|Zooming into the Past|
M O G A D I S H U C I V I L W A R S
Zooming into the 1990s interviews and statements, given by the spokespersons and leaders of Somali factions, enables us to prove that clan-animosity account of the Somali civil war has not been given the scholarly attention that its magnitude warrants, even after sixteen years of clan-warfare. This clan-animosity feeling can in fact be derived from faction joint communiqué and statements; and therefore, posting selections of these public relation statements should be a matter of concern to all Somalis – particularly, to those who are in the field of Somali Studies.
After all, clan factionalism disguised in English acronyms (formed from three or four initial letters which include the sacrosanct letter “S”) are now facts of life for Somalis. The words and deeds of the turbulent faction followers have ordained to presuppose that faction spokespersons assumed a monumental role in fuelling clan-hatred. As a result of that, the Forum rushes in to investigate and share with you excerpts of faction communiqués, hoping to find solutions to the current tragic political situation in Somalia. From our perspective, these selections are indeed those that Western scholars/(Somalists) most neglected, or could offer hints to the causes of the civil war.
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OLD MAN BEGS FOR HELP FROM SOMALI GUNMAN IN CITY OF BAIDOA, SOMALIA
A young Somali smokes and holds a weapon as he and his friends sit on a car
Children pulling a donkey cart watch a carload full of armed militiamen pass through the streets of Mogadishu
‘Provisional’ President Ali Mahdi Interviewed
London AL-SHARQ AL-AWSAT
April 03, 1991, p.3
[Interview with "provisional" Somali President Ali Mahdi Muhammad by Sayyid Ahmad Khalifah in Mogadishu; date not given-first two paragraphs are ALSHARQ AL-AWSAT introduction]
Having greeted and thanked President Ali Mahdi for the speed at which he agreed to give the interview, despite his busy schedule, I asked him: How did you come to engage in such a dispute with your neighbor, Siyaad Barre, to the extent of destroying Somalia as a whole? Did his departure and your arrival have to cause so much destruction?!
He returned my greeting and spoke to AL-SHARQ AL-AWSAT, the first newspaper to arrive in Somalia after the incidents, and said: My neighbor, Siyaad Barre, acted against the people's will for a long time. He did not understand it, or he understood it but pretended to be stupid-hence that price for his departure, not my arrival. I have not arrived yet, provisional President Ali Mahdi said, and I will not arrive without democracy. He also said: I had hoped that the Somali national conference would be held on its previous date, that is, February, to place power before the conference so the conference could grant it to, or take it away from, whomever it wanted!!
[Khalifah] Mr. President, I wanted to begin by asking about what you want from the world now, but it is clear that your country needs everything from needles to aircraft. How and why did this come about?
[Ali Mahdi] In brief, I can say that Siyaad Barre's insistence on ruling the Somalis through military and tribal domination left no option to the people, including us, except the option of military confrontations, to which most of the Somali people resorted. So if Siyaad Barre and his supporters now say that what happened against them was a tribal matter, then he and they must remember that for over 10 years all Somalis have joined political groups that have-as a result of Siyaad Barre's oppression and thirst for blood-turned into political groups with military wings!
For years we thought that Siyaad Barre would understand the situation and save himself, his regime, and his country from what was about to happen, by holding a dialogue with the Somali political forces before they formed military wings. We discussed the system at a distance, but he persisted in pursuing us, until we pursued him in the capital Mogadishu, hence that total ruin which you have seen during your stay here in Mogadishu! [passage omitted]
[Khalifah] Mr. President Ali Mahdi, what are you, politically? Are you a socialist, a democrat, or what?
[Ali Mahdi] I am a democrat. I believe in party pluralism and the freedom of the press. I am a Somali, Muslim, Arab, and African. If I am destined to rule my people, it will be through elections and competition. Otherwise, I will offer my own efforts as a citizen. Frankly, I wish to return to my ordinary life after the national conference and the establishment of a transitional, coalition authority!
[Khalifah] What is the scale of Somalia's foreign debts inherited from the former regime?
[Ali Mahdi] We do not know. Banks have been burned down and their documents have been stolen. That includes the Central Bank. We are waiting for the creditors and their documents!
[Khalifah] Did these banks have anything in them to be stolen or burned?
[Ali Mahdi] Yes. According to our information, Siyaad Barre and his supporters stole some 280 billion Somali shillings, gold deposits, and cash in Somali shillings!! [passage omitted]
[Khalifah] Do you have any foreign funds with which to steer the helm of government in your country?
[Ali Mahdi] You can quote me on this: Somalia has not a single dollar either at home or abroad!!
In fact we as a government don't have a single shilling in the state coffers, which no longer exist, since they have been burned!!
[Khalifah] I see the shillings in the people's hands in the streets.
[Ali Mahdi] That is worthless paper. People use it purely for local matters. Who would believe that for example, a kilogram of sugar costs people over 20,000 shillings!! [passage omitted]
[Khalifah] Why was the national conference not convened in time?
[Ali Mahdi] An agreement was not reached. We believe that conditions are better now. I expect the collective national conference to be held at the end of April.
[Khalifah] What stage has been reached in the consultations between you and the northern groups, or the Isaaq ?
[Ali Mahdi] Relations are very cordial. Fruitful contacts are continuing. Their participation in the national conference is now certain. The same applies to our dialogue with the South, and the deputy prime minister will travel to hold a national dialogue with tribal chiefs in the South.
[Khalifah] There is talk about differences within the United [Somali] Congress [USC]. What is the truth? And what is the nature of your dispute with Mr. 'Aydid [as transliterated]?
[Ali Mahdi] In a democratic party it is natural to have differing views and concepts of some matters. As for 'Aydid, who is now in Mogadishu, he has ambitions based on an unsound and undemocratic approach. Furthermore, it is a big mistake to talk about 'Aydid's leadership of the USC at a time when he is not even an ordinary member of, or registered in, that organization.
[Khalifah] Do you feel that you are leader of all the Somalis, or are you just a tribal leader?
[Ali Mahdi] I am now leader of all the Somalis. This is how I feel and believe. Leading this crucial stage with me, are Somalis from all Somalia's geographical and tribal tendencies.
Tribalism is an old disease that was revived by the Siyaad Barre regime. He exploited it to ensure his remaining in power. [passage omitted]
Report on AL-AKHBAR Interview with Ghalib
Cairo MENA in Arabic
April 09, 1991
Cairo, (MENA) – Prime Minister Omar Arteh Ghalib has emphasized that Somali unity is sacred and indisputable. He declared his opposition to any idea for partitioning the country, whether it is suggested by an external or internal party. He appealed to the Arab countries to quickly save Somalia from famine. He then claimed that the "despots" looted the banks and destroyed schools and hospitals with heavy artillery.
He said that the actions of former Somali President Siyaad Barre far exceeded Iraqi President Saddam Husayn's actions against Kuwait. He indicated that Barre's men stole the private property of embassies in Mogadishu.
In an interview published in the Cairo newspaper ALAKHBAR today, the Somali prime minister declared his readiness to form a coalition government in which the Somali National Front, which he represents, and others parties will participate.
Ghalib thanked the Egyptian Government and President Husni Mubarak for the great efforts they have made to unifying the various armed Somali factions. He called on Egypt and Saudi Arabia to continue their efforts of closing the ranks of the factions in Somalia.
Ghalib noted that Somalia's relations with Djibouti are good and are constantly being strengthened. He said that Ethiopia is currently interfering in Somalia's internal affairs, although it has given refuge to thousands of Somalis who escaped from the repression of deposed Somali President Barre.
Asked about his view of Somalia's political future and the establishment of a new Constitution and a new parliamentary life, Ghalib said: Our view is that the new parliamentary and constitutional life will pass through three basic phases. In the first phase, the various factions will be invited to attend a national reconciliation conference to be held in Somalia. In the second phase, a new Constitution compatible with the new circumstances and the desires of the Somali people will be prepared. In the third phase, free elections will be held in Somalia for the first time in 20 years. The Somali prime minister expected all this to take place within a year.
Regarding the return of normal life to Somalia, Ghalib said that three embassies have actually returned to Mogadishu. The Egyptian ambassador was the first ambassador to return to Somalia and to open the embassy there. The Saudi and Italian Embassies are also preparing to resume activity in Mogadishu.
The Somali prime minister expressed his optimism that life will return to normal in his country in a very short time.
SOMALI GUNMEN DRIVE THROUGH THE STREETS OF THE CAPITAL MOGADISHU
Somalis loot U.N. barracks near the Mogadishu port