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 U L Y    1 9 9 0 s


Somali gunmen drive through the streets of Mogadishu




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





Interim President Ali Mahdi on UN Effort, Italian Role


Rome L'UNITA in Italian

July 09, 1993 P10


[Interview with Interim President Ali Mahdi Mohamed by Mauro Montali in Mogadishu; date not given]


[Excerpt] Mogadishu-[passage omitted] [Montali] Pres­ident Mahdi, what picture do you paint of the current situation?


[Ali Mahdi] Let us say that Somalia is halfway between good and evil, in the sense that we are getting increas­ingly closer to pacification. People are no longer dying under fire or from hunger. There are supplies in the warehouses, and people are gradually returning to their jobs. In short, there is a climate of hope. But still there are those who are opposed to this. You know I am referring to Aidid and his comrades.


[Montali] You made an agreement with Mohamed Farah Aidid. Why was it broken?


[Ali Mahdi] Ask the man wholly responsible for breaking it: He failed to observe the Addis Ababa agreements; hence the killing of the Pakistanis and then the Italians.


[Montali] But who is supplying him with arms?


[Ali Mahdi] There are still many arsenals in Somalia. The Habrgidir [as published] leader, however, is also supplied by foreign countries.


[Montali] Who? Which ones?


 [Ali Mahdi] We know full well, but I cannot name names. Arms are coming in by all routes, some even by air to two small airports. One of these airports is near Baidoa, the other in Marka.


[Montali] But does the fact that Aidid has moved toward Islamic fundamentalist positions help us understand who his foreign allies might be? Are we far from the truth if we say that Sudan and Iran are helping him?


[Ali Mahdi] No, I will not name any names. But do not make the mistake of overestimating his strength. He must have 300 to 400 fighters currently in Mogadishu, and they do not even have any heavy artillery; that has been taken to Gaalkacyo, in the central region. Look, the problem is only here, in the capital. How much territory does Aidid control? A mere 3 km, an insignificant strip. Are you aware that 98 percent of the population supports the multinational peace force? That means his strength is limited to the remaining, miserable 2 percent.


[Montali] Mr. Mahdi, to be honest, we did not feel that things were that way in Mogadishu. The entire southern part of the city, as we saw with our own eyes, is in the hands of Habrgidir bandits or militias. And anyway, it looked to us as though Aidid is a very popular leader...


[Ali Mahdi] I repeat: They are an insignificant presence. Besides, the Habrgidir are only one-third of the Abgal [as published]. Mogadishu is split into 14 districts, and we are in full control of 11 of them. All Aidid has left is a part of the other three: the so-called 4th kilometer, the roads around 21 October Avenue, the stadium, and the grandstand [Tribuna]. But if you go around Somalia, from Kismaayo to Baidoa, you will see that there is no longer any tension. Morgan Jays and the other clan chiefs have laid down their arms. As for Aidid being loved by the people, my answer is: Why should he be? I know he claims to have freed Somalia from Siad Barre, but that is untrue. It is well known that he was in Addis Ababa and that he arrived when the show was over.


[Montali] In your view, since you know him well, is Aidid really a war criminal?


[Ali Mahdi] That is up to the courts to judge.


[Montali] This morning a leaflet said to have been published by your group, in which the population is stirred up against the Italians, was circulating in town. Do you know anything about it? Apparently it is not the first time this has happened.


[Ali Mahdi] I have never heard of any such thing.


[Montali] But are you in favor of Italians joining the UNOSOM [UN Operation in Somalia] command struc­ture?


[Ali Mahdi] I am in favor of an Italian presence, but I do not like it when your ministers say that the ITALFOR [Italian UN contingent] must not take part in search actions or fire back when shot at.


[Montali] So, as we understand it, you are critical of the "negotiations" tabled with the Habrgidir over the pasta factory checkpoint issue.


[Ali Mahdi] What negotiations? Are you kidding me? The Italians should have recaptured their positions by force of arms, and that's that. What is all this about compromising with the Habrgidir? That way the Italians arouse the hostility of the Somali people, who support the international force almost to a man. That way you confer dignity on an enemy to peace. That was a very serious error.


[Montali] Do you know [Italian contingent Commander] General Loi?


[Ali Mahdi] I have never had the good fortune to make his acquaintance. But he must be really good, otherwise he would never have made the rank of general.


[Montali] In your view, what mistakes have been made by the multinational peace force?


[Ali Mahdi] The first mistake was made last December. As well as aid being provided, everyone should have been disarmed: the clans and the populace. At that time, everyone would have handed over their rifles and machine guns...


[Montali] Including your men?


[Ali Mahdi] Of course. Look, my group handed over its "hardware" of its own free will.


[Montali] What about the second mistake?


[Ali Mahdi] It is a recent one; it goes back to 5 June, when UNOSOM started bombing Aidid's positions after the massacre of the Pakistanis. Why did they stop? [Mahdi ends]


The interview is over. Ali Mahdi stood up to say good­bye and offer us a cup of coffee. But his aide Hussen Bod [name as published], head of the United Somali Con­gress' international section, came up to us and said: "Either you Italians get into line with everyone else, or you had better go home." Ali Mahdi overheard and corrected his aide: "No, he did not mean that. It is just that we expected something more from the Italian troops." But of course, Ali Mahdi is defending his own-questionable-power tooth and nail.



Somali Faction Leader Osman Ali Ato Discusses Reconciliation Conference Plans

July 04, 1996

`Al-Wasat', London, in Arabic 1020 gmt 1-7 Jul 96


Text of undated interview with Osman Hasan Ali Ato, former supporter of Gen Mohamed Farah Aidid, by unidentified correspondent in Cairo, published by London-based magazine `Al-Wasat' in its edition dated 1st-7th July


[`Al-Wasat'] You have met the Arab League secretary-general and the Egyptian foreign minister. What did you propose to them and what did you ask of them?


[Ato] I told them about the current situation in Somalia and about the map of political forces. I stressed that there is a possibility of Somali reconciliation, which could start with holding internal conferences with a view to defining bases for agreement, and I asked for their support. Their response was clear, namely that the Somalis are responsible for what is happening since the failure of the UN and Security Council efforts. I asked for their political support. They said, however, that they could not support one faction against another.


[Q] How do you assess the chances of a reconciliation conference being held in Somalia?


[A] All Somali factions will participate in it with the exception of the Aidid faction, which ultimately will have to accept the other factions' will.


[Q] What about the effort to achieve a military solution?


[A] It cannot continue, because of the heavy losses that the Somalis have suffered. I believe that neither side is capable of winning the battle militarily, and that is why we are trying to find a political solution.


[Q] Who has recognized the Aidid government?


[A] Aidid told us that Libya had recognized him, but we contacted Libyan officials and they denied it. However, Aidid is getting support from Libya.


[Q] Would it be possible to collect in the Somali factions' weapons to prove their good intentions?


[A] It is not possible to collect in the weapons, at least in the immediate future. International efforts in that respect have failed because each faction is afraid of the other factions and because there is a huge number of weapons in Somalia. The market is open and there are all types of real weapons. The occasional problems were due only to a shortage of ammunition, which was then obtained in the neighbouring states.


[Q] Are you thinking of holding this conference under the Arab League umbrella?


[A] Of course, but, before that, Somalis must agree on the details; the conference should only be ratified under the Arab League umbrella.


BBC Monitoring Summary of World Broadcasts.


© 1996 The British Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.



Salvation Alliance Urges Reconciliation

 Mogadishu Voice of the Somali Republic in Somali

1700 GMT 6 Feb 1995


The Somali Salvation Alliance [SSA] has issued a general call to all leaders of political organizations and alliances, intellectuals from various sections of Somali society who love peace, tribal chiefs, clerics, elders, informed people, women, and the general Somali public on the organization and convening of a broad-based national reconciliation conference. The call was made during a news conference at Hotel Amana, Mogadishu, where the Alliance has been attending a consultative meeting for three months and 21 days.


The SSA also announced a plan of action for peace and national reconciliation. Taking into account the end of the UN operations in Somalia, and the withdrawal of UN Operation in Somalia-II [UNOSOM] troops from Somalia, the SSA said it is obligatory to overcome the deadlock, and obstacles to peace and reconciliation by jointly seeking a just solution.


The SSA is of the view that the key to the Somali problem will only be found if the general interests of the Somali people are placed above the interests of individ­uals, when the unity of the nation is put above tribal interests and when democracy, justice, and equality are placed above dictatorial tendencies.


The SSA is of the view that it is the historical responsi­bility and number one duty of every patriotic and diligent Somali citizen to help save the Somali people from their sorry state of affairs, and also to save the country from the dangers of a renewed civil war which could cause great death and destruction.


The SSA also took into consideration the overall public mood in the country which is geared to attaining peace, reconciliation, coexistence, and the restoration of normal life in the country's districts and regions.


The SSA is of the view that the situation should compel all political organizations and alliances, particularly leaders and intellectuals from the various sections of Somali society, to come up with new ideas based on practical goodwill, fraternity, and patriotism. They should steer clear of their former stances which brought about the current deadlock and, instead, strive to find a common ground on which to resolve issues.


The SSA also took into account the general calls and media statements made by the international community, partic­ularly the UN Security Council, major world governments, the United States, European countries, leaders of neigh­boring countries, brotherly African and Arab countries, leaders of international and regional organizations such as the OAU, the Arab League, the Islamic Conference Orga­nization, and the Nonaligned Movement, all of whom made passionate appeals to Somali political organizations, intellectuals and elders to immediately put an end to the differences between organizations and alliances in the country, to help remove the obstacles to peace and national reconciliation, and to jointly embark on the task of restoring internal stability and Somali nationhood which is important for the peace, stability, and develop­ment of the Horn of African countries.


The SSA calls on all leaders of Somali political organi­zations and alliances, intellectuals from various sections of Somali society, tribal chiefs, elders, clerics, informed people, and women to help in organizing and convening the conference.


Peace and reconciliation: War as a means of resolving conflicts should be avoided and anything that could create an atmosphere of hostility should be stopped. Any political conflicts within an organization or between organizations or alliances should be settled through peaceful dialogue.


National reconciliation: The organization and holding of a broad-based national reconciliation conference, to be held in the country before 25 February, if conditions allow it. It should be attended by everyone.


Organization of the conference: Recognized organiza­tions, alliances, signatories of the Addis Ababa agreement, the alliance led by Somaliland President Mohamed Ibrahim Egal, and the Somali National Move­ment [SNM] should name a joint committee charged with organizing the national conference.


Participation: Only representatives of the recognized organizations making up the SSA and General Mohamed Farah Aidid's Somali National Alliance [SNA], and the faction led by Ibrahim Egal, and the SNM, will participate in the conference.


Delegates: Delegates attending the conference will be drawn from a wide spectrum of the great Somali society, such as politicians, tribal chiefs, elders, religious leaders, intellectuals, and women in order to make the confer­ence a broad-based one.


The number of participants: The overall number of delegates should be between 600 and 700.


Representatives of political organizations: Representa­tives of political organizations should be proportional to the number of each organization's supporters.


The United Nations and international community's roles: The United Nations will play a mediatory role in and provide logistical support for the organization and convening of the conference. The United Nations, major world governments, neighboring countries, brother African and Arab countries, and international and regional organizations should send their observers to the conference and ensure the implementation of the confer­ence's resolutions.


Somali sovereignty and unity: The SSA holds the prin­ciple that the sovereignty and unity of the Somali nation is sacred.


Constitution: To ensure Somalis national unity and taking into account the prevailing realities, the SSA proposes that the new constitution should be of a Repub­lican nature with central and regional governments.


Proposals on the federal system of government: If such proposals are made, they should be presented to the national reconciliation conference which will have a mandate to approve such decisions.


Regional governments: The SSA believes in principle in the formation of regional governments with regional assemblies in the 18 regions with total independence [words indistinct].


Transitional constitution: The SSA believes in principle that the constitution for regional government should be based on shari'ah law and that this law should be applicable to the whole of Somalia. Approval of such a law rests with the national reconciliation conference.


Parliament: The government and judiciary of the SSA believe in principle that the constitution on which the new governments will be based should clearly stipulate how such a system of government should be established with the aim of bringing about Islamic power [preceding two words in English]. The role of the executive [pre­ceding word in English] authority and the judiciary should be acceptable to, and in line with the wishes of the people and the Government of Somalia. There should be between 160 and 180 members in the transitional assembly, and the representation of MP's should be proportional to the number of supporters each organiza­tion has, and the size of their localities.


Parliamentary representation: MP's in the transitional assembly should be elected on democratic principles and in (?conformity) with the approval of the organizations.


The transitional government: With the exception of the prime minister, members of the cabinet of the transi­tional government should not be members of the transi­tional assembly so as to ensure equitable distribution of power in the [words indistinct].


Election of leaders: The SSA believes that elections to leadership positions in the central government should be carried out in a democratic manner by the general conference. The SSA believes that the approval by the council of ministers of the transitional government and its program of action should have the approval of the majority of MP's in the transitional government.


Transitional period: The SSA believes in principle that the transitional term of the transitional government should be two years effective from the time the new president is sworn in.


The president of the Republic of Somalia and chairman of the SSA, Mr. Ali Mahdi Mohamed, who spoke during the news conference, outlined critical issues discussed during the conference, which has been taking place for some time now at Hotel Amana in Mogadishu.


The president expressed his confidence that the Somali people in general will take the proposals put forward here seriously-proposals which represent a guideline toward the convening of a general conference on reconciliation. The president said proposals put forward by the SSA should not be seen as proposals to be imposed on the Somali people, adding that the alliance will welcome further proposals and ideas from any quarters so that a general consensus can be reached on the proposals during the general conference for the reconciliation of the Somali people.


At the conclusion of the SSA conference, and at the subsequent release of its proposals, the president said the proposals have been agreed upon by the participants to the conference, and have been given complete and total consideration in all areas and aspects in regard to the interests of the Somali people.


The president further said the conference has resolved that all proposals reached should be taken to all regions of the country and presented to the people to secure their approval and support so that the proposals can be presented to the general conference.


The president of the Republic of Somalia, Mr. Ali Mahdi Mohamed, thanked all and sundry for their support during the news conference.


Finally President Ali Mahdi Mohamed enthusiastically answered all questions put to him during the news conference by journalists.



Leave Somalia Alone

By Michael Maren

The New York Times

July 06, 1994


Michael Maren, who has worked for international aid organizations in Africa, is writing a book about the origin of the conflicts in Somalia.


Once again, United Nations peacekeepers are crouched behind sandbags watching Somalia's factions fight it out. This round of fighting, the heaviest since before the United States-led intervention in December 1992, was started by Ali Mahdi Mohammed, who means to drive his rival, Gen. Mohammed Farah Aidid, out of Mogadishu once and for all.


To its credit, the U.N. hasn't gotten involved in the clashes. Yet its inaction raises a question: if the peacekeepers aren't keeping the peace, what are they doing? Why did the Security Council extend the mandate for the operation in Somalia until the end of September? The cost will be more than $300 million, beyond the $1.5 billion already spent.


More importantly, the extension perpetuates policies that have been directly responsible for suspending Somalia in a state of war. The U.N.'s strategy has been in place since November, when it removed General Aidid from its most-wanted list and escorted him to the conference table. In March, as American troops were completing their withdrawal, the U.N. announced that the factions' leaders had signed a peace accord and had agreed on a date for a reconciliation conference. Skeptics pointed out that the leaders, popularly known as warlords, had nothing to negotiate: neither General Aidid nor Mr. Ali Mahdi was prepared to settle for anything less than the presidency.


Those suspicions were reconfirmed in May when the planned conference was postponed for the fourth time after no one showed up. Desperate to put its seal on some kind of agreement, the U.N. has pinned its hopes on the warlords, failing to understand that their interests are served by prolonging the conflict. Worse, the U.N. is providing incentive for them to keep fighting.


In the most violently contested areas, the U.N.'s presence means jobs, contracts and money. The U.N. rents houses, hires trucks and issues millions of dollars in contracts and subcontracts to businessmen with close ties to the warlords. In addition, for two months some of the fiercest battles in Mogadishu have been around the airport as clan militias jockey to control the corridors through which U.N.-imported food and equipment pass. Without the U.N. and those goods, the road wouldn't be worth fighting over.


In contrast, areas without a U.N. presence have been relatively peaceful. Take Galcaio, a central Somalian town situated between major feuding clans, the Majerteen and the Haber Gedir. During the civil war, it was the site of some of the heaviest fighting in the country. Then in May 1993, meetings among community leaders, religious figures, businessmen, students and representatives of the factions produced a peace accord that has held for more than a year. Significantly, the U.N. played no role in the meetings.


On a stroll through the quiet streets of the town two months ago, I asked the regional governor where the once ubiquitous "technicals" had gone. "The boys are doing business," he said. The former fighters had removed the weapons from their trucks and had begun transporting livestock to Bosasso, a port in the north. They returned with imported beans, rice and other goods. The cease-fire has endured because members of both clans need the 465-mile road from Galcaio to Bosasso. And since there is almost no foreign assistance in the region, people depend on the peace, not on U.N. contracts.


The next day, I drove to Bosasso, without weapons and part of the way at night. There I also found peace, commerce and people from different clans doing business. (I ran into a close relative of General Aidid's who was concluding a deal to set up a satellite telephone system in partnership with a political rival.)


The fear now is that the fighting in Mogadishu will spread -- that the clan members will have to shoo the goats off the trucks and remount the guns. The best thing the U.N. can do is leave and acknowledge that the only enduring peace will be the one the Somalis carve out for themselves.


© Copyright 1994 The New York Times Company









Somalis loot U.N. barracks near the Mogadishu port





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