militia and battlewagons in the town's streets. Meanwhile, religious leaders in Baidoa said that they would declare jihad against foreign troops.
On September 18, the T.F.G. came under direct military assault when unknown fighters mounted an unsuccessful assassination attempt on Yusuf that killed several of the president's entourage and sparked a firefight with Baidoa security forces that killed several of the attackers. In response, parliament approved Gedi's cabinet list.
As tensions heightened between the major players in Somalia's conflicts, its deep south came into play and cracks surfaced in Somali society, the north of the country -- which is dominated by the sub-states of Puntland and Somaliland -- began to destabilize.
The I.C.C. has gained supporters throughout Somalia and its initiatives against the prevailing clan-warlord system -- though compromised -- have emboldened local dissent outside the central power struggle. The administrations of Puntland and Somaliland face growing internal dissent, and they have unresolved border disputes with one another. Addis Ababa, which has backed them both in its efforts to keep Somalia weak, has now been drawn into their conflict.
Puntland, which asserts provisional independence pending a power-sharing agreement and has formal relations with the T.F.G., is undergoing the greatest instability and has called on Ethiopian forces to defend its administration.
In its capital Garowe, the Puntland administration, headed by Mohamud "Adde" Muse, has faced a dissident movement -- the Third Brigade -- which has set up a base on the outskirts of the town. Formed after Puntland security forces fired on a restaurant in Garowe in August, the Third Brigade has reportedly massed hundreds of fighters and on September 10 received 50 defectors from the Puntland militia. The movement demands "fairness and equality" from Muse's administration, and efforts by clan elders to mediate the dispute have thus far failed.
Muse faces a more serious problem in the town of Laascanood -- capital of the Sool region, which is disputed by Somaliland and Puntland, and where local political leaders have initiated an autonomy movement.
After warning in early September that he would send in Ethiopian forces to check any move toward autonomy, Muse visited Laascanood in mid-September with his secretaries of security, finance, education and local government in order to appease dissent. Whether his efforts will be successful remains to be seen.
Muse's visit to Laascanood and his announced plans to visit the disputed Buhoodle district in the Togdheer region to the west of Sool triggered a response from Somaliland, which placed its army in Sool on high alert and reportedly engaged in armed clashes with Puntland forces, convincing Muse to delay his visit.
On September 12, Somaliland militias cut off the Laascanood-Buhoodle road. Local clan elders asked the militias to withdraw and were refused. Somaliland authorities arrested journalist Ahmad Adan Yosuf in Togdheer for writing about I.C.C. support in the region.
Muse also faced resistance to his planned visit to the Sanaag region north of Sool, where clan elders announced that they would refuse to meet with him due to a recent armed confrontation between Puntland forces and local clan militias opposing a mineral exploration deal that Muse's administration had signed with the Australian mining firm Range Resources.
Angered by Addis Ababa's military support of Puntland's administration, Somaliland's president, Dahir Rayale Kahin, met with Ethiopia's prime minister, Meles Zenawi, to discuss their strained relations. Rayale emerged from the talks with only an "agreement in principle" to strengthen ties.
The complex pattern of conflict in Somalia's far north brings in all the major players in the country, signaling the likelihood of greater instability and attendant uncertainty. The I.C.C. has established an incipient presence, the Puntland administration is under duress from within and without, Somaliland's government is facing greater dissent and feels abandoned by Addis Ababa, and Addis Ababa's strategy of divide and rule is collapsing, weakening its position as it is constrained to league with Puntland to check an I.C.C. advance north. With a functioning elected government, Somaliland, which has declared formal independence, but has failed to receive international recognition, is having to tighten internal control and assume a defensive posture, bringing all of Somalia into play.
With instability spreading throughout Somalia, regional actors began definitively to choose sides in the major conflict, bringing into the open a latent rift between the Arab bloc, joined by Eritrea and Djibouti, and the East African bloc, joined by Ethiopia. Rather than collaborating in an effort to reconcile the I.C.C. and T.F.G., the regional actors calculated their particular state interests and polarized around the going alternatives for a settlement -- the Khartoum process, which favors the I.C.C. and is backed by the A.L., and a peacekeeping mission, which is the highest priority of Ethiopia and the T.F.G., and is supported by the A.U. The growing divide between the Arab and East African blocs has left Western powers sidelined and has provided the I.C.C. with the opportunity to mount a polarizing diplomatic campaign.
Following the September 4 interim agreement between the I.C.C. and T.F.G. in Khartoum, the Courts movement made it clear that it had abandoned none of its programs to establish an Islamic state in Somalia. On September 7, I.C.C. executive council vice chair Janaqaw -- a rising figure in the Courts -- declared that the I.C.C. would "only approve a constitution based on theology" and that the clan-based, "man-made" T.F.G. constitution had "nothing to do with Islam."
The I.C.C. found an opening for its diplomatic campaign to gain international legitimacy and to fend off a peacekeeping mission when Libya's president, Moammar Gadhafi, invited both the Courts and the T.F.G. to send delegations to a ceremony on September 10 celebrating the seventh anniversary of the A.U.
The I.C.C., whose advantages on the ground give it a superior bargaining position over the T.F.G., immediately dispatched a 17-member delegation, including Janaqaw and its two top leaders, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys and Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, to lobby the A.U. states against peacekeepers and to win support from Gadhafi who hoped to broker a deal between the antagonists. Confronting the troubles in Baidoa, Yusuf, who had been expected to lead a high-level T.F.G. delegation, backed out of attending the ceremony, leaving the T.F.G. to be represented by its ambassador to Libya and Gadhafi disposed in the I.C.C.'s favor. In the wake of the ceremony, Gedi accused Libya -- along with Eritrea and Iran -- of supporting the I.C.C. with arms, ammunition and funds.
Expressing itself satisfied with the results of its talks with Gadhafi, the I.C.C. leadership moved on to Djibouti, which had recently shifted to the Arab side from a policy of neutrality, and held talks with its president, Ismail Omar Guelleh, who reaffirmed his opposition to peacekeepers and his support of the Khartoum process.
The I.C.C. announced in Djibouti that its current diplomacy was only the beginning of a global effort to convince the world community that the I.C.C. was not planning a Taliban-style regime for Somalia and that it was willing to negotiate with the T.F.G. and Somaliland on a unified government, which it hoped could be formed by 2007. The I.C.C. also said that it would be present at the meetings of the U.N. General Assembly in mid-September to lobby against a peacekeeping mission.
Having backed away from negotiations with the I.C.C. in Libya, the T.F.G. executive pinned its hopes on a trip by Yusuf to the United Nations and Washington where he would lobby for lifting the U.N. arms embargo on Somalia so that a peacekeeping mission could deploy. The T.F.G. parliamentary speaker Adan meanwhile pressed for support of the Khartoum process in the T.F.G. legislature.
With the northern regional powers lined up against it, the T.F.G. found support in the south when, on September 13, the A.U.'s Peace and Security Council allocated US$19 million for a peacekeeping mission that would begin in October and would cost $34 million per month.
The mission, which would initially function to protect the T.F.G. and would take the pressure off Addis Ababa, has little prospect of realization because lifting the arms embargo is opposed by the U.N.'s representative to Somalia and the Western powers in the Security Council, and the A.U. and its member states do not have resources to finance it. In addition, Sudan, which is part of the Arab bloc and hosts the Khartoum talks, has been selected, along with Uganda, to provide the first contingent of peacekeepers and is opposed to deploying them before the T.F.G. and I.C.C. conclude a power-sharing deal. The I.C.C. has threatened that a peacekeeping mission would derail the Khartoum process and that it would "go anywhere the African troops are and fight them."
Nonetheless, Ethiopia, Uganda and their newfound ally Kenya have persisted in backing the mission. Analysts in East Africa speculate that Nairobi has abandoned its policy of "equidistance" from Somalia's contending forces because it wants to check potential Somali irredentism as the Courts move south and because it wants to ease border tensions with Ethiopia, where the Ogaden insurgency has won increasing support from ethnic Somali Kenyans, who are not pressing for autonomy themselves, but back the resistance to Addis Ababa.
The intensifying rift between the A.L. and A.U. blocs has torn apart the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (I.G.A.D.), the grouping of Somalia and its neighboring states that would be immediately responsible for the peacekeeping mission. Among the six neighboring I.G.A.D. countries, Eritrea and Djibouti did not send delegations to an I.G.A.D. emergency summit on the peacekeeping mission in early September, and Sudan's president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir expressed "astonishment" at the A.U.'s approval of the mission when that organization is pulling out of Sudan's Darfur region for lack of funds.
With Djibouti and Kenya having abandoned neutrality and taken opposite sides, I.G.A.D. is broken and a key instrument for mediating the northern and southern blocs that are jockeying for influence over Somalia's future has been rendered functionless.
Each member of the emerging blocs has its own reasons of state for choosing sides. The major frontline powers, Ethiopia and Kenya, have large ethnic Somali minorities concentrated in border regions and fear irredentist elements in the I.C.C.; Djibouti, the third frontline state, has a 60 percent ethnic Somali population, but is increasingly dependent on Arab investment; Eritrea is interested in weakening Ethiopia on account of their border dispute; Uganda is thought to be satisfying London and, perhaps, Washington; and the Arab states and Iran are keen on checking Addis Ababa so that they can achieve spheres of influence in the Horn of Africa. The result of the play of those relatively independent interests is a hardening polarization that falls along the lines of those states that have an interest in a unified Somalia that would balance Ethiopia and those states that want a weak Somalia that would not pose a threat to them.
The emerging power configuration gives the Western powers scant purchase for a diplomatic or military resolution to Somalia's conflict, which is why they are on the sidelines or acting only covertly or through proxies.
For the first time since the I.C.C.'s ascent in June, Somalia appears to be drifting toward the fragmentation that left the country stateless after 1991. With tensions exacerbated among the major players, a severe imbalance of power between the I.C.C. and T.F.G. in the former's favor, a collapse of regional mediation, the eruption of regional and local clan conflicts, the slowing of the I.C.C.'s revolutionary momentum, the bringing of the whole country into play, and the emergence of contending regional blocs, the likelihood of increased instability grows.
The events of mid-September have placed the major players under greater duress and, although it is still the most powerful domestic force, the I.C.C. is no longer clearly the protagonist. The new de-centered situation does not necessarily portend a return to Somalia's recent past, but it will take a recalculation of interests by the actors and their consequent initiatives to prevent that outcome.
Report Drafted By:
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