Somalia News Update, 3/28- 12/94

Somalia News Update, 3/28- 12/94

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

Vol 3, No 28           December 14, 1994.             ISSN 1103-1999  
Somalia News Update is published irregularly via electronic mail and fax. Questions can be directed to or to fax number +46-18-151160. All SNU marked material is free to quote as long as the source is clearly stated. ____________________________________________________________________


Somalia News Update (Uppsala, December 14) - The Hargeysa unrest continues and many aid agencies and the international media remain outside of Somaliland. This delicate situation has given an inflated political significance to scanty reports by inexperienced visitors to the region.

One example is the freshly recruited member of the International Red Cross (ICRC). Upon arriving from Mogadishu shortly after the first rebel attack on Hargeysa in November, he demanded that "the ICRC should be allowed to work on both sides" of the conflict. This infuriated President Egal because his government does not admit that the current troubles have the magnitude or significance of a civil war. In addition, most people in Somaliland's government also remember too well that the ICRC chose to work only on Siyad Barres side during his bombardment of Hargeysa six years ago.

How serious, then, is the conflict? General Jama Qaalib "Yare", a former member of Somaliland's parliament, was able to amass some support for his anti-government cause among his own subsection of the Idagalle clan. However, it appears that the majority of the Idagalle are hesitant to join forces with Jama Qaalib and remain behind the sultan and his majority section called Abdi Barre.

In addition, not many members of the Habar Yunnis clan, who belong to the same subgroup of Isaq clans as the Idagalle - the Garhajis - are supporting Jama Qaalib. More importantly, the most prestigious section of the Habar Yunnis, the Hersi Osman, together with the militarily strong Habar Jelo clan, declared that they don't regard the conflict as a clan conflict. They say it is a political conflict about the power to control the Hargeysa government.

The conflict is not confined to actors within Somaliland alone. Somaliland's former president Abdurahman Ahmed Ali "Tuur" (Habar Yunnis/Garhajis/Isaq) remains with his recent ally Mohamed Farah Aideed in Mogadishu since UNOSOM persuaded him (with the aid of a $200,000 grant) to come back from his exile in London in April. The evidence for a direct UNOSOM/Aideed/Tuur backing of the Idagalle rebels remains vague, except for their very open support given through the media.

In a recent internal memo from MSF (Doctors Without Borders), it is reported that following the government attack on the rebels at the Hargeysa airport in mid-November, an "Aideed-loyal" radio station began to broadcast outside Hargeysa.

General Jama Qaalib, who hoped for more tangible support from elsewhere, is said to have travelled to Yemen. However, it is reported that his visit to Yemen was in vain.

Given the unclear status of the current situation in Hargeysa, it is not surprising that the number of displaced people in and around the city attracted some interest. A very high number of displaced people would supposedly indicate a very serious situation and, by implication, a weakening of Egal's standing. It is hardly surprising, therefore to find that UNOSOM - which Egal expelled from Somaliland in August - reports that up to 200,000 people were displaced from Hargeysa. The same figure is reported by UNICEF which, despite repeated requests from this newsletter, has declined to comment on the source for their figure.

Save the Children Fund (UK) tells Somalia News Update that their "working estimate" is 40,000 displaced persons.

Most reports of the number of displaced persons fail to mention that some of the people tend to stay with relatives in the immediate outskirts of Hargeysa. In addition, there exists no calculations that take into account the usual number of people who temporarily leave the city for rural areas during the rainy season. Another politicized figure is the number of people that appeared in camps on the Ethiopian side of the border.

Most donor agencies accept Ethiopia's claim that some 50,000 Somalilanders are in its refugees camps. However, a recent report by Britain's Save the Children Fund established that Ethiopian camp figures in general are much inflated. The report also showed that it was common for refugees to be registered in more than one camp and that even returnees would retain their refugee status.

President Egal on Saturday told Reuters that he isn't ready to invite international aid workers to return to Somaliland and accused them of spreading "disinformation" about the Hargeysa conflict. On the question of the current seriousness of the conflict, Mr. Egal replied: "We have not rooted out all the terrorists. There are still a few pockets of them hiding in Hargeisa. They are fighting a hit-and-run war against us but we will root them out."

The BBCs Somali Service today, Wednesday, reported a clash between troops loyal to Jama Qaalib and the regular Somaliland army. The confrontation, which occurred at the Dumboloq police station close to the Hargeysa airport, claimed 5 civilian lives and left 30 injured, according to the BBC.


Column by Abdul Abdi

It was two years ago that Yankee Marines landed on Mogadishu's sunny beaches in order to save starving Somalis. But with the American troops gone and the United Nations peacekeeping troops getting ready to leave by March next year, Somalia is on the brink of yet another major civil war. Perhaps the mother of all civil wars. Just last week, Somali militiamen, taking their que from the Bosnian Serbs, kidnapped some Bangladeshi peacekeepers in Afgooye and demanded "rent money" for a building used by UN troops. The UN, which is simply fed up with Somali extortion, responded with Pakistani quick reaction force that used tanks and Cobra helicopter gunships to free the Bangladeshi troops. Eighteen Somalis were killed and 42 were wounded.

The picture isn't any prettier in Mogadishu. In the past couple of weeks, gunmen loyal to warlords Mohamed Farah Aydeed and Ali Mahdi Mohamed exchanged gunfire using recoilless rifles and heavy machine guns. One Egyptian peacekeeper was killed, another from India was wounded and more than 30 Somalis were sent to their graves. Even in the usually peaceful breakaway republic of Somaliland, President Mohamed Ibrahim Egal's government troops last month battled opposition clan militiamen said to be loyal to former Somaliland President Abdurahman Ahmed Ali "Tuur." Over hundred people were killed, hundreds were wounded and close to 50,000 people fled the capital Hargeysa and became refugees in neighboring Ethiopia.

And as crazy as it may sound, warlords Aydeed and Ali Mahdi are holding separate "peace" conferences in Somalia's residual capital and each man is expected to declare his own government before the year ends. Ironically, neither of them is respected beyond city limits and for all practical intents and puposes they are fighting over the mayorship of Mogadishu not the presidency of Somalia.

Fed up with Somalia's seemingly endless tribal nightmare, all private charity groups - except Doctors without Borders - pulled out of Somalia this year. President Clinton pulled American troops out of Somalia in March after 18 Army Rangers were killed in Mogadishu during a manhunt for then-fugutive warlord Aydeed. And the UN, which lost over 100 peacekeepers to keep a peace that doesn't really exist at the cost of nearly $4 million a day, finally decided to pull the plug on Somalia by March next year.

Left to their devices, Somalis are certain to renew and intensify their ancient and senseless clan warfare. And although the country has a surpluss of food (Somalia exported food overseas this year after a good harvest!) pretty soon the coming nasty civil war will induce yet another tragic famine. Places like Baydhabo, which became known as "the city of death" after 400 famine victims were buried each sunrise, are likely to resurface on Western television screens again. But, unlike the last time, when a world terrified by the sight of starving children, came to the rescue of Somalia, it is likely to be very different this time around. With the failures of Bosnia and Somalia in mind, the West is likely to stand indifferent when donor agencies call for help. Fatigue will replace compassion. And Somalis will have nobody but themselves to blame. Perhaps such an outcome isn't all that bad and as the Somali proverb says, "ninkii roon baa reerka u hadhi," or the stronger man will rule the house.

[Abdul Abdi, a former broadcaster at VOA's Somali Service, is an editorial assistant for SNU.]


By Paul Watson, Copyright Toronto Star.

(Pulitzer prize-winning Star reporter Paul Watson is believed to be the first Western journalist to witness an Islamic court in session in Somalia - and the subsequent punishment. Details of the death penalty carried out this week are graphic and may upset some readers.)

Toronto Star (Mogadishu, December 10) - Had the Muslim judges simply decided to execute their prisoner sitting handcuffed and trembling in the dirt, the court could have shown mercy and had him shot. But Abdulahi Weheliye Omar, 25, confessed to raping 18-year- old Maryan Hussein Amir and under Islamic law, his crime was all the worse because he had once been married.

After consulting the holy Koran, the 12 sheiks sitting in judgment decided that a swift death was too good for a man who would take a wife only to turn to rape. Omar would have to suffer for what he did, in a slow, painful and most hideous way. He would be stoned to death.

And so a crowd of several hundred people, many of them children, were called by megaphone Thursday to witness the first stoning since Somalia's Islamic court began dispensing brute justice on Aug. 11.

They gathered around what was once a public square with a statue of two Somalis holding the country's flag high.

These days, the square looks like an empty, dirt parking lot beside a ruined monument to a state that died long ago. It's in a district of north Mogadishu where warlord Ali Mahdi Mohamed rules and where Muslim fundamentalists are making the most out of chaos to expand their power. They're leading Somalia still deeper into a new Dark Age where God's punishment is meted out in its most medieval form.

In its first four months, north Mogadishu's Islamic court has sentenced 182 people, most of them to lashings, amputations or, for the fortunate, prison terms. So far, the court's sheiks haven't ordered a jail term longer than 11 months, that one to an especially lucky thief. Another 13 people, convicted of stealing or banditry have paid for their crimes with their limbs.

Three of those convicts had a hand cut off while the rest lost both a hand and a leg, double punishment for the most heinous of thieves, said Sheik Ali Sheik Mohamed, the court's chairman.

One of the amputees is a woman, Sheik Mohamed said through an interpreter, with a smile that showed his pleasure with his jurisdiction's record. The cutting is done with any long knife that's available, and there are many around, Sheik Mohamed said. The wounds are cauterized by shoving the amputated limb into a pot of boiling oil.

Omar was the first Somali forced to sit with his left wrist handcuffed to his left ankle so he couldn't fight as his body and head were pummeled limp and bloody with sharp rocks. His victim wanted to throw the first stone, but only men were allowed to join in. So she had to settle for watching the man who violated her slowly drown in his own blood.

"I am very happy because they did bad things to me," Amir said as Omar and Gelle Omar Ali, 25, the second man who raped her, were led to their punishment. "They didn't do me any favors." Ali was sentenced to 100 lashes and allowed to live, if only barely and in excruciating pain, because he was a bachelor.

The trial took place on the second floor of a looted import- export company's office. The courtroom was slightly larger than a two-car garage. About 100 men sat on a carpet beneath a ceiling chipped with bullet holes. Six bunches of bare wires dangled where lights used to be. The 12 judges sat in upholstered dining chairs in a semi- circle behind an old office desk. They held copies of the Koran in their laps.

They were guarded by two men with their fingers on the triggers of Kalashnikov assault rifles. One, who also had a grenade in his hand, was doing all he could to stay awake in the dripping heat.

The rape trial was brief because the men both admitted to everything their accuser said had happened around 9 a.m. Tuesday near Mahadey village, about 100 kilometres north of Mogadishu.

Omar and Ali, who had promised to help Amir find her sister in the town of Johar, instead led her into the bush, held a knife to her neck and raped her for four hours. They also stole 100,000 Somali shillings, worth about $ 20 U.S., her earnings from selling qat, a leafy plant which Somalis chew for hours each day to get an amphetamine-like kick.

As the judges announced their verdict over a megaphone, Amir stood less than a metre from the rapists. Her eyes dared them to look at her, but they stared forward, silent. When the sentences had been rendered, the court offered Amir her stolen money back.

Sheik Mohamed handed her a stack of filthy shilling notes bound with an elastic band. She slowly thumbed through each greasy bill, determined that no one would cheat her.

A line of a dozen gunmen herded the convicts out of the building to their fate in the shimmering white heat of midday and a man watching in the street stopped me to ask what I thought. "What do you do to a man in your country who has raped?" he asked in halting English.

"We put them jail. We don't kill them," I replied. "But then they will rape again," he shot back, looking angry. The discussion ended there because the punishment was about to begin.

Omar and Ali were ordered to sit, handcuffed together, in the middle of the square, lined on two sides by about 300 men, women and children, ordered to stay about 40 metres away.

But the gallery had to wait for the main event. First, an elderly man caught drinking beer would receive 40 lashes. The sheiks allowed him to keep his shirt on in deference to his age. But each blow still stung and the old man tried in vain to block them with his hands manacled behind his back. That made him seem to dance, which amused the crowd.

Then the guards unshackled Ali from Omar, and snapped the free handcuff shut around Omar's ankle. They stripped Ali's shirt off and tied it around his head as a blindfold.

They took turns flogging him as a sheik counted off each blow over a megaphone, pausing only for them to adjust the blindfold because Ali was choking on it.

He writhed and twisted with each lash and as long, bleeding welts rose in criss-crosses the length of his back, he chanted: "Laa ilaaha illa laah, Mohamed Rasuulu laah."

("I believe there is no rightfully worshipped God in the world save Allah, and Mohamed is his prophet.")

When he stumbled and fell and cried out in pain, the crowd laughed. The children laughed loudest, as if they were watching a circus clown. Soon after the 100th lash, the pain knocked Ali unconscious and he was dragged to a side street where a small group of men tried to revive him with water and camel's milk.

Now Omar was alone in the square except for a tattered grain sack bulging with chunks of concrete, sitting a few metres behind him. He was pleading quietly to the passing guards, insisting that he had never been married, as they tore at the sack he couldn't see.

The first blow caught Omar from behind, knocking him on his side where he lay in a semi-fetal position as about 20 men hurled rocks at his back. Most were the size of softballs. The largest few were a bit bigger than a woman's purse. The spectators laughed and cheered the sharpest hits, like the one delivered by an elderly man who raised a hunk of concrete with two hands, high above his head, and smashed it down on Omar's. That opened a gaping wound near Omar's neck and his body suddenly went still, except for his free foot, which quivered for about a minute and then stopped.

A guard craned above him to check for any breathing, like a wary hunter searching for life in his wounded prey, afraid that it might lunge and bite. Even though his face was a swollen mushy mess, Omar's chest was still heaving and he coughed a few times. Another guard unlocked his handcuffs and the barrage resumed.

"Kill him. Don't make it difficult for him to die," Abdi Ali Alasow, the court's deputy chairman, shouted over the megaphone. "Each one of you take a stone.

"Continue until he is dead. Don't show any mercy." Fifteen minutes after the first rock fell, Omar was still breathing, blood pouring in a stream from his nose and gurgling in his throat.

He finally died after about 20 minutes, and the guards left the blood-stained rocks where they lay, piled up against the corpse of Amir's rapist.

"It's a big victory for the Muslims, especially in Somalia," Alasow announced to the satisfied crowd.

"Take a lesson, those men and women who walk the streets embracing with their arms over each other's shoulder. Take a lesson."

As the crowd dispersed, I asked the court chairman, Sheik Mohamed, if he knew that most of the world condemned his idea of justice. Of course, he said, dismissing the criticism as foreign meddling. No one should feel sorry for Omar, not after what he did to an innocent woman, the sheik added. Certainly none of the Somali spectators did.

"Not even one," Sheik Mohamed said. "We took a vote and they are all happy. The Muslim religion supports this. Even those who were amputated are happy.

"They told us so."


Somalia News Update (Addis Ababa, December 5) - The Ethiopian government fired Ugaz Abdulrahman as President of Ethiopia's Ogaden region (Region 5) last week. Details about his dismissal remain unclear but the stated reasons are said to be charges of corruption and incompetance - the same reasons that led to the ousting of the last two presidents of Region 5.

The firing of the President coincides with Ethiopia's admission that troops of the transitional government engaged on action with rebel forces in the Ogaden region's southeastern parts that share border with Somalia.

In a statement issued November 30, Ethiopian Prime Minister Tamrat Layne said some Oromo dissidents and Islamic groups in the adjacent regions of Harar and Ogaden were doing "illegal things." The clashes have been confirmed by independent travelers to the area.

The Ogaden, populated by ethnic Somalis, was granted local autonomy by Addis Ababa after the hard-line regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam was overthrown. Somalia and Ethiopia went to war over the Ogaden in the late 70's in a regional conflict that became international after the Soviet Union came to the rescue of Ethiopia which regained control of the Ogaden.

SNU is an entirely independent newsletter devoted to critical analysis of the political and humanitarian developments in Somalia and Somaliland. SNU is edited and published by Dr. Bernhard Helander, Uppsala University, Sweden. SNU's editorial assistant is Mr. Abdul Abdi, College Park, Md, USA.


Date: Wed, 14 Dec 1994 21:38:24 +0100
From: Bernhard Helander
Subject: Somalia News Update, No 28

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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