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The Formula of Death: from 1884 Berlin Conference to 2007 Mogadishu Reconciliation Meeting
The infamous Berlin conference in 1884, when the European imperialists laid claim to virtually all of Africa, spurred an interesting discussion among the colonizers as to what to do with the Somalis; after all, among the Africans, Somalis stuck out like a sore thumb. The colonizers knew few facts about the Somalis. The Somalis numbered probably only two to three million people who were/are not only members of a homogenous society, but also they controlled a strategic region in Africa with enormous economic potentials. Freezing the expansion of the Somalis deeper into Africa and segmenting the land of the Somalis into small regions were a cakewalk for the colonizers, however; controlling the Somalis even after dismembering their land was something else, a power to reckon with. Somalis being fierce fighters and members of a homogenous society posed a double challenge for the colonizers. But the colonizers quickly noticed when Somalis were not fighting against the Ethiopian and the Kenyan tribes, they [Somalis] fought among themselves along tribal lines. And this was a breakthrough for the quest of European dominations in Africa.
Soon, the land of the Somalis was swamped with vicious vultures. From the outset, through the eyes of the colonizers, it was clear cut that Somalis were/are far more loyal to their tribes than to their county, and this has been a recipe for disaster for the natives, but a significant advantage for the invaders. Ever since the evil formula of putting one tribe against another was invented by the European colonizers, successive invaders implemented the old and evil strategy: divide and conquer, in Africa. And nowhere else in Africa had the Europeans succeeded in implementing the formula of death so effectively than Somalia.
The land of the Somalis, which today comprises Somalia, Somaliland, Djibouti, the Somali regions of Ethiopia and Kenya, was eventually divided into five regions colonized by Italy, British, and France; and two more regions were later annexed by Ethiopia and Kenya, with the help of the British colonizers. All these foreign powers relied on exploiting the Somalis along tribal lines so as to use them as a bulwark against one another rather than subjugating them by force. Why bother getting your hands dirty, when someone else can do a dirtier job on your behalf? And this strategy not only effectively worked in the colonial era, but also it became an indispensable tool for the new invaders: the modern colonizers—the savage imperialists.
In recent development, Ethiopia and U.S. authorities repeatedly claimed that only small sub clan of Hawiye called Ayr is opposing the occupation of Somalia. Both the Prime Minster of Ethiopia Mr. Meles Zenawi and the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer have reiterated, of course without shred of evidence, that only sub-clan of Hawiye tribe, namely Ayr opposes the Ethiopian forces. While trivializing the magnitude of the Somali liberation forces, U.S. provided the money and Ethiopia did the killing. So in a desperate attempt to cover up the war crimes committed against civilians and to portray Mogadishu as a peaceful city, a bogus reconciliation meeting was convened in the battered city. And instead of focusing how to dislodge the occupying forces from Somalia, the so-called meeting did not even mention Ethiopia, much less purposing the eviction of its troops; instead the meeting mediated some imaginary old rivalry tribes to settle their differences in a more civilized way. Suddenly, thousands of participants who have more faith in U.S. Greenback than in God soon crowded the meeting hall.
Most of the participants were, in fact, lured to the conference not by the idea of achieving a lasting peace but by the possibility of looting the $40 million donated by the International community to finance the conference. As soon as the meeting (or the shrill) was over, not so surprisingly, millions of dollars were found to have been embezzled. And what was ensued, as usual, was blame-placing and finger-pointing games which erupted among the “officials”, nonetheless; some “officials” got richer, and some participants got poorer. There is nowhere else in the world where money does more wonders than Somalia; contrary to popular beliefs, money would buy you happiness. (It would even buy you the presidential seat; just ask Abdullahi Yussuf).
After the dubious reconciliation meetings was, as some prescient analyst had predicted two months before it took place, declared as a failure, and consequently the fighting intensified, not dwindled as the U.S-Ethiopia unholy coalition hoped for, it become apparent to the occupiers that the old formula has somehow reached its limits. All of a sudden, for some odd reason, the Ayr clan somehow managed to deliver a series of heavy blows against the Somali Transitional Government TFG a.k.a (Tigray Founded Government) and the Ethiopian occupiers. (Tigray is the Prime Minster of Ethiopia Mr. Meles Zenawi’s tribe.)
Also, the “spoiler”, Eritrea refused to be cowed by the U.S. threats of putting the small East African country in the terrorists list; which really means U.S. will terrorize—“shock and awe”—Eritrea if it does not stop helping the Somalis to liberate their country. So now what?
To undermine the efforts of the Somali Liberation umbrella (established in Asmara, Eritrea) and, of course, to sow the seeds of discord between Somali tribes so as to further weaken the struggle against the invaders, a staged rift between the Prime Minster of Somalis, Mr. Geedi, and his President, Mr. Abdullahi Yussuf, now become yet another deadly tactic employed by the invaders. So the notion Darod tribe vs. Hawiye tribe is the name of the new sports. And carnage in Mogadishu may be looming again.
In Mogadishu, initially, the invading Ethiopians focused on how to exploit the residences of the city along tribal lines, a formula that Ethiopians know far too well its effeteness (it has been working in the Somali region of Ethiopia so effectively, the Ethiopian troops are hardly ever needed to fight against the Ogaden National Liberation Front ONLF). So during the Mogadishu massacre against innocent people by the cruel Ethiopian forces, Mr. Geedi himself participated in a meeting in which Ayr (a sub clan of Habargidir—a member of the larger Hawiye tribe) was portrayed as a fungus that required really hard scrapings to remove it from the city, once and for all. On the other hand, the Abagals (a Hawiye sub clan which dominates Mogadishu) at the meeting enthusiastically rejoiced at the news of the merciless campaign of terror against a Somali tribe— Ayr. They (Abgals) were told,” This government is yours”. The ever gullible Abgals were convinced that, finally, Mogadishu would soon be liberated, not from the hands of the Ethiopians occupiers, but from the hands of its residents—the Ayr (distance cousins of Abgal). Not only did the TFG quickly recruited the Abgal militias as the new Somali National Army SNA, but also it [TFG] gave them a tacit approval to unleash hell against their rival tribes—Ayr. With the support of the Ethiopian heavy artillery, the inferno raged in Mogadishu.
However, it is important to note that the Abgal intellectuals, business groups, religious leaders, tribal leaders as well as various nationalist abgal groups who vehemently refused to fall into Ethiopia’s diabolical traps were arrested in droves. They soon become prisoners in their own city. In fact, Mr. Geedi himself threatened the intellectual elites that he would request the U.S. to put them in the terrorist list if they dare to speak out against the invaders’ onslaught against Mogadishu and its people.
But then, as always, unintended consequences ruin the show; ever nervous Ethiopian troops, who could not tell an Ayr person from an Abgal, not because of sheer ignorance but because the two tribes are not distinguishable, pulverized the city to dust including the Abgal section. They relentless destroyed the city at night and shamelessly pillaged it during the day. In addition, the Bakaraha—the biggest market in East Africa—was torched to the ground by suspicious fire. Both Abgal and Ayr lost their economic livelihood.
It's also worth noting, for the past 17 years, fire has erupted in the Bakaraha market many times, but no fire has ever destroyed the market as it did recently. Was this just a coincident? Maybe! Maybe not! But one thing is clear, virtually every Ethiopian solder in Mogadishu has a cell phone these days. (Put one and one together. No need to stretch your imaginations.)
Meanwhile, Mr. Geedi has been under tremendous pressure from his Abgal tribal chiefs and Meles Zenawi has been unhappy with his poodle—Mr. Geedi’s performance. So Mr. Geedi not only desperately wants to look good in front of his confused and disoriented tribal chiefs, but more importantly he wants to impress his boss—Meles Zenawi. And for Mr. Geedi, this time, an exotic belly-dance is no longer an option. (The honeymoon is over.)
After thousands of innocent Somalis (predominantly Hawiye tribes) were slaughtered by the brutal Ethiopia troops, with Mr. Geedi’s blessing, nearly half a million people were displaced, and their biggest market Bakaraha in Mogadishu was destroyed by fire, Mr. Geedi found himself cornered by an angry Hawiye people and backed against a concert wall. But then he quickly resorted to using the Somalia’s Ace Card—the tribal card. So now, all of a sudden, he is hailed as a distinguished, a born again, Hawiye man who resolutely opposes the “Darod” domination of the government. And this nonsensical argument now needs to be sold to Hawiye people.
Although the recent meeting that Mr. Geedi held with influential Hawiye elders in Mogadishu sounded convincing at first, beneath the surface of dirty politics and disinformation, a whole new different kettle of fish emerges. Now the city pulverized to dust, and its economic center torched to the ground, both the Ethiopian and the quisling Somali leaders realized that more insidious and deceptive approach to the conflict may be the only thing that would save the Ethiopians from the wrath of the Mogadishu residents.
Therefore, in a world where deception, disinformation, and staging political rifts between leaders are all part of the game, Mr. Geedi and Mr. Yussuf put a harmless show of political wrestling, yet deceptive enough to lure the unwary people of Somalia to another concert (a fake meeting) in Mogadishu where Mr. Geedi would play the violin and Mr. Yussuf would remain the drummer. After the meeting with Hawiye leaders, Mr. Geedi said, the clan leaders would now work with his administration to take on the insurgents. (“Take on the insurgents!” Ok, George Bush!) Mr. Geedi (or Mr. Geed—a tree, which means the Prime Minster is as dimwitted as a rock, too obtuse to be given a human name) is doing exactly what his boss Meles Zenawi instructed to do: that is, re-applying the divide and conquer strategy in order to consolidate the Ethiopian occupation and to tighten the noose around the Somali liberation movement’s neck. Do old habits go to die? No! Divide and conquer has reached immortality. So dancing to the Ethiopian tunes continues, as spectacular as ever. So when the “Attorney General” Abdullahi Dahir Barre, a Yussuf ally, arrested “Chief Justice” Yussuf Ali Harun, a Geedi ally, and Geedi in retaliation fired Barre, all these deceptive maneuvers were part of the show, so were Mr. Geedi’s recent crocodile tears for Hawiye’s misery and his fake political showdown with Mr. Yussuf. Mr. Geedi told the Hawiye that he was sorry for their suffering, but they knew he was the reason for their abhorrent suffering.
In sum, Mr. Geedi and Mr. Yussuf’s unscrupulous policies: divide and conquer, won them the most perfidious award of the century for being callous traitors. They are villains and cowards. And neither Hawiye nor Darod should support these quisling leaders. Shameless traitors, such as Mr. Geedi and Mr. Yussuf have neither a tribe nor a country, and Somalis must understand this. Also, whether Mr. Geedi and Mr. Yussuf (the twin devils: an absolutely curse sent to the Somali people) would succeed in tricking the Somalis again will be seen, but the Somali people must demand nothing less than the total withdrawal of the Ethiopian forces from Somalia. Neither replacing Mr. Geedi with another die-hard stooge for Ethiopia, nor using one Somali tribe as the bulwark against another is in the interest of the grieving Somali people.
Somalis have supported the opposing factions of Ali Mahdi and Gen. Aided, the Arta Faction, the warlords, the Islamic Court Union, and some even supported the TFG, but one thing is clear beyond a shadow of doubt: all these regimes failed miserably. This time Somalis should put all their eggs in one basket and support the Somali Liberation Movement established in Eritrea. For whatever reasons, even if some Somalis are not keen on the idea of supporting the Somali Liberation umbrella that is fine; then you should create your own liberation group and drive the Ethiopians out of Somalia, once and for all. It is now or never.
Just as the Ethiopians have their God-given right to defend their country if they were invaded by the Somalis, the Somalis have the right to remove the occupying Ethiopian troops from Somali soil, either peacefully or forcefully. Let the Somalis agree on one thing for now: the eviction of the Ethiopian troops from Somalia, either through diplomacy or by the barrel of a gun.
As for the wicked formula of death—divide and conquer—from 1884 to 2007: 123 years of deception and countervailing one Somali tribe against another brought the Somali people to their knees. When are the Somalis going to wake up?
Dalmar Kaahin, Ottawa. Canada .
The author can be reached at email@example.com