By M. M. Afrah©
comes to mind for people when they think of good governance? The
answer is nationwide disarmament, security, transparence and honesty,"
Senior citizen in Mogadishu during an interview
with the Italian state television, RAI.
Before I wrote
this I weighed the pros and cons of foreign troop deployment in
Somalia, but the Webmaster decided to put it vote, so it is up to
you, dear visitor, to cast
If you read
my previous Talking Points, you know I am fanatical about countrywide
disarmament-preferably voluntarily and in style. However, there
is one fundamental condition before the people part with their stockpiles;
there must be a government that guarantees the protection and safety
of the people; otherwise, the whole exercise would be futile and
unworkable. They would be sitting ducks, where marauding armed
gangs will take advantage of the disarmament exercise. Evidently,
this is one of the key reasons why the people are reluctant to give
up their weapons and no one can blame them for defending themselves
and their families from these bloodthirsty gangs.
I know at least
half a dozen honest citizens who would refuse to surrender their
weapons unless there is peace and stability in the country and a
government that will guarantee their protection. "The only
thing you have to be careful of is when you get a visit from armed
gangs who discovered that you were unarmed and vulnerable,"
a neighbour in Mogadishu told me at the height of the civil unrest,
after showing me his stash of AK-47 assault rifles and hand grenades.
He said the Mooryaan have their own spy network and frequently get
tips about all the soft targets in the neighbourhood.
The people most
at risk are families who regularly receive remittance from abroad,
expatriate NGOs, visiting journalists and ethnic minorities.
I am also constantly encouraging the masses to share with their
leaders what it is they need, be education for their children, health
care, basic necessities, like food and clean drinking water, a job
or business resources, or independent media; and above all, open-ended
questions to members of the cabinet and parliament without retribution
OF FOREIGN TROOPS
including President Abdullahi Yusuf and members of his inner circle,
are holding out much hope that the deployment of mere 7,500 poorly
armed and financially stretched African peacekeepers can do the
job, where the United Nations and the United States (the richest
and most powerful country in the world) had failed in 1993/94 with
"Those who believe that these under funded and poorly armed
African soldiers can do the job must be kidding. They could not
even handle Darfur and DR Congo," a Canadian colleague told
me the other day. He was dead right.
Whenever I read
the importance of deploying foreign peacekeeping forces in Somalia
the image of the carnage dramatized in the Hollywood movie Black
Hawk Down and the dead body of an American serviceman dragged in
the smoking ruins of Mogadishu flashed through my mind.
Now, the question
that begs an answer is: are these soldiers from the frontline capable
of disarming the more than 60,000 heavily armed youngsters who roam
the streets and restore peace and stability where Uncle Sam had
failed? Only those who were physically present during Operation
Restore Hope are in a position to answer this question with authority.
It took me for a while to have a good night's sleep after what I
had witnessed in Mogadishu between 1991 and 1995.
No wonder the
Crisis Group, an independent think tank warned that troops
from Somalia's neighbors "should not be included in the peacekeeping
forces, as this would aggravate an already volatile situation."
In particular, the presence of Ethiopian soldiers on Somali soil
would create unprecedented bloodshed. One of the Mogadishu warlords-cum-cabinet
minister, said publicly that "WE WILL FIGHT FOREIGN TROOPS,
BE THEY ETHIOPIANS OR SOMALIS."
He was referring
to intelligence reports that American military officers based in
Djibouti have been training ethnic Somalis in the Somali inhabited
Ogaden region of Ethiopia for possible deployment in Somalia-Somalis
killing Somalis once again!
All the advance
delegates who visited the capital received a rousing welcome from
the residents of the capital, a show of support for plans to relocate
the government in Mogadishu, and that foreign troops are not necessary.
Now, I'm having
great difficulty understanding exactly what is in the minds of the
Ethiopians for being very impatient to send their soldiers in a
country they are not wanted, given the historical hostility between
the two countries since the halcyon days of emperor Menelik.
I guess the
Ethiopian soldiers are apprehensive about what awaited them in Mogadishu-a
city that had earned the nickname Wild West during Operation Restore
Hope. Even the toughest US Marine was shocked at the shear volume
of weapons of every caliber he was expected to face every day in
People at the
grapevine are talking, rightly or wrongly, about Ethiopia's ancient
design to occupy Somalia in order to gain a coastal outlet. They
had lost the ports of Assab and Asmara to the Eritreans when the
two countries foolishly went to war over a strip of land on their
borders. A landlocked country, Ethiopia sees the peacekeeping mission
in Somalia as a window of opportunity, they say.
Our man in Mogadishu
says a political satirist wrote in one of the local newspapers that
said: "They (the Ethiopian soldiers) may be strangers when
they first come, but before long they will be part of the family.
You will learn to like them and I wouldn't be surprised if they
take over the house and evict you before you know it. Colonel Abdullahi
Yusuf, please take note!"
Let's put the
Ethiopian design and intention to rest. You may ask: what about
Kenya and Djibouti, the other two stakeholders in the region? The
same people I talked to say they are caring hosts and honest brokers
"with no discernible hidden agendas." Well, up to a point.
The jury is out. However, people who oppose the deployment of troops
from IGAD countries must draw comfort from the fact that Kenya announced
it would send an observer team only instead of peacekeepers.
One reason why
I've been excited about voluntary disarmament in style, is because
I believe if we're to solve the problem of the weapons in the hands
of the inhabitants, it's going to be the people themselves who do
it without outside help. Somali generals, such as Galaal, Bad-maceeye
(the army) and Mohamed Abshir (the police) and others should be
given the chance to try to resuscitate the disintegrated Somali
National Army and Police Force, and take the responsibilities of
disarming the militia with the help of the civic society who are
very anxious to participate in this vital national event. Logistic
support is all they require from well-meaning donor countries in
order to recreate what was left of the army and police.
the Prime Minister and members of parliament must read the
mood of the people. This is a made in Somalia debate and nothing
can distract them from it.