SOMALI WAR & THE CURSE OF AFRICA Nov 18, 2011 23:18:48 GMT 3
Post by adongo23456 on Nov 18, 2011 23:18:48 GMT 3
SOMALI WAR & THE CURSE OF AFRICA
Here is Part I for those who missed it.
Part II of the series on Somalia.
By Adongo Ogony
Like many African countries the fate of present day Somali was first framed at the Berlin Conference in 1884 which was called by Portugal and organized by Otto Von Bismarck the first Chancellor of Germany.
The vultures at work. Pay attention to the African map on the wall.
With the lucrative benefits of slave trade dwindling the powerful Western Countries at the time were jostling to build colonial empires in Africa. Britain, Germany, Portugal, France, Belgium, Italy and myriad other countries were getting into conflicts trying to curve our spheres of influence where they could make Africans work for them, this time not in plantations abroad but right in their own lands.
There was also the scramble for minerals, timber and all sorts of resources so abundant in Africa. To avoid a war between the Western countries they resolved to hold a meeting to divide the continent. That conference was held in Berlin in 1884.
This is how Prof. Ngugi wa Thiong’o described the Berlin conference in a speech he gave in Toronto in 1991.
“In the Berlin conference, the European powers literally curved up Africa and allocated themselves areas of domination………..What followed was the order of colonial slavery at the economic, political and cultural levels”
Before this hideous atrocity on Africa, Somali people straddled a colossal amount of land in the Horn of Africa. When they woke up after the Berlin Conference Somalia had been divided into five different countries and the roots of turmoil and deprivation among the Somali population was planted with detrimental consequences that persist to this day.
The Somali region was divided into French Somalia (presently Djibouti), British Somalia (presently Somaliland), Italian Somalia (today’s battleground), Ethiopian Somalia ( today’s Ogaden) and Northern Frontier District then under British and now part of Kenya Imagine neighbours and families waking up one morning and finding they are in two or three different countries all controlled by foreign countries they do not even know. That is what happened to Somali folk in 1884. Somali folks call it the five Somalis
Note the independent block is what was given to Ethiopia and look at the mess Somali people end up with.
Also we an see that in the case of Somali all the colonial powers wanted a piece of the sea for ports of course. The British got it, the French got it and the Italians got it as well. Poor Ethiopia was the one left out, but they were still lucky, being the only country in Africa not colonised.
Like all other African countries, the Somali people fought against colonial rule. In June 1960 British Somalia achieved its independence. This was followed by the Italian Somalia which achieved its independence in July 1960. In the same year Somaliland and Somalia (formerly Italian Somalia) held a referendum to become one country. The referendum was successful and the Republic of Somalia was born. Aden Abdulla Ossman then became the first president of Somalia and ruled from 1960-1964. From 1964 Abdi Ali Sarmake became the president.
On October 15, 1969, President Sarmake was assassinated in the town of Lasanod in present day Somaliland. This created a power vacuum and by Oct 21, 1969 Siad Barre a military General took power.
For 2-3 years Siad Barre united all of Somali. Siad Barre then embarked on ambitious projects to modernize Somali. There were massive construction works building ports, infrastructure, schools and helping establish thriving agricultural activities. At this time Siad Barre was adored by the people of Somalia. Siad Barre then become a friend of the Soviet Republics and declared Somalia a socialist country. This is the cold war era and socialism was in vogue even to those who had no clue what socialism is all about.
By early 1970’s Siad Barre runs into problems with Islamic leaders and scholars who were for the most part apolitical. They did not mind the secular state Siad Barre was building but they told him that communism and Islam does not mix.
In response to the criticism from the clerics, Siad Barre ordered the public execution of eight leading Muslim Scholars in Mogadishu. People were invited to watch the spectacle. Big mistake by Siad Barre because that becomes the first time people of Somali see Siad Barre as a dangerous dictator and not as the nationalist they thought he was.
Before a full fledged conflict with Muslim folks in Somali materializes, a war breaks out between Ethiopia and Somalia. Siad Barre is begged by other “socialist” countries including Libya (under Gadhafi) and Yemen to stop the war. He refuses and in a short order the Somali forces had captured half of Ethiopia and are threatening to seize the whole country from Mengitsu.
An agitated Leonid Brezhnev, the Presidium of the Soviet Republics summons Siad Barre to Moscow and tells him to stop the war with Ethiopia. Siad Barre tells Brezhnev that it is not him attacking the Ethiopians but rather it is Somali freedom fighters over which he has no control. This was a joke because Somali tanks, many given to them by the Soviets were deep in Ethiopian territory.
Brezhnev then gave a warning to Siad Barre and ordered him to take the troops out of Ethiopia or else face the consequences. After Siad Barre never heeded the warning, Brezhnev ordered all Soviet Military personnel in Somalia to go help Ethiopia. What followed was a complete defeat of Somali forces in Ethiopia. A desperate Siad Barre pleads with the Americans for help.
The US also worried about Soviet influence in the region see this as an opportunity. A deal struck with the help of NATO to let Somali soldiers retreat safely. Somali is allowed to go back to its original boundaries and Siad Barre switches his allegiance to the US but it is too late for him.
From 1977 following the complete demolition of the Somali forces, the state loses control of everything including arms and the military soldiers themselves. By 1980 almost every household in Somalia had arms and ammunition. Between 1980 and 1991 when there is eleven years of absolute chaos and anarchy as Barre refuses to relinquish power. Lawlessness becomes the order everywhere in Somalia. Inflation sky rockets and the economy pretty much collapses.
In the chaos that Siad Barre visited upon the people of Somali, people naturally fell back to their tribes and clans for safety. It is interesting that a progressing and developing Somalia from 1960 – 1980 had no problems with tribes and clans, in fact they held a referendum to create the Republic of Somalia.
It was the chaos and lawlessness brought about by Siad Barre that drove people to take cover within their tribes and clans. That is contrary to the popular myth that Somali’s problem is mainly tribe and clans. Many Kenyans believe that even though looking at Kenya even today and more so in the horrific 2007 PEV we can clearly see we have even bigger problems with tribes and clans. I will come back to that later.
In terms of tribes, Somali has three main tribes, namely the Darod, Hawiye and Rahnweiyin each of which constitutes one roughly one third of the population. The tribes are themselves divided into sub tribes and clans forming a labyrinth of community connections.
Siad Barre was from the Darod tribe and during the war Siad Barre first targeted Northern Somalia where he ruthlessly bombarded the two main cities of Hargesa and the port city of Barbera.
In the war against Siad Barre, the Darod tribe in the Northern Somalia refused to join because Siad Barre was one of them. The sub tribe of Isaaq took the fight to Barre and after the collapse of the Barre regime, Northern Somalia wanted nothing to do with the Republic of Somalia. When Somaliland was established the Darod tribe constituting almost one third of Somaliland objected to being part of Somaliland. They were offered positions of leadership within the government of Somaliland and they agreed to join making it clear that they will explore other options.
That option by the Darod of the North was realized when Abdullahi Yusuf formed Puntland in the North East corner before he became the first president of the TFG. The neighbouring Darod communities in Somaliland opted out of Somaliland and became part of Puntland and that remains the status quo as we speak.
A significant development in Puntland emerges when Abdullahi Yusuf helps to draft a law which outlawed any form of tribal intolerance among the different tribal communities in Puntland. That law is still effective and has made a big difference in Puntland and more so in the strategic port of Bosasso which is the economic heart beat of Puntland. Which brings me to the issue of Somali’s economic survival.
The Political Economy of Somalia.
Starting with the strategic port of Bosasso, mentioned above one gets a picture of a country with a limitless capacity to build ports that can serve the entire Eastern Africa region. Bosasso port is one of the most unique anywhere in the world. It is a stone throw away from the Arab Gulf Countries known as the Gulf of Aden. Same applies to the port of Barbera which also recieves goods directly from Dubai. This means it is very cheap and fast to ship goods including crude oil from the Gulf Countries to the ports of Bosasso and Barbera. Such goods can then be moved inland to the rest of Somalia and to other countries and a very low cost.
Today the port of Bosasso is legendary for its efficiency where goods are processed in days. Everything in Bosasso port moves very fast with very little bureaucracy and red tape. The duty charged is minimal and this has made the port a favourite for many importers in Somalia and neighbouring countries. But the gift of Bosasso to the people of Somalia is the peace and harmony enjoyed by the residents who include the Hawiye, the Darod and others. Something very good is happening in Bosasso that could be emulated by other parts of the country.
In the bigger picture Somalia enjoys one of the longest coastlines for a country its size. Somali has over 3,500 km of coastline which has made Somalia one of the few countries in Africa with multiple ports. They have the port of Barbera to the North, Port of Bosasso in the North East corner, Mogadishu port complex and two seaports in Kismayu. Today only Barbera and Bosasso are fully functioning ports with Mogadishu and Kismayu pretty much overrun by pirates and other illegal cartels. The Somali coastline is also very rich in fish and has the potential to create one of the most lucrative fishing industries in the world if utilised well.
Piracy and Fishing:
Many people think pirates simply took over Somali Coastline from nowhere and started catching ships and making millions of dollars. The truth is a little more complex than that. Piracy was a by product of the struggles by Somali fishing communities to get fish from the sea. With the demise of the fishing industry in Somalia after the Siad Barre collapse small communities had to rely on themselves to catch fish for a living.
As Somali disintegrated, the Somali coastline became a haven for illegal fishing trawlers. They were all over the place with Chinese, Greek, Pakistani, Italian, Taiwanese illegal fishing trawlers in Somali waters. Somali villagers were being chased from their own waters everyday. The villagers then formed themselves into groups and went fishing armed with guns to protect themselves. In the course of all these one day the Somali fishermen stops a ship they thought was with the illegal trawlers.
The shocked ship crew with no means to ward off the fishermen ends up offering $ 500,000.00 to be let go. Stunned fishermen race to the shoreline and split the money. Then word went around like wildfire. Money was flowing from the sea if you could capture a ship. That was the word. So what started as a means of survival for fishing communities explodes into a completely new thing.
As soon as word swept the land all sorts of organized criminal groups took over. People were now being hired to go seize ships and they were doing it in spectacular numbers. Speed boats and sophisticated arms were brought in. Rich pirates many of them Somalis were making a killing and building mansions like there was no tomorrow. Puntland was having first class resort mansions in the beaches.
At its peak the pirates were now operating internationally with agents working in the ports of departure sending info on ships to the pirates as they left heading in that direction. Piracy became the a billion dollar industry and its effects spread all over East Africa, mainly Kenya.
Today sea piracy has declined almost to a standstill because of war ships stationed all over the Somali Coastline. In away this is what led to kidnapping of foreigners by pirates used to big money and now forced off the Somali Coastline.
There is one fact one finds when looking into how the Somali folks have survived without a country. Somali and its people are not destitute even though we know a city like Mogadishu today looks like a dump site littered here and there with villas and presidential palaces. Life for ordinary Somali is pure hell today but on the whole Somali people and its cultures are thriving in Somalia, in East Africa and in the whole world. One third of Somali people live in the Diaspora.
The Diaspora Somali community today remits about $ 2 billion a year back to their country. For a population of less than 10 million people that is very significant.
But a word of caution I got from concerned Somali folks is that the majority of those sending money back home are the older generation who fled Somalia and left family members. That population is dwindling and their resources are getting limited. The younger generation born outside have no organic relationship with any family members back home. In fact a friend of mine told me that his kids accuse him of throwing money in the garbage whenever he sends money back to the country. So this resource is not limitless.
But for the most part it is the entrepreneur spirit of the Somali people that is legendary and that keeps the community going. That spirit of entrepreneurship is most evident in Kenya when our Somali brothers and sisters have become great pillars of the economy in many lines business like transportation, real estate, telecommunications and the hotel business or food industry in general. That is replicated all over the world. There are thriving Somali businesses everywhere.
Even with the collapse of formal governments in many parts of Somalia the people with the help of the Diaspora compatriots have set up their own banking system, the HAWALA system being the most widespread. HAWALA is the western union. It is in every corner in Somalia and through it Somali folk are part of the global banking system which no modern economy can do without.
Then there is the new zero interest SAHAL banking in which money is transferred instantly by phone and not a penny is charged as interest. That is picking up and may soon take over from HAWALA which charges 5% interest.
To understand the complex situation we have tried to piece together one has to get to the title of this essay, specifically the one about “the curse of Africa”.
What is this curse? Simple. Every thug and dictator who has messed our countries comes to us like liberators. They are coming to rescue us from misery and bad politics. They are coming to help us remove terrible leaders. In the 1960s they came as freedom fighters freeing our countries from colonial rule. In the 1ate 1960s and 1970s many of them called themselves socialists and revolutionaries. As soon as they take power the turn into monsters and destroy countries and their peoples. That has been the case all over Africa and Somali is not an exception and neither is it unique.
The replacement of genuine Pan Africanism rooted in the aspirations and the needs of the African people with expansionist mercenary regimes supported by various powers from the West and the East has been extremely harmful to our continent and its peoples. I dare anybody to show me one instant where it has succeeded either for the dictatorial expansionists or the region and most of all the people.
Not in Libya. Not in Ethiopia. Not in Uganda and certainly not in Somalia. Nowhere has this terrible doctrine succeeded. Kenya has to be very wary of that as the war with Somalia begins to look like it is going to take a long time with no end in sight.
We have to embrace the ideals of organic democratic transformations in our countries and in countries in conflict like Somalia without imposing external solutions with the power of the barrel. History tells us that will never work and it has consequences that are very dire for all sides.
We have to embrace the values of self determination for countries and communities, democratic reforms and practices, ending political thuggery of all kinds, encouraging gender equity and diversity and freedom of religion among others. Those are the values that must inform a democratic transformation in Somalia. It means working with all communities to empower them to take control of their political, economic and cultural fate as nations and as communities. This requires a tireless and consistent work and not just big guns and drones.
Let the leadership emerge from these communities as opposed to imposed leadership. If that happens then the real work to rebuild a peaceful and prosperous Somalis shall have began in full earnest.
It is also very critical to engage the Somali civil society groups both abroad and at home so that they can shape the discourse on what help Somali folks need to save their country. It is not for the outsiders to tell them what they need. There is a growing and visible Somali civil society groups. They have to be brought in instead of just juggling between warlords who are essentially a big part of the problem.
The one thing we have to avoid as Kenyans is hypocrisy. Look at Somalia and look at Kenya. We are at war in Somalia to get rid of bad people who kill their fellow citizens in Somalia and yet in our country people who have been accused of mass murder and rape of Kenyan citizens walk around like kings and demand to lead us after having made sure that they are untouchable and are above the laws of Kenya.
Our leaders are at The Hague for inciting the worst forms of tribal violence. Our leaders are at each other’s throats everyday fighting for tribal supremacy. Who will bomb sense into us like we are trying to do in Somalia? That is the question I want to leave of Jukwaa folks with as we contemplate the consequences and solutions to the “CURSE OF AFRICA”.
This is still work in progress.