Somalia News Update 3/22- 8/94

Somalia News Update 3/22- 8/94

In this issue:


               S O M A L I A  N E W S  U P D A T E  


Vol 3, No 22            August 27, 1994.              ISSN 1103-1999  

Somalia News Update is published irregularly via electronic mail and fax. Questions can be directed to or to fax number +46-18-151160. All SNU marked material is free to quote as long as the source is clearly stated.


On August 27, 1992, an inconspicuous notice dropped down in a handful of electronic mailboxes in Europe and the United States. The subject- line said: 'Somalia News Update' and that was the first issue of this newsletter. Two years have passed since then and, at least in terms of Somali politics, very little has changed. The first of the 102 issues of Somalia News Update was devoted to the situation in Mogadishu and in particular the area known as the 'Bermuda Triangle'. At the time the media reports from Somalia were dominated by reports about the violence on the streets of Mogadishu and the famine-struck inter-riverine population. Since then, famine is no longer a major threat to the Somali people. According to the International Red Cross' World Disaster's Report, 1993 was a boom year for the Somali economy and the areas of the former Somali Democratic Republic exported more than one million head of livestock which is equal to or better than pre-war years. Yet, the political problems linger on and, outside of UNOSOM and its shrinking sphere of supporters, everyone is asking the same question: what did UNOSOM do wrong? Inside UNOSOM no one dares to ask such questions after that Mohamed Sahnoun got sacked for doing so in public.

There are a number of very grave shortcomings of UNOSOM, not least their inexpertness, as pointed out by Professor Lewis in this issue of SNU. In the formation of UNOSOM policies the re-emergence of a united Somali state has never been negotiable. All efforts so far has been directed towards this solitary purpose and the rapidly shifting series of SRSGs has had no difficulty in finding willing candidates for the senior positions in a future government based on such centralized principles. One can actually even argue that the militias, which in August 1992 were extremely disorganized and lacked wide-spread popular support, have gained prominence and legitimacy through UNOSOM's choice (under SRSG Kittani) to deal with them. One should never forget, however, that UNOSOM -- although they did a great deal to keep it going -- did not start this war. The responsibility for the war that has so far killed more than 300,000 people, displaced more than three times as many, and that has made 'humanitarian intervention' an impossibility, rests squarely with a dozen or so of power-hungry Somalis.

At present, UNOSOM has ceased to be of any influence on the events in Somalia. In his latest report to the security council, the Secretary-General orders a Hawiye reconciliation conference to be held by the end of September since, according to his analysis, such a reconciliation is a prerequisite for a Somali national reconciliation. Little does the SG seem to realize that if and when such a conference takes place it will just serve to coordinate the Hawiye political developments with that of the rest of the former republic: a development towards autonomous or independent regions. The former British colony was the first part to reclaim its independent status but in the near future one may expect similar moves from the Northeastern Regions and from the Digil and Merifle clans of the 'interriver' area. As Lewis argues, the Majerteen are probably only delayed by their involvement with their Kismayo relatives. In the case of Digil-Merifle it is slightly more remarkable since these two groups of clans, while occupying the most fertile grain-producing areas of the country, always in the past been in favour for a common, strong national constitution. Yet, as reported by the London-based newspaper Qoraal, SDM's London branch opts for secession and this has won the liking among other national SDM branches too. The issue is therefore likely to crop up at the SDM congress in December. In support of that line of reasoning, the recent clashes between Habar Gedir and Ogadeen does not rule out the possibility that the outcome of the highly publicized, UNOSOM sponsored, conferences in the Lower and Middle Jubba regions (the Harti and Absaame agreements) will result in a Daarood republic forming in the south. In brief, one could argue that the Somalis are, willy-nilly, striving towards something that resembles the appearance of the pre-colonial Somali inhabited territories.

The only organized resistance against the break-up of Somalia into a number of autonomous regions seems to be that coming from UNOSOM. With 19,000 peace keepers unable to even to even defend themselves -- as the tragic killings of seven Indian soldiers this week demonstrates -- and, much less, able to intervene in kidnappings of foreign aid workers or assaults on their property, the current SRSG still seems to maintain the dream of a unified Somali state. His recent dismissal of the North-western/Somaliland's smoothly functioning court system is in itself an indication of the grave shortcomings and biases of his organization. While courts staffed by Al-Itihad members in the Ali Mahdi controlled areas are allowed to pass and implement death sentences (BBC, Summary of World Broadcasting, August 15) secular courts in Somaliland have been deemed inappropriate on constitutional grounds by UNOSOM. With the Mr. Karim's and the political division's continued financial and logistical support for Abdirahman "Tuur", it is not difficult to understand Hargeysa's view that they are better off without Victor Gbeho as reported below. Yet, the problem is that UNOSOM are not simply an impediment for the regionalized peace process; they are actively seeking to steer developments in another, dangerous, direction by encouraging the factional leaders at the expense of genuine, grass-roots leaders. Indeed, even the Secretary-General in his recent report points to the necessity of the leadership contest within the SSDF to be solved for the peace process to move forwards (S/1994/977, paragraph 22). Given that degree of external involvement in Somali affairs it is hardly surprising that the SSDF congress has become a spectacle and that some participants even deny that congress is taking place, as Somalia News Update's correspondent reports below.

It is an irony that this newsletter, which was once started to help boost the campaign for a more forceful international intervention in Somalia than that allowed for in the Security Council's early resolutions, now is forced to declare that the best for the Somalis is that UNOSOM leaves. All essential work in the country is carried out by the UN branch agencies and the NGOs, and UNOSOM is unable to even coordinate the humanitarian aid, hence the establishment of the Nairobi-based SACB. It is not inconceivable that agencies like the UNDP could organize a minimal international task force to help oversee the security at the air and seaports. UNOSOM II has been a costly experiment. It did not work. Let it end now.


by I. M. Lewis, Professor of Anthropology, London School of Economics. (A slightly shortened version appeared recently in the Guardian.)

The 'peace-agreements', police, courts, and crime prevention programmes which UNOSOM's spokesman, George Bennett cites (Guardian letters, 8 August) as UN achievements have, clearly, not done much to restore order or promote reconstruction in southern Somalia which is currently the scene of kidnapping, gang violence and escalating clan warfare. The status of the UN-orchestrated, 'councils' to which Mr Bennett also refers, is not yet very clear: their viability and representativeness is currently the object of a sociological study in which I am involved. To date, there is little to suggest that they are as effective as the spontaneously formed councils of elders in Somaliland which have done so much to restore peace there-without the (dubious) benefit of UN guidance.

Of course, almost all the UN's 1992-3 budget of $1.5 billion has been spent on the notoriously ill-assorted multinational force and its comforts (including the famous Mogadishu UN headquarters bowling alley). While expatriate UN contractors have also done extremely well out of UNOSOM's incredibly inefficient and costly operations, it would be wrong to imagine that nothing has 'trickled down' to the local Somali population. By recruiting local Somali staff and hiring services without any intelligent regard to the clan allegiances of those concerned, UNOSOM has inadvertently subsidized the vicious Somali militias and power-hungry warlords whose political status it has also done so much, indirectly and directly, to enhance. Now, naturally, before the UN mandate runs out, although supposedly no longer trying to intervene directly politically, there is urgent UN pressure to produce a Somali 'government' -- any government of whatever mix of warlords and erstwhile 'war-criminals' -- so that UNOSOM may appear as a success.

Amazingly, UNOSOM evidently still does not understand that, politically, Somalia has disintegrated into a seething mass of contending clans. The model for the future is, thus, not the top- heavy centralized state UNOSOM's actions encourage, but that provided by the virtually politically autonomous Somaliland Republic (the north-west), and the neighbouring north-east region (which, because of its continuing clan interests in the south, has not yet broken away from what remains of Somalia.) Ironically for the UN, these are the relatively tranquil self-pacifying areas, which UNOSOM has largely ignored. Thus, it now seems clear, that UNOSOM's continued presence is an obstacle to effective Somali peace-making and reconstruction, and even unintentionally provokes violent conflict which it no longer has the authority to attempt to moderate. Having originally favoured UN intervention (but not in this style), I now feel that the UN should leave as soon as possible.

Of course, there are important lessons to be drawn from the Somali shambles. It is not simply the UN's dependence on the vagaries of member governments, its consequent chronic budgetary precariousness, its notoriously complex multi-national military (dis-) organization, and its scandalously highly paid and inefficient bureaucracy that hamper its effectiveness in peace- keeping, never mind 'peace-making' (as in the earlier UNOSOM period). As the Somali case sadly illustrates, the UN lacks rational methods of recruiting suitably qualified expatriate civilian staff, and has no systematic briefing programme to prepare them to understand the rudiments of local culture and social organization.

At all levels and not only in crucial policy-making positions, with very rare exceptions, UNOSOM has been staffed by expatriates who were thus operating virtually blind-fold. Oddly, almost the only senior figure who, because of his previous academic and diplomatic experience, has some understanding of the problems in Somalia is the UN Secretary-General himself! It is therefore not surprising that, throughout, UNOSOM's activities have been undermined by the failure of Western high-tech 'expertise' to meet the challenge of Somali low- tech cunning.


(SNU, Uppsala, August 26) - For the second time in less than a year, the Hargeysa government on August 21 formally ordered all UNOSOM personal to leave the country. The necessity of the decision is regrettable since Hargyesa throughout the past months attached hopes to that the new SRSG would abide by the Secretary-General's promises in October last year to respect and support the advances made in the country. It had also been hoped that UNOSOM would release some of the pledged funds for the police force and prison guards.

The major reasons behind the decision relate to UNOSOM's support for exiled opposition groups in the easternmost part of the country as well as their attempts to reinstate Abdirahman "Tuur" as the legitimate representative of Somaliland. UNOSOM's financial support to Tuur, who stood for but lost, the elections for presidency in May 1993, has stirred up heated feelings and some support for his cause within his Habar Yunnis clan. After announcing the expulsion in the parliament on Sunday, President Egal told Somalia News Update in telephone that it is only "a dozen disgruntled men who have assumed the Habar Yunnis name without caring to reflect on the damage they were doing to its good reputation". "After UNOSOM had refused to take note of that", he continued, "we expelled them telling them to see if Abdirahman Tuur could bring them back".

In what Hargeysa interprets as another attempt by UNOSOM to introduce instability, the status of the Sool and Sanaag regions remain questioned by UNOSOM. Earlier this summer, UNOSOM set up district councils in two districts that already had a functioning administration. At the same time aircrafts were made available in Bosaaso and UNOSOM told foreigners in Somaliland to evacuate via Bosaaso (where the UNOSOM HQ subsequently came under attack from the UNOSOM-installed police force). No one was evacuated but the events created yet another disturbance in the already troubled relations between Hargeysa and UNOSOM. UNOSOM's policies in this matter also caused more than one raised eyebrow in the New York HQ.

Hargeysa has never made any secret of the fact that the Warsangeli and Dhulbahante clans in those regions have members who would rather not see themselves as part of Somaliland. Yet, some observers argue that following the support these clans expressed for the independence at the Erigavo meeting last year, the debate between them and Hargeysa has more had the character of an internal dispute on policy matters, than a questioning of the secession itself.

A final blow for the relations was the recent UNOSOM mission's refusal to accept the Supreme Court of Somaliland, arguing that it was a constitutional issue. The implication of that decision is that Somaliland should be forced to rejoin with the troubled south and legally subjugated the yet-to-be-established Supreme court of Mogadishu. RECENT EVENTS AT THE SSDF CONGRESS

(SNU, Qardho/Toronto/Uppsala, August 26) - The long delayed SSDF congress seems to eventually have started, but with great difficulties. A group of the Isimada (clan elders) that had been called upon to resolve the disputes that delayed the congress, went along and appointed a new chairman for SSDF. Their choice fell upon the former Minister of Interior and Prime Minister of Somalia, Abdirizak Haji-Hussein who retired from politics many years ago and has been living in the United States since 1979.

However, this appointment is contested by a majority of delegates who argue that the Technical Committee of the Isimada overstepped their authority as they were mandated only to pinpoint the issues of contention and bring them back to the full house of the Isimada. The appointment was pronounced by Abdullahi "King Kong" Boqor Muuse. Some commentators, like the SSDF co-founder Ali Barre Idi Libah on BBC Somali service August 23, argue that the appointment may have been intended to sow discord among the Omar Mohamud to which both Abdullahi Yusuf and Abdirizak belongs. Members of this clan are reported to have protested as vehemently against the appointment as the other subclans of Saleeban. It has also been pointed out that the rivalry between the Osman Mohamud (King Kong's clan) and Omar Mohamud (Abdirizak and Abdullahi Yusuf's clan) goes at least as far back as to the days of conflict between Abdirizak and the late President and Prime minster Shermarke of Osman Mohamud during the 1960's.

In a letter to the Elders of the North-eastern Regions on August 18, Abdirizak said that he would accept the nomination although he expressed some reserve regarding the length of the term. He also wrote that he would not be able to arrive in Qardho before Monday 29th. However, just the day before he stated in an interview in the BBC Somali Service that he would not accept the nomination. Similarly, interviewed on August 24th by veteran BBC Somali Service correspondent Abdullahi Haji who asked the following [translated from Somali]:

"Question: Did you accept the job?

Answer: I said I'm going to the NER on Monday, August 29th, to try to bridge the gap between my two dear friends, General Abshir and Colonel Yussuf, both of whom sacrificed for the struggle.

Question: But we heard that the Fifth SSDF Congress has already started in Qardho with the required quorum? It looks like Abdullahi Yussuf is going to win. What is your response?

Answer: I'm only a single individual and cannot solve all problems. Furthermore, I was, and still am, in total retirement. I will support the person the majority of the NER people elect in the Congress".

On August 25 Abdullahi Yusuf's press secretary, Dabir Mirre Jibreel, issued a press release saying that the SSDF 5th Congress had officially opened on August 22 and that it had so far managed to elect Abdullahi Yusuf as the new chairman for SSDF. Abdullahi Yusuf had received 105 votes and Mohamed Haji Adan (the acting governor of Nugaal) had had 10 votes in favour of him. The press release does not mention if any of the 165 votes were cast in favour of Mohamed Abshir. Abshir, who left Qardho on August 23, denied the Isimada opening of the congress in a BBC interview with him the same evening. Speaking from his home in Jiddah, he said that he had been forced to leave the congress for family reasons.

SNU is an entirely independent newsletter devoted to critical analysis of the political and humanitarian developments in Somalia and Somaliland. SNU is edited and published by Dr. Bernhard Helander, Uppsala University, Sweden. SNU is produced with support from the Scandinavian Institute of African Studies, Uppsala, Sweden.

Date: Thu, 29 Sep 1994 09:51:49 +0100
From: Bernhard Helander 
Message-Id: <>

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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