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Ethiopia-backed PM cannot deflect Somalia abuses
WASHINGTON, July 10, 2007 - For some, everything that could go wrong for Somalia has now come to pass. For others, considering how rapidly Mogadishu is turning into Baghdad, the worst - both for the country and the region - is yet to come. However, there is no disputing that, with each passing day, it is becoming more and more evident that Somalia's Ethiopian occupation is neither paving the road toward a reconciliation, nor forging a way forward.
Seven months after disrupting what was widely recognized as a "semblance of peace" that enabled Mogadishu to experience glimpses of normalcy, the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) that rode into the Somali capital on Ethiopian tanks is continuing on its brutal and self-sabotaging path.
Nonetheless, Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Gedi will probably remember June 26 - the date of his recent unofficial visit to Washington, DC en route to New York to address the UN Security Council - as the most politically-challenging day of his three-year career.
Gedi's visit opened with an off-the-record meeting hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Along with the Somali prime minister, the center had invited a number of academicians, policy researchers, prominent Somali activists, and organizational leaders.
At the gathering Gedi was rigorously scrutinized on three specific issues: "security, governance, and reconciliation." He scrambled desperately to provide cogent answers to some of the questions. At several points, he had to rely entirely on his non-Somali spin-doctors who passed him notes.
Asked whether or not his government - in light of the renewed violence and chaos - was capable of expanding its power beyond Mogadishu, and if it possessed the capacity and vision to move Somalia out of its current turmoil, Gedi's response was, expectedly, "yes."
"It was our strategic position to control the city in a peaceful manner," he noted, leaving many in the audience in a state of disbelief and dismay by adding: "We have succeeded in bringing peace to the city with the support of the Ethiopian government."
When asked how Ethiopia could play a part in resolving the crisis, considering its lingering political animosity and suspicion in relation to Somalia, Gedi answered that while it was: "true that there was a [hostile] history between Somalia and Ethiopia ... that history has changed, and that is the perception of the Somali people."
Gedi was also challenged on the corruption rife in his "warlord-infested government" and how these militia chiefs - such as Abdi Awale Qaybdiid, with a 17-year record of killing, displacing, and starving countless Somalis, who allegedly led the fighting resulting in the deaths of 18 US Rangers and more than 1,000 Somalis, as depicted in the film Black Hawk Down - could ever be part of the solution.
Additionally, he was questioned about Mohammed Dheere, a particularly brutal warlord and close relative of Gedi's, who vacated his parliament seat to enable Gedi - who was never elected via clan representation - to become prime minister, in return for Dheere being appointed mayor of Mogadishu, responsible for restoring peace and order there.
Brushing off such queries, Gedi told the CSIS gathering that only time would tell if the TFG had become a warlord-infested government.
Naturally, he did not remind the audience of a statement he had made when he appointed the ruthless Dheere Mogadish mayor that: "This is not the time for soft, reflective consensus builders ... We need strong leaders who can implement their programs. Mohammed Dheere is the right man at the right time."
Indeed, the mayor of Mogadishu has his own private militia to implement his program.
But perhaps the question that politically cornered Gedi the most, lending a human face to what has become a routine abuse of power, was the one raised by one of the Somali activists present at the CSIS meeting.
"Mr. prime minister, since the Ethiopian invasion, Somalis have suffered; young men, businessmen, and the leaders of the civil society [have become] a daily target. People were, and still are, being taken out of their homes in the dead of the night. NGO [non-governmental organization] officers are being detained and their basic rights violated.
"A member of our organization is currently in Somalia and has, sadly, detailed to us the violation of your personal security forces that invaded their NGO and took everything that was movable. You know these people as they are your neighbors. My question is: when will these violent efforts of silencing the civil society [organizations] end?"
In response, Gedi resorted to his routine equivocation and baseless accusations claiming that "some of these NGOs had thousands of tons of weapons which we found, and that should not be." He failed to point out that no one has since been charged or convicted on such grounds.
Later that same day, a coalition of 11 diaspora-based Somali groups organized a rally outside the US State Department, marking the first time since the bloody fratricide that such a body, transcending Somalia's clan and regional divisions, had been formed.
Six coalition delegates later met with US Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs James Swan, expressing their concerns regarding Somalia's Ethiopian occupation, the recent massacre and continued brutality in Mogadishu, the violation of the system of checks and balances that had led to the unconstitutional termination of the "free parliamentarians" (opposition members of parliament), the humanitarian and human rights abuses, and the "extraordinary renditions" taking place in Somalia that had been condemned by the human rights group Amnesty International.
The coalition delegates stressed that genuine peace and reconciliation in Somalia hinged upon resolving these problems - something they said they would reiterate in an official letter to the UN secretary-general and members of the Security Council.
Abdulkadir Abdirahman is a Somali-American Community Activist based in Washington, DC. He submitted this commentary to the Middle East Times.
Source: the Middle East Times