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TALKING POINT : BACK TO SQUARE ONE

TALKING POINT BY
M.M. AFRAH
Toronto (Canada)

March, 29. 2004

BACK TO SQUARE ONE

Email: afrah95@hotmail.com
M. M. Afrah

I hate to go back to the first peace conference in Djibouti in 1992 to examine the antics of the warlords and their hell bent record to keep the status quo, come what may. The result of subsequent peace talks (14 of them) is shameful; time after time the interests of the Somali people were subjected to the power hungry of the warlords.

Even during the latest Mbagathi talks many people in Somalia and in the Diaspora begun to feel some hope of saving the country from farther destruction-a glimmer of hope at the end of the proverbial tunnel. But with the tide running hard against the warlords, and when they felt the real instrument of power appeared to them to be on its last legs, they, instead of offering some concession, walked out of the talks in a huff as they did on previous peace talks. Obviously, their crime record prevents them from agreeing on anything.

This is occurring just when the future of the country was finally looking promising.

Now it is back to square one.

For the warlords this was not enough. They decided to hold a parallel meeting of their own at Jowhar, insisting that their grievance must be addressed or else… Or else what? It was an extremely difficult position for anyone to deal with, but IGAD Foreign Ministers meeting in Djibouti unanimously declared that the third phase of the Mbagathi talks must go on and called the "defiant ones" and stake holders to return to the talks.

To make things worse in a nation already ravaged by war, natural and man-made disasters, fresh consignment of weapons entered the country from Ethiopia in violation of a 1992 U.N. Security Council Resolution 733 arms embargo on Somalia. Was this coincidence? The answer is yes. WHY NOW? Once again, the danger of renewed fighting is clearly looming high over the captive population. To dish out a resolution is one thing, but to vigorously enforce it is another.

What are we expected to think of this mockery of a U.N. resolution? Obviously, the arms embargo itself is half-hearted approach, but one which leaves the people of Somalia to once again pay a heavy price in terms of human lives and properties. No wonder the United Nations failed Rwanda and Somalia.

Name a misfortune and Somalia has been there. Endless war and any thinkable disasters. Those Somalis still living in the country have almost already given up any hope for peace and the rule of law. They have been desperate for a long time. Every single day is a fight for survival.

Since 1991 the country came under the shadow of a bunch of brutal warlords and their militia gunmen who imposed their own interpretation of "gun rule." They have been blamed of stealing everything that's not nailed down and destroyed a series of the very few water and electricity systems available. During the last 14 years or so they have burnt out large field areas in Somalia's bread basket between the two rivers, forcing the poverty level below even the $1 US which the U.N. estimated a city dweller had to live on each day.

But an American Congressman was quoted by Newsweek magazine as saying that: "people who dragged the dead bodies of American soldiers through the streets are definitely not hungry."

Admittedly, this was barbaric, stone age, caveman's version of punishing your foe. But this was the act of one of the clans in the capital who became furious after half a dozen of Cobra helicopter gun-ships murdered their respected elders with a dozen of TOW missiles and "smart" bombs. The elders were meeting, ostensibly, to dislodge General Aideed and open peaceful dialogue with the United Nations and the Americans, according to a lone survivor. "This was the result of intelligence screw-ups on the part of the American and U.N. officials in Mogadishu. Lack of co-ordination and intelligence sharing was the main stumbling block," a top Pentagon official later admitted at an impromptu press conference in Washington, D.C.

"It was a total fiasco," according to Washington Post newspaper. It is the old maxim that says the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing.

Ten years later, Amnesty International recorded human rights are daily and systematically brutally offended by killing or kidnapping innocent civilians in broad daylight. This is due to the fact that the militia had not been paid since their godfathers have been meeting in Mbagathi 17 months ago and needed ransom money to appease their daily craving for the narcotic drug Qaad and cigarettes. I am not surprised and I don't blame them.

Now the inhabitants of this poor country once more have to expect a devastating attack by the same warlords, a.k.a. war criminals who destroyed the country and maimed the people, as they have done during previous high points in conflicts-this time with newly acquired hi-tech weaponry from a neighbouring country, according to a recent report by the inept U.N. weapons monitors.

This will give the enemies of peace and stability what they want, and the Somalis will again be thrown into lawlessness and the warlords will be replaced but perhaps by another that is no better equipped to solve the country's problems. A vicious circle is perhaps the right portrayal.

Simply put, what little hope there was for a peaceful settlement in the ongoing Nairobi parley was crushed by the boycott of a number of warlords and the escalating military action in many parts of the country. Article 30 of the selection of parliament remains contentious and those who walked out of the talks concluded in their statement of withdrawal: "THAT THEY WOULD STAND BY THEIR DECISION TO HOLD THE THIRD PHASE OF THE TALKS WITHIN SOMALIA" (the capitalization is theirs).

I'd like to believe-and you can call me a naïve-that commonsense dictates that those who were alleged to have tempered with Article 30, if proved true, after the Charter was signed, should come forward and explain in a language approaching English why they did what they did without first consulting with the signatories?

Ambassador Kiplagat, who initially came with a clean record of professionalism and diplomacy, after replacing Elijah Mwangale at the warlord-dominated Eldoret conference, raised our expectations and is now in a position to answer this question. Mr. Kiplagat has the responsibility to establish a threshold of credibility. But now it seems he had lost the ball.

WHAT'S NEXT?

That said, the first step would be for the United Nations Security Council to set up special war crimes tribunal, like the ones in The Hague and Arusha to try the Somali warlords for the crimes they committed and are still committing against the Somali people since 1991. The second step would be to disarm and demobilize the militia. The third step would be for the international community to assist the Somali people elect their civic leaders in a fair and free election to restore law and order, and last but not least national reconstruction

The world community should not shut their eyes and ears about Somalia-hear no evil and see no evil. I have a feeling that the world community has sworn Omerta, the Mafia code of silence after the Americans and the United Nations pulled out of Somalia in 1994 after their Operation Restore Hope imbroglio.

It is a bumpy road and the stopwatch is ticking, but there's a future for everyone, including those who allege that the country is sanctuary for international terrorists, not forgetting that there are terrorist cells in London, Paris and Washington, and none of these are manned by Somali nationals. Also not forgetting that none of those who struck the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. were from Somalia.

By M. M. Afrah©2004
Email: afrah95@hotmail.com


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