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Somalia: Will the Real Farmaajo Please Stand Up? June 2, 2017

Posted by OromianEconomist in #OromoProtests, Ethiopia's Colonizing Structure and the Development Problems of People of Oromia, Afar, Ogaden, Sidama, Southern Ethiopia and the Omo Valley, Ethiopian Empire, Ethnic Cleansing, Somalia.
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The recent visit by newly-elected President of Somalia Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed ‘Farmaajo’ to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, can be considered as unusual, not because the relations between the two countries soured in the aftermath of his election, but because he subtly campaigned for an anti-Ethiopian slogan on the eve of the 8 February presidential elections in Mogadishu. His supporters and many other Somalis had anticipated that Farmaajo would delay an early political engagement with the current Ethiopian regime led by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF)/The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). Farmaajo’s visit culminated in a press conference held together with the Ethiopian Prime Minister HailemariamDesalegn.

When one combines the discursive analysis with a psychosomatic assessment on the video clip of the press conference in Addis Ababa, it can be observed from the faces of the once overconfident TPLF/EPRDF policy-makers that they appear to be anxious about another – in addition to Eritrea, or even South Sudan or the Sudan – critical political façade from Mogadishu. This does not mean that they are unaware that Mogadishu government remains utterly toothless, but a small amount of criticism towards their behaviour and practices in the Horn in general and Somalia in particular stemmingfrom the new team in the Villa Somalia would add an insult to theinjury. Therefore, the approach from which the TPLF/EPRDF policy-makers could benefit most at this time is through appeasing Farmaajo and making him sleep with friendly but forged overdose diplomatic gesture.The speeches made in the news conference indicated that the TPLF/EPRDF regime in Ethiopia were not only sceptical about the new development in Mogadishu, but they were wary about what Farmaajo would put on the table. However, upon assessing him closely, they seem to have found out that he is not the man they feared.

The TPLF/EPRDF policy-makers were expecting Ethiopia to be the first country to which Farmaajo was to travel following his election. Instead, Addis Ababa became the seventh after Riyadh, Nairobi, Abu Dhabi, Djibouti, Aman and Ankara, in the capital cities that he visited thus far. The wide public support the Somali public welcomed Farmaajo’s election, which was itself a reaction towards the detested regime of Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud, has revealed to the TPLF/EPRDF policy-makers that they could not dictate, as they had done with the corrupt regime of Hassan Sheikh, with their own terms what they need from Somalia. Hence the importance to find a new route out of the anxiety in the TPLF/EPRDF inner circle generated by the Farmaajo’s unexpected election. I still recall vividlyafter the previous president Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud went to Jigjiga unannounced in early August last year, I met Farmaajo, sipping a tea at Sarova Panafric Hotel in one cool Nairobi afternoon. After reading to him my take on the visit from my mobile phone, I looked Farmaajo and saw his reaction was mild.

Influential Somali opinion makers have every reason to be a bit sceptical of any dealings with Ethiopia, but one has todraw to their attention to the fact that there is no such an ‘Ethiopia’ at the moment. The TPLF/EPRDF regime is currently in a weakposition, insofar as it suffers from internal power struggles exacerbated by the increasing Oromo and Amhara dissents. Historically, for so long, the Ethiopian political order hasbeen dependent for existence and survival on the character of a powerful ruler. Upon the death of the former Tigray rebel leader Meles Zenawi, the TPLF/EPRDF central committee failed to come up with a powerful successor at par with the deceased leader from the Tigray political actors within the ruling party. No need to note that HailemariamDesalegn is another DaherRayaale (the former accidental Somaliland president); Desalegnwas chosen to create a balance between the two Tigray groups vying for power tiresomely during the post-Zenawi period. Be that as it may, Ethiopia is still under the state of emergency that was declared in October last year as a result of riots instigated by the Master Plan project which attempted to displace a significant number of Oromos from their farming lands on the outskirts of Addis Ababa. The Oromo uprising, supported by Amhara unrest, created a confusion and chaos within the TPLF/EPRDF, leading to accusations and counter-accusations as reported by the suppressed print media.

Tourists and travellers are still cautioned not to venture into Amhara and Oromo regions unless that is necessary. The only region the TPLF/EPRDF authorities effectively (remote)-controls from Addis Ababa is the Somali region which, because of the divisive clan-based politics, they were able dividing the Somalis along clan, even sub-clan or sub-subclan lines in order to fish out from their persistent power and resource contestation. Consequently, the Somali region is next to Tigray region, which many (but not all) are obedient to the TPLF/EPRDF regime due to ethnic affiliation with the TPLF. This does not imply that people in the Somali region support the regime; they are on the contrary waiting for a momentum to articulate their own self-determination as was nearly achieved but missed in late 1994. In Addis Ababa last year, when I asked about the appalling human rights situation in the Somali region, several TPLF/EPRDF regime advisers told me they would kick out the Somali region’s monocratic president Abdi Mohamed Omar, known as ‘Abdi Ileey’, but they expressed a fear that his replacement may open a Pandora’s box. This is a clear testimony that, insofar as they keep a tight grip on the region, they would be fine with the open-ended oppression. However, they could not apply this harsh policy to the Amhara or Oromo regions where people are more united and politically well-informed in the Ethiopian politics than the pastoralist clanically-divided (mostly) nomadic Somalis in the region. When I visited Jigjiga in April last year, I felt amused that the peculiar yet parochial question was: which sub-clan is larger than that or this to cut the larger cake from the regional state?.

Reflecting on these empirical localised internal political nuances, the Somali-Ethiopian relations in the broader geopolitics or biopolitics warranta very close but critical re-reading to envisage Addis Ababa’s future manoeuvres in Somalia. Unlike foreign policies of the successive Somalia regimes, which have often been inconsistent, incoherent, incomprehensive and unclear, the TPLF/EPRDF foreign policy changes as the need emerge. It comes as no surprise that both political (and military) culture of the TPLF/EPRDF draws from a reformed rational political calculation that solicits to buy a brief interval in every time of transition. It seems on the surface that this philosophy is based on ‘do this now, but do the other with the right time’.

Farmaajo and his team do not seem to understand the fragile situation of the Ethiopian regime, let alone what is going on the inner circle or the behind-the-scenes. Most strikingly, they appear unable to read the subtle ways the history is profoundly manipulated to construct or craft something meaningful out of it. For instance, one wonders why Farmaajo’s team did not raise their concerns when the TPLF/EPRDF cadres put on his back during the press conference this clear message: ‘Welcome to Ethiopia, the Land of Origins’, which literally means ‘welcome to your land of origins’. From the Ethiopian ‘highlander’ historical point of view, Somalis are considered as were part and parcel of the Ethiopian Empire through the ages. One could recall Emperor Haile Selassie’s famous speech in QabriDaharre in 1956, in which he boldly stated to his audience that Somalis and Ethiopians are the same, since ‘we drank water drawn from the same river’. The Ethiopian Herald published at the time some Somali elders kissing his hand with scornful manner unaccustomed to then proud Somalis. Several highlander Ethiopian historians and other Ethiopianists stick to this day to the notion that Somalis were once part of Ethiopian Empire, which is a false premise that can be counter-checked with available archaeological evidence and historical findings that Afar, Oromo, Saho, Somali and other lowland ethnic communities in the Horn of Africa had been the founders and defenders of the Adal and Ujuuraan sultanates well before the Abyssinian intrusion in 1887.

Mohamed Haji Ingiriis

Mohamed Haji Ingiriis a Somali scholar studying Somali history at the University of Oxford. He can be reached at: ingiriis@yahoo.com

African Arguments: Why President Farmaajo holds so much hope for Somalia February 16, 2017

Posted by OromianEconomist in Somalia.
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Odaa OromooOromianEconomist

The Big Cheese: Why President Farmaajo holds so much hope for Somalia

Why is there so much excitement around the former prime minister’s surprise appointment as Somalia’s new president?

Somalia’s ninth president Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo.

On 8 February, the protracted Somalia elections finally came to an end to widespread celebrations and surprise as Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo was appointed as the new president.

The former prime minister was one of 21 candidates vying to be Somalia’s 9th president in a process involving 329 newly-elected lawmakers. The decision went to a second round of voting in which Farmaajo received 184 votes to the incumbent Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s 97, prompting to the latter to concede peacefully.

This outcome came as a huge but largely welcome shock to most.

Who is Farmaajo?

The new president – known as Farmaajo, Italian for “cheese”, because of his reported love of the food – first became a well-known figure in Somalia in November 2010. At that time, he had been living and working in the US, where he holds dual citizenship, for 25 years. But he was suddenly plucked out of obscurity in the diaspora by then President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed to become prime minister.

It is what happened in the following seven months that made him perhaps Somalia’s most popular politician in recent times.

Unlike so many of Somalia’s politicians, Farmaajo made an immediate and tangible difference on coming into office. For the first time since 1991, he reduced the cabinet from the customary 31 members down to a core of just 18, dropping redundant departments such as the Ministry of Tourism and Wild Animals. He fought corruption, establishing an Anti-Corruption Commission and increasing transparency around government spending and ministers’ assets. And he ensured salaries were disbursed to government workers and soldiers who hadn’t been paid for months, an accomplishment for which he is still fondly remembered.

Under Farmaajo, large swaths of territory were also recaptured from al-Shabaab. The momentum achieved in this period is believed to have been the cause of the Islamist militants’ withdrawal from the capital Mogadishu, for the first time since their inception, just a month and half after Farmaajo left office.

In 2011, however, the prime minister’s term came to an abrupt end. The president and then Speaker of Parliament Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden had been embroiled in a bitter power struggle for months, and it was only resolved when the two struck a deal that included an agreement that Farmaajo would step down.

The resignation of the admired prime minister triggered days of demonstrations across Somalia and abroad, with protesters blaming foreign interference for his removal. Farmaajo’s popularity was particularly notable in Mogadishu from which his clansmen, who include former President Siad Barre, had been indiscriminately driven out in the 1990s civil war. His acceptance in the capital served as a reminder of how far Somalia has come.

The biggest mandate

Farmaajo’s popularity amongst the people combined with his mandate – the biggest since 1967 – gives the new president a tremendous opportunity to move Somalia towards stability, democracy and prosperity.

To achieve this, it is imperative that he avoids the mistakes of his predecessors, particularly in four key areas.

Firstly, Farmaajo must take great care in appointing his prime minister. The past four presidents all struggled with this and each went through at least three different PMs, with almost all the partnerships ending in acrimony. In some instances, internal conflicts lasted months, derailing any progress that could have been made. President Farmaajo must appoint somebody he trusts, that shares the same vision, and that will stick with him through his administration.

A second key area will be reconciliation. The brutal civil war that broke out in 1991 led the country to break up into several clan-based territories. Many Somalis never leave their regions.

The new president will need to set in motion a process of national reconciliation. Political grievances must be readdressed; the discriminatory parts of the constitution such as the 4.5 clan-based power sharing formula should be removed; and property should be returned to its rightful owners. By re-cultivating real trust between clans, Farmaajo can ensure a lasting peace.

[4 questions the new president must confront in deciding what kind of democracy Somalia should be]

Thirdly, the new president will have to tackle the insecurity that has long wracked the country. Even after some promising gains, Mogadishu has seen an increase in al-Shabaab attacks, to the extent that the venue of yesterday’s election had to be moved to the heavily fortified Aden Adde Airport.

To improve security, Farmaajo will have to pay special attention to Somalia’s security forces. Soldiers’ morale desperately needs to be built up with adequate training and the timely payment of salaries. This, in turn, could help the army recruit the young educated conscripts it needs to effectively replace the African Union forces (AMISOM) when they eventually leave the country.

Finally, Farmaajo will have to take great care in ensuring his rule is inclusive. The past two administrations were frequently criticised for concentrating power in the hands of the few. Under the new president, Somalis all over the country should be able to claim the government as their own and be proud of it.

As prime minister in 2010, Farmaajo openly expressed a disapproval of the 4.5 power-sharing formula that discriminates against smaller clans. At the time his capacity was limited, but now he has the power to walk the walk and ensure that his government is one that represents all Somalis.

Sakariye Cismaan is a political commentator. Follow him on twitter at @SakariyeCismaan.


Social media factor: Explaining why Somali people quit listening to BBC and VOA Somali Services July 31, 2015

Posted by OromianEconomist in Africa, Internet Freedom, Ogaden, Social Media, Somalia.
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Somalia: Explaining why Somali people quit listening to BBC and VOA Somali Services

By Ahmed Abdi, Ayyaantuu,  News 30 July 2015 


Most of the Somali people have recently started to quit listening to their long-time news provider, BBC Somali Service and news newly-competitor of Voice of America (VOA) Somali Service. 

They lost interest and distrusted them due to the privilege of the recent technology they have gained mainly social media such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google plus and many other Social media platforms.

If you ask at least six different peoples from different locations for example, Hargeisa, Garowe, Kismayo and Mogadishu they will definitely tell you that they did not listen a week or even months or they did not remember the last time they have listened to them.

Of Course, they will tell you that there is no unmet news coverage that they would need from any of them that they did not hear before. Because the above-mentioned news outlets serves better than BBC and Somali Services. 

Forget about people in Jigjiga and many other place across Ogaden region that the BBC and VOA Somali Services are muted to cover  their regional problems despite the conflicts, famine, human rights violations, social injustice, and underdevelopment.

If they ever do once a year coverage -they avoid mentioning the geographical name, which probably is Ogaden region of Ethiopia due to  the region’s name,named after Ogaden-clan , which makes up the region’s half of its populations. More than 6 million Somali audience members had possibly lost there. 

Moreover, Many of their former clients will tell you that the editors of the two channels’ tribal affiliation led them to distrust and stop listening to the news channels of BBC and VOA Somali Services. Meanwhile, many others complained about their lack of objective and balanced coverage.
Let us analyse the changes occurred after all these to learn the difference between now and then.
Between 1994-1998, Somali people used to put aside everything in their hands whenever they heard the BBC’s famous music to listen its international and regional news carefully. In the past, villagers, who had no radios used to travel a long distance on foot amid listening the news of the BBC Somali Service  for the nearest possible location available to get its news-possibly walking 14 kilometers away from their own villages. 
It is obvious that the BBC had been their source of news reference as well their only reliable dictionary in terms of every disputed divination of Somali world. You see, its former Somali reporters had knowledge when it comes to their regional dialects and Somali literary language. 
People used to make their appointment-hours the times of the BBC Somali Service be on air i.e specific hours of the morning, afternoon, and evening that is usually devoted to listening to it. This is an  indication of how people’s lives were more connected to its programs before. In these hours, crowds of Somalis assembling in a bid to listen to the news of the BBC Somali Service. 
Even there was a time, the only available program about Africa including Somalia was Wednesdays. It was BBC Somali Service, which people made a place to return for their disputed sources. And nobody could dispute a news said it is a source of BB Somali Service. The time has changed, so have BBC Somali reporters. 
People VOA Somali Service is believed to have been created to compete with the Somali people’s traditional news outlet, BBC Somali Service, after the U.S’s interest of Somalia affairs grew following the U.S-led invasion of Somalia in 1992 ad the U.S’s war on terror as well as the United States fear of China’s East Africa penetration amid the U.S rival’s demand of Africa’s Natural resources to pave its way of being a super-power. 
The time that VOA Somali Service aired its first programs was welcomed by the mass and many BBC’s longtime clients turned to VOA Somali Service and it became more popular in every corner of the five-pointed white star of Somali flag represents i.e every place that Somali-Speaking community could be found.
But unfortunately, a media that most of the Somalis mistakenly assumed  a role model, a sign of good era, however, turned to be null and void after it has lost  its values, which probably means compromising its impartiality. 
Several things are supposed to be the reason for the decline of the BBC and VOA Somali listeners including the lack of quality reporters compared to the past reporters that devoted to literature and were rich in their Somali language and their own culture when addressing Somalis, who are culturally rich in oral tradition and have zero-tolerance for such unskilled presenters. 
It is obvious that many factors contributed to the disappointment of their audience members including their less quality programs for the result of hiring their new reporters based on evaluation of their knowledge of the English language rather than Somali language and regional knowledge as well as  favouring one tribe against another, one politician against another and/or one region against another.

OPINION: Somalia: African solutions for African problems? July 4, 2015

Posted by OromianEconomist in Africa, Somalia.
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???????????Aljazeera logo

Somalia: African solutions for African problems?

Interventions from neighbours have not brought Somalia the promised peace.

 By  Abukar Arman*, Aljazeera,  09 May 2014


One of the most potent intoxicants in Africa today is the canned phrase “African solutions for African problems”.

While “ASAP” is an acronym that connotes a timely and efficient result, most if not all, operations that are veiled with the romantic motto, have proven that they are not indigenously conceived, funded or driven.

Since this phrase entered the African lexicon in 2007, it has proved to be of no substantive value to the continent or its people. Contrary to what it was originally intended, the phrase has been taken hostage by domestic political sloganeers and foreign elements eager to advance zero-sum interests. It also became the ideological impetus that helped establish multi-national African forces such as AMISOM.

As is clear in Somalia, this kind of politico-military system – especially when neighbouring states are directly involved – routinely contain or “solve” a problem by creating several newer ones that perpetuate dependency, exploitation and indeed subjugation.

“When one asks a powerful neighbour to come to aid and defend one with his forces…These forces may be good in themselves, but they are always dangerous for those who borrow them, for if they lose you are defeated, and if they conquer you remain their prisoner,” forewarned Niccolo Machiavelli several centuries ago.

In Somalia, not only did our current leadership, and that of the last decade, fail to heed the aforementioned warning, they obediently competed and outperformed each other to prove themselves as unyielding loyal subjects. It is clear that no Somali can pursue a political career in his own country without first getting Ethiopia’s blessings. Already, Ethiopia has installed a number of its staunch cohorts in the current government and (along with Kenya) has been handpicking virtually all of the new regional governors, mayors, etc.

Byproduct of vicious fratricide

Recently, while reading on poverty, I came across the anthropologist Oscar Lewis’ (controversial) theory “the culture of poverty” in which he argues that while poverty might be systemic and generational, it fosters unique self-perpetuating value system that ultimately becomes engrained in the poor person’s way of life.

People who are altered by that attitudinal phenomenon commonly have “a strong feeling of marginality, of helplessness, of dependency, of not belonging. They are like aliens in their own country… (and) have very little sense of history”.

I could not help but reflect on our own self-defeating, self-perpetuating predicament.

As in Stockholm syndrome, a good number of the Somali leadership have become emotionally and politically bonded with the very power that abused them and fuelled enmity between them (off and on) since the seventies.

Capitalising on that psychological advantage, Ethiopia has managed to get the exclusive right to set up an embassy inside the Villa Somalia (government compound), independent “consulates” in Somaliland and Puntland, and independently operating intelligence command centres in each of these balkanised political entities. To further complicate matters, Ethiopia has signed independent “military treaty” with each of these political entities.

Yet, the current leadership – as those before them – seems content with such arrangement. That, needless to say, motivated Kenya to follow the same effective strategy – isolate the centre from the periphery, and lure the latter entities into deals that they can’t refuse.

Exposing the lame ducks

Only a few weeks into the Ethiopia-led (AMISOM) military operation, the UNSGR warned the next violence that targets the UN may force it out of Somalia.

“I am deeply conscious that if we make a mistake in our security presence and posture, and suffer a significant attack, particularly on the UN, this is likely to mean to us withdrawing from Somalia,” said UN Special Representative Nicholas Kay.

To underscore his message, he adds this: “There are scenarios in which if we take further significant losses, then that would have a strategic effect on our mission.”

Was this a reckless telegraphing intended to implicitly dare al-Shabaab with a “Go ahead, make my day; force us back to Nairobi” message? Or was it a cryptic warning intended to preempt the Ethiopia/Kenya tag-team from getting too creative in their covert operations intended to manipulate facts on the ground?

While you ponder, consider adding this into your calculus: The UN deliberately bypassed AMISOM when it commissioned a Ugandan contingent of over 400 Special Forces to guard its facilities and staff. This particular contingent is neither officially part nor does it take any orders from AMISOM. Why?

Because, the controversial implanting of Ethiopia and Kenya into AMISOM has changed its dynamic from a peacekeeping force into a political vehicle.

Ambassador Kay is too experienced to make haphazard security-related statements. He was well aware of what he was saying and where he was saying it. He affirms that awareness in his presentation. Between the lines he was signalling his frustration with the Ethiopia-driven AMISOM, and how he and UNSOM ended up biting the dust. I have argued before that the Ethiopia/Kenya and US/UK interests are in an imminent collision course.  read more at:-


*Ambassador Abukar Arman is the former Somalia special envoy to the United States and a foreign policy analyst.

Somalia: WikiLeaks Reveals U.S. Twisted Ethiopia’s Arm to Invade Somalia June 26, 2015

Posted by OromianEconomist in Somalia.
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wikilks(Borama News, 25 June 2015) –By mid 2007, the 50,000 Ethiopian troops that invaded Somalia in late 2006 found themselves increasingly bogged down, facing much fiercer resistance than they had bargained for as Somalis of all stripes temporarily put aside their differences to stand together against the outside invader.

As the military incursion turned increasingly sour, then US Under Secretary of State for Africa, Jendayi Frazer, who taught at the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies in the 1990s, insisted that, prior to the invasion, the United States had counseled caution and that Washington had warned Ethiopia not to use military force against Somalia. Frazer was a close collaborator with former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, for whom there also is a strong University of Denver connection. Frazer certainly tried to distance the United States from responsibility for the Ethiopian invasion in a number of interviews she gave to the media at the time.

But one of the released WikiLeaks cables, suggests a different picture, one that implicates Frazer in pressing Ethiopia’s President Meles Zenawi to invade its neighbor. The content of the cable is being widely discussed in the African media. It exposes a secret deal cut between the United States and Ethiopia to invade Somalia.

If accurate — and there is no reason to believe the contrary — the cable suggests that Ethiopia had no intention of invading Somalia in 2006 but was encouraged/pressured to do so by the United States which pushed Ethiopia behind the scenes. Already bogged down in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at the time, the Bush Administration pushed Ethiopia to invade Somalia with an eye on crushing the Union of Islamic Courts, which was gaining strength in Somalia at the time.

At the time of the invasion there was little doubt that the Ethiopian military incursion was “made in Washington.” Like so many other WikiLeaks cables, this one merely puts a dot on the “i” or crosses the “t” on what was generally known, although it does give specific information about Jendayi Frazer’s deep involvement in the affair.

According to the cable, as the main U.S. State Department representative in Africa, Frazer played a key role, spearheading what amounted to a U.S.-led proxy war in conjunction with the Pentagon. At the same time that she was pushing the Ethiopians to attack, Frazer was laying the groundwork both for the attack in the U.S. media and for a cover-up, by claiming that although the United States did not support Ethiopian military action, she could understand “the Somali threat” and why Ethiopia might find it necessary to go to war.

Frazer spread rumors of a possible jihadist takeover in Somalia that would threaten Ethiopian security. Turns out that media performance was little more than a smokescreen. The U.S. military had been preparing Ethiopia for the invasion, providing military aid and training Ethiopian troops. Then on December 4, 2006, CENTCOM Commander, General John Abizaid was in Addis Ababa on what was described as “a courtesy call.” Instead, the plans for the invasion were finalized.

At the time of the Somali invasion, Zenawi found himself in trouble. He was facing growing criticism for the wave of repression he had unleashed against domestic Ethiopian critics of his rule that had included mass arrests, the massacres of hundreds of protesters and the jailing of virtually all the country’s opposition leaders. By the spring of 2006 there was a bill before the U.S. Congress to cut off aid to Zenawi unless Ethiopia’s human rights record improved. (His human rights record, by the way, has not improved since. Given how the United States and NATO view Ethiopia’s strategic role in the “war on terrorism” and the scramble for African mineral and energy resources, Western support for Zenawi has only increased in recent years).

In 2006, dependent on U.S. support to maintain power in face of a shrinking political base at home — a situation many U.S. allies in the Third World find themselves — and against his better judgement, Zenawi apparently caved to Frazer’s pressure. Nor was this the first time that Frazer had tried to instigate a U.S. proxy war in Africa. Earlier as U.S. ambassador to South Africa, she had tried to put together a “coalition of the willing” to overthrow Mugabe’s regime in Zimbabwe, an initiative that did not sit so well with South Africa’s post-apartheid government and went nowhere.

The 2006 war in Somalia did not go well either for the United States or Ethiopia. Recently a State Department spokesperson, Donald Yamamoto, admitted that the whole idea was “a big mistake,” obliquely admitting U.S. responsibility for the invasion. It resulted in 20,000 deaths and according to some reports, left up to 2 million Somalis homeless. The 50,000 Ethiopian invasion force, which had expected a cake walk, instead ran into a buzz saw of Somali resistance, got bogged down and soon withdrew with its tail between its legs. The political result of the invasion was predictable: the generally more moderate Union of Islamic Courts was weakened, but it was soon replaced in Somalia by far more radical and militant Islamic groups with a more openly anti-American agenda.

As the situation deteriorated, in an attempt to cover both the U.S. and her own role, Frazer then turned on Zenawi, trying to distance herself from fiasco using an old and tried diplomatic trick: outright lying. Now that the invasion had turned sour, she changed her tune, arguing in the media, that both she and the State Department had tried to hold back the Ethiopians, discouraging them from invading rather than pushing them to attack. The WikiLeaks cable tells quite a different story. In 2009, the Ethiopian forces withdrew, leaving Somalia in a bigger mess and more unstable than when their troops went in three years prior. Seems to be a pattern here?


Somalia: What role for its complex past to rebuild functioning state of the future November 21, 2014

Posted by OromianEconomist in Africa, Somalia.
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The tradition of the Somali population, that is prevalently (especially in the north) but not exclusively pastoral is shaped, I argue, first of all in reaction to the harsh environmental conditions which have forced life to be mobile, fast, less hierarchical, more communitarian and violent because resources are scarce and unequally distributed on the territory. That’s why the Somalis developed a different way to secure themselves from risks and a different system to ensure social security, to which the clan is an essential part. The imposed top-down approaches to state-building are overlooking this aspect and, by claiming and financing the imposition of the state as the competent body to both manage risks for the population and create safety nets for the “citizens”, they also demonstrate to ignore history. They ignore, for example, that the legacies of both colonialism and Barre’s autocratic rule have left behind little trust and much suspicion towards the state among the Somalis, who are unlikely to change this attitude for the short-term period. Hence, the citizens that the state is trying to reach are not there, because a culture mediating the relation between the state and the population is missing in Somalia, and needs to be built from scratch.  But before doing that, reconciliation among citizens is required: in a society so threatened by resource scarcity, yet well equipped with traditional institutions devoted to settle disputes, the fact that reconciliation processes have been hindered has particularly plenty of social implications. Therefore, the priority given by the federalist government to security issues may not be the ideal path forward, since it would mean operating on the consequences and not on the root causes. The legitimacy of state institutions is, after all, still missing and for a good reason: it is redundant to say that the lack of legitimacy is likely to influence internal stability as well. The state, rather than a prerequisite for stability, should be conceived instead as a major achievement following the enactment of agreed-upon political practices.  –  http://www.pambazuka.net/en/category/features/93436





Somalia: Let’s just forget the past?

Marco Zoppi*



I recently attended a conference where I had the chance to hear the speech of one Somali diplomat, whose identity or post is not what is important here. What he said, however, matters much more as he has indeed brought on the table many issues concerning the Federal Republic of Somalia’s future. Although his speech was preceded by a disclaimer that his opinions were not necessarily those of the Somali government he is representing abroad, it is fair to assume that many of his statements necessarily correspond to actual policies put in place by the federal government which appointed him, as media evidence seems to suggest. Starting from this conference, yet moving forward to analyze current Somali affairs, in this article I would like to engage on questions of reconciliation and (transitional) justice in Somalia: I argue that it’s a proper time to bring these elements in the debate, or rather to bring them back again in the debate, now that the federal system has been set to govern the country, but its realization is yet advancing with manifest strain and tension: in fact, we need to ask what can be held accountable for the slow implementation of the federalist project, and in doing so, it doesn’t seem reasonable to only take into account the flaws in the constitutional text, or the logic of clanpolitics, as a number of analysis have tried to do so far.

To pinpoint the core of the matter, the main concern I am confronted with is the diplomat’s affirmation regarding what to do with Somalia’s past, namely: “the past? Let’s just forget that”, while focusing all efforts to re-build a functioning state, first of all through the securitization of the territory, as he went on to suggest. But is it really the case that the Somali state can be re-built without even attempting any reconciliation among Somali population? In other words, where does the pivot of the discussion about peace and justice in Somalia lie (or should lie)? In the top-down state engineering or in the social norms regulating the harmonious relations among citizens and between them and the state? These are not rhetorical questions, and their answers call for historical as well as social analysis, as I will try to underline now.

The first point that I would like to stress is the following: if we look at the different reconciliation processes which have taken place over time since the collapse of Siad Barre’s regime, the emphasis has prevalently been on the need to resurrect the state or to gather all relevant leaders/warlords around the same table, taking for granted that they would fairly represent the vast majority of the Somalis population. This modus operandi reveals that the international community presupposed a convergence of the socio-political dynamics shaping the Somali society with the ones characterizing western countries: accordingly, they mobilized concepts such as “state institutions”; “representation”, “democracy” without even scrutinizing their factual compliance with local patterns of political behavior. Thereafter, in the face of the poor governance established by those leaders, which nourished rather a state of protracted war, the same international actors would conclude that Somali and African societies in general are hostages of corruption, nepotism, ethnic hatred and similar issues which they treat as “pathologies” that need to be cured. While there is some space to partly concur with what is said above, it is still interesting to note that western institutions were not, anyhow, the ones whose effectiveness was to be put into question in this discourse: poverty, clan rivalry, weak African leadership were to blame, and not much of this myopic way to see things has changed nowadays.

Nevertheless, there is a reality that we need to face: the solution to these exacerbated political issues is not derived from “better” governance alone or, in the case of Somalia, from the federalist structure per se; what is missing in the framework of action of the international community is, first of all, the understanding, or the willingness to understand, the role of history as well as of historical consciousness for reconciliatory processes; secondly, there has not been a serious engagement to include or at least mediate the tenets of the “social contract” of the Somalis, namely the norms which regulate at least three dynamics: the social interactions among people; the definition of citizenry (not so much in a legal way but in the sense of recognized participation in common activities); and the criteria for community membership. As many scholars have underlined, this form of indigenous governance is capable of producing remarkable levels of governance, but unfortunately it is often neglected in the state-building process, notwithstanding their relevance for the everyday life of the people who are supposed to live in that precise state. Hence, what happens is that there is a discrepancy between the rights and duties of the citizen so as described in the federal constitution (articles from 10 to 42) and the kind of “civil society” defined by Somali traditional norms. The overlapping of these two types of both public and private spheres has relevant implications, mistrust and lower loyalty towards the state. To be sure, these traditional norms are not a relic from a primordial past that must change in order to enter an alleged “modernity”.

The tradition of the Somali population, that is prevalently (especially in the north) but not exclusively pastoral is shaped, I argue, first of all in reaction to the harsh environmental conditions which have forced life to be mobile, fast, less hierarchical, more communitarian and violent because resources are scarce and unequally distributed on the territory. That’s why the Somalis developed a different way to secure themselves from risks and a different system to ensure social security, to which the clan is an essential part. The imposed top-down approaches to state-building are overlooking this aspect and, by claiming and financing the imposition of the state as the competent body to both manage risks for the population and create safety nets for the “citizens”, they also demonstrate to ignore history. They ignore, for example, that the legacies of both colonialism and Barre’s autocratic rule have left behind little trust and much suspicion towards the state among the Somalis, who are unlikely to change this attitude for the short-term period. Hence, the citizens that the state is trying to reach are not there, because a culture mediating the relation between the state and the population is missing in Somalia, and needs to be built from scratch.

But before doing that, reconciliation among citizens is required: in a society so threatened by resource scarcity, yet well equipped with traditional institutions devoted to settle disputes, the fact that reconciliation processes have been hindered has particularly plenty of social implications. Therefore, the priority given by the federalist government to security issues may not be the ideal path forward, since it would mean operating on the consequences and not on the root causes. The legitimacy of state institutions is, after all, still missing and for a good reason: it is redundant to say that the lack of legitimacy is likely to influence internal stability as well. The state, rather than a prerequisite for stability, should be conceived instead as a major achievement following the enactment of agreed-upon political practices.

The second matter I wish to deal with now is: what can Transitional Justice (TJ) bring to Somalia? Somali society is in desperate need to re-conciliate after the widespread violence connected to the civil war. Intra-clanic fights; confrontation between nomad/pastors and settled farmers; the emergence of discriminated minorities: these are some of the thorny issues of Somali past are still to be addressed in the post-1991 context. However TJ as commonly understood (including by United Nations) implies too much of state institutions or western-born concepts like the rule of law, to be a viable solution for African problems, it is argued here. In fact, if many African political crises are somehow the outgrowth of the “politics of the belly” (to quote Jean-François Bayart), namely of clientelist practices involving the state and the private sector or the broader population, the solution out of this deteriorated political situation should then come from other political bodies which enjoy people’s legitimacy, the latter built around both common definitions of what is justice as well as generalized perceptions of what is desirable and appropriate for the community’s common good.

At the moment, the state is thus not representing the ideal political body considered able to attract adequate degrees of legitimacy. That’s why the strengthening of state institutions advocated by TJ theories may not be what is firstly needed here, especially if reconciliation and the coming to terms with the past in reverse are not included at any level in the post-conflict recovery process. I intend to underline the need to develop African recipes for reconciliation which can be more responsive to population’s needs: these kinds of indigenous institutions, including the clan, can convey values which are intelligible to the population because they are born out of the local social contract: the respect of this social contract would alone ensure a satisfying degree of national safety while, on the other hand, “the creation of a national army” prioritized by Somali the federal government is not necessarily a synonym for peace-building. I am affirming this because the univocal notion of citizenship proposed by the state is hardly fitting into the reality of the constellation of clans already equipped each with its own respective definition for establishing who is a member.

So, while TJ’s truth-telling initiatives could help establishing an egalitarian approach that affords acknowledgment and dignity to all, the state framework is an inhibitor which would deliberately fragment that “all” into exclusionary definitions of citizenship and partisan factions, eventually jeopardizing the whole process. While these issues should be properly addressed, the specific provocation: “stop being slave of the tribal system and start behaving like a nation” that the diplomat directed to the Somali diaspora, is an indication of the government’s adoption of a mono-strategy to deal with the future of Somalia.

How could Transitional Justice manage the societal diversity? Just for clarity, it should be underlined that even the realization of a state-led reconciliation process based on TJ’s principles would not necessarily mean the consolidation, right away, of a national identity: Somalia is still composed of clans, and the clan is not just a political entity, but also a welfare provider for its members, as well as a security net: it performs a way more complex social role of than usually represented in international media, and it is even more efficient than the state in doing so in the Somali context: the clan makes the life of its member less insecure and problematic, yet more communitarian and more connected to kin through nets of duties and moral obligations. So, once more, reconciliation in Somalia should rather start from the full resurgence of the social contract and the traditional norms, the only ones that at the moment are able to attract the trust of the people and that are thus granted social legitimacy. The reconstruction of fragmented societies through Transitional Justice should be based on cultural forms and systems of knowledge which can be recognized by the concerned population: in the recent history of the international community engagement in Somalia, this would represent a novelty, and it would substantially change the meaning of transition itself: a transition from solely state-based approaches towards the inclusion of local social contract-based elements.

The last point of the discussion is about people. Not only institutions, whether western or Africans, count. People also matter, and people as a matter of fact make the institutions alive. How can history be just forgotten in order to leave space to new nation-building imperatives? Memories of the people are extremely important as they are actively contributing in determining current people’s life decisions; the historical consciousness is too relevant in this discourse to be left instead in the corner; better yet, the fundamental peace effort for Somalia may come exactly from those who have experienced the war and endure painful memories.

To conclude, I firstly stated that the federalist structure of Somalia is faces obstacles for its full implementation in virtue of a missing agreement on who is a citizen, and how relationships among citizens and between them and the state should be regulated. I then underlined that the inclusion of provisions contained in the Somali social contract and in the norms known as “xeer” in the current political development would increase the overall legitimacy of the process. I went on to say that, however, without reconciliation in a post-war traumatized and truth-seeking population, social cohesion is hard to be achieved. I then questioned the potential role of Transitional Justice, a point which I wish to expand now: in the case of Somalia, the current definition of TJ appears too narrow to be beneficial, since it limits the space for local-based procedures of definition of justice as well as consequent means to achieve it: it does so somehow implicitly, in the specific focus given to state, rule of law, democracy and other conceits belonging to the western political dictionary. I have claimed instead the need for a bottom-up reconciliation process in Somalia, based on the indigenous social contract or at least the integration of some of its tenets: these already include, in fact, measures for dispute settlement and are thus preconditions for a working variation model of TJ which would have more chances to be applied successfully. However, as it appears, this solution entails a direct challenge to the well-established strategies of state-building proposed by the west: the key point turns thus around the poor legitimization that Afro-based transitional justice processes would receive by international actors, notwithstanding the rather higher social recognition they would get internally. In other words, TJ as it is framed today in the general debate is at risk of creating an ideological alliance with the theories of the state, which in the African context would be nothing but detrimental, just as the past political record clearly shows. Most likely, it would reiterate the endless confrontation between the alleged “modernity” of the west, on the one hand, and the African tradition on the other, without bringing forward a valid as well as agreed-upon path to reconciliation.

* Marco Zoppi is a PhD fellow in Histories and Dynamics of Globalization at Roskilde University, Denmark. He is currently researching on the Somali diaspora in Scandinavia. He holds a MA in African Studies pursued at the University of Copenhagen. His personal interests include Geopolitics, history of Africa and colonialism. He can be contacted at: marzo@ruc.dk

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