|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 Rebel, Government Spokesman Interviewed
London BBC World Service in English
0730 GMT 5 Jan 1991
[From the "Saturdays Only" program; hosted by Robin White]
[White] I am joined in the studio by (Suara Mussa), press officer of the Somali Embassy in London, who was in Somalia until the beginning of this week; (Mohamed Robleh), spokesman for the United Somali Congress, the USC; Dr. (Mohameh Salah), a Somali academic; (Mohamed Ahmad Sheikh), a Ph.D. student, who has just returned to England from Somalia; and by (Florence Pax), who is in charge of our Somali Service. Now Robleh, if I can begin with you: Exactly what was the objective of your assault on Mogadishu starting on Sunday; what were you trying to do?
[(Robleh)] Well, the assault was not planned for a long time. It had to be – it was precipitated by the killings of the government of the local population that were being killed by the (?Red Barracks), the military police.
[White] So it was unplanned, this operation?
[White] And you prepared the [word indistinct]?
[(Robleh)] It was-the situation was so bad, we were forced to start.
[White] Now, how much of Mogadishu do you now claim to control?
[(Robleh)] Most of it.
[White] What do you mean most of it – which districts?
[(Robleh)] Most of the district is – according to the latest information that we have, the USC forces are just at the port, on one side; at the (Unishef) Hospital of the (Anziloti) Road; and at Kilometer Four. They were earlier nearer to the airport and the bunker of Siyaad Barre, but he had been using artillery and heavy tanks and even sometimes missiles, which were falling in parts that were very far from where the USC forces – the frontline of the USC forces.
[White] It sounds like you are admitting you are being driven back a bit?
[(Robleh)] Well, of course, in a situation like this, the front is always fluid.
[White] (Suara Mussa) from the Somali Embassy here in London, I think you would dispute the claim that they control most of the capital.
[(Mussa)] Yes, I have to contradict here, because they do not control anything at all. And I tell you this from the fact that I was there and I know what is going on, and it is unfortunate that Mr. (Robleh) in London should tell you what is happening when I know it better.
[White] So how much do the rebels control?
[(Mussa)] They do not control anything. The only thing that happened was that there was a group of armed men who started shooting innocent people and have infiltrated in two districts of the capital. Then the security forces had to move in and stop them. I therefore reject totally everything that Mr. (Robleh) has to say here.
[White] But it's not just him that says it, a lot of diplomats are saying that the rebels do control a portion of the capital – we're not quite sure how much, but that's what they're saying.
[(Mussa)] I tell you that the diplomats are not better informed than I am. It is true that they may hear things here and there. It's also true that they use their local contacts, but this is nearly always one-sided.
[White] Now, (Mohamed Ahmad Sheikh), you were in Mogadishu this week. How much of the capital do you think the USC controls?
[(Sheikh)] Well, the fighting has (?spread) in the central part of Mogadishu, and the USC forces have fought in Wardhigley and in Yaaqshiid and then they expanded into other areas of the town, other parts of the town. But it seems now that the government has called reinforcements from outside and are gaining the upper hand by pinning down these USC forces in (?certain) neighborhoods.
[White] How many USC people, according to you, were actually involved in the fighting on Sunday?
[(Sheikh)] Well, that's very difficult to say because people say the actual military forces, the USC forces who have infiltrated into Mogadishu, were not many, but they have managed [word indistinct] in these districts where they have fought against the government.
[White] Do you think the rebels are going to lose this bout of fighting?
[(Sheikh)] Militarily they may be pinned down and get out of Mogadishu if they don't get reinforcements very soon.
[White] Are they getting reinforcements, (Robleh)?
[(Robleh)] Yes, because most of our forces were not really near the city. A month ago they were about 30 miles from Mogadishu, but the military headquarters of the USC is farther back, and since this was not a preplanned offensive, you would expect that they would rush forces fairly quickly, and we have information that they have already started.
[White] Florence [Pax], you've been watching the events this week and hearing all these conflicting claims. Who would you guess has overall control at the moment in Mogadishu?
[(Pax)] Well I think yesterday, today, and tomorrow are fairly decisive for who will have control, because if reinforcements don't arrive, I imagine that the government forces, who are armed with heavy artillery and with tanks, are bound to be able to suppress an uprising in certain districts which are armed lightly and, as far as we can tell, have no military leader of any standing with them. However, if [word indistinct] the guerrillas, the urban guerrillas can keep on fighting for a few more days-say, another five or six days, which makes more than a week-then I would have thought it was possible, if the army is really being called back to Mogadishu and I have heard stories that the (Gowem) for instance has had its garrison recalled.
[White] What is the (Gowem)?
[(Pax)] That is a good distance inland from Mogadishu to the south.
[White] And those troops, you are saying, have been recalled?
[(Pax)] That is what I have been hearing. Now, if troops are either coming back in an organized way to defend Mogadishu, or are being told to find their own way back to defend Mogadishu, or perhaps deciding that it's time they went home, if Mogadishu is home, then it is possible for reinforcements – and perhaps not USC, perhaps other rebel groups – to decided this is the time to join up in Mogadishu. But this takes a long time. For instance, if the SNM [Somali National Movement] were interested in Mogadishu, they're a thousand miles away. How they would arrive in time to support a small band of fighters, I can't imagine. I doubt they would.
[White] Can I just ask you, before we move on to talk about other movements in the country, about the level of support, if any, being given to the USC – popular support to the USC – by ordinary civilians in Mogadishu? Were they supporting this revolt in the capital, or not?
[(Sheikh)] Well the opposition again has... Siyaad Barre has been taking [word indistinct] and for the last two months he has taken a clanic [word indistinct] and he has tried to call the support of all the (?barons) against the Hawiye, who support...
[White, interrupting] The USC is basically – yes?
[(Sheikh)] ...who basically support the Hawiye. The USC is not short of manpower in Mogadishu. But the decisive things – they are short of armaments, and as [words indistinct] and I think they haven't (?looked for) armaments and ammunition in Mogadishu at the time when the fighting started. [passage omitted]