Life & Peace Review, Vol.8, No.4, 04/94

Life & Peace Review, Vol.8, No.4, 04/94

                   L I F E   &   P E A C E   R E V I E W
                           Volume 8, Number 4 1994

                            SOMALIA:  STILL ALIVE


In this issue:

* Editorial - Somalia: The Untold Stories
* Somalia: Its Geography and Population by Mohamed I. Farah
* Somalia: Its Political and Cultural History by Mohamed I. Farah
* Who Destroyed the Environment in Somalia by Mohamed I. Farah
* The Struggle to Survive: Somali Refugees in Kenya by Mohamed I. Farah
* Politics and Society in Somalia's North-Eastern Region by Mohamed I. Farah
* Promoting Grassroots Participation of Somali Women in Peace and Development
* A Voice from Somalia by Halima Ismael
* The Horn of Africa Bulletin
* The Roots of Reconciliation by Ahmed Yusuf Farah and Ioan Lewis
* Minorities in Somalia: Interview with SAMO's Mohamed Abdullahi Suleiman by Mohamed I. Farah
* Peace Reasearch: The Horn of Africa Program by Sture Normark
* Understanding the UN's Failure in Somalia by Ken Menkhaus
* Demobilisation in Somalia: Problems and Prospects by Margaret A. Vogt
* A Personal View by Mohamed I. Farah


Somalia: The Untold Stories

Since the fall of Siad Barre and the power struggle following his departure, events in Somalia have been closely followed by international media for four full years, as clan militia has been destroying everything leading Somalia into complete chaos. Press coverage has not always been fair, neither to the Somali people, nor to the many international actors who have been involved in various activities trying to alleviate suffering and bring order and peace to the region. The role of the UN, and especially UNOSOM, has been heavily criticised, and many have labelled it a complete failure. The same kind of criticism, however, could equally be levelled at other actors, such as the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the Islamic Conference, the Arab League as well as the neighboring states, and the NGOs and many others.

This issue of the "Life & Peace Review" does not claim to paint the full picture of events in Somalia, but it is an attempt to broaden the perspective and show aspects which have been almost totally neglected by international news media.

When preparing this issue on Somalia, it has been very helpful to have Dr. Mohamed I. Farah in his capacity as a staff member as well as a member of the editorial committee. His expertise in the field of political science and anthropology as well as his Somali background have given depth to the articles in this issue.

During the summer of 1994, in preparation for LPR/4 he made a field trip to Somalia, and interviewed many of those who are directly involved in events on the spot.

From the beginning, the Life & Peace Institute has made a conscious effort to distance itself from the stereotypes that have plagued international involvement. Our guiding principle has been that Somalia is more than Mogadishu; Somalia is more than warlords, and Somalia is more than emergency aid. There are many positive aspects all over Somalia which indicate that a healthy process towards development and democracy is under way. No doubt it is a hesitant and fragile process, but nevertheless it is there. It is important to recognise it and give it all the support it deserves.

UNOSOM will be out of Somalia by the end of March 1995, but this does not mean that the entire UN family is leaving. UNDP, UNICEF, WFP, UNHCR and others will remain as an indication to the Somali people that they are not forgotten. Similar signals are also coming from NGOs as they find it difficult to abandon Somalia at this crucial time, provided their security can be guaranteed.

Through the Horn of Africa Program, the Life & Peace Institute has been directly involved in Somalia (page 22). We have tried to support the Somalis themselves in their search for peace and reconciliation, in a conscious effort to build peace from the grassroots level up. Our aim has been to empower the traditional Somali peacemaking mechanisms, involving elders, elders councils, women, local authorities etc. Our work has been in close cooperation with UNOSOM political division. Unfortunately this UN approach to peacebuilding has been given very little coverage in the media. It goes without saying that this approach was not at all appealing to the power hungry warlords of Somalia.

We would like to thank all readers of our publications and supporters of the Life & Peace Institute for 1994, and we want to wish you a blessed New Year, when peace will be given a chance, even for the Somali people! Sture Normark


Somalia: Its Geography and Population

Somalia is situated in the Horn of Africa with borders to Ethiopia in the west, to Kenya in the south-west and to the Republic of Djibouti in the north-west./1 The Equator passes through the southern tip of the country./2

Climate and Physical Features

Somalia is predominantly hot and dry. It lies within the tropical and sub-tropical zones. It is made up of Savannah plains except for some areas in the north where there are highlands covered with juniper forest and where temperatures are often low. By contrast, the coastal areas of Somalia--especially those in the north-west and the north-east--are extremely hot. Between the months of June and September, for example, temperatures in Bosaso and Berbera reach 42~ centigrade. There are two major rivers in the southern part of Somalia known as Webi Juba and Webi Shabelle.

Origin and Settlement

The Somali nomadic pastoralists belong to a society with a social system that draws its sustainance from many of its segmentary units. It is a decentralised society, having political authority vested in each of its many lineages./3 The traditional Somali society is organised along the basis of its many descent origins. A descent unit--lineage unit, clan unit or family unit--is united by a bond of corporate commitments. The traditional lineage unit, which remained fixed throughout the ages, has had a biological implication where, for example, all individuals who because of allegedly belonging to a single ancestor subsequently claim to share common blood.

At the highest levels of affiliations, nearly all Somalis belong to any one of the following clan families: Darood, Isaaq, Dir, Rahanwein, Digil and Hawiye. Outside the context of this classification, there is another group whose mode of subsistence is based on farming, and who predominantly live in areas between and along the two rivers, Juba and Shebelle.

Although this group has been classified as Bantu, culturally, they are in fact closer to the Cushitic Somali pastoralists among whom they live and interact than to the other classic Bantu groups in countries south of Somalia. The Somalis, however, refer to their own Bantu groups as either "Habash" or "Jarer," terms that have deragatory connotations and which are, therefore, objected to by the Bantu, who instead prefer to be called the Somali Bantu./4

Furthermore, within the coastal areas of Somalia, there are groups that live there, and who have a long history of urban tradition that dates back many centuries. These do not trace their origin from any one of the well-known progenitors of any of the Somali clan families. They are believed to have originated from countries in Asia. The well-known among them are the Rer Hamar, the Rer Barawa, the Bajun, and the Rer Marka.

Contrary to old beliefs, identifying the Arabian Peninsula as the Somali home of origin, new research findings have brought forth new revealations. By making use of linguistic evidence, the research findings have proven northern Kenya and its surrounding areas to constitute the home of origin for the Proto-Somali group that includes the kindered Rendille and the Boni. Together this group is known as the Omo-Tana. In its conceptual meaning, the term refers to what was once the home of origin for the above-mentioned group, i.e. to areas that lie between Tana River in Kenya and River Omo in Ethiopia./5

The Somali together with other related groups, such as the Afar, the Oromo and the Saho do speak a language that is generally classified as the Eastern Cushitic branch of the larger Afro-Ashiatic family of languages, to which even Hausa--a language widely spoken in West Africa belongs.

Mohamed I. Farah

/1. Unless otherwise stated, reference in this coverage to "Somalia" includes the area commonly 
referred to as "Somaliland."
/2. "Beautiful Somalia", Ministry of Information and National Guidance, Mogadishu, Somalia, 1972, 
/3. E.H. Turton, "The Pastoral Tribes of Northern Kenya, 1800-1916." (PhD Thesis); London, 1970./4. As 
a basis of identity, this concept has more of a politicalthan culural significance.
/5. Hillary Kelly, "Orma and Somali Culture sharing in Juba-Tana Region." Proceedings of International 
Congress of Somali Studies, University of Hamburg (ed), Thomas Labahn et al., 1984, p. 13-39.

Somalia: Its Political and Cultural History

1,500 BC Pharaoh Seankhane Menthuhoteps IV of Thebes sent a
maritime expedition to the coast of Somalia which was known to the ancient
Egyptians as "The Land of Punt."/1

7-900 AD Arabs and Persians established contacts with the coastal
communities in Zeila, Mogadishu, Marka and Brava.

1528-35 AD Ahmed "Gurey," whose name in Somali means "Ahmed the Lefthanded" waged wars against the Abyssinians and defeated them before his forces finally lost due to help received by the Abyssinians from Portugese musketeers.

1889 Following treaties with local Sultans, Britain proclaimedthe Somaliland Protectorate over the northern regions of Hargeysa and Burao./2

1894 Tripartite Accord was reached by Great Britain, Italy, and Ethiopia over Somali territories. Italian control was established over an area at the Indian Ocean, later known as Italian Somaliland. The Accord also recognised Menelik's claim to Ogaden.

1899 Mohamed Abdille Hassan fought against the British, the Italians and the Ethiopians.

1940 Italian troops briefly occupied the Somaliland Protectorate.

1947 Somali Youth League, the first modern political party was founded.

1950 United Nations Trusteeship Agreement on Italian Somaliland was approved.

1955 Britain ceeded the Reserved Area (Ogaden) and Haud to Ethiopia.

1960 On June 26th the Somaliland Protectorate declared its independence. On July 1st the Trust Territory of Somalia became independent.

1961 The Act of Union formalising the union of the Trust Territory and the Protectorate was formalised.

1970 The civilian regime was overthrown, bringing in the military to power.

1976 The Somali Socialist Revolutionary Party was founded

1977 Ethio-Somali War over Ogaden took place.

1978 On December 26th the Somali Salvation Front was founded in Addis Abeba.

1980 On October 21st a State of Emergency was declared

1981 On April 6th the Somali National Movement was formed in London

1988 United Somali Congress (USC) was formed in Rome, Italy.

1991 On June 27th after brief skirmishes with the USC forces, Siad Barre left
Mogadishu for his home village. The USC took over large parts of Mogadishu and the battle
for Mogadishu beganbetween and among members belonging to various Hawiye clan units.
James O.C.Jonah, the Under Secretary General for Political Affairs visited Somalia in order
to help bring about the cessation of hostilities.

1992 In April the Security Council adopted its "masterplan" for Somalia

1992 On December 3rd the Security Council adopted unanimously its resolution 794 (1992) authorising the use of all necessary means to establish a secure environment for humanitarian relief operations in the country./3

1992 On December 9th the United Task Force (UNITAF) led by the
Unites States were deployed in Mogadishu.

1993 On March 3rd the Secretary General submitted a report containing a proposal for effecting the transition from UNITAF to UNOSOM II. Two days later Admiral Jonathan T. Howe
retired as his special Representative for Somalia.

1993 On March 15th the Conference of National Reconcilliation was convened in Addis Ababa. 15 Somali political movements took part.

1993 On June 5th, thePakistani soldiers were attacked. UNOSOM stated that the United Somali Congress/ Somali National Alliance (USC/SNA) led by Mohamed Farah Aidid was responsible.

1993 On June 17th Howe called upon Aidid to surrender. He directed the UNOSOM Force Commander to detain him for investigation of the June 5th attack.

1993 On October 3rd United States Rangers 3 launched an operation in south Mogadishu. 24 suspects were captured, including two key aides to Aidid. Meanwhile in the following gun fight with the USC/SNA forces, 2 US helicopters were shot down, 18 US soldiers lost their lives and 75 were wounded. President Clinton announced the intention to withdraw from Somalia by March 31st 1994.

1993 On November 18th, the Security Council renewed the mandate of UNOSOM II for a period of six months, expiring on May 31st, 1994.

1994 On 8th March, Howe completed his tour of duty in Somalia and Kouyate took over as the Acting Special Representative.

1994 On March 24th, a declaration in the form of Manifesto on National Reconcilliation was signed in Nairobi with the promise to convene a conference on May 15th 1994, to elect a President and a Vice President (to this day nothing has happened).

1994 On 31st May, the Security Council decided to extend the mandate of the UN operation in Somalia for four months to September 30th 1994, subject to review in July 1994.

1995 March; planned UNOSOM withdrawal from Somalia.

/1. "Beautiful Somalia", Ministry of Information and National Guidance, Mogadishu, Somalia, 1972, p. 19. /2. "Constitutions of the Countries of the World", (eds) Albert P. Blansten et al. Somali Democratic Republic. (eds), Martin R. Ganzglass, Oceana Publications, New York. 1981, p. 1-6. /3. "The United Nations and the Situation in Somalia." Reference Paper, 30 April, 1993, United Nations Department of Public Information.

Who Destroyed the Environment in Somalia?

There is a genuine fear today among both ecologists and social scientists that the natural resources of the Horn region have undergone dramatic change. Both man-made and natural causes account for the negative changes that have been taking place within the Horn's tropical and semi-tropical ecosystem. Nowhere, however, in the Horn has the level of destruction reached such ominous proportions as in Somalia, with respect to it's flora and fauna.

According to two notable students of Somali fauna, Albert Mario and Jacobo Simonetta, Somalia's rare species in the area of the animal kingdom were too numerous to count./1 Apparently, at the time of their study (early 80s) some of the species mentioned by them had already ceased to exist, while others were on the way to becoming extinct. Among the rare species unique to Somalia both larger and smaller mammals could be found as well as varieties of fish in the two Rivers of Juba and Shabelle.

Poaching: Past and Present Trends

While Somalia until recently boasted of species that were endemic to the country, it also shared with neighboring countries other animal types like herds of lion, cheetah, zebra, elephant, cape buffalo, hyena, hunting dog etc. Today, unfortunately, the state of the wildlife in Somalia leaves much to be desired.

The declining status of wildlife in Somalia has had its precedence in the colonial rule and has continued to gain further momentum with accession of Somalia to independence. Those areas that were once under the British Protectorate had already lost all their herds of giraffe, elephant and hearbeest by 1930. In the Italian-administered territory, the population of the above-mentioned animals were not reduced to the point of extinction, yet even there, the rate of destruction continued unabated.

As a result of the distribution of arms to every nook and corner of Somalia, hunting has become far less dangerous than before for the average Somali. This, however, is only one of the overriding issues in the decimation of Somalia's wildlife today. Another is the exorbitant price that international cartels are willing to pay to acquire animal products. Consequently the lure of getting quick-riches from the trade has been sufficient enough to wet the appetites of so many individuals to the extent that it has turned many an honest man into either an active trader or a dangerous poacher.

The fate of the elephant in Somalia stands as a monument of man's immense capacity to readily sacrifice that which should have otherwise belonged to posterity, at the alters of greed. According to a FAO report the Bush Bush area, at the extreme south of the country, had an elephant population of 35,000 in 1979, which by 1988 was down to 1000./2 Today there are no elephant roaming Somalia's landscape. This sad fact confirms the conclusion of the report. "In purely economic terms, an important national asset has been stolen and sold...leaving behind a state of bankruptcy in terms of a near fatally depleted natural resources."

In Somalia, the rhino too has suffered the same fate as the elephant; not a single one of these magnificent animals is currently roaming the Somali wilderness. The efficiency with which both elephants and rhinos have been exterminated points to a conspiracy involving individuals within the higher echelons of the former Somali Government's machinery. Indeed, while Siad Barre's complicity in this illicit but otherwise lucrative ivory trade has been documented /3, the overall success of the trade was, however, due to the existence of a wide network of corrupt Somali officials, belonging to all Somali clans. This group stretched far and wide and ranged from the military, to range officials, and to Somali ambassadors assigned to foreign countries. It is also feared that among others involved in this illicit trade were non-Somali officials posing as experts in the city of Mogadishu.

Although some sort of commitment was earlier undertaken in order to help conserve wildlife in Somalia, little in the form of concrete action had been taken in support of earlier promises. As early as 1970, the Somali Government claimed to have had three well established parks under its care, at and around Kismayu, Gezira and Hargeisa. Other lesser conservation areas were said to have been situated around Baladwein, Bula Burti, as well as at the left bank of River Juba etc.

Nevertheless, these lacked the necessary infrastructure to enable the proper animal conservation from taking place. The few game rangers in the country were lacking both the proper training as well as the necessary equipment to effectively carry out their duties. Furthermore, the latest methods of animal conservation, such as the concept of animal orphanages, was virtually unknown in Somalia. Worst of all, was the fact that there did not exist any wildlife legislation in line with international conservation norms. Given these circumstances, wildlife in Somalia was bound to be doomed to its present unfortunate fate.

The State of Somalia's Flora

The country's once rich flora is also facing a similar fate as the fauna. Large areas once covered by forests are nearly bare today. The Juba riverain forest together with the juniper forest in the highlands of Sanaag region are gone. Trees of all types are fast disappearing thereby resulting in a frightening momentum of the decertification process.

The outcome of this uninhibited onslaught against the country's once rich flora is quite evident today in the wide extent of soil erosion, together with the loss of access to forest products as well as in the inability of much of the land to retain water. The later poses a serious threat in the northern highlands. The forest cover on mountain caps and ridges that were overly exploited have not been replanted, thereby resulting in the loss of watershed protection. In the south, salinity--associated with water logging--is currently posing the greatest danger to the productive capacity of the land there.

There is no arguing that in Somalia the level of destruction of the country's flora has reached an advanced stage. It was, nevertheless, quite encouraging to discover that there were individuals who were disheartened by the present condition and who were determined, despite all odds, to fight against any further environmental destruction. "Help Your Home Organisation" is an example of these local initiatives. They are currently working on a reforestation project in the village of Leebo, in Qardo.

Somali Traditional Social Norms

Environmental degradation--some people will say is symptomatic of poverty--is a vast problem that today afflicts all African countries. Given the fast growing population, the increasing demand on natural resources to meet basic needs urbanisation, climatic changes, and poor political systems, environmental degradation is assumed to be a foregone conclusion.

In Somalia such factors in general, and the poor political system in particular, have introduced new constraints in the ability of the Somali traditional social norms that had once been supportive of conservation practices to function successfully. The Somali traditional society did have a well ordered set of regimes which had defined societal rights and responsibilities in relation to resources. These resources may have consisted of lands, trees, water, animals etc.

Unfortunately, the traditional Somali social norms governing and regulating those regimes that were conducive to promoting a well ordered environment were infringed upon by an authority of the state that was oblivious of their ingenious qualities. Both colonial and post-independent governments had, for example, proposed measures that proved to be counter productive to the successful functioning of the Somali traditional social norms. While the colonial state achieved this by curbing the pastoral mobility which had enabled Somalis to take advantage of distant pastures, the post-independent state disregarded the authority that the lineage groups had over their territory.


The fact that much of Somali's natural resources have been depleted and destroyed is only partially due to natural causes. The major culprit, however, is a government that not only failed to introduce effective measures to serve the Somali environment from further deterioration, but one that itself took an active role in the environmental destruction of Somalia. The loss is particularly quite frightening because of the uniqueness of the nature of the resources, and the fact that there is no likelihood of replenishing them. In the absence of a proper government and the prevailing anarchy, Somalis stand to loose their remaining meager resources.

Furthermore, allegations abound that certain "warlords" have leased their areas of occupation to western companies, to be used as nuclear and chemical waste dumping grounds. If these allegations are true, the future survival of Somalis is already at risk.

Although Somalis need peace and stability more than anything else, this peace will indeed rest on shifting sands, unless attempts are made to assess the damage caused to the Somali environment and thereafter incorporate the subject into an agenda meant to help save Somalis from themselves.

Mohamed I. Farah


/1. M. Alberto Simonetta and Jacobo Simonetta, "An Outline of the Status of the Somali Fauna and its Conservation and Management Problem", Tipografia Coppini, Firenze, 1983.

/2. Office Memorandum, Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO), "Elephant Action Plan for Somalia" Wildlife Department, Mogadishu, 1989, p 2.

/3. See Richard Greenfield, "The Regime of the Former President MAJ General Mohamed Siad Barre and the Destruction of the Nation's Fauna and that of Neighboring Nations" "CONFIDENTIAL", Mogadishu, Somali Republic.

Politics And Society in Somalia's North-Eastern Region

The world community has, over the past two years, been agonising over the fate of the Somali people. Since 1991, however, much water has passed under the bridge. Efforts by the international community to bring about peace in Somalia have been attempted with mixed results. The Conference at Borama in 1992 highlights the attempt to secure peace as well as promote processes leading to political development in Somaliland. Elsewhere in Mogadishu and Kismayu, several attempts were undertaken in order to promote security in those troubled cities. The Upper Juba region has been a focal point in the international fight against famine. Furthermore, with the current rate of success in the establishment of administrative institutions, District Councils, the Upper Juba today represents the center-piece of the international community's effort to make Somalia once again governable.

Nevertheless, in Somalia, nothing eventful has been happening in its north-eastern region (NER), except for a war between the forces of Itihad and those of the Somali Salvation Democratic Front which lasted only but a few days. Hence, the north-eastern region has experienced a level of stability not quite common elsewhere with the exception, perhaps of Somaliland. Currently, there are, nevertheless, signs of a political rift that could well plunge the whole region into a great political turbulence, particularly if not contained in time. In this article, I have made attempts to capture recent political events to determine how they have affected society in NER.

North-eastern region (the very "Horn" of the Horn of Africa) is well noted for its long coastal line extending from a point near Hobyo in the south, past Ras Hafun and extending to areas far beyond Bosaso. The weather is hot throughout the year. Rainfall is scarce, amounting to between 50mm and 150mm. The vegetation which consists of scattered low trees include such well-known species as the Boswellia and Comiphora trees, both of which are the sources for frankiscence and myrrh respectively. Bosaso, a sea port in the Red Sea, also acts as a trading center for areas far beyond the north-eastern region. Northeastern region's three political administrative areas, namely Muduq, Nugal and Bari constitute the traditional homeland of the Majerten Clan. Other clan-family units, such as the Mehri (better known as Arab Salah), the Ortable, the Lel Kase and the Madibaan are the other major group population inhabiting the region.

North-Eastern Region Since 1991

Interclan wars had by 1991 engulfed the whole country and subsequently torn the remaining state structures to pieces. With the demise of the Somali state, a major shift in political loyalties has since occurred. It is, for example, quite evident today that there is a correlation between clan political loyalties and its territorial contours. In the north-eastern region, the political loyalties of the Majertein and that of their two major allies, the Arab Salah and the Ortable are to the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF). Though the Lel Kase clan has formed its own political organisation, it has nevertheless, coordinated its military activities with those of SSDF with respect to military operations against the enemy. In 1978, SSDF was formed while its members where living in exile in Ethiopia. From there they carried out military operations against Barre's regime and also maintained a political base. In response to military threats from the forces of SSDF, Barre resorted to a scorched-earth policy against all clan units associated with SSDF. The group that suffered most from Barre's atrocities are the Umar-Mahamud sub section of the Majertein clan, who live in Muduq area. The Arab Salah had also been singled out for the same treatment, first because of their affinity to the Majertein clan and second because of their adamant refusal to cooperate with Siad Barre's regime.

Although SSDF has the single distinction for being the first political organisation to have initiated armed struggle against President Siad Barre's regime, its ability to succeed in its objectives was dented by the perception that the non-Majertein groups have had of it, as an outfit for the promotion of the political ambition of the Majerten clan alone. The relentless effort by Barre to sow the seed of discord within the organisation's ranks have also contributed to the ineffectiveness of the movement. What had probably sealed the fate of the movement, before resurfacing once again as an effective organisation, albeit with a new agenda, was the detention of Abdullahi Yusuf by the Ethiopians. It is, therefore correct to assume that on the eve of the fall of Barre's regime in 1991, SSDF as a political and military organisation had become a spent force.

The Rise of Al-Itihad

While Abdulahi Yusuf was in costody in Ethiopia, other important individuals belonging to SSDF were convening in Garowe to deliberate on issues that might have had special bearings on the general political welfare of the people of northeastern region. The meeting resulted in the replacement of the amiable Mohamed Abshir Welde and the appointment of Mohamed Abshir Muuse, as the new Chairman of SSDF. Mr. Muuse was once the longest held prisoner of Siad Barre's regime. He was also a former Police General and head of the Somali Police Force. With Mohamed Abshir Muuse in control, and given his newly developed attachment to Islamic teachings, a new chapter between SSDF and a group identified with Islamists was assumed to have been opened. Like many of their counterpart elsewhere within the Muslim world, the Islamists in Somalia go by various names; the most common among these being the following: the Ikhwaan, the Asalaam Aleikum and the Itihad. (For the sake of convenience, the widely used term Itihad will be used in this coverage). Although Itihad did not constitute a formal political organisation before the dissolution of the Somali State, its followers had pursued a principled political agenda that could not have been matched by any of the other groups opposed to Siad Barre. The Itihad members were opposed to Siad Barre, they claimed, because his government lacked Islamic identity.

No sooner did the Somali State fall than the Somalis began to reconstitute their territorial settlements along the pattern of their clan contours. Thus Bosaso became the favored destination for members of Itihad who have had their clan roots in north-eastern region. Once firmly settled there, they used their nonembellished record of opposition against Barre to endear themselves to people in the region. Their claim to uphold an ideology free from any clan affiliation had further strengthened their position so much, that they were able to win the confidence of elders who chose them, from among many contenders, to help run the sea port in Bosaso. Apparently, access to the sea port which is the most important fiscal source for the region, brought them into daily contact with an large cash supplies. Not surprisingly, therefore, as soon as they assumed their duties, they were accused of siphoning cash proceeds for their own gains. It was, for example, alleged that members of Itihad who were entrusted with the task of running the port had used cash earnings from the port to purchase arms and to help relocate other group members to Bosaso from their bases elsewhere in the country. Because of these developments it soon became clear that a rift between Itihad members and their benefactors--elders from the region--was imminent. But what had perhaps irked the people most of all was the haughty demeanor they often chose to adopt when dealing with the elders from the region. On one occasion, for example, a member of the group was identified as the culprit in a case involving the murder of a woman doctor of a European origin, together with a male Somali Doctor at the port compounds on January 5th, 1992. The alleged culprit who was apprehended and detained by elders was later set free by an armed group of people thought to be members of Itihad, who in the ensuing milieu shot and killed a guard.

Itihad Fights SSDF Forces

With the passage of time, Itihad members in Bosaso developed confidence in themselves to the point of underrating all the other existing social and political forces. There are three major reasons which may account for this change of attitude. Firstly, Itihad believed strongly in the supposed infallibility of their religious point of view. This they were convinced was enough to offer them a religious ground on which to pursue their objectives at any cost. Secondly, they were emboldened, it is alleged, by the seemingly never ending supply of both arms and funds from abroad. In their discussions with this writer, Bosaso residents mentioned nightly rendezvous between Itihad members and visiting foreign vessels as proof of arms shipments into the country, on behalf of Itihad. Thirdly, their zealotry was sustained by esprit de corps among members of the movement. They were able to find a new form of personal identity within a new social environment, where ones social position in the society, either past or present, did not determine acceptance. For example, it has been alleged that among the most staunch individuals in the movement, there were men who had been prominent members of the fallen regime. There were others, it is alleged who were in a dire economic straits. Furthermore, women, it is said, many of whom were victims of interclan wars, and who were suffering from physical, emotional and psychological scars had found a welcoming relief from their suffering in the company of Itihad members.

In brief, the movement, it is assumed, was in a position to offer material and spiritual security and also infuse its members with a sense of mission. In return, members of the movement developed the spirit of sacrifice required to keep the movement going. Those who went to war with Itihad forces could not, for example, begrudge their courage in the battlefield. The war with SSDF was, however, triggered off when Itihad members took as hostages a group of senior citizens from north-eastern region, and threatened them with execution. The belated release of the hostages in the following days did not unfortunately help to avert the war that took place afterwards, in which many lives were lost on both sides, and eventually ended with the defeat of the Itihad forces. As for Itihad, the war had heralded to its members the end of their political and military ascendancy in the region.

Problems and Prospects of Political Development

The region is, a home to other minority non-Majertein clan units, such as the Arab Salah, the Lel Kase, the Ortable and the Madibaan. On the whole, therefore, political successes for the whole region will seem to depend not merely on the ability of the majority clan to minimise disputes within its ranks, but also on the legal undertaking by the majority clan that will, hopefully, guarantee the general welfare of the minority groups living in the area.

Unfortunately, the present bickering and the jockeying for position of eminence within the SSDF hierarchy between the current Chairman, Mohamed Abshir Muuse and the former Chairman and current commander of the SSDF military wing, Abdulahi Yusuf, does not auger well for the stability of the north-eastern region. It is the view of many observers of political events in the region that unless the two men scale down their personal ambitions, people in the region will continue to get the impression that they are holding the whole region for ransom. The two men belong to two different sub clan units of the Majertein clan. Thus, in a segmentary social system like the one in operation within the Somali society, such a division has a great political significance, since it could easily lead to a polarisation along the sub clan political affiliation, among SSDF members if not properly tackled.

The danger for the society, inherent in the present stalemate between the two men has not been lost to elders in the region, who in their attempt to diffuse the situation had appointed Abdulrizaq Haji Hussein, a respectable veteran politician, as an alternative choice for the post of leadership of SSDF. While the compromise agreement reached by the elders was allegedly accepted by Mohamed Abshir Muuse, the same can not be said for Abdullahi Yusuf, who it is widely believed, will continue to resist the appointment of any one other than himself for the coveted post of Chairman. Despite recalcitrant behavior by the two men in contention for power, elders in the region have continued to look for a formula that will hopefully be acceptable to all parties. Once they are able to bridge the division within the ranks of the three major Majertein's sub-clan units, namely the Usman- Mahamud, the Issa-Mahamud and the Umar-Mahamud with whom the current struggle for power is being increasingly associated, elders in the region would be required to address the political concerns of the non-Majertein groups who have a genuine fear of being swept aside if, particularly, the insatiable desire for power within the ranks of the majority group is not curbed.


Despite an undercurrent of tension quite evident in the area, north-eastern region remains the haven of peace for people of all backgrounds, where they can walk and trade freely without any fear of loss of either property or life. Bosaso, which remains the commercial capital of the region, is a fast growing cosmopolitan city, counting among its inhabitants not only groups belonging to the Herti confederacy of the Darod clan family, but also other groups, such as the Isaq and the Hawiye clan families. It is a measure of stability and peace in the region that members belonging to the later clan-family are treated cordially, considering allegations that they had once been responsible for a large scale massacre in Mogadishu of helpless, innocent and unarmed civilian population belonging to Darod. The nature of peace in the area has been aptly commented upon by Michael Maren who said "The next day I drove the road to Bosaso without weapons and partially at night. There I also found peace, commerce, and people from different clans doing business (I even ran into a close relative of Aideed's who was in town concluding a deal to set up a satellite telephone system in partnership with a political rival)... Meanwhile in southern Somalia, the UN process continues to reward people for not coming together)." (see Maren in Somalia News Update, V3 No. 20).

Even though both security and humanitarian conditions in the area were good during my visit in July of this year, I found the region to be in a total isolation and obscurity. The presence of the UN in the area was, for example, down to a minimal level and only three NGOs were carrying out their operation there. Many people to whom I spoke, during my recent visit to the region, seemed to wish that the world had taken more notice of their achievements and thus reward them accordingly.

Mohamed I. Farah

Promoting Grassroots Participation of Somali Women in Peace and Development

Somali women have been the principle victims of the political conflicts in the country for the past four years. However the traditional exclusion of women from the political and economic spheres has left women unprepared to assume their rightful roles in the reconciliation and development processes.

Participation in the political and economic arenas are interdependent and the processes of reconciliation and development are complementary. For this reason, the program will be comprised of three components, aimed at promoting grassroots women's participation in both of these arenas simultaneously. However, the program will aim, whenever possible, to integrate the following three components.

The first component will be the continuation and expansion of the program already implemented by the Life & Peace Institute for empowering women in the reconciliation process. The program aims to hold workshops in each of Somalia's regions to explore the role of women in the peace process.

The second component has as its objective the enhancement of women's role in the development process. To achieve this objective, the program will focus on enhancing the capacity of women's groups working in the regions.

The third component will facilitate the participation of women's groups working at the grassroots level in the NGO Forums at and in the preparation of the upcoming World Conference on Women to be held in Beijing.

Although UNDO is currently coordinating activities for sending an official delegation to the Beijing Conference, grassroots women are almost totally excluded from the process. It is therefore important that every effort be made to involve grassroots women in developing a platform of action to take to the NGO Forums.

In order to promote the empowerment to participation in the reconciliation process the following activities will be implemented:

* Hold workshops to explore women's role in the peace process and to promote dialogue at the regional level;

* Conduct training of trainers workshops to develop awareness of and raise consciousness about women's rights and to develop leadership and conflict resolution skills;

* Provide assistance to women's groups interested in developing and piloting peace education and civic education materials for use in schools or in the media.

The enhancement of women's participation in the process of development will be strengthened through the following activities:

* Facilitate the evolution of regional umbrella women's organisations to serve as mechanisms for information sharing and coordination and to maximise lobbying power for greater participation of women in the reconciliation and development processes;

* Conduct training of trainer workshops to enhance the capacity of women's groups to plan, evaluate and monitor development projects and to prepare project proposals. Coordinate with other organisations involved in similar activities;

* Plan and implement credit schemes, income-generation skills training, especially of nontraditional skills, and other sustainable income-generating projects, initially the beneficiaries of these projects would be the regional umbrella women's organisations themselves, in order to increase their available resources and economic viability.

The participation of grassroots women's organisations in the NGO Forums will be supported as follows:

* Seeking sponsorship to the NGO Forums for grassroots women's groups members by international NGOs and other international partners;

* Hold regional workshops attended by women's groups to select one woman to participate in the NGO Forums;

* Hold national workshop(s) attended by individuals selected to attend the NGO Forums to consolidate an NGO Platform of action (i.e. a list of goals, objectives, needs, constrains, and recommendations).

A Voice from Somalia

Following up on our discussions regarding the role of LPI in Somalia at the critical juncture, I would like to highlight that present day Somalia is eager to see LPI continue assisting Somalia in the political reconciliation and peace process. In fact, the percentage of peace activists in the country is increasing by the day as many more are expressing their readiness to accept peace and oppose any form of violence. However, pockets of violence do exist, but this will not deter the masses, including clan elders, women, and children, to continue advocating for peaceful coexistence among the brotherly Somali communities.

The initiative of LPI over the past two years in arranging intellectual gatherings, cosponsoring almost all of the reconciliation conferences held so far, empowerment of women and grassroots level nation-building processes, has automatically contributed positively to the process.

On the grounds of the current circumstances, UNOSOM appears to be shifting towards emphasising the faction leaders, hence neglecting the remaining voices from the communities. This seems to undermine the bottom-up approach of the situation with which LPI was really assisting. In light of this, LPI should not abandon the successful bottom-up approach at this time when UNOSOM appears to be sidelining it. This approach, initiated by LPI can help continue the peace process evenhandedly.

The continuation of the LPI commitment can, surely, survive with or without UNOSOM. Please keep in mind that LPI can also operate like the vast relief community in Somalia. I am sure this would meet with popular support from the national perspective.

In addition, I would like to submit the following points of intervention towards contributing the nation-building and political reconciliation in Somalia:

- encouraging the ongoing community-level peace initiatives from the districts and regions to necessitate basic conditions for potential development;

- empowerment of Somali women to participate in the nation-building process politically and economically;

- creating awareness among the scattered Somali intellectuals and enhancing their relationship with their respective community leaders to bring about peace;

- consultations with organisations interested in demobilisation of militia and offering them an orientation aimed at replacing the gun with training and civics;

- assembling the lost institutional documents to revive the archives of the shattered nation and thus reorganise the national library of culture and arts;

- to support the national artists resorting to traditional communications strategies of poems and songs for social mobilisation. In this case, the ousting of the former regime was mainly attributed to these very artists who performed antigovernment dramas which later culminated in the Mogadishu popular uprise against Siad Barre in December 1990. They can surely contribute to the peace process once reconstituted and are able to reorganise.

Halima Ismael
Letter to LPI


Vol.6, No. 6 1994 (Nov-Dec 94)


RBB - Reuters Business Briefing
SWB - BBC Summary of World Broadcasts via RBB


(Reuter 15 Nov 94 by Robert Evans)

GENEVA - A senior European Union official coordinating international aid to Somalia said on Tuesday he saw the best hope for the battered African country in a federal structure, starting with outlying regions.

Sigurd Illing, the EU's Nairobi-based envoy to Somalia, told Reuters there seemed no prospect of a political accord between warring factions in the capital, Mogadishu, to set up a central government before United Nations forces pull out next March.

"For the longer term, I believe the best prospect is a federal structure of the regions growing up from the roots. There are already signs that things could be going in that direction," he said in an interview.

Illing, a German diplomat, is chairman of the Somalia Aid Coordination Body (SACB) which links major donor governments, United Nations agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) helping reconstruction amid continuing clan conflict.

The SACB, also based in the Kenyan capital, opens a two-day meeting in Geneva on Wednesday to review how aid and development assistance can be pursued in the coming months as the troubled U.N. peacekeeping operation there, UNOSOM, is wound down...

Many non-governmental aid agencies have expressed fears that the country could collapse again into chaos when UNOSOM leaves, sparking a new humanitarian crisis and a repeat of the mass starvation that led the world body to act two years ago.

But Illing, who has spent many years in Africa and became SACB chairman when the body was established in February, said in an interview he had seen strong signs that Somalis in the regions were determined to resume a peaceful life...

Aid Groups Say Determined to Stay in Somalia

(Reuter 17 Nov 94 by Robert Evans)

GENEVA - United Nations, governmental and independent aid organisations said on Thursday they were determined to maintain operations in conflict-torn Somalia despite a withdrawal next March by the U.N. peacekeeping force UNOSOM.

But they declared they would resist efforts by militias to extract protection payments and would insist that local Somali leaders ensure security for rehabilitation and medical projects and their international and national staff.

Speaking on behalf of organisations working in Somalia and currently in conference in Geneva, Richard McCall of the United States USAID body told reporters: "We can't say if UNOSOM is leaving, we are leaving: we are not."

Pierce Gerety, of the U.N. Children's Fund, UNICEF, said his organisation intended "to continue our programmes and promote immunisation, health care, nutrition and basic education for Somali children and families."...

Over recent weeks, some groups with projects in Somalia--which has had no government since 1991 when dictator Mohammed Siad Barre was overthrown--have expressed fears of chaos and looting when UNOSOM is gone.

But McCall, Gerety and representatives of other groupings in the Nairobi-based SACB indicated that local and regional communities were increasingly ready to prevent militias interfering with aid operations.

And they suggested that new leaders were emerging in the country's regions and sub-regions who could help put together a new structure for the country's administration and ensure aid was not diverted to fuel a war economy.

SACB had agreed that local Somali authorities must guarantee and provide security for aid operations, said McCall, who chaired the Geneva meeting. If they could not, it was being made clear that foreign agencies would not be able to work there.

"We have agreed that it is time for the Somalis to protect us if they want us in their region," said Marc Guillaud of the charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders)--Belgium which runs hospitals and medical centres in Somalia...

McCall told Thursday's news conference it was "time to give the Somalis room to reach their own decisions and solutions." No framework could be imposed from the outside through setting deadlines for negotiations.

"I think is a mistake to assume that in a certain time period you're going to get a certain result," he declared...

New Commission Humanitarian aid for Somalia

(Rapid via RBB, Ref: IP/94/1154, 07 Dec 94)

The Commission has assigned 497,500 ECU in humanitarian aid in favour of Somalia. The money will mainly go towards improving health facilities for the Somali population...


(Reuter 26 Nov 94 By Aden Ali)

MOGADISHU - ...In the breakaway northwest of Somalia, aid workers were able to visit the town of Hargeisa for the first time since clan fighting erupted there nearly two weeks ago.

The aid workers said that they had seen some 79 war casualties in Hargeisa's hospital. Of those, 23 has died, including four children caught in the crossfire.

The United Nations has flown relief supplies, including tents and blankets to the village of Borama west of Hargeisa to help civilians who fled the fighting.

Relief operations are being led by the UN Children's Fund although several other UN and independent relief groups also work in the region.

Aid workers have described reports that thousands of refugees are on the move into neighbouring Ethiopia as exaggerated.

They said that people had started returning to their homes in Hargeisa, where fighting between clan militias had died down.

Clashes had erupted between Habr Awal militias of the unrecognised republic's "president" Mohemd Ibrahim Egal and the Habr Yunis fighters of his arch-rival Abdurahman ahmed "Tur."

Egal appears to be firmly in charge although clashes have flared sporadically since the fighting started.

Tur, who is loosely aligned with Aideed and is now based in Mogadishu, is challenging the right of the region, known as Somaliland, to secede from the rest of the country.

Somaliland declared it was breaking away from the rest of Somalia as it spiralled into clan feuding in May 1991. Despite being devastated by civil war in the late 1980's UN troops were never deployed there and famine never ravaged the region.

Egal Says Attacks on Hargeisa Aiming to Make Somaliland Ungovernable

(SWB 3 Dec 94 [Radio Hargeisa in Somali 20 Nov 94])
Excerpts from report

Mr Muhammad Haji Ibrahim Egal, the president of the republic of Somaliland, told the public over the country's mass media today that the attacks on Hargeisa were aimed at overturning the decisions and aspirations of the Somaliland communities as spelled out at the Boroma and Burco conferences. He said that this was not inter-clan fighting, but fighting imposed to threaten the country's nationhood by making the country ungovernable like the one ruled by the Aydid regime.

On the allegations that the Hargeisa fighting was pitting one clan against another, he said that these were designed to mislead the public on the aims of the attacks on Hargeisa... The president said the government and the people were ready to enter into dialogue with anyone who believed in the entity of Somaliland. He called on the people to defend their nationhood and independence and to realize that the Hargeisa fighting was not tribal. He said the existence of Somaliland could neither be negotiated nor ended through the barrel of a gun.


Diplomatic Relations with Sudan Broken Off
(SWB 7 Dec 94 [Voice of the Broad Masses of Eritrea, Asmara, in Tigrigna 6 Dec 94])

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the state of Eritrea has said that the government of Eritrea has severed diplomatic relations with the government of Sudan as from yesterday evening, 5th December.

[Next three paragraphs may be a statement by the Foreign Ministry] The Eritrean government has severed the diplomatic relations it had with the government of Sudan. The Eritrean government has been making efforts since liberation and its subsequent declaration as a sovereign state to build with all its neighbours, and in particular with the government of the republic of Sudan, a relationship based on brotherhood and cooperation. Although ties were developing satisfactorily with all its neighbours, the relationship with the [National] Islamic Front-led government of Sudan could not develop in a way that would enhance the mutual benefits of the peoples of the two countries. This was because of negative measures being taken by the Islamic government of Sudan which is opposed to the peace, security and stability the people of Eritrea are currently pursuing.

For our part, we have made diplomatic efforts to sort out the misunderstanding created by the Sudanese government in a bid to salvage relations from further deterioration. While on one side all these efforts have been made and all diplomatic alternatives have been tried and have failed and, on the other, the Sudanese government has continued to engage in negative activities which have affected our people and country, and in the end this has begun to hinder the members of our diplomatic mission in Sudan from carrying out their diplomatic duties, the government of Eritrea declares that it has severed the ties it had with the government of Sudan starting this day 5th December. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the State of Eritrea.

OAU Urges Eritrea, Sudan to Resolve Row Peacefully

(Reuter 06 Dec 94)
ADDIS ABABA - The Organisation of African Unity (OAU) urged Eritrea and Sudan on Tuesday to resolve their differences peacefully after Asmara severed diplomatic relations with Khartoum.

"The OAU expresses its deep regret over the incident, especially as both countries were making important contributions to peace in the sensitive Horn of Africa," said Acting Secretary-General Ahmed Haggag in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

He called on both states to resolve differences peacefully and through dialogue despite a row over cross-border raids.

Eritrean radio said on Tuesday diplomatic relations were cut from Monday evening despite Asmara's efforts to clear up what it said was a misunderstanding created by the Sudanese government.

Eritrea, which became independent from Ethiopia last year, accused Khartoum last month of training more than 400 "terrorists" since August to undermine its security and recruiting 300 more.

Sudan denied the accusation. Khartoum also charged Eritrea trained 300 Sudanese opposition fighters for cross-border raids.

The Red Sea state, which fought Ethiopia's government for three decades, earlier this year accused Sudan of supporting Islamic fundamentalist insurgents but said it had crushed them.


Nine-Region Federation
(Reuter 29 Nov 94)
ADDIS ABABA - Ethiopia will become a federation of nine ethnically-based regions under a plan approved by the Constituent Assembly, officials said on Tuesday.

They said the assembly, debating a new constitution, also chose a parliamentary system on Monday for the government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.

The nine federation members are: Tigray, Afar, Amara, Oromia, Somali, Benshangul, Gambella, Harhari and Southern People's--the last consisting of 45 ethnic groups...

New Constitution Ratified

(Reuter 08 Dec 94)
ADDIS ABABA - Ethiopia's Constituent Assembly on Thursday ratified a federal democratic constitution it hopes will end domestic conflicts.

Included in the 106 articles of the new constitution are the right of regions to secede if a majority votes in a referendum to do so and the formation of nine ethnically-based regions.

"With the adoption of the new constitution, the violation of human and democratic rights, particularly the suppression of the demands of nations, nationalities and peoples to self-determination,...have come to an end," a member said.

The clause endorsing the right to secession was opposed by some groups but is seen by the ruling Ethiopian People's Democratic Front (EPDF) as the only way to make Ethiopians feel they are part of a voluntary union.

The adoption of the constitution opens the door for multi-party elections within six months, assembly officials said.

Elections for a two-chamber 550-seat parliament, comprising of a council of people's representatives and a council of the federation, will be held at the same time as polls for regional councils.

No firm date has been announced but officials said on Thursday voting would take place between March and May--before the onset of the rainy season when peasants will be busy planting crops.

The elections will be the climax of one of Africa's boldest political experiments--to confront the often divisive problem of ethnicity head on by giving Ethiopia's regions a large degree of autonomy and the right to secession.

Opposition Party Condemns Constitution Adoption Process as Undemocratic

(SWB 1 Dec 94 [Voice of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, in Amharic 1 Dec 94])
Excerpt from report
The process of adopting the constitution is not being participated in by the people, is undemocratic and it enjoys no popularity whatsoever, the chairman of the so-called Council of the Alternative Forces for Peace and Democracy in Ethiopia [CAFPDE] organization has said. Amare Melaku has the details: [Amare] In a statement to journalists today, the chairman of the council, Dr Beyene Petros, condemned the members of the Constituent Assembly for not having the mandate of [figure indistinct] people. Dr Petros Beyene Petros, who labelled the constitution, which is in the process of being adopted, as a one-party programme, was asked if his council had proposed an alternative draft constitution. He replied: We have been discussing various alternatives, although we have not yet presented an alternative draft constitution, I hope you will not get the idea that we are not capable of doing so...

Ethiopian Moslems Take to the Streets in Protest

(Reuter 28 Nov 94)
ADDIS ABABA - A crowd estimated at more than 100,000 Moslem men and women marched in Ethiopia's capital on Monday, protesting against their treatment in the secular state. Shouting "Allahu Akbar (God is Greater)," they marched to deliver a petition to the presidency, alleging that government-controlled institutions did not reflect the Moslem role in the country. "The role of the Moslem has not been considered to be part of the heritage of the nation," read the petition, demanding Friday and Sunday, instead of Saturday and Sunday, be days of rest. An estimated 45 percent of Ethiopia's population are Moslems but Coptic Christians have held sway over most of the country since the fourth century.


Sudan Announces Compulsory Military Training

(Reuter 17 Nov 94)
KHARTOUM - Sudan, fighting a long-running civil war with southern rebels, announced on Thursday that military training will be made compulsory for male pupils.

A decree by military president Lieutenant General Omar Hassan al-Bashir making such training compulsory for final year primary students and in the secondary level was reported by the official Sudan News Agency (SUNA).

Bashir was quoted as saying time spent in People's Defence Force camps would raise students' levels of discipline, physical fitness, national awareness and religious knowledge.

The People's Defence Force was formed five years ago to help the army crush a rebellion in southern Sudan spearheaded by the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA).

The SPLA, composed largely of Christians and animists in the majority-black south, has been fighting since 1983 to block what it sees as domination by the Arabised and Moslem north.

Ugandan Army Buildup Reported on Border With Sudan

(Reuter 05 Dec 94)

KAMPALA - Uganda has strengthened its forces on the border with Sudan because Ugandan rebels are fighting alongside Sudanese government troops in southern Sudan, the army said on Monday.

A top officer in the National Resistance Army said Uganda feared fighting pitting Sudanese rebels against Sudanese troops and Ugandan rebels led by Joseph Kony could spill over the border.

The U.N. said a week ago it was transferring more than 90,000 Sudanese refugees to camps deeper in Uganda for their own safety at the request of the Ugandan government.

A Sudanese general was quoted on Monday as saying government assaults and factional fighting have broken the back of rebels, rendering them ineffective as a fighting force in large parts of the south.

An annnual dry season offensive by government forces against the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) began last month.

Despite government forces seizing 14 towns and villages last year, the rebels are expected to fight on from the bush even if they lose their last strongholds in the current offensive.

Diplomats say that the war waged since 1983 by the SPLA against what it sees as domination of the mainly Christian and animist south by the Arabised and Moslem north is unwinnable by either side...

Moi Appeals for Belgian Support for Sudanese "Crisis" During Talks With Premier

(SWB 16 Nov 94 [KBC radio, Nairobi, in English 14 Nov 94])
Excerpts from report

...Noting that the situation in Sudan continues to be of great concern to the Kenyan government, President Moi urged the Belgian government to consider any support towards the crisis. He said being the chairman of the Intergovernmental Authority on Drought and Development, IGADD, initiative of Sudan, he intends to continue with consultations with other leaders in the region and all parties concerned. Saying that Kenya alone cannot afford to carry forward negotiations without financial and diplomatic support, the president said appeals towards this end have been sent out and a few countries have responded...

Human Rights in Sudan

Sudan Rejects U.N. Report on Rights
(Reuter 04 Dec 94, by Alfred Taban)
KHARTOUM - Sudan has rejected as biased a United Nations report accusing it of bombing camps of displaced persons in the war-torn south of the country, Khartoum's state- controlled newspapers said on Sunday.

They said the U.N. report also claims that the number of persons displaced as a result of Sudan's 11-year-old civil war had reached five million but that one million of them had died of hunger while the rest are facing starvation.

The report, according to the newspapers, also accuses the Khartoum government of demolishing squatter camps housing the displaced persons and of sending warplanes to bomb displaced camps in the south of Sudan.

It said Sudan was using humanitarian assistance for political and military purposes.

But Foreign Minister Hussein Abu-Saleh was quoted as saying the report was unbalanced and contained untrue and fabricated information...

The Sudanese minister also accused the world body of deliberately keeping silent on government claims that children in south Sudan were being kidnapped and kept against their will by rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) in camps at northern Kenya...

Nearly 500 Sudanese Children Airlifted Home

(Reuter 11 Dec 94)

NAIROBI - Nearly 500 children separated from their families for up to six years by Sudan's civil war have been reuinted with their families, the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) said on Sunday. The children, mostly boys, are aged between nine and 16.

UNICEF, which organised the airlift of the children from a camp at Lafon in Sudan's Eastern Equatoria province last week, said security and health conditions there had deteriorated.

"Since early November, 22 children died there from dysentery and malnutrition-related diseases. Another 73 recieved emergency medical treatment in Lafon until they were well enough to join the airlift," a spokesman in Nairobi said.

They had been living there since July, when they arrived after a two-month trek to escape renewed fighting near Nimule, on the Sudan-Uganda border. Many died during the joureny, and another 21 died soon after reaching Lafon, UNICEF said.

Wearing brightly-coloured T-shirts given to them by UNICEF, the children were flown out in six planeloads last week to the villages of Leer, Duar, Ayod and Fangak in Sudan's Upper Nile province.

The villages are under the control of the Southern Sudan Independent Movement (SSIM), a rebel group fighting both the Khartoum government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), a rival guerrilla organisation.

Unicef estimates that 20,000 Sudanese children have been separated from their families since 1988 when fighting in the civil war which broke out in 1983 began to escalate.

The war pits government troops against rebels from the mostly animist and Christian south who want to end what they view as the rule of a Moslem Arabised clique in northern Sudan. Hundreds of thousands, mostly civilians, have so far perished as a result of the conflict.

The Roots of Reconciliation

ACTIONAID (England) has commissioned a survey of traditional local structures to establish and maintain peace in Somalia/Somaliland by Dr Ahmed Yusuf Farah under the supervision of Professor Ioan Lewis entitled: "Peacemaking Endeavours of Contemporary Lineage Leaders: A Survey of Grassroots Peace Conferences in 'Somaliland'". The following is an abridged and adapted version from their report.

The research shows that, despite the pressure under which clan and lineage systems came during the Barre regime, lineage elders are thriving. The return to tried and tested systems of governance which has been occurring in the north, with minimal levels of external support, has enabled Somalis to break the momentum of war and opportunistic plunder. The report documents the peace agreements that have been made in Sanaage and some of the processes pursued that have brought them to fruition: the roles of the elders, Akils; the Councils of elders, Guurti; paramount heads and religious leaders. Other areas explored in the report show the adjustments that have been made to the penalty code to enable control to be regained; the role of women in peacemaking; and the influence of traditional poetry as a powerful medium for encouraging peacemaking.

The policy implications of the study are clear; local peacemaking initiatives of this type should be encouraged, and external assistance should be handled carefully to preserve the self help effort of local initiatives. While the report points out that local peace processes are not likely to be a panacea, the establishment of modern political structures must take into account the moral authority of the elders and the progress so far achieved in establishing local level peace agreements.

This research confirms that, in a period of turmoil and uncertainty, and in the absence of legitimate state institution, clans and sub-clans have had recourse to their own traditional structures. Particular emphasis has been given to the appointment of sultans--a secular political office, sanctioned by religion. There are now more than twice the number of sultans in 'Somliland' than at independence in 1960. This study also finds that the lineage elders, who led smaller units within the clan, are alive and well despite a period of eclipse under the Barre regime. The return to tried and tested systems of governance has enabled Somalis in the north to break the momentum of war and opportunistic plunder.

This research has found that the mediating authority of Akils, or heads of Dia-paying lineage groups--an office abolished in the early 1970's--is now firmly reestablished and that its functions have expanded into the vacuum left by the collapse of the Barre administration.

All clans in 'Somaliland' and some of the larger sub-clans now have their own Supreme Council of Elders, known as Guurti. These fulfil a dual role as legislature and executive, with responsibility for everyday questions arising within the clan and also for arbitration between different clans. In April 1992, for instance, the Gaadabursi clan, whose celebrated dynasty of sultans was disrupted during the 1950s, reinstated its paramount head, or Ugaas, and sent peace delegations to reconcile warring groups within the clan. The elders called for an assembly which would deliberate on the restoration of peace and on prospects for the future.

While north and south alike are plagued by freelance banditry, the goal of international recognition gives added impetus to a genuine and popular wish for peace. 'Somaliland,' moreover, is spared the existence of influential 'warlords locked in a desperate struggle for power--his has been a major obstacle to peace in the south. It is also clear that the concentration of aid resources in one place (Mogadishu in the south, and to a lesser extent, Berbera in the north) has been a potent stimulus to conflict.

Progress to Peace

The mechanisms for establishing peace depend on joint community committees formed at local level, empowered to implement agreements reached by Councils of Elders. Another local authority known as "the committee which uproots unwanted weeds from the field" is responsible for dealing with banditry and minor disturbances. This localised approach to peacekeeping began with a series of inter-clan reconciliation conferences in 1991 and gradually advanced to district, regional and 'national' levels. The authorisation of agreements at peace conferences is given by clan elders, but other traditional leaders-politicians, military officers and particularly religious men and poets--have also played a crucial role in the peace process.

Religious figures, such as sheikhs and wadaads, or Islamic scholars, take their duties as peacemakers seriously. Their authority is based on the esteem in which they are held as spiritual leaders, as distinct from Akils and sultans, whose status is more secular. Spiritual leaders are seen as ideal and neutral arbiters with allegiance to universal Islamic values that transcend clan loyalties. They do not settle disputes themselves, or sit in judgement. This is the work of elders in council. Instead, their task is to encourage rivals to make peace. To this end, independent delegations of renowned holy men have taken part in all the major peace initiatives between previously hostile clans in 'Somaliland.'

Poetry, which is the most celebrated and respected art form in Somalia, has also been marshalled to the cause of peacemaking. Through metaphor and allusion, oral poetry can tap the richest reserves of Somali discourse; it is widely understood and enjoyed, and like the mass media in the west, it has the power to influence opinion. This study has found that in major clan reconciliations such as the meeting of the Eastern Habar Yonis and the Dhulbahante at Daraweyne in 1992, distinguished national poets recited poems advocating peace at the inaugural and closing ceremonies.

Women have also played a significant part in peacemaking. After marriage, a woman retains her kinship ties with her father's group, and even though they are often denied the property rights that these entail. The dual kinship role conferred by marriage has often existed across two neighboring but warring clans, with the result that women have suffered unduly in Somalia's upheaval. It has also meant that women have taken on a new and active function as ambassadors between rival groups--the group that they married into and the group they were born into.This is a function of their traditional role in systems of exchange.

Often, at the height of the civil war, women provided the only means of communication between rival clans, since their status allowed them to cross clan boundaries. Twenty-four days after the Dhulbahante council of elders failed to appear at the agreed site for the first peace forum, the Habar Yonis, with who they were supposed to meet, sent a delegation of kinsmen born of Dhulbahante women, who persuaded suspicious maternal relatives among the Habar Yonis to attend.

Traditionally, women were exchanged to seal a peace treaty between two parties. A daughter was offered as sign of trust and honour to mark the pact between giver and receiver. Likewise, when blood has been shed, Somalis regard the gift of a marriageable partner as material and symbolic compensation for the loss of life. This study finds that such traditions have persisted in 'Somaliland' and have strengthened some of the major peace agreements, including that of the Habar Yonis and this Isa Musa, each clan providing 50 eligible women for the other.

Modern technology has also been instrumental in the relative stability of 'Somaliland.' In the past, radio communication was the monopoly of the government and international organisations. Recently, however, the elders of several bitterly embattled clans in 'Somaliland' have remained in constant radio contact during periods of tension, and radio links have provided vital channels for negotiation.

How the Peace Conferences Have Worked

In November 1992, some 400 delegated representing the Eastern Habar Yonis and the Warangeli met at Jideli. By the end of the conference they had agreed that each clan would be responsible for maintaining law and order in its own territory. A joint local committee of 30 members would be responsible for settling conflicts according to the terms laid down at the conference. If more rain fell in the land of one clan, the guest community attracted by the pasture, would be responsible for the protection of the lives and livestock of the host community.

Elders have also decreed that responsibility for paying damages for the actions of armed groups should be directly shouldered by the families of persistent offenders, rather than, as normally, extend to the whole Diapaying group. If an armed robber is unable to pay compensation, the burden falls upon his father and brothers. There are many instances of crimes committed by younger men being dealt with by clan elders. In some cases offenders have been executed by their own kin.

The various inter-clan peace conferences in the north of Somalia culminated in the Boromo national conference at which a national ('Somaliland') peace charter was agreed and basic provision for law and order were formulated. Following the collapse of the SNM regime, a new government was appointed by the elders. This was politically the most telling achievement to date of northern local level clan democracy.

The Boroma conference received international support, but all of the other successful clan conferences in the north have been financed by community self-help, in marked contrast to the high profile UN forums in the south of the country and abroad, which have failed to produce a plausible settlement. Perhaps this accounts for the caution expressed by the Eastern Alliance Elders in Garadag in 1992 against a unilateral UN military intervention in the north "without the consent of the leaders of local clans."

Next Steps

The efforts of clan leaders in northern Somalia over the past two years to bring about peace have raised popular hopes for positive change. The moral status and customary skills of the elders are a vital component in tackling the many problems that prevail in 'Somaliland.' The participation of local groups in the administration to be balanced, ensures the equitable distribution of political and economic resources and allows for more effective domobilisation of armed groups. This participation must not be allowed to be marginalised as modern state and professional infrastructure develops. The task of reconstructing basic services should start at the district level rather than from the top downwards. This approach is attuned to the decentralised system of governance which is enshrined in the interim national charter for 'Somaliland' formulated by the elders at the Boroma conference.

But the traditional structures on their own are not a complete panacea for the problems that are faced. Traditional peacemaking is sturdy, but it is also slow and cumbersome and will always benefit from logistical assistance. The initiatives in the north need to be supported. Such external support, however, needs to recognise the sensitivity of the recovery process. While much has been achieved in terms of restraining freelance banditry and inter-clan strife, the security situation remains delicate, which in turn suggests pitfalls for any hasty attempt at a program of comprehensive reconstruction. For the time being, external assistance must supplement rather than overwhelm the kinds of local grassroots initiatives that already exist. To do so it will have to be timely and discerning, and acknowledge the progress which and alliance of popular will and traditional leadership has already achieved in northern Somalia.


The traditional systems of governance examined in this study rely primarily on the moral authority of lineage and clan leaders. The power of such systems to prevent the occurrence of crime and violence remains limited. Northern elders describe their functions as upholders of law and order in such modest terms as dab damin, literally 'fire extinguishing.' The guarantees that these systems attempt to provide should not be under-estimated, however, They are the basis of an emerging stability in the north. Their success depends on the support and trust of pastoral communities, which can only be won by anchoring the peace effort firmly within the existing social order.

It is now common for the herds of different clans to graze together in common border areas. This is remarkable progress, but it is largely unknown outside 'Somaliland.' Successes of this kind have come about despite, not because of, outside intervention in Somali. They provide ample evidence of the effectiveness of peace initiatives taken by and through institutions that have survived more than 20 years of harsh centralised government and a bitter civil war.

It is not the intention of this study to give tacit support to the idea of a sovereign 'Somaliland' or to disparage peace efforts in the rest of Somalia.

ACTIONAID simply believes that there are valuable lessons to be learned from the successes within 'Somaliland' and hopes to see support for traditional peacekeeping mechanisms in other parts of the country, beyond the notional 'Somaliland' border.


Mr. Mohamed Abdullahi Suleiman is an important member of the Central Committee of the Somali African Muki Organisation (SAMO). As a political organisation, SAMO hopes to represent the aggregate political aspirations of a people who, following the political turmoil in Somalia, have decided to call themselves the "Somali Bantu" -- a term which is offered in contrast to the more standardised Somali identity, often associated with pastoralist groups. In Mombasa recently, Mr. Suleiman spoke with Life & Peace Institute's Mohamed I. Farah on the political ambitions of the Somali Bantu.

What does SAMO represent?

As a political organisation, SAMO represents the political interest of the Somali Bantu community whose home is between and along the two rivers known as the Juba and the Shabele in Somalia. I use the term Bantu instead of the more derogatory term "Jarer" used by other Somalis to identify us. The concept Somali Bantu signifies a common identity to which the following belong: the Mahawey, the Wazigua, the Shidle, the Shabelle and the Shanta Alemod.

What does SAMO aim to achieve?

SAMO fights for equal rights and justice. In all the years of independence, the Bantu community's rights to equal justice and opportunity were neglected despite the fact that they always contributed the largest share towards Somalia's productive capacities in the area of agriculture, fishing and manufacturing. Not surprisingly, our home areas, being the most attractive for human settlement, have also attracted non-Bantu groups in search of land on which to settle. In good faith we did initially welcome others to live among us, but in due course, our guests made use of the state patronage to dispossess us. We are now squatters on our own lands. We feel that our trust has been betrayed. From now on, we intend to fight for our rights in every way possible.

What steps has SAMO taken to achieve its objectives?

We have succeeded in establishing SAMO as a political mouthpiece of the Somali Bantu community. Through SAMO, we hope and believe our political ambition will be addressed adequately. Last year in April, we conducted with much success a mass demonstration at Afgoi with the view to mobilising the Somali Bantu toward SAMO's stated goals. Other Somalis objected to this display of political statement on our part and attempted, without success, to disrupt our efforts. Furthermore, in order to achieve our ambition we have established contacts with various organisations, both inside and outside Somalia with whom we cooperate. Our relationship for example, with Life & Peace Institute has been quite beneficial to us. Moreover, we have availed the opportunity to attend international conferences to address the Somali problem. In Djibouti, we were merely there as observers. Thereafter, we officially attended all the other conferences, including the most well known in Addis Ababa.

* Are you hopeful that SAMO will realise its ambition? *

We believe truly in the saying "Where there is will, there is way." Since we are not short of the will to go ahead and strive in order to achieve our objectives, there is indeed no doubt that we shall succeed at the end of the day.

* What role do you envision the outside world playing in your struggle? *

We wish the world community to help us with both our long-term and short-term objectives. The long-term goal deals with the educational needs of our Somali Bantu community, since our educational needs had been quite ignored by the successive Somali Governments. We sincerely hope that the world community would like to help redress this unfortunate social situation that had in the past continually placed us at a certain disadvantageous position vis-a-vis other Somali groups. In our short term objective, we wish to draw the attention of relief organisations to the plight of the Bantu refugees in Kenya. We feel that compared to other Somali groups, the Somali Bantu have been ignored. They live without any adequate shelter. They receive no adequate amount of food and lack all forms of medical care facilities. We tried to forward several letters of protest to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Mombasa, but to no avail. We pray donor agencies will look into our problems in an honest manner in order to help alleviate the sufferings of the Bantu refugees.


In the following article, Sture Normark, director for the Horn of Africa Program at the Life & Peace Institute, gives concrete examples, mainly from Somalia, of how the Horn of Africa Program (HAP) is trying to apply knowledge from peace research to concrete challenges in the Horn of Africa. HAP has emphasised peace work aimed at building sustainalbe peace, peace work which empowers actors for peace on different levels in a given society.

The Horn of Africa program was started in the 1980's due to the need felt among relief and development agencies to see, and better understand the root-causes of the problems facing the people they were trying to serve in the Horn of Africa. There was shared frustration as the agencies felt that they were dealing with symptoms of these people's problems. They found that they were present in a famine or refugee situation, without understanding its causes, and they asked for a more comprehensive picture of people's realities in the Horn.

At the time, every country in the Horn was affected by war and conflicts in one way or another. It was difficult to see an end to the war in Eritrea; Sudan was again in a state of war; Ethiopia and Somalia had reached a peace agreement, but as a result, led to internal fighting inside Somalia.

The project was started with four components: Research, own and commissioned; Information, mainly through a news bulletin, the "Horn of Africa Bulletin"; Seminars and Conferences; and "Dialogue with conflicting parties." Working relations were established with other institutes with a special interest in the Horn of Africa: Conrad Grebel College in Canada, Mennonite Central Committee in USA and Nairobi Peace Initiative in Kenya.

Examples of Activities

In 1989 scholars from the Horn of Africa living in Sweden wanted to work with LPI/HAP to try to bring together the governments from three of the Horn of Africa countries and a number of liberation movements in the region. The conference was called "Prospects for Peace in the Horn of Africa," with leading political and intellectual figures opening up many new contacts for LPI/HAP to promote dialogue and understanding among conflicting parties in the Horn.

Over the years we have learned much from researchers originating from the countries in the Horn of Africa. These contacts helped us to understand and to make use of indigenous thinking in the field of peace and conflict resolution. They were mainly Ethiopian and Somali scholars, and they gave us the key to local peacemaking. They called for the use of building on traditional structures and stressed the importance of making use of those structures in ongoing conflicts. The role of elders and elders' councils are crucial in local peacemaking both in the Ethiopian and the Somali societies.

In 1990 a group of Somali intellectuals in Canada and the US set up an organisation "to empower local structures in peacemaking" back home in Somalia: Somali Peace and Consultation Committee (ERGADA). LPI/HAP started to work along side ERGADA, and made it possible for the group to support peace activities both in Somalia and in Somali communities in exile, in America and Europe.

At the end of 1990 some prominent Ethiopian "elders," mainly university professors in the US, contacted LPI for support and cooperation. They wanted to find alternative ways to peacemaking in the chaotic situation in Ethiopia. As respected "shemagalles" (elders) they were able to go in as bridge-builders among the many conflicting parties in the Ethiopian civil war. The group played an important role in the prenegotiations among these groups before a settlement was reached in 1991. Today the "Ad Hoc Committee for Peace and Development" has its office in Addis Ababa. It continues to work to protect the peace that has been gained through empowerment of local "Shemagalles."

The experiences from these collaborations and contacts with researches and "activists" from the Horn of Africa brought the Institute closer to the realities in the Horn. In the process we not only got to know many of the leading figures within the conflicting parties and groups, but also to understand the importance of building peace from below--the so-called "bottom-up" model.

There are different theories of how to understand and approach the building of peace within a population. John Paul Lederach, who has been working considerably on these structures and models has presented them in a book which is to be published by the UN University of Peace. In his opening chapter he makes reference to a conversation that took place between two Somali friends arguing over how the house of peace should be built in their war-torn home. The one leader argued that the head needed to be established in order for the body to function. The other friend suggested that the foundation of the house had to be laid if the roof was to be held up. Using a mixed metaphor, one argued that peace is built from the top down, the other that it is constructed from the bottom up.

LPI/HAP In Somalia

The United Nations entered onto the scene in Somalia too late. It was after much pressure from the International Community, as well as from Somali communities at home and abroad, that the Security Council finally decided to intervene in Somalia. Their involvement was also to include peace and reconciliation. The first special representative for the General Secretary in Somalia was an experienced African diplomat, Ambassador Mohammed Sahnoun. He understood the complexity of such an intervention and realised that the UN needed all the support and advice it could get before entering into a reconciliation process in Somalia. He needed to consult with the experts on Somalia, and he needed financial support for the process.There were funds for humanitarian and military intervention, but not for peacebuilding. Sweden was approached, and LPI was called in to assist in the complicated endeavor. A new phase in the Horn of Africa Program of LPI had started.

The first task given to LPI was to call for a meeting with the leading international experts on Somalia: anthropologists, historians, political scientists, specialists in conflict resolution, etc. The meeting was held in Uppsala, Sweden, August 20-24, 1992 with 15 experts, and the main actors from the UN mission in Somalia, with representatives from the political, humanitarian and peacekeeping departments.

A blueprint for the UN Operation in Somalia was formulated at the meeting including some key recommendations:

1. The search for peace in Somalia must start from the bottom upwards, starting out in the districts and the regions and building on traditional structures.

2. Elders, traditional and religious leaders, women and other representatives from the civil society must be involved and empowered to play the main role in peacemaking in Somalia. To the same extent as these groups will be empowered, warlords and "self-appointed" political leaders must be marginalized.

3. The whole process must be given time. Do not rush into anything. It is too early to speak about National Reconciliation at this stage.

4. The key actors of the process must be the Somalis themselves.

The next step was to convene a meeting with leading Somali intellectuals, with an emphasis on those present inside the country. A group of 18 intellectuals including 5 women were invited to a four day meeting in the Seychelles, at the end of October 1992. The main message from the Uppsala meeting was underlined. This time with more concrete proposals of how to continue the process for peace and reconciliation.

After the meeting, unfortunately the UN Special Representative for Somalia, Ambassador Sahnoun left the scene. The pragmatic approach to the problem in Somalia chosen by him was abandoned, and the UN entered a more common, western way of peacemaking, involving, and giving much more heed to the warlords and the political leaders. Much attention was given to Mogadishu and the conflict between the warlords Aideed and Ali Mahdi.

With the onslaught of the UN troops into Somalia the famine situation was halted and the UN brought new hope to the Somali people. At the same time more pressure was put on the UN to find a quick solution to the Somali problem. The military intervention was expensive--and troops could not be kept there for a long time. The reconciliation process was to be speeded up--very much against the recommendations which came out of the Uppsala conference some months earlier. The so-called political leaders could now envision a straight path to power in Somalia.

The peace meeting called by the UN General Secretary in January 1993 in Addis Ababa, gave positive signals to the warlords and Somali politicians striving for power. They were given too much attention, treated as statesmen and given the impression that they were to solve all problems and create a new Somalia. Those who were supposed to be marginalised were instead empowered.

The whole process had now entered a very critical stage, and peace and reconciliation seemed to be more remote than ever.

We at LPI and our reference group of International and Somali experts were very frustrated. We shared the worries of the many Somalis who were back home in Somalia longing for peace. March 15 was then set for a new round of talks in Addis Ababa. The warlords and leaders of the political parties had great difficulties agreeing upon who should take part in these meetings. A decision by the Security Council stated that building peace in Somalia should include a broad representation of a broad spectrum of the civil society.

A meeting called by the Humanitarian Department of the UN Mission was convened a few days before the March 15 meeting. Many of the participants from humanitarian meeting were there against the wishes of the warlords, but these participants stayed on for the political meeting as well. These elders, traditional and religious leaders, women, intellectuals and representatives from many NGOs were able to make their voices heard, and pressure was put on the political actors, forcing them to involve more people in the process for peace.

This public pressure and the clear signals from the Somali people also encouraged the responsible UN authorities to be more firm with the warlords and to involve a broad spectrum of the Somali Society in the reconciliation process.

This new firmness of the UN was shown, i.e., when people were appointed to the four committees agreed upon in the Addis Ababa meeting dealing with:

1. Transitional Charter
2. Reconstruction and Rehabilitation
3. Restoration of lost properties
4. Disarmament

The UN arranged for the civil society to be represented on a 50/50 basis in relation to the political groups.

This move has broadened the process and has encouraged the Somali people and given them back the possibilities for their own initiatives and actions. It has given them the feeling that the future of Somalia is in their hands and not in the hands of the warlords, who have destroyed their country.

So the process had become closer to the "bottom-up" approach than it was some months earlier. It was now the task of the UN to assist in implementing the Addis Ababa agreement and the follow up work done by the four committees mentioned above.

This work started in May, 1993, and the first task was to go out to the districts encouraging the local elders to nominate district councilors according to the criteria suggested by charter committee. The role of UNOSOM was to facilitate and monitor this process. Nothing more nothing less. In accordance with the Addis Ababa Agreement, the district councils shall be responsible for managing the affairs of the district, including public safety, health, education, and reconstruction. So far 56 (out of 77) district councils, and 8 (out of 13) regional councils have been set up.

LPI/HAP was asked by UNOSOM to provide training for the councils. So far, nearly 1000 councilors have been trained. The training program is a joint venture with UNOSOM, The Eastern and Southern African Management Institute (ESAMI) and LPI/HAP. Additional training will be provided during 1994 for the councilors, as 12 Somalia nationals have been trained to take over follow-up training programs.

In order to continue to empower these local structures in the new Somali society, a set of "administrative kits" has been provided to every newly formed council. These include a sum for renovating district council buildings and for basic equipment. The program is financed jointly by the Nordic Governments through LPI/HAP.

This bottom-up approach to peacebuilding, has not been an easy process. The warlords see it as a threat in their struggle for power. There are always people who feel that they have been left out. In some areas UNOSOM has been too hasty in seeing the District Councils set up, not allowing reconciliation processes to precede the election of local leaders.

A new Somali society is taking shape anyhow, being built up from below. The process has started in remote areas where there is relative peace today. Preparation work is now done in Mogadishu (Benadir Region) and other "difficult" areas like Lower and Middle Juba in southern Somalia.

The result of this has so far been very encouraging. However, it would be naive to believe that the reconstruction of a new Somalia will be easy and smooth. Not everyone is in favor of this move to a new decentralised society--emphasising democratic principles and building on the authority of the local traditional structures.

Continued international support is essential if this process is to continue, as the Secretary General said in a report: "So far the UN has been behind this approach to Somali peace building and given it its full support. The political mandate of the United Nations Operation in Somalia is derived from the relevant Security Council resolutions and implemented through the framework of the Addis Ababa Agreement of March 1993. This entails a delicately balanced, two track approach: reconciliation among the national factions and promoting district councils at the grass roots. Ideally, these tracks are complementary and mutually reinforcing in achieving national foundation for representative governance." (94-01-06)

We hope that the UN is not abandoning this two-track approach in favor of the warlords. It is a great concern for us just now as signals have been reaching us in recent months that the leadership of UNOSOM is again giving the warlords increased power.

Other Partners in Somalia

Even if our partner in Somalia has been UNOSOM, we have not been hindered from establishing contacts with other organisations and movements in the region. In Somaliland we have supported the Council of Elders in their reconciliation work among the clans in northern Somalia. We were among the main contributors to the Bororma conference in February 1993, and we have also supported a follow up conference in Sanaag region. All in line with empowering local structures in the area.

A coalition of Somali Peace Groups has been formed with HAP support. These groups are based both inside Somalia and in Djibouti, Nairobi and Addis Ababa.

Finally two other activities where LPI/HAP is involved--in cooperation with other partners.

The Working Group for the Horn of Africa, is a consortium of European agencies directly involved in relief and development work in the Horn of Africa, but with a specific concern for issues of peace advocacy and democracy building in the Horn countries. LPI/HAP has from 1994 taken up the role of lead agency for this group.

International Resource Group of Disarmament and Security in the Horn of Africa. Disarmament, Demobilisation and Arms trade are all relevant issues in peacebuilding in the Horn of Africa. LPI/HAP has taken the initiative to set up a resource group of 8 leading experts on security and demobilisation. 4 are prominent personalities from Africa. Conrad Grebel College in Canada is the lead agency for the group. AGKED in Germany and LPI/HAP are part of the secretariat.

Cooperation in Ethiopia and Sudan

The concentration on LPI work in Somalia in this article does not mean that we are not concerned with other parts of the Horn of Africa. Through our partner in Ethiopia, the Ad Hoc Committee for Peace and Development, we are following the move to a more stabilised situation in Eritrea and Ethiopia.

An appeal from the Churches in Sudan has brought us new challenges in that country. Learning about our role in Somalia, the two councils of the churches in Sudan (Sudan Council of Churches, operating from Khartoum and New Sudan Council of Churches, with its base in Nairobi) have asked us to get involved in peacemaking and peacebuilding in Sudan. It is a three-phase program including research, peace monitoring and empowerment of women for peace.


In the months ahead, the UN Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM) will withdraw from Somalia, in highly defensive positions and under threat of looting and attack by local militias. It leaves behind a country still wracked by internecine warfare and anarchy, still devestated economically, and nowhere nearer to national reconciliation than when Operation Restore Hope began in December of 1992.

Under these circumstances, it is difficult to declare UNOSOM anything less than a failed mission. For those of us who have had high expectations for an active and enlightened UN role in multilateral peace operations, this failure is painful but essential to acknowledge. What matters now is that the international community come to a clear understanding of why the UN failed in Somalia, and how to avoid such debacles in the future.

There are many who argue that the UN mission in Somalia was handed an impossible task and therefore was doomed from the outset to fall short of expectations. Somalia was and remains a violent and fractious conflict, which was not amenable to the "quick-fix" solution demanded by impatient international observers. Moreover, it was clear from the beginning that several Somali warlords viewed the UN intervention, and tis mandate to assist in peacebuilding and broad-based political rehabilitation, as a direct threat to their power base, and were determinated to disrupt and undermine the operation. When the US refused to embark on an aggressive campaign to disarm the Somali militas, leaving both disarmament and political reconciliation to the UN, many observers felt that the US was handing the UN an untenable mission that was destined to spiral into protracted violence.

But the UN clearly contributed to its own demise in Somalia, with shortsighted political strategies and a distressingly unresponsibility and bureaucratic operation in the field. Perhaps the most disappointing shortcoming was UNOSOM's inhability to identify and work cooperatively with legitimate Somali representatives in the course of fostering reconciliation and political rehabilitation. This was by no means an easy task amidst a collapsed state and in the complex political culture of Somalia, locating legitimate political authority was a challenge even for the Somalis themselves. But the UN, which had little understanding of Somali society, erred when it chose to place the faction leaders at the center of national reconciliation efforts,and when it subsequently abandoned grass-roots political constituencies in a vain attempt to broker a quick deal between warlords.

There were those in the UN who felt that their preoccupation with the warlords was simple "realism," contending that the militas were the sources of the conflict and therefore had to be at the center of a solution. But this was a simplistic assessment. For one thing, it confused the ability to destroy and loot with the ability to govern. Secondly, it failed to understand that the warlords' power base rested on fear, instability, and conquest, not on peace, disarmament, and representative governance. Finally, it sought to facilitate a pact among the warlords to create an interim government without first achieving national reconciliation, an approch which would have triggered renewed civil war had it succeeded.

Not surprisingly, the UN wasted millions of dollars, and precious time and credibility, courting recalcitrant warlords to attend peace conferences which invariably failed. Those they had invited had no interest in an end to the conflict. A truly "realist" assessment would have concluded that peacebuilding requires working cooperatively with a peace constituency and in Somalia, that could be found not among the militia leaders but at the grass-roots level, amongs the thousands of average Somalis weary of war and wanting only a return to a normal life for themselves and their families. But over time they were increasingly ignored by the UN, and never found their collective voice to demand that their leaders reach a real and durable reconciliation.

It is likely that in the near future the UN will again be presented with a crisis involving a failed state, and will again have to make choices about who represents legitimate authority in that society. For reasons of expediency and political preference, the UN will again be tempted to overlook grass-roots leadership in its search for a centralized solution. For those of us who continue to hope that a reformed UN can serve as an effective force for conflict prevention and resolution, we must nontheless always keep in mind that the UN represents the interests of states, not the interest of people who collectively make up the international community. It is critical that we not confuse the two. The best interests of the mosaic of communities making up the "global village" will not be guaranteed by the UN unless it is pushed and prodded to do so.

The Somali experience shows us that UN must be kept under constant pressure from "watch-dog" nongovernmental organizations to insure that it not overlook the very people it ostensibly seeks to assist the grass-roots women's cooperative in an urban slum, the village elders in agricultural settlements, the energic and frustrated intellectuals in refugee camps. If there are solutions to such complex crises such as Somalia's, it will come from these quarters, not from the lair of gunmen who gladly starve their own people to death. For international voluntary agencies, religous groups, and human rights activists, the challenge is to establish a constructive but critical dialogue with the UN, coaxing it and when necessary embarrassing it into creating the political space for grass-roots peacemakers to play a role in resolving the violent conflicts tearing apart their communities.

Ken Menkhaus

Ken Menkhaus served as political advisor in UNOSOM for nine months in 1993-94. An assistant professor of Political Science at Davidson College (USA), he is currently a visiting professor at the US Army Peacekeeping Institute.


Demoblisation, in an international security context would usually be implemented after national reconciliation has occurred and a Peace Accord signed. This should normally contain the modalities for the disarmament and the disengagement of the contending parties. The terms of the Peace Accord should ideally contain clear provisions of appropriate mechanics and framework within which the disarmament and the demobilisation of the forces should be conducted. In most instances, one would be dealing with the disarmament of properly structured forces, with lines of command of forces that are distinct and clearly understandable by other members of the society.

In the case of Somalia, the fighting forces can be classified into three interrelated categories:

1. The factional militia groups; these appear organised and structured along some loosely defined lines of command. In most other situations, these factional militia groups would be considered "ragtag" and of no serious importance in terms of their ability to affect the peace and stability of the system because they appear so disorganised and do not conform to the regular perception of a formal army nor of an organised guerrilla movement. They do not wear uniforms to distinguish them from other groups and discipline among their ranks is practically nonexistent.

2. The clan or community militia groups constitute the second category of militia. These are young men, who are organised by the clan elders and maintained by their communities for the defence of the community and clan interests whenever the clans are attacked from an opposing clan, or they implement the decision of the elders. This category of militia men are organisationally less structured. In most instances they are nomads and pastoral people from the interior who moved into the urban areas to join in the defence of their clan interests and to protect their people from attack by other clans. These "camel men," after successfully tackling the source of aggression to their clan interests remain in the townships fully armed with the sophisticated weapons they had been given. These militiamen are fed and maintained by their clan; when the clan is unable to maintain them adequately they constitute a nuisance to the communities, setting up illegal roadblocks and extorting money from the people. At the same time, in a situation of anarchy, where there is no government, no police, and on one else to provide security, the clan militiamen become necessary evils.

3. The third category consists of militiamen who join the factional or clan militia whenever their services are required. They are not permanently engaged by the factions or the clans; they get remuneration for the services performed in cash and kind. When these "freelance" militiamen called the "Morians" in some parts of Somalia, are not gainfully employed, they become nuisances to the society; organised and encouraged by their leaders, they loot what the group requires at that material time. Because they are often under the toxic influence of "khat" which they chew, they resort to fights at the least provocation. These outbursts of fighting have resulted in the deaths of a large number of people and tremendous devastation of the towns and cities.

In Somalia, these armies, though "ragtag," did successfully destroy the army of Siad Barre, which was one of the most heavily armed and organised armies in Africa. The national army of Somalia had fought for several years against its neighbours, especially Ethiopia and Kenya in an irredentist dream of creating a united Somali front. The most intense of these conflicts took place in the Ogaden in the mid-seventies in wars between Ethiopia and Somalia. The civil war that led to the defeat and escape of Siad Barre from Somalia in 1991 also resulted in the complete disintegration of the National Armed Forces of Somalia in 1991. Many of the surviving members have since joined one militia movement or the other. A common factor among these various"armies" in Somalia is the perception that society owes them livelihood and support because they have risked their lives for the defense of their clans and factions. They then feel quite justified to hold the society at ransom by attacking innocent people, and by looting at will, especially targeting the property of the international community.

At the same time, the community relies on these assortments of factional and clan militia to defend common interest whenever they are confronted with a threat from their neighbours. To further complicate the problem, Somalia has a very large population of unemployed young men with sophisticated arms, who carryout banditry and terrorize the people. In defining the concept of demobilisation in Somalia, one would have to define appropriate strategies to cater to the needs of the various groups of militia and determine what their benefits should be in a national demobilisation and reintegration plan.

The Addis Ababa Agreement of the First Session of the Conference on National Reconciliation In Somalia which was held in March 1993, in the clause dealing with Disarmament and Security, sates that disarmament must be comprehensive, impartial and transparent. The parties committed themselves to complete and simultaneous disarmament throughout Somalia in accordance with the Cease fire agreement of January 1993. The time frame that was proposed in that Accord for the implementation of the program was also accepted. The Somali parties requested assistance in the implementation of the disarmament aspects of the program so that the process would be substantially completed within 90 days. The United Nations, through UNOSOM, was charged with the responsibility of monitoring the implementation of the agreement.

The 1993 Cease-fire and Disarmament agreement provided for the encampment of the militia of the various factions in assembly points at predesignated locations outside of the town. Apart from the disarmament of the militia groups and the possibility of their training for "civil" skills, the Agreement makes a distinction between the processing of the factional militia and other "armed elements" who are to be disarmed immediately, without being processed through assembly areas. This category is also to be provided with opportunity for vocational training to facilitate their reintegration into civil society and economically productive life.

Thus for the purpose of demobilisation, if that agreement is still to be adhered to, a differentiation would be made in the treatment of factional militia members and other "free agent" militia in the sense that they would not be processed through assembly points. However, it is doubtful that the latter group can be successfully and effectively disarmed, without some assemblage in a communal area, and in fact without providing them with food and lodging until they can be relocated in the communities from where they had initially come. Most of the freelance militia moved from the rural areas into the cities; they have neither homes nor families and this is why many of them resort to brigandry as a means of survival.

UNOSOM's Demobilisation Program

The Somali Cease Fire and Disarmament Commission (SCFDC) that was created by the Addis Ababa conference could not function effectively as a result of the continued fighting among the warring factions. Initially the Mandate of UNOSOM I, UNITAF and UNOSOM II provided for the forceful disarmament of the Somali warring factions. However, and as a result of the political and security consequences of implementing this program, UNOSOM II decided to abadon the objective of coercive disarmament. This was primarily due to the attack on the Pakistani contingent of 5 June 1993 leading to the death of 25 and the wounding of 54, and another attack on forces of the United States Rangers. They were carrying out the Security Council resolutions that ordered the coercive disarmament of all warring factions in the Mogadishu area. The attack resulted in the death of 18 American soldiers and the wounding of 74 others. American and the forces of many of the Western powers were withdrawn from Somalia.

Unable to push too hard on the cease-fire and the disarmament agreements signed by the warring factions, the Disarmament, Demobilisation and the Demining Division of UNOSOM (the 3D division) prepared a program of demobilisation based on the concept of encouraging the gradual disarmament of the militia through the pursuit of the demobilisation programs. The rationale of the UNOSOM program is that, since the political climate in Somalia--that is the absence of a national political settlement and national reconciliation--renders the objective of coercive disarmament very difficult, if not impossible in most Somali communities, the institution of a program of vocational training and employment generating schemes for those militia members that would accept to disarm may encourage a larger number of those "free lance" militia members and the "morians" to join the scheme. Unfortunately, funding for the implementation of this program was not received until the latter part of September when the mandate of UNOSOM itself had become a contentious issue.

At any rate, the UNOSOM approach, particularly given the time it was started, was problematic for other reasons. The failure of the reconciliation initiatives encouraged by UNOSOM, and the aggressive measures by some of the factions to expand their spheres of influence, leading to the withdrawal of UN forces from some key towns such as Belet-Wein and Bardera and Merka, resulted in a further deterioration of the general security climate in the country. This created a very strong sense of insecurity in most communities as they prepared for aggressive attacks from opposing clans, especially when UNOSOM withdraws.

The latest decision by the United nations Security Council that UNOSOM should conclude its withdrawal from Somalia by March 31st 1995, Security Council Resolution 954 (S/1994/1242), has increased the tempo of insecurity as many of the Somali clans and factions are reported to be rearming in preparation for a last ditch attempt to consolidate their positions. Many of the communities and groups that had organised militia groups to benefit from the 3D vocational training and employment creation schemes have abandoned the attempt to disarm the militia as they argued that such a move would be suicidal. As most communities have a stronger foreboding about the personal security of their people, there is an urgency to prepare the defence of their clans and communities against attacks.

In fact, the most important question about 3D's approach to demobilisation was always the credibility of any commitment or promise to disarm by the groups applying for funding under the program on demobilisation. Many of the Somali NGOs and clan groups who applied suggest that arms collected in the disarmament process should be lodged with the clan leaders and community elders so that these would remain available to the clan when the clan security is threatened. Alternately, they suggest that arrangements be made to provide their communities with a larger number of Somali police for the defence of their communities under the UNOSOM's police training program. Weapons collected from the militia, they argue should be handed over to the police so that the security of the community would not be compromised by the disarmament program.

The problems with this proposal are manyfold; firstly, while the Police Division of UNOSOM believes that an adequate number of policemen have been recruited and trained for Somalia, presently, there are 6,500 policemen, excluding the north-west, for a population of 6 million; secondly it has not been possible to arm the police adequately to meet the challenges posed by the militia movements that destabilise the system. UNOSOM's policy has been to recruit only those who were in the somali police before the war. This has limited the number of those eligible and has also presented a police force that consists of either very old members, or very young members. Most communities have no police presence at all, and at best, the major cities have only a few hundred.

Funding for the police program has been problematic, especially the payment of police salaries, which is financed exclusively through international funding. Thirdly, the issue of the clan affiliation of the police is another problem in Somalia as policemen can only operate in their clan areas and there are fears that they would be used by their clan areas in the pursuit of their clan interests. When interclan conflict erupts, there are fears that the policemen may join the clan militia against other clans. Since the salary of the police is paid by UNOSOM, the role of the police in the context stated above can become embarrassing for the UN. Fourthly, the question of the arming of the police is also contentious. It is the general policy of UNOSOM to avoid arming the police because of the inability to control the use to which these arms may be put. Those of them that are presently armed were issued with these weapons at the beginning of the Mission when forceful disarmament was considered possible.

There are fears that a policy of disarmament of the militia which would result in the arming of the local police may create the complication of the United Nations facilitating factional wars, especially since the Somali police are presently deployed under the command of the existing District and Regional Councils, and there is no national government. The bone of contention lies in whether the police should, in this interim period when there is no central authority, nor a military force to secure the territorial integrity of the communities, be provided with arms of the standard commensurate to what is available to the militia in order to defend their communities.

At the same time, one must appreciate the delicate security implication of a peace-deal disarmament program in the absence of national reconciliation and a durable cease-fire. For as long as the United Nations is not in the position to provide the disarmed communities with effective defence against attacks from the rival factions, it becomes difficult to implement a credible program of disarmament and demobilisation. The local communities, individuals and in fact the international agencies often have to employ these same militia for the protection of their property and persons. Movement by most people, especially the expatriate community around the streets of the urban centres is only possible with the protective support of the local militia groups.

In the face of such daunting obstacles to effective disarmament, the temptation is to be flexible on the disarmament program, to allow local arrangements in which weapons collected from the militia groups would be stored by the clan leaders or the district governments. The possibility of joint supervision of weapon cantonment sites may even be exploited so that any breech of the security of the site would be known to the UN.

The problem is that presently, the push to rearmament is stronger than the pull to disarmament. Also, recent experiences raise questions of the ability of the traditional leaders, and the district governments that were established with the support of the United Nations to resist the pressure and threats from the factional leaders. The desire for assistance to provide the militia members with vocational training is understandable, considering the fact that the absence of fruitful employment renders participation in the movement attractive. However, if professional training is given to the militia without ensuring that it is extensive enough to equip them adequately to be self employed, one may succeed only in making the gunmen more proficient in the manipulation and use of their weapons.

What is to be Done?

At the same time, however, clearly the root of the security crisis in Somalia is economic, large numbers of people, a large proportion of the population have nothing to do. The provision of the opportunities for gainful employment will in itself reduce the number of people that would be available to join the militia movement and would enhance the opportunities for demobilisation. Demobilisation and retraining programs in Somalia would require the exploration of strategies that are novel. Perhaps, if the present program of demobilisation had been implemented much earlier, before the present phase of deterioration of security in Somalia, it would have stood a better chance of success and would have had a positive impact on the security climate.

The international community would need to monitor the process of negotiating a national reconciliation package to ensure that the totality of the problem of the militia is appreciated in terms of the contents of the accord for the disarmament and demobilisation program. The limitation of the disarmament and demobilisation process, and even the processes of reintegration to only those militiamen that are members of the formally recognised factions would only deal with the tip of the problem; at Addis in 1993, there were Fifteen factions and not all of them had a fighting force, now the numbers are a great deal larger. One of the urgent tasks that needs to be carried out is the conduct of a survey on the nature, the characteristics and the spread of the militia movement in Somalia. An understanding of this is fundamental to the planning of meaningful demobilisation strategies. Secondly, there is the need to approach the disarmament and the demoblisation of the militia within the framework of the development of a comprehensive security system, so that the development of the police and even the national security structures will dove-tail into the disarmament, demoblisation and reintegration processes. Obviously, one cannot talk of disarmament and demoblisation in a security vacuum. More importantly, however, is the need to evolve a comprehensive program for the social and economic development of Somalia since an enduring security can only be constructed on the well-being of the people.

Again the effective disarmament and demoblisation will be more problematic in the absence of an international security and police presence that is dispersed to the community level. Such a deployment can only be considered in the context of national reconciliation, peaceful settlement, and the rebuilding of an interim national and regional political authority that would give credibility. While it is important for a Somali solution to be evolved to deal with a Somali problem, given the complete deterioration of confidence among the clan, some agencies would have to provide the buffer.

Lastly, because of the massive destruction of properties and facilities throughout Somalia, the task of disarmament and demoblisation would have to involve the mobilisation of enormous resources--the erection of an adequate number of assembly points, the provision of facilities to cater for the demobilising militia members, the psychological reorientation of the men to help them readjust to a new way of life as responsible members of the community--will require extensive financing. The assembly periods may be quite extensive given the enormity of the problems of Somalia; the running of the camps would have to be organised requiring massive human and financial resources. Experience with the encampment of the militia in the north-west of Somalia tends to suggest that the encampment period should be reduced to the minimum period necessary in order to reduce the risk of rioting and violence by militia men who may consider themselves entrapped.

The reintegration process has to be dealt with within the context of a total national reconstruction; care would have to be taken to avoid the perception that the militia members are being singled out for reward or compensation. Even now, many of the faction leaders have approached us for the establishment of demobilisation programs, not because they are anxious to disband their forces, but in the preparation for the next round of war, they want to be seen as taking care of the boys in order to further cement their allegiance.

Presently, the public resentment of the militia, often described as the "camel boys" is quite strong. The communities feel trapped by them and they believe that the international organisations have heightened their profile and have over concentrated on them and the faction leaders. This is of course not entirely correct. The truth is that it is practically impossible to implement any program in Somalia without contending with these major actors who presently loom very large on the Somali landscape.

Margaret A. Vogt

Margaret Vogt is an associate professor of Research at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Lagos as well as Head of the division of Strategic Studies. Currently on leave from the Institute, she holds the position of Demobilisation Officer at UNOSOM.


At the behest of my old father who could not fulfill his life-long dream of returning to his home in Somalia, and who at the time was anticipating his death, I left Tanzania for Somalia, towards the end of the 1960s. This was also a period when all people of Somali origin were known in the Eastern African countries as "Shifta," because of the guerilla struggle that was being waged by the Somali inhabitants of north-eastern Kenya who aspired for secession. The term Shifta held a double meaning, it evoked images of marauding gangs of Somalis who caused death, maiming and destruction, everywhere they went. It was also the term used to identify the rest of us ethnic Somali children from our non-Somali friends. Subsequently, like many other children of Somali origin growing up in Tanzania at the time, this helped in contributing to the awakening of the nascent Somali identity in me, and in turn helped to strengthen my resolve to travel to Somalia.

Happy Surprises

Somalia, in the 1960s was a place full of happy surprises. While all the paraphernalia of a nation-state system was in place, Somalis had continued to draw sustenance in their daily life from their traditional segmentary social system. In terms of social structure, this arrangement helped to strengthen the social cohesiveness of groups that were similar, and as for the political structure, it helped to provide stability to the Somali nation-state. This may seem somewhat of a contradiction, but the Somali society had continued to operate without any sign of dissonance. An example can be seen in the notion of authority as a concept. Both the authorities of the Somali traditional unit of social and political organisations, otherwise known as the clan, and that of the state continued to exist side by side without sign of any visible altercation between them. Nowhere was the cooperation between the two more evident than in the process of sanctifying status position within the society. For example, any status position within the state structures before being formalised, required the blessings of the traditional sociopolitical structures. In this way, status positions ranging from a place in the parliament to a ministerial position were shared between and among clan units with minimum levels of hostility.

Although clan units maintained such a high level profile in the overall scheme of things within the framework of the then Somali state, this did not diminish the true spirit of Somali nationalism. As proof in support of this statement, one need only look back to the 1960s and recount the frequency with which the Somali state went to war against its neighbors in Ethiopia and Kenya, all in the name of Somali unity. It is therefore, no exaggeration to claim that that decade still represents a milestone in the annals of the history of Somali nationalism.

At a personal level, the contradiction which arose from within the political culture of the 1960s did touch those of us who came from outside Somalia quite profoundly. At one level, it brought us into contact with the lineage group to which each of us belong and from which we drew both spiritual and material sustenance. At another level, through intimacy with our respective clan units we also lived in the hope of acquiring a share of the state resources. The latter was, of course hard to come by since the country had just achieved independence, and the meager resources available at the time, were certainly not enough to satisfy the needs of everyone. Meanwhile those of us who were not conversant in the Somali language, took advantage of the situation and were soon able to speak the language fluently.

Fear and Suspicion

In the early 1970s, I left Somalia for further studies abroad and was not to return until late 1970s. My visit this time proved quite a revelation. I found that the city of Mogadishu had grown large and was bursting to its seams with a population that I assumed had just arrived from the country's rural areas. The gay and joyful spirit that had once been the trademark of life in Mogadishu had clearly vanished. Instead I found that a feeling of lethargy had settled over the city, although to a casual observer this feeling may have been belied by the cheerful parading of women and children on their way to and from the so called "Orientation centers." At these centers, songs in praise of the death of pluralism in the society as well as others in praise of "The Father of the Nation" (meaning Siad Barre) went on nonstop. Perhaps the most telling of all experiences was the ever present feeling I had of a pervading sense of fear and suspiscion that seemed to hold the society in its grip.

Let me illustrate with a clear example just how pervading this sense of fear was. My host, his wife and I were driving in the city one day, when I happened to catch sight of posters bearing Siad Barre's picture. I jokingly made the comment "Big Brother is watching us," this being in reference to George Orwell's book, "1984". To my surprise, my joke went unheeded. Based on my host's silence, I immediately formed the following assumptions: that my host was perhaps hard of hearing; that he was perhaps ignorant of the context from which the joke was made, or that he had no sense of humor, at all! Yet upon reflection, I was convinced that none of these suppositions were, in fact, true. My host, as I knew him, had an acute sense of hearing, his record as a brilliant student of western education and culture was uncontested, and therefore I concluded that he must have been aware of the context from which the comment was made, and finally as for his sense of humor, indeed his was legendary. My subsequent preoccupation with the subject in the following few days was rewarded with the following bit of information: my host's wife, I was told, belonged to the much dreaded state security apparatus. This incident proved to be quite enlightening, as it succeeded in conveying a very crucial message which no amount of eloquent words possibly could have achieved. Indeed both the sense of fear and suspicion that I had noted earlier on upon my arrival was real and not imagined. It was a fear of the state, which having lost all forms of legitimacy was acting like the rogue elephant on a rampage in the African bush.

In 1979 Siad Barre and his companions were indeed a very angry lot. This was the year of the failed coup against his government. Apparently, all but one of those involved in mounting the failed coup, lived to tell the story; all the others were executed. In a state of paranoia and suspicion, prison without trial and wide scale incidents of torture of those who held opposing views was initiated. As a result of this, Siad Barre managed though unwittingly, to belittle all his other past achievements which included the promotion of the Somali orthography, the resettlement of draught victims, and the successful fight against the encroachment of sand dunes from the seashore onto the farmlands. Indeed Somalia in the late 1970s was not a healthy place to be and so I was forced to flee the country at the first opportune moment.

It was to be another decade before I was once again able to visit Somalia. My visit to the country, this time was in connection with an assignment for the Life & Peace Institute, a Swedish-based international peace and research institution. Upon my arrival in the country, I noticed clearly the absence of any form of state sovereignty. During the course of my stay which lasted little more than two weeks, I did not, at anytime, come across one of the most important symbols of the Somali sovereign identity; the Somali flag. At the airport in Mogadishu, the presence of the UN forces managing air flights for the Somali civilians, from one point of the country to another, was a reminder and a measure of the absence of Somali sovereign authority.

To me, the collapse of the Somali state has meant that the Somali people were faced with a great moment in their history: the death of Somali nationalism, and in its place, the rise of unencumbered clan chauvinism. Somali nationalism was an affirmation of loyalty to the Somali state together with the spirit of sacrifice needed to work along with the state to promote the well-being of the Somali people. On the other hand, clan chauvinism follows the mobilisation of clan units by clan elites otherwise known as warlords, which centers around the conviction that other clan units are enemies and should therefore be vanquished, if one's own clan was to survive. The threat of clan chauvinism is in fact becoming real with each passing day. It is quite obvious that in the absence of any form of mass communication and the current physical barriers between and among clan units, Somalis are soon bound to forget that they have until recently shared a common destiny.

While, elsewhere, in Africa the existence of the state is being increasingly taken for granted, and instead the struggle for development has taken preedence, to the Somalis living in Somalia, neither of the two tasks seem humanly possible. Somalis are the only people on earth who do not have a state of their own, and where, therefore, Hobbe's Leviathan is being enacted with all that it entails. In such circumstances, it is quite hard not to be pessimistic, yet miracles do happen, even at this time and age of ours when cynicism reigns supreme. I am therefore optimistic that peace, which still remains elusive, will one day be achieved in Somalia, and that Somalis will have a chance to express their own wishes regarding the type of state they may wish to have in the future. The option may range from a unitary state, to a federal state and to outright cessation. The world community should not, however, loose patience with the Somali people in the face of intransigence from a handful of the so-called warlords, who are nothing but vultures preying on the empty shell of the human life. If these vultures were to have their way, I am afraid the future would indeed be too ghastly to contemplate for the poor men, women and children of that tortured country.

Mohamed I. Farah


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Date: Sun, 29 Jan 1995 20:07:58 GMT
From: Everett Nelson []
Message-Id: []
Subject: Life & Peace Review 4/94

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar
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