Get AfricaFocus Bulletin by e-mail!
More on politics & human rights |
economy & development |
peace & security |
Print this page
Somalia: Renewing Diplomacy
Jun 19, 2006 (060619)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
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
Reports from the International Crisis Group
Somalia's Islamists, December 2005
Somaliland: Time for African Union Leadership
Recent summary background reports:
IRIN: Year in Review 2005
UN Security Council Report of the Secretary-General
S/2006/122 21 February 2006
Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia [arms embargo]
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++
'We're More Secure' - Mogadishu Residents
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
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
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
June 15, 2006 ::
International Somalia Contact Group
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
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
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
"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
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
"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.
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
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.
AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please
write to this address to subscribe or unsubscribe to the bulletin,
or to suggest material for inclusion. For more information about
reposted material, please contact directly the original source
mentioned. For a full archive and other resources, see