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Somalia: Renewing Diplomacy

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Jun 19, 2006 (060619)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

After several months of escalated fighting in Mogadishu prompted by U.S. covert funding for a warlord alliance against Islamic militia, a victory for the militia has led to unaccustomed calm. After a heated internal debate, U.S. policy has shifted to support of multilateral diplomacy. But the threat of renewed violence comes both from multiple internal divisions and the risk that even multilaterally decided external involvement could accentuate rather than relieve internal divisions.

Expulsion of the warlords from Mogadishu removes one source of violence. But a clash of the Islamic militia with the internationally recognized transitional government based in Baidoa may be imminent. The transitional government has invited a peacekeeping force from the African Union and the regional IGAD organization, but the Islamic militia and many other Somalis fear the involvement in that force of neighboring countries pursuing their own agendas. In the north, while there is relative security provided by the governments of Somaliland, which claims independence, and the autonomous Puntland administration in the northeast, the humanitarian situation is also difficult, and the relationships to national authority unresolved. .

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains excerpts from recent reports and commentary on the situation in Somalia from a variety of sources, including the International Somalia Contact Group, the UN's Integrated Regional Information Networks, the UN News Service, and Garowe Online, one of the many Somali websites providing news and opinion in both Somali and English.

For additional background information see
http://www.africafocus.org/country/somalia.php and the following sites.

Reports from the International Crisis Group
Somalia's Islamists, December 2005
http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=3830

Somaliland: Time for African Union Leadership
http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=4131

Current news:
http://allafrica.com/somalia
http://www.irinnews.org
http://www.reliefweb.int
http://www.shabelle.net

Recent summary background reports:

IRIN: Year in Review 2005
http://www.irinnews.org/S_report.asp?ReportID=51137

UN Security Council Report of the Secretary-General S/2006/122 21 February 2006
http://www.reliefweb.int

Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia [arms embargo] S/2005/625
http://www.reliefweb.int

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++

'We're More Secure' - Mogadishu Residents

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
http://www.irinnews.org

June 13, 2006

There is a palpable air of euphoria and optimism in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, following last week's takeover of the city by the Islamic courts from an alliance of warlords, local sources said. City residents have welcomed the change, saying they feel more secure than they have in the past 16 years.

"It is like an enormous weight we have been carrying for 16 years has been lifted," said Marian, a resident in the north of the city, who requested her last name not be used. "We have been suffering under them [warlords] for 16 years. This is a welcome change."

Islamic leaders in Mogadishu claimed victory over a group of rival politicians on 5 June and pledged to restore security in the capital, where bloody clashes between the two sides have claimed hundreds of lives and displaced thousands of people.

Some residents believe the Islamic leaders were already making good on their promises. "It was impossible to walk with any amount of money or property without being attacked" before the defeat of the warlords, said businessman Ali Muhammad. "There is a lot less insecurity today [Tuesday] than a week ago." Muhammad, who lives in the southwestern district of Medina, said that before the takeover, passenger vehicles coming into the city centre from his district had to pass through a dozen checkpoints, where they had to pay extortion to militia. "Today, we saw only one - and they were checking for weapons, not asking for money."

Militia loyal to the Islamic courts have been fighting against faction leaders, who came together under the umbrella Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism, since February. More than 300 people are believed to have died in the violence, and some 1,500 others have been wounded.

Halimo Abdi, who lives near the livestock market, one of the most dangerous neighbourhoods in Mogadishu, said there has been a marked difference in security. "To go to the market, you had to dodge armed gangs who robbed people on their way to the market," she said. "Now we have a peaceful environment. We even dare to walk at night, something I have not done in 16 years."

In spite of the exhilaration about the changes in Mogadishu, people are still reluctant to be overly optimistic. "It has a feel of being too good to be true," said Muhammad. "Absolutely - it is the safest it has been in 16 years."

Many people in Mogadishu are wondering how long it will last, because there are still warlords in the city who would use clan identity to divide society. Clanism is still an issue in Mogadishu. "If we fall for this, we will be back to square one," Marian said. She added that the Islamic courts should remain vigilant to ensure that they, too, are not divided into clans. ...


Norway chairs the International Somalia Contact Group

http://www.norway-un.org/News/20060615_somalia.htm

Norway chaired the first meeting of the International Somalia Contact Group, a group established to support the peace and reconciliation efforts in Somalia. The group consists of the European Union, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Tanzania, United Kingdom and the United States....The Contact Group issued the enclosed communiqu‚.

June 15, 2006 ::

International Somalia Contact Group

Communiqué

The situation in Somalia represents a range of challenges related to the humanitarian and socio-economic conditions, governance, human rights, security and terrorism, as well as regional stability. We recognize that there are no easy answers and seek to ensure that our engagement can adapt to the constantly changing dynamics inside Somalia. To address the challenges, the international community must support the consolidation of representative and effective governance in Somalia, capable of addressing the needs of the Somali people as well as common international objectives. The Transitional Federal Charter and Institutions provide a legitimate and viable framework for the continued process of re-establishing governance in Somalia.

In order to achieve greater coordination and continuous international engagement to effect positive political developments in Somalia, we have formed an International Contact Group on Somalia. The International Somalia Contact Group will meet at capital level and reinforce our collective efforts in the region. The goal of the International Contact Group will be to encourage positive political developments and engagement with actors inside Somalia to support the implementation of the Transitional Federal Charter and Institutions. The Contact Group will seek to support efforts, within the framework of the Transitional Federal Institutions, to address the humanitarian needs of the Somali people, establish effective governance and stability, and address the international community's concern regarding terrorism. There is an urgent need for increased humanitarian assistance and improved protection for the civilian population. All parties should give unrestricted access for relief agencies to vulnerable communities.

Members will include the European Union, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Tanzania, the United Kingdom and the United States. Other interested states and representatives, such as the United Nations (UN), the African Union (AU), the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the League of Arab States will be invited to participate as observers. The International Somalia Contact Group may broaden its membership or seek other consultations modalities in close consultation with regional groups. We will reach out to Somali and regional parties for advice and information sharing. The Contact Group will address the way forward for enhanced multilateral engagement with the Somali Transitional Federal Institutions and other actors inside Somalia. The Contact Group expresses its strong support for the existing Coordination and Monitoring Committee (CMC), as the mechanism for the overall co-ordination of the international community's support to Somalia.

We will seek to build upon existing positive relationships with Somali actors, including through the CMC, in encouraging inclusive dialogue and reconciliation in accordance with the Transitional Federal Charter. We will work with the UN, AU and IGAD, in encouraging the sustained process of inclusive dialogue and reconciliation between the Transitional Federal Government and all Somali parties and we look forward to further progress in the ongoing political process, including with respect to Mogadishu and the need for improved security.

* The 15 June meeting convened at the Permanent Mission of Norway to the United Nations included the European Union (Presidency and Commission), Italy, Norway, Sweden, Tanzania, the United Kingdom and the United States. The UN and the AU participated as observers.


Secretary-General Calls On Somalis to Unite After Ouster of Warlords From Capital

UN News Service (New York)

June 15, 2006

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called on some of the key players in Somalia - the Union of Islamic Courts that earlier this month drove the warlords out of the capital of Mogadishu, the Transitional Government and the population at large - to come together and restore order to the country, which has been plagued by factional violence for the past 16 years.

"The people of Somalia are totally fed up with the warlords who brought such misery and destruction to their country, who have terrorized them for over 15, 16 years, that I suspect most Somalis, except those with vested interests, will say 'Good riddance,'" he told a news conference at UN Headquarters in New York, when asked about developments in the impoverished East African country.

Mr. Annan said it was not yet known whether the Union of Islamic Courts would be able to bring about law and order while also respecting the rights and liberties of the individuals, or whether it would curb their rights and offer security without civil liberties.

"The situation is very fluid," he said. "What is important is that we find a way of getting the Somalis to work together to eliminate the violence that has plagued that country for 16 years and begin to restore some order.

"And I would urge them to work together - the Islamic Court, the Transitional Government and the population," he added.

Asked whether he was concerned that the Islamic victory in Mogadishu might herald a rerun of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan with Somalia becoming a terrorist haven, Mr. Annan said he had heard such reports of a possible Al-Qaida replay, but added: "I have no evidence to support that. But what I can say is that the people have been fed up with the warlords and probably had helped the other side defeat the warlords, just to get their liberty back."

Asked whether he had an immediate plan of action on behalf of the UN, Mr. Annan noted that the Transitional Government had been working with the East African Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an indication that IGAD would send in a peacekeeping force to help them.

"If it gets to the stage where the UN has to get in directly and work with the Somalis and the IGAD, obviously we will work with the Somalis," he said. "So we need to really clarify the situation and find a way of getting the Somalis to work together, and then, if need be, the international community moving in to help them. We cannot have a plan for them: we have to have a plan with them, and discuss it with them."

Responding to questions about the role of warlords, both in Somalia and Afghanistan, the Secretary-General said empowering such groups was "short-sighted."

"One should find other means of bringing law and order," he said. "You cannot rely on lawless men to create law and order for the general public," he added. "They will work in their own interest, and we've seen it in the past. And they are not going to change their spots overnight."


Editorial: Fighting warlords, yet allied to warlords?

Garowe Online Editorial Board

June 17, 2006

[Excerpts. Full text available on http://www.garoweonline.com]

The victorious Union of Islamic Courts militias are on the march. After expelling warlords from Mogadishu on June 5th, the last warlord stronghold of Jowhar fell by the 14th, and was followed overnight by a bloodless coup in the central Somalia city of Beletwein. The masses gathered and cheered the overthrow of the despised warlords as much as their brethren cheered in the past before them, with the departure of European colonialism and the collapse of a 21-year military dictatorship.

To their credit, the Islamic Courts have utilized their disciplined militias to restore the semblance of law and order in Somalia's unstable Capital - a monumental task in and of itself. While the united Courts' militias have proven undefeatable on the battlefield, the leadership has portrayed itself internationally as a moderate voice capable of securing the peace.

The Islamic Courts' ideological foundation rests on the teachings of Islam, which is the only religion in Somalia. In this regard, the Somali people hold the Courts to a high standard not only as an alternative power to the warlords and to other factions, but as pious leaders who conduct their affairs in a just and moral manner.

While allied to "some" warlords, the Islamic Courts undertook a massive campaign to rid Mogadishu of its notorious warlords. This practice creates a moral and ideological dilemma for a rising Somali faction that has just made a worldwide name for itself.

Courts' success

February 18, 2006, was a fateful day. It was the day Mogadishu's warlords unwittingly signed their own death warrant by declaring the U.S.-backed Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terror (ARPCT). The ARPCT included then-powerful warlords and allied business interests with the intent of capturing "international terrorists" they alleged were being harbored by the Islamic Courts. Many believe the ARPCT made such unfounded allegations to garner U.S. financial aid and Ethiopian weaponry.

Public support grew exponentially for the Islamic Courts as news surfaced of covert U.S. support for the ARPCT warlord coalition. The Courts utilized the growing public support and its image as an alternative power to mobilize the masses against the ARPCT warlords. After a four-month power struggle in Mogadishu that led to over 300 deaths and more than 1,500 wounded, the Islamic Courts emerged victorious; for the first time since Somali President General Mohamed Siad Barre fled Mogadishu in 1991, Somalia's national Capital came under the control of a single power.

Mogadishu's defeated and disgraced warlords fled to the nearby town of Jowhar, where another ARPCT warlord Mohamed "Dhere" Omar Habeb erected defenses to counter an imminent attack from the Courts. That attack came on June 14th. By then, the warlords had fled to central Somalia regions and Mohamed Dhere was in Ethiopia.

On the international front, the Courts leadership published a June 6th letter they sent to the American government. Aiming to quell American (Western) fears of the Courts' alleged ties to "international terrorism," the letter read: "We share no objectives, goals or methods with groups that sponsor or support terrorism. We have no foreign elements in our Courts, and we are simply here because of the need of the community we serve."

As it were, the Courts distanced themselves from being compared to the Taliban movement of Afghanistan which was the typical mantra in the Western press and secured themselves a unique image on the international stage. After all, the Union of Islamic Courts succeeded where the U.S. and the U.N. failed more than a decade ago: they secured Mogadishu.

Roots and causes

The first Islamic Courts were established in Mogadishu in the '90s to combat petty crime in select neighborhoods where militiamen ruled the streets with impunity, killing, kidnapping and raping virtually at will. The Chairman of the Union of Islamic Courts, Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, was a school teacher before the kidnapping of his child motivated him to combat the parasitical warlords who thrived in disorder and catapulted him into action as a leader within the then-emerging Islamic Courts movement.

Far from being a wholly monolithic group, the Courts were founded and based on Somali social mores as were their predecessors, the warlords: each Court was founded by, and is permanently attached to, a particular clan or sub-clan. The term "union" in their official name the Union of Islamic Courts refers to a merger of more than 11 recognized Courts in Mogadishu with the same objective: restore the rule of law. The Courts have enacted a functioning legal system in areas they control that is based on Islamic (Shariah) law.

From fighting petty criminals, the Courts' role in Mogadishu and, eventually, in Somalia was radically transformed by the war of liberation they spearheaded against the ARPCT warlords. The public, disillusioned and wary of the warlords, threw their massive support behind the Islamic Courts militias as they cleansed warlord strongholds, one after another.

In a speech to the residents of Jowhar on June 14th, Chairman Sheik Sharif said that the Courts would establish a "just" administration for the town. Aside from taking an indirect jab at ex-Jowhar warlord Mohamed Dhere, who was mysteriously in absentia when his stronghold bent to Courts control, Chairman Sheik Sharif faces an ideological crisis with the potential of tarnishing - if not devastating - the respectable reputation the Courts have enjoyed thus far in the Somali political fora.

Allied to the devil?

One can hardly miss the irony in Chairman Sheik Sharif's comments to the townspeople of Jowhar. Militias loyal to Islamic Courts-allied warlord Yusuf "Indhaade" Mohamed Siad - the white-eyed devil that controls Lower Shabelle region - led the charge into Jowhar on June the 14th. ...

Warlord Indhaade has a particularly dark history in contemporary Somalia. His militias have been involved in virtually every major intra-clan conflict in the southern theatre of the country. Whenever two clansmen fought, Indhaade was quick to become the third party and tip the balance of power. ...

Indha Ade uses his clansmen to impose clan hegemony on the unarmed civilian population of Lower Shabelle region, which has suffered successive invasions since the collapse of the Somali nation-state in 1991. As things stand today, all the district commissioners of Lower Shabelle region are from warlord Indha Ade's sub-clan within the Hawiye clan-family. The non-Hawiye clans who have traditionally inhabited Lower Shabelle region consider the presence of warlord Indha Ade's militias in their home region as an occupation and native resistance fighters have carried out covert operations against the positions of Indhaade's militias. ...

Justice for all

History will remember the Union of Islamic Courts for their liberation of Mogadishu on June 5, 2006. ...

According to Islamic Courts rhetoric, Somalia lacks justice and they believe in dispensing justice founded on Islamic principles throughout the nation. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this noble ideal and, in fact, the vast majority of Somali people would wholeheartedly welcome and support such selfless endeavor.

However, "justice" is a universal concept and has profound significance in Islam. In the Noble Qur'an, Allah (God), the Creator of everything, says: "O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor"

Therein lies Islam's conceptualization of justice: it is blind and it applies to everyone. It is unfortunate that the Islamic Courts allied with warlord Indha Ade's militias in their military campaign against the ARPCT warlords. Is Yusuf "Indha Ade" Mohamed Siad not a warlord? ...The fact that ex-Jowhar warlord Mohamed Dhere's trenches were overrun while warlord Indha Ade's military occupation of Lower Shabelle region is not even mentioned can be refered to as "selective justice" on the part of the Islamic Courts. Worse, using militias loyal to warlord Indha Ade to help oust warlord Mohamed Dhere from Jowhar is outright hypocritical and most certainly not in line with the Islamic Courts' rhetoric of seeking to establish a just and moral society.

The Union of Islamic Courts is sending the wrong signal to the Somali people. The people support the Courts because they want peace founded on social justice. And justice must be applied to everyone not just to "some" warlords while others, such as Indhaade, remain untouchable.

The Courts' future success depends less on what America thinks of them and more on whether or not they can convince the Somali public that theirs truly is a righteous cause. For starters, they can begin by disassociating themselves from warlord Indhaade, dismantling his militias and delivering "justice" to the natives of Lower Shabelle region.


AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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