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Toronto (Canada)

Friday, June 14, 2003

M. M. Afrah

So you’re wondering how to react if a warlord is elected for the office of the presidency of Somalia. You’re not alone.

Many Somalis at home and abroad fear the impact of a warlord’s rule on the country he helped destroy; and the long suffering people at home are worried it may do more harm than good.

These are the people who reflect Count Dracula’s facial expression, a lump in their throat whenever the word WARLORD is mentioned and shed crocodile tears during the showing of a TV footage on the genocide against the Tutsis by the Hutu thugs called Interhamwe.

A journalist of the old school covering the seemingly unending Nairobi talks said if the warlords are sidelined there’s going to be a renewed bloodshed and chaos in many parts of the country, including those few pockets where people have been enjoying a semblance of peace and security.

Adding to the controversy is some new individuals who unilaterally declared themselves President of Somalia outside the Nairobi talks. Many, who have been sitting on the fence, are also lobbying for the same office.

It seems none of the warlords/faction leaders have a united vision. Even if they have, democracy and transparency would not kowtow to them in the very near future. The reason being they pushed the people beyond limit during the last 12 years. 

Farah Sindaco’s recent hard-hitting press conference in Nairobi against those who he said had destroyed the country should not be elected runs the risk of sidelining the warlords. It’s as if Farah was saying: “Hey, this round’s on me.”

Good Luck, Farah 

But all the signs to elect a warlord are still there.

As the conference struggles with the dilemma of electing a President, one thing is clear; there are no certainties, only probabilities. It is a short in the dark.

Faced with confusing and conflicting advice, the organizers and some well-meaning civic leaders (voices in the wildness) are desperately trying to do what is best for Somalia.

“The problem the talks face is that whenever things look brighter, a warlord/faction leader puts a roadblock out of the blue and it’s awfully hard to convince him that there’s something for every clan in the new constitution,” says the journalist of the old school over the telephone.

Could anyone of my readers predicted such antics from the warlords/faction leaders? Could it be that I’ve been wrong all the time about them?

Many people believed that the talks in Kenya are a litany of waste, over-spending, poor performances and weak judgments on the part of the IGAD organizers. In hindsight some people believed that the Somalis, left to their own devices, would not be able to solve their problems, given the bunch of powerful warlords vying for power under the barrel of the gun.

Now Ambassador Kiplagat says some progress has been made since he took over the chairmanship, but this so-called progress have just nibbled around the edges of major complex issues.

Overall, a flurry of recent reports concludes the situation is bleak.

Predictably, those unhappy with the talks have assailed the Chairman, Mr. Kiplagat’s credentials. He is a veteran diplomat who represented his country in a number of countries with brilliant performances, which gives him a pretty good grasp of diplomacy. But he knows little or nothing of the complex Somali clan politics where trust and diplomacy are at a rock bottom.

Everyone sang a favourable tune when he arrived the scene to replace Mr. Elijah Mwangale. “He is well-known and highly regarded diplomat, and that’s good thing,” said one of the powerful warlords attending the talks. But now, having drawn tough conclusions (throwing diplomatic language out of the window) they dislike him. “He does not understand Somali politics,” the same warlord said a few months later. Apparently he had touched a vicious nerve that disturbed the antics of the warlords and their track records.

Make no mistake. Mistrust and polarization of the Somali people along clan lines was created by the former military regime. Now, the people must reap what two decades of military dictatorship have sown.

Oddly, the international media rarely seems to venture beyond weighing questions like who is next after Saddam Hussein, the Middle East (sideling Yassir Arafat), North Korea, Iran, Corporate Crimes, SARS, Mad Cow disease, West Nile Virus, Monkeypox or be obliged to wait until the 2004 U.S. Presidential election.

The Nairobi talks should not be episode 15 to be forgotten, where peace talks die faster than the appearance in the political landscape of a new warlord/faction leader.

Perhaps we need the formation of Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission modeled after the South African Truth Commission. The first task of the commission would be to probe into those who were responsible for the collapse of the numerous peace talks and who were accountable for the devastation of the country. 

Cooler heads must prevail.

By M. M. Afrah ©2003

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