|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.
J A N U A R Y, 1 9 9 1
USC Spokesman on Mogadishu Battle, Future Plans
London BBC World Service in English
1709 GMT 31 Dec 1990
[From the "Focus on Africa" program]
Well, as you heard, the group claiming responsibility for much of the military success against Somali Government troops is the United Somali Congress, the USC. However, it is not yet clear whether they intend to seize Mogadishu [words indistinct] their relationship is with the other rebel groups in the country who have been battling for power over the years, especially the biggest group, the Somali National Movement. Robin White spoke to the USC's London spokesman (Mohamed Robleh) and asked him what his movement's objectives were:
[Begin recording] [(Robleh)] It was evident from what was happening in Mogadishu in the last couple of months that Siyaad Barre's hold on power in Mogadishu, which was the last place he had in power at all, is almost coming to an end. I do not think that this is a final assault, but it is definitely a probing assault in which we will see in the next few days or weeks that Siyaad Barre will be removed from Mogadishu.
[White] So, you do not think it is necessary all is going to be over today or tomorrow?
[(Robleh)] No, Siyaad Barre has been in power for a long time: and it will take really good fighting, which we are ready for.
[White] Now, according to our correspondent in Mogadishu, about 90 people of members of the movement were involved in yesterday's assault. Would you think that figure was about right, or would you think that there were many more involved?
[(Robleh)] I believe that figure is a gross underestimate of our men in the area. Mogadishu is totally surrounded by our people, and the number of people that the USC can field at one time is considerably larger. And I would think, even if it is a probing assault, they would have put more men.
[White] How many men do you have under arms?
[(Robleh)] The men that are under arms with the USC are in thousands. Apart from the ex-army soldiers and officers, a large number of the nomadic population in the area of central and southern Somalia have been given training and are all armed now.
[White] So, you are saying that government troops have come over and joined you?
[(Robleh)] Yes, they have been doing that for quite a long time. The USC activity, apparently, has been underreported by the world media, but this has been going on for the last two years in which the USC has existed.
[White] You are claiming to have liberated the Mogadishu districts of Waxaracadde, Huriwaa, Yaaqshiid, Howl-Wadaag. Now, where are these?
[(Robleh)] These are in the northern part of Mogadishu, especially [name indistinct] almost near the center, which is where the Presidential Palace is situated. The latest fighting is around that area. Apparently the Siyaad Barre forces are using heavy weapons to clear that area, which is predominantly almost all inhabited by strong USC supporters.
[White] So, you are coming from the north?
[(Robleh)] Yes, we are coming from the north, from the road that leads from Mogadishu to the north.
[White] And these are all suburbs where your own people are, so to speak?
[(Robleh)] That is right. That is right. Mogadishu is the capital seat of Somalia. It is predominantly inhabited by the USC supporters who live in the surrounding areas as well.
[White] Which clan is this?
[(Robleh)] This is... [pauses] There are several clans. This is the Hawiye tribe. But the USC also is supported by other tribes in southern and central Somalia. So, it is not only confined to the Hawiye.
[White] Is it not clear that by attacking, as you are doing, you are going to cause massive civilian casualties?
[(Robleh)] We are very discriminating in our attacks. The indiscriminate attacks are coming from Siyaad Barre's forces.
[White] You would say that, would you not? But you are the people doing the attacking, so you are the people who are going to be responsible for mass civilian deaths, surely?
[(Robleh)] You cannot say we are responsible for mass deaths. The main reason why we have to fight is to stop people being killed, which is happening regularly in Somalia and has been happening for 21 years.
[White] So, if by any chance you are successful and you overthrow Siyaad Barre and you occupy Mogadishu, what happens then, because there are also other rebel groups who are going to want a share in power?
[(Robleh)] Yes, the USC has done a thorough work in what it will do in the future, and the first thing we will do is to convene a meeting with all other opposition groups so that we could all sit down peacefully and work out a constitution, a democratic constitution which will provide for the rights of every Somali, regardless of his tribe or the region that he comes from.
[White] It sounds fine in theory; but in practice, do you not think that the rebel movement in the north, the SNM [Somali National Movement], is likely to seize its chance and themselves march on the capital and demand power, for they have been fighting [words indistinct]?
[(Robleh)] There is one thing that is sacrosanct and that is the unity of the Somali people. Everything else can be discussed.
[White] So, would your movement be prepared to hand over if it, by any chance, managed to seize Mogadishu would it be willing to hand over to the SNM?
[(Robleh)] I do not understand what you mean by handing power over to the SNM. We will share the power. [end recording]