Zooming into the Past
An Aura of Eid al-Fitr Verbal Habits
June 21, 2006
Regardless of the changes wrought by years of civil wars in Somalia, the deep faith of the Somalis has never wavered. The aura surrounding the holy month of Ramadan (the 9th month of Islamic calendar) and the beginning of the month Shawwal, Eid al-Fitr (the feast of breaking the fast) are widely discernible in Somalia. Outsiders can easily observe relatives and neighbors feasting the richest foods that they can prepare, during the three-day Eid al-Fitr holidays.
Eid al-Fitr has always been an opportunity to end all kinds of social conflicts, representing a moment of hope and reconciliation. It is a moment of atonement that symbolizes politicians and community leaders delivering long speeches that underscore the promise of breaking all previous social ills. Our concern in zooming into previous illusive verbal habits of Somali warlords is to analyze how this event has been reshaped in light of the annals of Somali civil wars, paralleling it to the new developments of so-called Islamic Courts in southern Somalia – where its recent military campaign seems to produce an aura of Eid al-Fitr verbal habit that is being replayed in four consecutive months.
Eid Verbal Habits
Historically, only towards the end of the month of Ramadan and the beginning of Shawwal (Eid al-Fitr) do Mogadishu warlords used to address of themselves and their armed factions (mooryaans) as liberators, mujaahidiin, and keepers of law and order – a distinct combination that marks to themselves as true Muslims and to their armed clan factions as jihadists under the banner of Islam. Around this time of the year, mooryaans, who might not come to the mosque, will excuse themselves from their daily Isbaaro business in order to come to the mosque for Eid al-Fitr prayer, and to hear their warlords’ Eid al-Fitr speeches.
Undoubtedly, the significance of Eid al-Fitr verbal messages is enormous. Warlords’ messages have often aroused “Looma Ooyaans” sentiment and thus temporarily gave warlords an occasional support (often in the form of street rally). Somehow, due to the aura surrounding the Eid (festival), the public does not regard the warlords as individuals beyond redemption, despite the feeling of contempt for their criminal acts.
For the warlords, Eid al-Fitr occasion is the core of legitimacy, of their own and thus of their mooryaans. Without a doubt, warlords have this legitimacy issue in mind when they address to the public. In their speeches, the practice of referring to other factions as evil-doers was remarkably persistent and pervasive. They, either by ignorance or deliberate propaganda, showed lack of respect for the event. For example, this practice occurred in both General Aydeed and Ali Mahdi’s Fitr speeches, in early 1990s (see below). Both warlords constantly trumpeted of themselves as saviours of Somali unity, nationalists, as well as religious men who realized the necessity to end clan conflicts and thus willing to implement the newly signed peace accords with each other. Addressing their speeches from few kilometers apart, both Aydeed and Ali Mahdi preached moral codes that concerns all walks of life – from prohibition of Haram food and drinks to the preservation of unity and stability. On the other hand, the same occasion bears a burden of accusation between them, accusing one another of initiating the conflict – or worse, throwing the causes of their actions to external factors or to the defunct Siyaad Barre regime.
As mentioned in the above, the warlords took advantage of the tradition, which calls “sinful wars” of all wars that took place during the holy month of Ramadan. To illustrate two selected case studies from the many peace accords that were prepared and signed during the holy month of Ramadan, the Roobdoon Forum forwards to you (below) the 1992 and 1995 verbal messages of Ali Mahdi and General Aydeed. Within a month, when the 1995 peace accord was signed, the self-styled President, Ali Mahdi, charged against his bitter rival, warlord Aydeed, of undermining the peace accord and therefore leading Mogadishu back into chaos. What made Ali Mahdi so furious, satirically, was that Aydeed was following his footsteps: organizing a pseudo-government. All the saga of Eid al-Fitr peace accord short-lived and seemed another ploy of power struggle between Ali Mahdi and Aydeed. Such verbal habits passed well into today’s clan-based factions in southern Somalia.
The first appearance of Islamic Courts in Mogadishu was due largely, if not entirely, to USC leadership (read Moralizing Efforts II ). Ali Mahdi drew on the services of Sheikh Ali Dheere to run Islamic Courts in northern Mogadishu. Since then, the phenomenon of Islamic courts without a central authority was common in Mogadishu and its vicinity. Not only Ali Mahdi alone, but also Aydeed who controlled the southern part of the city had recourse to these religious men, whom they viewed as a symbol of legitimacy.
However, NGOs from the International Community observed, with disapproval, on the functions of these Islamic Courts, especially on their treatment on allegations against “Looma Ooyaans”. These International observers were disturbed by the poor knowledge of the Sheikhs, in regards to the Shari’ah that was compounded with clannish attitude. Even the thousands of “Looma Ooyaans” inhabiting in Mogadishu attest the everyday occurrence of these injustices towards them, pointing their fingers to the private properties that these so-called Islamic Courts confiscated from “Looma Ooyaans”. Sheikhs of these Islamic Courts went so far as to recruit foot-soldiers for the warlords. These Sheikhs, as noted by the "Looma Ooyaans", also prepare and deliver moralizing speeches during Friday sermon, or convey it through warlords’ mouth/and their media outlets in Mogadishu.
From these factual references to the brief history of Islamic Courts’ functions in Mogadishu, it is clear that Islamic Courts, in terms of progress, do not seriously think of the importance of Central Authority that controls the basic infrastructure of the city (such as the seaport and the airport). The basic idea of effective administration still remains alien to the city’s inhabitants, where the opening of its seaport and airport are even conceived as the domain of warlords’ deceptive verbal habits, only heard during Eid al-Fitr sermons but could not be materialized.
The Forum attempts to underline a parallel in the new developments of Islamic Courts in Mogadishu, where its recent military successes stipulated the reruns of the early 1990s USC’s moralizing shows. From the outset of this new phase, Mogadishu city seems to enter a new but more dreading stage; all these Courts will bring is a new modus operandi of prolonging the power struggle between Mogadishu clan factions, at a time when the relations between the Islamic World and the West are deteriorating. To some extent, the West’s war against “terrorism” will thus make more discernible in Somali politics, entering Somalia as a whole another era of uncertainty and despair.
The Forum is keenly aware of the many clan-based Islamic Courts in Mogadishu, now masquerading as Islamists, and therefore anticipates that the transforming of Somali clan conflicts into a religious one is but a skin deep – and that old fashion clan loyalty awaits to re-appear. Yet, the Forum acknowledges that, after sixteen years of misery, an increasing number of Mogadishu “Looma Ooyaans” seems to be expressing a desire for a central authority in which they believe to be found only in their Islamic tradition and thus look to Islamic Courts as the keeper of law and order. “Looma Ooyaans” are sick and tired of the long personal power struggle between the warlords, which has developed into chaos and anarchy as Mogadishu clans were summoned to side with their fellow clan leader.
As opposed to the 1990s wars, these current wars in Mogadishu and its surrounding regions, led by the Islamic Courts, are indeed wars with religious coloration. But similar to the 1990s wars in terms of its hidden incentive, some Islamic Courts are probably driven by the notion of clan hegemony, in order to break the 16 years of no-winner situation in Mogadishu. Much worse, such Courts entertain themselves to make the Capital city of Mogadishu a sanctity place and willing to bar the city from becoming the seat of the Somali Transitional Government (Mbagathi Government).
The sweeping military success gained by the Islamic Courts will eventually force the Mbagathi Government and the International Community to open a dialogue with the Islamic Courts. It is therefore foreseeable that Islamists will disintegrate into small groups. The extreme groups surely will base themselves on the literal interpretation of the Qur’an and the hadiths, claiming not to mix Islam with the al-mushrikuun (unbelievers): wa laa talbisuu-l- xaqqa bi-l- baatdhili. Furthermore, the practice of futile round-table negotiation (in contrast to Islamists' late success in the trenches) is considered to be a relic of warlord customs and therefore violates “laa tashabbahuu” factor of the extremist doctrine – i.e. “don’t assimilate yourselves” factor.
For the “Looma Ooyaan” residents of Mogadishu, the warlords to which they are subjected to are now at the center of Somali politics, defined not only by their guns but also the claim to possess of the al-xaqq and al-axkaam. This reality, which may correspond to a perception for some, may seem certain to create more agony and despair parallel only to that of the early 1990s, before the International Community may again attempt to bring Somalia back into the World Community.
President Ali Mahdi Gives Id al-Fitr Address
Mogadishu Voice of the Somali Republic in Somali
0445 GMT 4 Apr 1992
[Excerpts] The president of the Republic of Somalia, Mr. Ali Mahdi Mohamed, addressed the Somali people on the occasion of Id al-Fitr.
In his speech, the president spoke on political, economic, social affairs and general national problems. The president spoke in particular on the civil war in some regions in the country, notably in Mogadishu, which he said has been caused by the seeds sown by the dictator Siad Barre during the 21 years that he ruled by force. The president of the Republic of Somalia said people interested in unity, peace, freedom, and democracy were today praying that the suffering imposed on them by Siad Barre would come to an end although he pointed out there were still a few people who still wished to bring back the reign of Siad Barre.
Mr. Mahdi stated that the devastating civil war which had continued for nearly five months [words indistinct] causing the United Somali Congress to break up into warring factions while the civilians in the capital had been subjected to death, injury, and homelessness. The president said whoever wins this war would not enjoy success because the leadership of the government belongs to all Somalis. The president added that this type of fighting was senseless and deserved to be reviewed, giving priority to public interests.
President Mahdi vowed that he would be faithful to any resolution on the fighting emanating from the involved communities but he said he was opposed to [words indistinct] contrary to the aspirations of the people.
Turning to the cease-fire agreement, the president said the responsibility for its success lay with the two sides. [Words indistinct] such as elders, religious leaders, intellectuals, women, and the armed youth in whom we have confidence of having the power to save the people from disaster and leading them towards peace and stability, said President Mahdi.
[Words indistinct] also said that he was optimistic that if our responsibility in securing peace was not ignored, we would soon move towards dealing with the welfare of the people with foreign assistance. He pointed out that the big powers and international organizations were willing to assist Somalia in alleviating hardship and hunger, which have caused many deaths, as well as in the reconstruction of the country. President Ali Mahdi Mohamed said it was (?unfortunate) that mothers, children, and elderly people were dying of hunger when the international community was ready to provide emergency assistance. [passage indistinct]
In his speech, President Ali Mahdi said Somalis who were real Moslems and sincere about the interests of the people were bound to work towards ending the destructive war and urged the Somali people to take advantage of UN and regional organization efforts that seek to bring about lasting peace by ending the senseless war which had brought shame on Somalia. [passage omitted]
President Mahdi noted that the liberation fronts that ousted Siad Barre succeeded in holding the first and second Djibouti meetings, out of which emerged positive resolutions [words indistinct] which were signed by the six largest liberation fronts. [words indistinct]
President Ali Mahdi also warned against the civil war that started in the north and urged the people of those regions to learn from the disaster that had befallen Mogadishu and to realize that war only leads to death. He also called on other groups who did not have the opportunity to attend the Djibouti meeting for whatever reason to participate in the reconstruction and reconciliation of the Somali people.
The president stressed that all clans were important for the unity of Somalia, pointing out that no single group should imagine that a single clan could become a nation. He urged that all should contribute towards saving the people from its present state of affairs.
Speaking on foreign aid, the president said that it was expected that food, medicine, and other essential aid would arrive. Therefore, for the aid to be distributed properly the government [words indistinct] 16 March meeting a higher committee responsible for the duties of handling and distribution. President Mahdi continued that every warm-hearted person should work towards putting into practice the directives of the lower committees and respect the method of aid distribution when it arrives. He pointed out that this is a test and a trial, witnessed by the international community, on how we deliver this aid to the starving Somali people. [passage omitted, largely indistinct]
USC Chairman Aidid Gives Id al-Fitr Address
Mogadishu Radio Mogadishu in Somali
1315 GMT 4 Apr 1992
[Excerpts] Mr. Mohamed Farah Aidid, the chairman of the United Somali Congress, USC, on behalf of the Executive Committee, Standing Committee, members of the Central Committee, fighters, strugglers and supporters of the USC, and on his behalf, congratulated the Somali people wherever they may be on the occasion of Id al-Fitr. Addressing the nation, he also sent greetings to all peoples of the Moslem world [passage omitted]
The chairman said the occasion had coincided with the first and second phases of armed struggle victories and the start of the third phase of the struggle.
He said the first phase of the struggle saw the overthrow of Siad Barre's regime, which had ruled the country for more than 21 years and brought about destruction and human abuse and eroded national integrity.
The second phase victory was over the self-appointed Manifesto Group [of 1990] and its ilk which caused much destruction that outdid that caused by Siad Barre's regime. Fortunately, he said, the third phase struggle was to embark on the implementation of the organization's previous objectives regarding the constitution and political program.
The USC chairman said as a result of joint efforts by the United Nations, the Arab League, OAU, and Islamic Conference Organization to intervene in the civil war in Mogadishu, successive agreements on a cease-fire and other matters had been sought with a view to sending in food, medicine, and other essentials for human life.
He said the USC had signed a number of agreements with the aforementioned organizations. Fortunately, Mr. Aidid said, the shedding of brother people's blood has stopped, and now modalities were being worked out for the implementation of the cease-fire. He said technical committees from the aforementioned organizations and Somalia composed of the USC and other groups were working on this. He said the Somali people were especially happy at the fulfillment of their wish that no foreign forces be brought into the country.
Mr. Aidid expressed his gratitude to Dr. Butrus Butrus Ghali, the UN secretary general, the Security Council, and all members of the international organizations who had embarked on the task of bringing peace to Mogadishu and the rest of the country.
Chairman Aidid said apart from emergency aid, special consideration should be given to orphans and invalids. He said emergency relief aid could be sent through the ports of Mogadishu, Marka, Warshiikh, Maree, Hobyo, Berbera, Boosaaso, Kismaayo, and so forth.
Speaking on the USC's reunification plan, the chairman said as soon as peace had been achieved a task of reuniting the organization's supporters who had been in conflict would be carried out. He said he invites all USC leaders to participate in the task of reunifying the righteous fighters.
Speaking on the formation of regional and district administration, the chairman said the executive committee had finished its work and passed laws [words indistinct] Islamic law and the reorganization of security forces which would protect life and property and foreign guests.
On the occasion, the chairman conveyed his advice and warning to those who made it a habit to kill, loot, and [word indistinct] which he said violated the country's rules. [passage omitted]
Chairman Aidid said he once more called on the Somali organizations to prepare for a national conference. He said that prior to such a conference these organizations should take practical steps regarding peace, unity, fraternization, love for one another, and bringing the people together. He said those organizations participating in the conference should first declare peace, and declare that they are opposed to the bloodsucker Siad Barre and his cronies. He said they should send to the conference their representatives [words indistinct] chosen by their supporters.
In conclusion, Mr. Mohamed Farah Aidid, the USC chairman, prayed to God to forgive the Somali people on this occasion of Id al-Fitr and extricate them from these hard conditions. [passage omitted]
Ali Mahdi Urges ‘Just Political Solution’
Mogadishu Voice of the Somali Republic in Somali
1700 GMT 2 Mar 1995
[FBIS Translated Excerpt] President Ali Mahdi Mohamed of the Somali Republic, who is also the chairman of the Somali Salvation Alliance, has congratulated the Somali people and all Muslims on the occasion of the end of Ramadan. Speaking through the mass media to the Somali people, the president said this is the fifth Ramadan to be observed while there is civil war and national destruction. [passage omitted]
As the United Nations completes its operations in Somalia on 6 March, it is once again the national responsibility of the Somali people, particularly political, religious, and cultural leaders who, after seeing the real situation in Somalia, to seek a just political solution.
The president said the political conflict which originated from the desire for the presidency, and which brought about the five-year-old civil war, could be resolved by holding a broad-based national conference which will form a government to serve the people, and restore the dignity of our nationhood. The responsibility for holding a national conference is the collective duty of Somali leaders such as tribal chiefs, religious leaders, political leaders, intellectuals, officers, youth and women, as well as other sections of society. Now is the right time to carry out this national obligation, the president added.
Somali politicians and their supporters have no right to set conditions, such as claims to the presidency, in the way of a Somali solution. This could not be tolerated. The president said the Somali people should be left to elect a person of their choice, and this person should serve them well, and should be supported by all. In order to succeed in holding a fruitful national conference, the civil wars raging in some parts of the country, such as Hiiraan [central Somalia], Wagooyi-Galbeed [Somaliland], and Shabeellaba Hoose [southern Somalia], must be brought to an end, and the captured areas must be returned to their rightful inhabitants.
The president briefed the people on the peace agreement reached between General Aidid and himself on 20 February, and which contains nine points. He said he is sure the people are satisfied with the essence of the agreement, as it deals with issues hampering efforts toward peace and reconciliation. He said the agreement does not infringe on the responsibilities of Somali national organizations. The points worth mentioning in the agreement are that the presidency should not be sought through tribalism or war, but through democratic elections. The agreement also stipulates that an elected president should receive full cooperation from others.
The president said that if implemented, the agreement will play a large role in reconciling the Somali people. He said he hopes it will be seen in this way. The president also referred to the committees appointed recently to run the port and airport. He said the decision to establish the committees was arrived at after realizing the importance of the centers, whether for trade or humanitarian aid, and after taking into account the suggestions of the leaders of the two sides. Support for the decision and encouragement for the administrative committees resulted from taking Somali interests to heart, and this could be the key to the revival of the country's administration.
The president once again reminded the Somali people that the world is tired of us and has abandoned us. He said Somalia has been left to the Somalis, and this is a big challenge.
In conclusion, the president appealed to the world for humanitarian assistance, since 30 percent of the Somali people are faced with hunger because relief agencies have stopped their assistance, and there is an outbreak of cholera which is causing an increasing number of deaths. The president appealed to the United Nations, the OAU, the Arab League, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, major governments, and relief agencies to provide Somalis with medicine and supplies to fight starvation and cholera.