A Golden Opportunity to End the Conflict in Somalia

by Mohamud Abdi

Consider this following scenario. The militias of the United Islamic Courts (UIC) in Mogadishu routed their opponents of the Alliance of Anti-Terrorism and took full control of the capital. The leaders of this organisation and the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) met and hammered out a program for of peace and reconciliation and declared the 15-year old conflict in Somalia over. President Abdullahi Yusuf and the transitional parliament and government relocated to Mogadishu. All the militias were merged and a small but effective armed and police forces were created.

This scenario may be too good to be true, but not as far fetched as it sounds. The recent development in Mogadishu could herald the end of the conflict and the beginning of a new chapter in Somalia. It could also be the first chapter of a nightmare scenario. Which way it goes will depend on the action of the key players in the conflict and their supporters inside and outside of Somalia. The outcome could also be forced upon them by external powers. The question is whether the leadership in Somalia would wisely exploit the new facts on the ground diligently or would squander it.

The UIC is standing at the same crossroads as the USC was in January 1991 when they took control of Mogadishu. They had the choice to lead Somalia into a bright future of good governance and the rule of law after twenty years of military/clan dictatorship. Instead they chose the path of death and destruction. Fifteen years later, history repeated itself. The leadership of the UIC could take the path the USC missed or follow the footsteps of General Mohamed Farah Aideed. The choice is theirs.

A dialogue between the UIC and TFG would be the most positive way forward. If the two sides agree on a framework for cooperation and collective responsibility, Somalia will be redeemed and a bright future is for the taking. If, however, they ignore the long-term interest of Somalia and decide to follow parallel lines or, worse still, set themselves in a collision course, the result would be renewed conflict with the possibility of foreign occupation of Somalia. The latter will be precipitated in the name of fighting Islamic fundamentalism. It is a make or break time for Somalia as it has never been before.

To complicate the matter a little bit, external forces are in action to speed up the disintegration of Somalia into small clan-states. The wading of the International Crisis Group (ICG) into this thorny issue could be seen in this context. The ICG’s lengthy report on Somaliland (published 23 May 2006) urged the African Union to take an active role the resolution of the problem between Somalia and Somaliland. The putting of Somaliland on equal footing as Somalia was not an accident, but a deliberate attempt to create the notion that these are two separate countries rather than Somaliland being but three of the eighteen regions of Somalia. The ICG also wants to give Somaliland a pseudo-legal position through its recommendation that the AU grants these regions of Somalia observer status so that “both sides can attend sessions on Somali issues”. In shirt, the ICG is trying to influence the redrawing of the future political map of Somalia, ignoring completely the rights of the Somali people to have a say in the future of their country. It is high time for the leaders of Somaliland to realise that a clan cannot be a nation and that they should take up their legitimate position in the shaping of the future of Somalia as a democratic country where rights and responsibilities are shared on equal terms among its citizens. There must be a complete reversal of the absurd notion of recreating Somalia as a clan-state where power is shared by the clans on a ludicrous arithmetic of “four-point-five”.

After the events of the past twenty four hours in Mogadishu, all the forces in Somalia have a golden opportunity to end the conflict in Somalia and restore a national government. Will they seize the moment?

Mohamoud Abdi

E-mail: mohamoud2004@hotmail.com