ANALYSIS-Somali reconciliation distant hope, talks needed

February 25th, 2007 Print Print Email Email

By C. Bryson Hull, NAIROBI | Feb 25 (Reuters)

Somalia’s interim government seems to have few friends in the capital Mogadishu.

“We have a Baghdad in Somalia and it’s only beginning,”

Nearly every day, its soldiers and their well-trained allies suffer rocket, mortar and gun attacks. They blast back with artillery and invariably civilians are killed in the crossfire.

The government blames the insurgency on Islamists it defeated with TPLF help in a two-week war over the New Year. Thousands caught in the battle for political supremacy have fled the daily violence.

Until Mogadishu can be secured and a reconciliation process started, little will change, analysts and diplomats say.

One European diplomat points out that talks created relative peace in the self-governed Somaliland and Puntland regions, and they are the way forward in Mogadishu.

“It is the most important thing because this is how Somali society works. You sit down under a tree and you sort yourselves out. It is the only thing that has not been tried,” the diplomat said.

President Abdullahi Yusuf’s government is the 14th attempt at establishing national authority in Somalia since 1991, when it fell rapidly into anarchy after the toppling of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

One hangover of the Siad Barre days is the mistrust between major clans which the former dictator exacerbated under a divide-and-rule strategy.

Since Barre’s fall, clan interests have overriden Somalia’s usually strong nationalism and manifested themselves in opposition that kept the government out of Mogadishu.

Members of the city’s influential Hawiye clan backed the Islamist takeover of Mogadishu and warlords who controlled it until the military-religious movement swept them out in June.

Some diplomats say satisfying the Hawiye, whose leaders disagreed with Ali Mohamed Gedi’s appointment as prime minister, is a tall order and unlikely to happen because of the government’s self-preservation instincts.

“There has never been a reconciliation conference that has not resulted in change of top leadership,” a Western diplomat said, speaking of Somali history since Barre’s ouster.

“It’s just a question of whether the government can be inclusive enough and can the Hawiye feel they have a role.”

The government is planning a national reconciliation conference, although the date has repeatedly slipped, that would deal only with social issues. It argues the peace process that gave birth to the government was the political reconciliation.


The European diplomat said the government must first establish real security in Mogadishu. “If they cannot, then this reconciliation conference cannot take place there. And it must.”

Taming Mogadishu has been the holy grail for every attempt at government since 1991 and only the insurgent Islamists succeeded in stabilising the capital during its six months in power, through a harsh version of Islamic law.

The government is building its forces and admits it needs outside help. TPLF soldiers are supposed to withdraw after a proposed 8,000-strong African Union peacekeeping force arrives.

So far, that force has only about half the troops pledged, and their deployment dates keep slipping.

Many believe the AU will be hard-pressed to tame the capital given its ineffectiveness in its maiden peacekeeping mission in Sudan’s Darfur. One military expert who tracks Somalia said the AU deployment could make matters worse.

“You put them in there and it will just give the fundamentalists more motivation to fight underground. You will see growing regional support.

“We have a Baghdad in Somalia and it’s only beginning,” he said.

  1. terrara
    | #1

    for my beloved ertrian,
    he evidence demonstrating that the Eritrean regime’s – Shabia’s – hatred for Ethiopia is reaching alarming proportions is not difficult to come by. The regime’s plot to disrupt the African Union heads of state summit recently held in Addis Ababa, however, is among the evidence showing how brazen it was which deserves serious attention.

    While the leaders of other African states came to Ethiopia to deliberate on issues beneficial to Africa, to resolve the crisis in Somalia and to adopt the new Ethiopian millennium as African, the Eritrean leader, Issayas Afewerki, was scheming day and night to blow up the various hotels in Addis Ababa in which officials were staying with a view to causing deaths and injuries to the officials so that they will vow never to come to Ethiopia. Thanks to the diligent efforts of the Ethiopian security forces, Shabia’s plot was foiled.

    Had Shabia’s plans been successful the seat of the AU would probably have moved out of Addis Ababa. And as Ethiopia can not tolerate an act which endangers its security and sovereignty, it would have taken retaliatory measures that are far more severe than Shabia’s and bring about its downfall.

    Given the danger that Shabia poses to Ethiopia, it is a serious issue that all Ethiopians need to ponder carefully.

    Members of some opposition parties occasionally seek sanctuary in Eritrea. These persons flee to Eritrea as if they have been commanded to report to their home office and do not think that they are committing treason. Thus opposition parties need to realize what kind of members they have and purge themselves of such members.

    On its part the government should view Shabia’s foiled plot with the seriousness it deserves. It needs to keep a close watch on Shabia and take the appropriate action when necessary. It can be said that the government has learned well that Shabia would stop at nothing to destroy Ethiopia, that its disagreement with Ethiopia is not confined to the boundary issue and that in light of this there is a need to make preparations for retaliatory measures.

    The government’s preparations should not be limited to retaliation. It also requires being proactive and nipping in the bud any danger to the country’s security.

    Despite all the precaution that may be taken there can be no guarantee that there will be no more terrorist attacks on Ethiopia. However, there can be no argument that such attacks were unforeseen for there are adequate signs that they are likely to be attempted.

    The Ethiopian people should also learn an important lesson concerning Shabia. Any problem Ethiopia faces from outside can be traced to the regime. Hence, it is incumbent upon them to appreciate this fact and do what they can to safeguard their country before its security is imperilled. But care should be taken that this does not occasion the hatred of Ethiopia by the Eritrean people.

    The Eritrean people on their part have a lot to learn about their regime. They should realize that it does not care whether Eritrea is destroyed or not as long as it stays in power. They also should understand that the Ethiopian people are their friends – not enemies – and concentrate on their struggle for justice, democracy and development. They should be able to say no to their leaders.

    The Eritrean government is acting like a mad dog which bites everything it sets its eyes on. This has caused it to be regarded as a pariah dog by neighboring countries as well as the international community and earned it the hatred of its own people. Consequently, it is being convulsed like a wounded animal in its death-throes. But as it can wound others during its fits of convulsion the peoples of Eritrea and Ethiopia, the Ethiopian government and the democratic forces of Eritrea need to be extra-vigilant. Shabia should be told in no uncertain terms and through action as well that enough is enough!

    It would be naive and indeed costly to be complacent with Shabia because it is self-destructing for the death throes of the wounded can cause harm.

  2. Mesfin
    | #2

    Dear “terrara” I read your, I don’t know what to call it probably, “Press Release” would describe it best, with a great interest, and I thought I should throw a couple of things to you. First, we Ethiopians don’t need a lecture from Woyanne about Shabia. Woyanne itself is the offspring of Shabia and both have been bleeding Ethiopia for years. If Woyanne really concerns now about Ethiopia security and want to rally the Ethiopian people, the first thing that is should do is release the CUD leaders, the free press journalists, all the political prisoners and start dialog with CUD leaders. Woyanne can’t take the Ethiopian people basic human rights and at the same time expect them to rally behind it. The other good advice I have for you Ato “terrara” is that since you are very concern about the Shabia’s intentions towards Ethiopia, you should start to clean your own home first. Don’t you know that the guys who are running the TPLF are Eritrean such as Meles and Berket Simone? You need to deal with them before you came to the rest of us.

  3. Mimi
    | #3

    Dear Terrara you described Shabia just the way I would describe weyanne. Would you tell me why Shabia and weyanne are so similar? I take the following lines from your passage to support my point.

    “The Eritrean people on their part have a lot to learn about their regime. They should realize that it does not care whether Eritrea is destroyed or not as long as it stays in power. They also should understand that the Ethiopian people are their friends – not enemies – and concentrate on their struggle for justice, democracy and development. They should be able to say no to their leaders.”

    Trust me your lines can very well describe both Shabia and weyanne. They are all the same to me. By the way I also advise you what Mesfin advise you. You got to use your brain man.

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