|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.
F E B E R U A R Y 1 9 9 1
National Movement Leader Interviewed on Situation
London AL-SHARQ AL-AWSAT in Arabic
Feb 09, 1991
[Interview with Ismail Muhamud Hurrah [Buubaa], chairman of the Somali National Movement Political Committee, by Sayyid Ahmad Khalifah in Jeddah; date not given: "New Regime Offers Federalism and Party Pluralism"]
[introductory passage omitted) [Khalifah] What about the battles looming on the horizon between opposition fronts in the context of the final stage in settling the power and leadership issue?
[Hurrah] Certainly we do not wish that to happen. But selecting the country's new president in the absence of those who toppled the former president is regarded as a provocative action that could spark a dangerous armed conflict. This is because the fighters are still on alert and believe-with us-that we have not reached the "fighters' rest station."
[Khalifah] Who chose 'Ali Mahdi Muhammad then?
[Hurrah] Actually we do not know!
[Khalifah] How is President 'Ali Mahdi?
[Hurrah] Actually we have not known much about him over the past 10 years, whether in the bush with our fighters, abroad with those searching for support and finance to work against the Siyaad Barre government, or inside the country engaging in dangerous covert action. [passage omitted]
[Khalifah] How do you visualize the stage of restructuring and rebuilding the Somali state?
[Hurrah] The three Somali movements (the Somali National Movement [SNM] controlling the north, the Somali National Front controlling the west, and the United Somali Congress controlling the center, including the capital Mogadishu and the areas around it) have almost similar views with regard to new Somalia. Our view can be summed up as follows:
§ The regime: democratic, pluralistic, federal.
§ Economy: free and based on the three traditional sectors (public, private, and joint).
§ Somali identity: Islamic and Arab, because as the SNM our constitution stipulates Islam as the state's religion, and it has a leading role in legislation in a society in which social justice prevails and deterioration factors disappear.
The Somali people are all a Muslim people and religious by nature. And we do not want to oppress and suppress them in the name of religion as others did. It is enough that Siyaad Barre oppressed them in the name of socialism and communism sometimes and in the name of capitalism and tribalism at other times.
[Khalifah] But does the movement not believe that there is an Islamic trend seeking to play a more notable role in the institutions of the regimes existing in an Islamic country? Or is Somalia exempt from that rule?
[Hurrah] As everywhere, Islam in Somalia has not been asleep, so it is not for someone to awaken it. The Somalis have preserved their religious values despite all Westernization attempts. And we in the SNM will work to benefit from the positive aspect of that noble Islamic, religious tendency. And we do not wish to harm religion by pushing it into the "political marketplace," as others are currently doing in some Third World countries.
The Iraqi experiment is the most notable example of that, since Saddam Husayn has invaded an Arab, Islamic state, made its people homeless, and raised the slogan of the Islamic religion. [passage omitted]
[Khalifah] How does the movement see future relations with neighboring African states, especially Ethiopia?
[Hurrah] We want to turn our relations with Ethiopia from merely unstable tactical relations into firm strategic relations. The thing that will help us in that regard is the fact that Ethiopia itself is enjoying a new era and thinking and its regime is moving toward the federal line.
[Khalifah] Ogaden is described as the "problem of all problems with Ethiopia." How will the SNM handle that problem?
[Hurrah] We do not like the name "Ogaden." We prefer the name "Ethiopian territories inhabited by Somalis." This is because Ogaden is the name of a tribe in that area. It was Siyaad Barre who invented that name for the sake of considerations and balances within the context of his endeavor to safeguard his power through tribal forces.
We believe that our relations with Ethiopia are good and based on a new, deep understanding, and we will prove the benefit of that understanding. With our cordial relations with Ethiopia we will serve Arab, Ethiopian, and African interests. This is in the knowledge that the Arabs, including us, enjoy a good position and comfortable privileges in Ethiopia, not only geographically but demographically as well, as most inhabitants in Ethiopia are Muslims and we are proud of their Islam.
[Khalifah] Let us agree that you are now in a new tunnel. Though it may not be as dark as that of the former regime, it is no less important. How do you visualize a way out of that dilemma?
[Hurrah] The way out is clear and simple, namely that the three Somali sides meet speedily to agree on the transitional position and all its features, characteristics, and tasks.
[Khalifah] Why can that not be done at the 28 February meeting proposed by the present government?
[Hurrah] That is not possible because we did not take part in setting the date, nor do we know which quarters set it. Besides, we do not agree to the venue set for it. This is because Mogadishu is not safe, so it is impossible for us to go there under an authority whose origins are unknown to us.
Ismail M. Hurreh was born in Hargeysa in Northern Somalia in 1940. He graduated in 1965 from the University of Mexico in the USA in English language and Literature and is now serving as somalia’s Foreign and International Cooperation Minister.