Saturday, 4 October 2008

Can Islamists make Somalia governable after Ethiopian withdrawal?

By Abdullahi
After 20 odd months of brutal occupation, the Ethiopian army maybe poised to withdraw from Somalia proper not because of the pledges they made before, as stated in the recent Djibouti agreement between TFG and the A.R.S faction led by Sheikh Sherif Ahmed, but they realized that their grand-plan to rule Somalia by proxy was simply not attainable. Reliable sources indicate that the Ethiopian military will retreat back to its recognized borders in the next few months.Currently, Ethiopia is mulling over three options: First, back to their former habits of launching forays and covert activities into Somali soil whenever they deem necessary, in order to cause security mayhem. Second, to supply arms and ammunitions to the Somali warlords in an attempt to reignite tribal warfare wherever they can. Third, to revive the decade old idea of “building blocks”, a bottom up approach meant to further fragment the Somali republic into tribal fiefdoms, namely Jubbaland, Shabelleland, Puntland, Somaliland, Hinterland, you name it.Whichever way the Ethiopians choose, they are confident of having Washington on their side. This is nothing new; the U.S does not have a policy of its own for Somalia. Therefore, it continues to borrow from the Ethiopians as usual. In other words, when it comes to the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia takes the lead and Washington follows. The Ethiopian withdrawal, if it happens, is not a direct result of the deeply flawed Djibouti agreement, which so far achieved nothing but diplomatic exercises and photo opportunities of the Sheriffs and the fanfare of Amb.Ahmed Ould Abdalla, the Mauritanian born UN Secretary General Representative for Somalia. The agreement per se, does not guarantee the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops; instead it created a dangerous loophole that opened a new window of opportunity for the greedy elites of Addis Ababa regime, glossing over the atrocities committed during their brutal occupation. Indeed, the personalities that are running the Djibouti show, have so far only succeeded to divide both camps of the talks; the TFG as well as the A.R.S. For now, the Ethiopians and their American allies have provided support for the Djibouti peace talks; it is unclear however, whether they support Somali nation to be reconstituted. Many observers believe that their intention is solely to split the A.R.S into militants and moderates, and cause internecine war between them, a tactic that echoes the Mujahin of Afghanistan after the departure of Soviet Union 1989. Surely, much of the sinister aims of Ethiopian occupation have been thwarted, thanks to the armed resistance, however, the following questions beg for immediate answers: Do we have plan B? What would the Islamic state look like if we agree to embrace one? Can the Resistance unite under the banner of Islam or will it remain divided, as it appears now, between factions and splinter groups of various schools and ideologies, some tending Jihadist International and others aiming at establishing a Somali State. All signs indicate that, the various factions of the resistance are on the brink of open armed conflict between them, let alone to produce a coherent political agenda in order to achieve effective governance. That is obviously disappointing viz a viz the challenges any Islamic state would face from the hostile International Community led by the USA.Perhaps, Islamic Revolution with strong local support is the only way out of the current political and security morass that engulfed the Somali nation for nearly two decades. It provides strong bonds and common values that can hold competing tribes together, it is an alternative to the defective and divisive figure of 4, 5.However, such Islamic state cannot work in isolation. It should be accepted by hostile international community.Therefore, a strong leadership capable of addressing such challenges and particularly the regional hegemony of Ethiopia is needed. The Ethiopian regime battered by the armed resistance both inside its own turf and in Somalia proper, is on the verge political meltdown. As a result, it is likely that they clinch a truce with Somali rĂ©sistance, as long as the Somalis would refrain from taking the armed struggle inside Ethiopia proper.The rhetoric of Somali clerics, such as Sheikh Hassan Dahir Awes, who is a strong believer of the cause of Somali irredentism, is unhelpful. Many Somalis question the wisdom of reigniting the embers of Somali irredentism at this particular juncture.Prof Ken Menkhaus was right when he lectured:” Neither the Ethiopians nor the Islamists have the ability to deliver a knockout punch. The only way this armed conflict will be short is if each side is trying to send a signal to the other. In other words, they bloody each other’s noses, then step back and assess the very high risks to both sides, and someone steps in to mediate”. I personally believe that, if Ethiopia was left its own devices, we would probably deliver a knockout punch; however, Ethiopia relies on the full backing of the USA, whilst Somalia has no friends to turn to for help. The Somali province in Ethiopia which indeed like their brethren in Somalia faces constant humanitarian catastrophe, ethnic cleansing and gross human rights violation, speaks for itself. We can only help them when we reconstitute our own. The irony is that the Islamists have no program that allows Somalia to regain its lost prestige, preserve the rights of its people and interact with the world at large. Their main focus is to fight the occupation. There are no signs of leadership both in the opposition camp and the TFG.The latter unfortunaly is discredited in the eyes of its people as collaborators of Ethiopian invaders. The AL-Shabab phenomenon is a different story. Some of their beliefs are bonkers. A perfect example is, Sheikh Mukhtar Robow’s recent interview with BBC stating that Al-Shabab is affiliated with Al-Qaeda.Such brinkmanship is merely confrontational, it pits the world’s lonely super power against starving people of Somalia, and it also gives much needed propaganda to the enemy. The Sorrow is that Somalia’s future is left in a limbo even if the Ethiopians withdraw tomorrow.The blame, in my opinion, should be placed at the feet of the so called Somali intellectuals which seem to be shortsighted. The international community is also to blame. It reacted only to Somali people’s solutions after long years of neglect. The Islamic Courts were a Somali solution to long years of agony; they provided relative calm after 17 years of mayhem. Unfortunately, the Ethiopian invasion has closed that window of hope. The West is reeling between ignorance and arrogance with regard to Islamic resurgence around the world and Somalia is no exception. The resurgence of Islamic sentiment that begun in 19th century in Egypt has reached Somalia in the last quarter of 20th century in the form propagation (Da’wa) until it became a radically armed vanguards led by Al-Ittihad Islam in 1990s due to dismal performance of Siad Barre regime coupled with general discontent that stemmed from Somali Army’s disgraceful defeat in the Ogaden war. What was a peaceful Islamic resurgence (Sahwa Islaamiya) has now been transformed into insurgence. The upsurge in violence is direct result of changing world, the pressures of globalization, the dramatic increase in ecomic, cultural, social and political dominance of the West and the growing interdependence in trade and security across the world.Therefore, the violence should be understood as a response and rĂ©sistance of the hegemonic West and their allies in Horn of Africa. It is not however, as many observers noted, a launching pad of AlQaeda that aims to take Jihad across the globe, such an idea does not have a support in Somalia, and the world knows that.The Islamic insurgency in Somalia cannot be resolved by military means. The only viable option is integration, and the adoption of Sharia Law is placed at the centre of that solution, if Somalia is ever to be reconstituted. The so called secular warlords and petty opportunists currently shaping the TFG do not hold a card in Somali politics, and cannot lead such a fundamental societal transformation. It maybe wise for the hegemonic West and their regional allies to accept the grim realities on the ground. My advice to the West is: Give support for local solutions based on Somali culture and religion, encourage Somali religious scholars and intellectuals to devise a suitable form of government, which is able to regain the trust of Somali people, and interact with the rest of the world. And only, that type of government will be able to stop the fanatics that destabilize the region in the name of Islam. Until that happens, Somalia’s problems will unravel with increased dimension, further plaguing other peaceful parts of the world.The latest carnage of Mogadishu on 23/24th September is a shocking reminder, hundreds of innocent civilians have been indiscriminately shelled, thousands more have been forced to flee their homes. Sadly, no one condemned such a barbaric killing or sent condolence to the affected people. If this does not constitute to war crime, under the Statute of Rome, no one including Radovan Karadzic should be brought before the ICC in Hague. It is clear; somebody somewhere has duly authorized such a policy of collective punishment. Almost certainly, until a new president sits in Washington, and hopefully removes the Rastafarians from the State Department, the Ethiopian rulers will continue to unwisely use the carte blanche given by Bush Administration, conduct pogroms against Somali ethnic groups inside Ethiopia and destroy lives and properties in Somalia proper, in the name of so called” War On Terror”.

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