October 17, 2006
The inter-clan conflict in Somalia has been a cause of concern lately, with the emergence of a militant group that is now Supreme Islamic Council of Somalia (SICS) and put a military challenge to the Transitional Federal government (TFG) that is now limited in Badoa. Controlling the capital Mogadishu and much of the southern parts of Somalia, the group counts much of its international support from Eritrea, Egypt and Libya, if not Saudi Arabia’s wealthy supporters of the expansion of Wahabism, according to this writer known as Antony Shaw, a pseudo-name but with an authoritative analysis of events in Ethiopia and the surrounding countries.
Due to the depth and insight it offers on political developments in Ethiopia, many do suspect that the text was written by one or a group of high EPRDF official/s. Although Fortune’s editorial tries to focus on issues that are of economic and business nature, the overwhelming significance of developments in Somalia, and the informative analysis of the situation by this writer has led us to believe it would help our readers better understand the situation. Fortune was compelled to present this in the form of a special edition.
Not for the first time, the international community appears to be taking a line that will hinder rather than help efforts, some might say deliberately, to provide a solution to Somalia’s problems. The self-appointed International Contact Group on Somalia met on August 29, in Stockholm, Sweden.
The possibility of significant quantities of aid for rebuilding Somalia was promised but only after the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the Supreme Islamic Council of Somalia (SICS) agreed to share power. As the two were on the point of holding discussions of their future relationship the following weekend in Khartoum [they signed an agreement last week], this was crass enough, threatening to seriously weaken the government’s bargaining position by suggesting it would be unable to obtain the two things it most needs - aid and the deployment of the promised regional peace-keeping forces or increased support in the area of security - unless it accepted a deal with the SICS.
Far worse, however, were the additional comments of the Swedish Secretary for International Development outside the Contact Group meeting to the effect that such aid ". . . will happen when there is a legitimate and legal transitional government to deal with . . . Unfortunately, our judgement is that there isn’t one any longer as the transition institutions, and particularly the transition government, have been seriously weakened and the (Islamists) have broad and deep public support . . ."
This statement, apart from demonstrating how poor "our judgement" actually is, also showed substantial ignorance about what has been happening in Somalia, and a failure to understand either the Islamic courts or Somali politics more generally. It also appeared to be a statement designed to ensure the failure of the Khartoum talks. It was an excellent example of the all-too-common and incompetent interference from Europe and the West to which Somalia, and indeed the Horn of Africa more generally, has been becoming accustomed in the last couple of years.
There is deep misunderstanding about the recent rise of the Islamic courts, of the basis of their power and the relationship between the courts and clans and other centres of authority in Somalia, including the TFG - which has considerably more support than it is currently given credit for by journalists and diplomats based in Nairobi, and largely dependent upon pro-Islamic propaganda emanating from Mogadishu.
The TFG, for example, has significant support from three of the four main clan families in southern Somalia - the Darod, the Dir and the Rahenweyne. Support for the SICS is largely confined to the Hawiye alone. The TFG has also made considerably more progress in creating the planned transitional federal institutions than it is given credit for; for instance in the establishment of a local administration and the appointment of a governor in Bay region. This process is now underway in Bakool region, and will, as in Bay, involve community-based peace and reconciliation building, district reconciliation conferences, the appointment of district commissioners and police chiefs, and the formation of district development councils whose representatives will elect a governor and deputies for the region.
Some progress has also been made in establishing a Supreme Court, a police training academy has been set up, and the TFG Parliament has been sitting, if somewhat raucously and argumentatively, in Baidoa. Certainly, the SICS and the TFG are both fragile, and there is no doubt that the victories of the SICS in Mogadishu in June altered the political landscape of Somalia, shifting it from a tri-polar to a bi-polar conflict. It did not, however, change the main parameters of conflict in Somalia. These remain, as they have always been, clan conflicts.
The SICS, despite its Islamic credentials, and whether it admits it or not, is essentially a Hawiye clan organisation, and more specifically one driven by the single Hawiye sub-clan, the Ayr/Habir Gidir/Hawiye.
The history of Somalia during the last 15 years clearly demonstrates Somali reluctance to fight for any acronym if it involves an alliance with other clans, or conflict within one’s own clan. Use of the TFG or the SICS may be invoked for external consumption but the real dynamics have consistently been clan-driven - as it was earlier this year in Mogadishu. The fighting between the Islamic Courts’ Union (now the Supreme Islamic Court of Somalia - SICS) and the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (ARPCT) was a messy combination of inter-clan conflict, between Habir Gidir and Abgal, and fighting among both Abgal and Habir Gidir sub-clans. The result was a clear-cut victory for the Habir Gidir for the first time, and more specifically for the Ayr, however concealed within the framework of the Islamic courts.
The core of Somali political activity remains the clan and this is as true for the ICU/SICS as of its former enemies in Mogadishu, the ARPCT, or the TFG. Somali intellectuals like to claim to be above the clan and to decry the influence of clans on politics. The fact remains that the clan is central; all Somalis perceive their own interests to be bound up within the lineage, the sub-clan and the clan.
And the current conflict is now playing out in exactly these terms despite the claims of the SICS to be above clan politics. The SICS may be attempting to activate Islamic elements in other areas of Somalia but it has made little progress. The fact remains that it is almost exclusively drawn from the Hawiye clan, and this is why it is now reaching the limit of its potential authority. It is running out of Hawiye territory to control.
Of the original 11 courts in the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) at the beginning of the year, 10 were based upon Hawiye sub-clans in Mogadishu; the 11th was drawn from the Jareer/Bantu clans. Even more exclusively, the radical, fundamentalist, Salafi element of the SICS leadership, is drawn from the Ayr sub-clan, and to a considerable degree from the Ayanle lineage of the Ayr, a sub-clan of the Habir Gidir, one of the major branches of the Hawiye.
Islamic courts in Mogadishu, as elsewhere in Somalia, have had a chequered past since the first were set up in the mid 1990s, but they have had one thing in common - almost all were set-up and organised within specific sub-clans. The first courts in south Mogadishu created in 1997-98 were all Hawiye - for the Murosade, and the Duduble, three for Habir Gidir sub-clans: Salabaan, Ayr, and Saruur, and one for the Daud/Abgal. There was no indication that these courts were fundamentalist, but some individuals in them certainly were.
These courts were largely the creation of businessmen, clan elders and community and religious leaders within specific sub-clans, and their authority came from the clan elders. The aim was to provide security through the use of Shari’a law, prevent local clan/sub-clan/lineage conflict and provide a more secure environment for business. There were, however, those who saw the courts as a possible vehicle for the creation of an Islamic state, for a theocracy, perhaps on the Iranian model which seems to appeal to the leader of the SICS shura, Sheikh Hassan Dahir ‘Aweys’.
Each court normally had a chairman, a vice-chairman, four judges, and an advisory council of religious elders, and a committee to manage the money brought in from court appearances, as well as fines and control of checkpoints at the boundaries of sub-clan control. The courts drew on the authority of the clan elders to set up their own militia and provide places of detention for prisoners, dealing with both criminal and civil cases. There is no doubt the courts significantly improved the security situation within their areas of operation.
A Joint Courts Council was set up in 2000 with the former leader of the north Mogadishu courts, Sheikh Ali Dheere as chairman, and Sheikh Hassan Dahir ‘Aweys’ as secretary-general. This made some progress in trying to organise a joint militia force, and set up a court in Merka, south of Mogadishu. Any progress it might have made, however, was overtaken in 2000 by the setting up of a Transitional National Government, headed by Abdiqassim Salad Hassan, at the Arta conference in Djibouti. This was seen by Ethiopia and other interested parties as a largely Islamic government; but one of its few effects was to undermine the Islamic courts.
The TNG tried to bring the courts under its ministry of justice, forcing judges to sit examinations on their qualifications, and taking the court militias into government security apparatus for training. As a result, many of the untrained Islamic court judges resigned and by 2002 only the Ifka Halan (Ayr) and Harariyale (Murasade) courts were still operating in south Mogadishu, and these only barely.
The TNG fell apart, another attempt to try and set up a government was launched at the Mbagathi conference in Kenya. This ended in November 2004 with the creation of the TFG, headed by Abdullahi Yusuf, elected by the newly formed assembly in November 2004. The new government was unable to go to Mogadishu because of the overall security situation and because of the continued opposition of a number of powerful Hawiye warlords, which continued despite appointments as government ministers. After a considerable stay in Nairobi, and a brief spell in Jowhar, the TFG ended up in Baidoa where it still remains.
The Rise and Dynamics of the Islamic Courts
The continued security problems in Mogadishu after the collapse of the TNG provided the raison d’être for the re-creation of Islamic courts in early 2004. By May, a union of five courts had been re-established, with Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed as chairman and with Sheikh Hassan Dahir ‘Aweys’ as one of his deputies. The courts organised a joint militia to which each court contributed 80 fighters and three to five technicals, making the Islamic Courts’ Union (ICU) one of the strongest military forces in the city.
By early 2006 when the conflict between the ICU and the ARPCT broke out, there were 11 courts. There were four from each of the main Hawiye sub-clans - the Habir Gidir and the Abgal, and three others. The four Habir Gidir courts were the Ifka Halan court (Ayanle/Ayr); Huruwa (Abiyse/Ayr); Suuq Xoolaha (Ayr); Circolo (Salabaan). The four Abgal courts were the Karan (Daud/Wabuudaan); Medina (Daud/Wabuudaan); Towfiq (Waesle); SiiSii (Agonyar/Harti). The others were the Harariyale court (Murosade), the Dabaqayn court (Duduble), and the Polytechnic court for the Jareer/Bantu or Gosha, the only non-Hawiye court. Sheikh ‘Aweys’ (Ayanle/Ayr/Habir Gidir/Hawiye) has always been associated with the Ifka Halan court; Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed (Agonyar/Harti/Abgal/Mudalood/Hawiye) comes from the SiiSii court.
After its successes against the APRCT in June 2006, the radicals in the ICU moved quickly to try and seize control of the courts and of the different strands of political and theological aims within the ICU. The ICU became the Supreme Islamic Court of Somalia (SICS) on June 25, with a 93-member shura, chaired by Sheikh ‘Aweys’, to provide policy. The previous ICU chairman, Sheikh Sharif, was pushed down to the post of chairman of the executive committee, which implements the directives of the shura. He has two radical Salafi clerics as his deputies, one of whom is head of the Circolo court, one of only three radical courts in the ICU.
A number of other committees have been set up to deal with information (chaired by Sheikh Abdulrahim Ali Muday) and security headed by Sheikh Yusuf ‘Inde Adde’, the governor of Lower Shebelli with deputy Sheikh Muktar Robow who played a major role in the ICU victories in May and June in Mogadishu.
The changes clearly provided potential for dispute, and there is reason to believe that Sheikh Sharif was less than happy over the changes, despite his continued role as the "moderate" face of the courts. He has disagreed with Sheikh ‘Aweys’ over the issue of talks with the TFG, and he has also had disagreements with Sheikh Yusuf ‘Inde Adde’.
In early August, Sheikh Yusuf refused to put his forces and weapons under the control of the courts as the SICS executive demanded, and rejected suggestions that the administration of Lower Shebelli should be run by people from the region rather than outsiders. He claimed the area he governed was a separate entity under his control, not that of the SICS, and indeed he had run it essentially as a warlord prior to ICU takeover of Mogadishu. He refused to co-operate and retired to Merka with his forces.
June 24 marked Sheikh ‘Aweys’ rise to public pre-eminence, to the effect that there have even been claims that the shura has yet to meet, and that all decisions taken so far have been the personal pronouncements of Sheikh ‘Aweys’. Nevertheless, only three of the original courts can be classified as Salafi - the Ifka Halan, the Circolo and the Dabaqayn courts, though there are certainly radicals outside these three.
Prominent among the allies of Sheikh ‘Aweys’ is Aden Hashi ‘Aryo’, the militia commander of the Ifka Halan court and a former fighter in Afghanistan. Ayro was alleged to have headed a Jihadist group responsible for the numerous killings of opponents of Sheikh ‘Aweys’ over the last couple of years; there are now claims that he leads Shabbab (Youth), a group devoted to training youngsters for particular jihadist assignments.
Other close supporters of Sheikh ‘Aweys’ include the governor of Lower Shebelli, Sheikh Yusuf ‘Inde Adde’; the former president of the TNG, Abdiqassim Salad Hassan; and Abukor Omar Adaani, a businessman who controlled the port of El Maan and has reportedly funded a good deal of Salafi and Jihadist activity. Sheikh ‘Aweys’ himself, of course, was closely associated with Al-Itihaad al-Islami (AIAI) when it was involved in terrorist activity in Ethiopia, and was the AIAI military commander in Gedeo region when AIAI was defeated and its military forces broken up by Ethiopia in 1996-1997.
The Salafi radical element may be the best organised element in the SICS but they are not a majority, nor is the AIAI in which Sheikh ‘Aweys’ plays a major role. The original chairman of the ICU, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, follows the teaching of the Egyptian Sheikh Qutub, and is a member of the Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a movement. He certainly wants to see an Islamic state and Shari’s law in Somalia, but he is also more prepared to accommodate western influences and the modern world.
There are other more moderate groups in Mogadishu, notably al-Islah which was deeply involved in the previous TNG. As a result, Ethiopia and others saw it as a radical Islamist organisation. This is misleading. It certainly remains, like Sheikh Sharif, committed to an agenda for the greater Islamisation of Somalia and the establishment of Shari’a law,but it is also committed to non-violent politics and has given no support to AIAI’s more radical policies. It accepts the need for some modernising elements and emphasises the need for a reformation of Islam to meet the challenges posed by the modern world.
Significantly, the SICS banned an al-Islah meeting last week. Al Islah’s secretary, Dr. Ibrahim Dursqui, like several other leading members of al-Islah, is from the small but religiously respected Sheikhaal/Hawiye clan. Al-Islah has considerable support among professionals and technocrats as well as within the Islamic courts. In addition to the setting up of the SICS, the courts have made a number of moves to establish control in Mogadishu and other towns, and a number of these have been welcomed. The removal of dozens of checkpoints (over 80) and roadblocks used for the extraction of tolls has encouraged travel and movement.
One effect of this has been a sharp fall in the price of arms in the Bakaara market. AK47s now cost no more than 200 to 300 dollars, down from 500 dollars earlier this year. PKM machine guns have dropped over 50pc to 3,000 dollars, and a bazooka, which used to go for 600 dollars, is now only 100 dollars. Ammunition has also fallen sharply with AK rounds down from one dollar to four cents.
Mogadishu airport has been re-opened (though it appears most of the flights using it have been bringing in arms for the SICS), and now the seaport. There has been widespread restoration of law and order in areas controlled by the courts. Thirteen of Mogadishu’s police stations have been opened, with regular police patrols organised. Court militia is staffing them, and there has been an announcement that the new police will soon get uniforms. Mogadishu residents, however, have noticed that many of those staffing the police stations or in the court militias are in fact warlord fighters who changed sides after the ARPCT was defeated.
In fact, there is little evidence the courts intend to try and surmount Somalia’s clan based structures, or that the shura headed by Sheikh ‘Aweys’ intends to look outside the courts to the business community or to civil society organisations to provide a real basis for co-operation with the general population.
Incidentally, the suggestions that the courts benefited from a popular uprising in their struggle with the APRCT are mere SICS propaganda. They won because clan elders withdrew clan support, making it clear they were not prepared to continue to support US-backed secular attacks on Islamic clan courts, and because of general war-weariness. Equally, with warlords attacking their own clan courts, there was a clear danger that some sub-clans would become irreparably split by internecine conflict.
While the improved security provided by the courts is certainly popular, the general attitude towards the courts remains ambivalent. There is clearly a good deal of concern among Hawiye sub-clans over recent political developments, and some careful balancing acts are going on among clan elders. The SICS is as aware of this as the TFG. Security is not complete. There was a grenade attack in Mogadishu on August 31, injuring nine, and there have been other incidents including a number of deaths.
The SICS will get the blame for the effects of the flooding of the Webi Shebelli at the end of August and the difficulties in dealing with its effects particularly in Mogadishu.
How the Courts Behave
There are a number of more general concerns. The SICS is making it clear it will exercise considerable control over many aspects of life in Mogadishu and in the areas under its control. At the end of August, the SICS administrator for social affairs, Sheikh Ahmed Abdullahi ‘Fanah’, said he did not recognise any civil society organisations, or NGOs in Mogadishu. He made it clear that the courts would investigate the work of NGOs and other organisations that he described as "largely suspicious."
Sheikh ‘Aweys’ has also said that the SICS would take measures against aid agencies whose food aid disrupted local production. The Information Council of the SICS, headed by Sheikh Abdulrahim Ali Mudey, announced on August 3 that the SICS was taking control of the media: "the time anyone can broadcast whatever report they desire is over". He claimed that the media’s right to freedom of expression would be respected, but added, rather ominously, that a workshop for local journalists would soon take place in order "to rectify some constant mistakes". Political discussions were banned on August 14.
Since June 2006, the SICS has been taking measures to curtail the watching of videos and films, and a number of photographic studies have closed. Some courts closed theatres to prevent the watching of the World Cup. Dozens were arrested, though the death of two people, shot in one such episode, was "a mistake" according to Sheikh ‘Aweys’.
Some courts have also instituted controls on clothes and hair as well as behaviour. There has even been talk of trying to stop the chewing of qat, which would be a particularly contentious move and would certainly meet with resistance. One court in Hiran region has banned qat, opium and cigarettes.
Another directive on August 23 banned trade in wildlife and charcoal. The uncontrolled trade in charcoal has been widely criticised, but the businessmen involved in this highly profitable export to the Gulf, both from Mogadishu and Kismayo, many of whom have been supporters of the SICS, are likely to object strongly.
The original members of the ICU and the SICS, with one exception, were Hawiye sub-clan courts in Mogadishu. Since June 24, the SICS has tried to widen its support base, and a number of new courts have been established both in Mogadishu, where there are now over 20 courts, and elsewhere. Again, however, almost all these have been within Hawiye territory.
In August 2006, it announced that new courts had been set up for the Merifle and Digil/Rahenweyne in Bay and Bakool regions (the Al-Bayaan court), and for the town of Jilib in Middle Juba region (the Al-Huda court), but significantly in both cases the courts had operated in Mogadishu, not in Bakool or Middle Juba, the relevant areas, despite the fact that Jilib is largely inhabited by small Hawiye clans.
Elsewhere, the expansion of the courts over the last three months has been exclusively confined to the Hawiye. In August, a court was set up in Belet Weyne among the Hawadle. Belet Weyne is of strategic significance as it is only 30Kms from the Ethiopian border. Although the Hawadle are technically not a Hawiye clan, they have been associated with the Hawiye for so long that they are regarded as such, and indeed see themselves as Hawiye.
It is not the first time an Islamic Court has been set up in Belet Weyne. There was one between 1995 and 1998. Its main function then was to prevent communal conflict and allow trade to operate freely. The local business community had been instrumental in setting it up and the Ugas (Sultan) of the Hawadle supported it. It was never involved in any Islamist activity and its authority collapsed in 1998 in the face of rising insecurity.
There were conflicts within the Hawadle, rising opposition to Colonel Omar Hashi, leader of the main Hawadle political faction at the time, as well as disputes over land between the Hawadle and the Jaljeel who live mainly on the western side of the Shebelli River, which divides the town. Unable to collect sufficient taxes to pay its militia, the court disbanded. Subsequent efforts to re-constitute the court failed to get sufficient support to administer both sides of the river, or to operate more widely in Hiran region.
There are significant and long-term disputes between the Hawadle, the major clan on the east side of the river, and the major clans on the west, in particular the Jaljeel and the Galjaal. The new court has yet to get full support from all the communities in Belet Weyne.
Similarly, the recent moves of the SICS into Mudug region, east of Dusa Mareb, towards Galcayo, and along the coast taking towns like the pirate centre of Harardhere, and Hobyo, do not expand outside Hawiye territory. Dusa Mareb is the home area of Sheikh ‘Aweys’ and is populated by Ayr, and Adaado, where he set up another court in August, is in Salabaan/Habir Gidir territory. Along the coast, Harardhere, whose takeover of the SICS portrayed as the destruction of a major pirate base, is actually an Ayr town, and most of the pirates operating from there were Ayr.
Somalia’s Clan Dynamics
Similarly, Hobyo is a Salabaan/Habir Gidir town. As for Galcayo itself, this is divided between Majerteen/Darod, and Saad/Habir Gidir. There have been conflicts there in the past as both claim the town but both have made it clear they do not want to see any Islamic courts there. In Puntland, police have arrested a sheikh who tried to set up an Islamic court in Bosasso and broken up another effort in Las Anod. In their advance towards Galcayo, the SICS have been trying to make use of the traditional disputes between Saad and Salabaan over access to grazing and water; these are endemic among the Habir Gidir clans in central Somalia. There was an outbreak of fighting between Saad and Salabaan only a few weeks ago, settled after mediation by the Puntland Administration.
The Saad are traditional rivals of the Ayr for supremacy within the Habir Gidir. They have been building up their forces around Galcayo, with the former Mogadishu warlord, Abdi Awale Qeybdiid, raising a substantial force of militia and technicals. He was the last warlord to leave Mogadishu in mid-July. At that point, with other opposition to the SICS crumbling, Saad elders reluctantly accepted the SICS victory, cutting clan losses and surrendering some of their technicals to the SICS. However, a significant number of others left Mogadishu with Abdi Awale.
In Mudug, the Saad homeland, clan elders, after a meeting attended by representatives from Europe and America, reaffirmed they do not want Islamic courts in the Saad areas of Mudug. They appear to be prepared to resist what they see as an Ayr and Salafi attempt to take over the Hawiye and create a theocracy. They may well have Ethiopian support in this, but the Saad also believe a Saad/Majerteen alliance will be sufficient to halt the SICS advance.
In turn, the SICS appear to calculate that it will be able to count on traditional Saad/Salabaan rivalry as well as its better trained and largely Ayr militia to tip the balance should conflict break out. The Saad are not the only Hawiye sub-clan to be less than enthusiastic over the role of the Ayr/Habir Gidir in recent events. Several of the defeated warlords of the ARPCT came from the other main branch of the Hawiye, the Mudalood, which includes the Abgal and its Harti, Wabuudaan, Daud and Waesle sub-clans. Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed also comes from the Harti/Abgal, and the weakening of his position after the creation of the SICS on June 24 angered the Harti elders.
The Abgal in fact believe they have a better right to control Mogadishu than the Habir Gidir whom they regard as interlopers and newcomers, and certainly a majority of the Habir Gidir only arrived in Mogadishu in 1991-1992 with General Mohamed Farah ‘Aydeed’. The former governor of Middle Shebelli, Mohamed ‘Dhere’, now in Baidoa, retains considerable support among the Abgal. There have been reports of Abgal leaders re-grouping and certainly the elders of various sub-clans have been holding meetings with prominent Abgal politicians like Ali Mahdi and Hussein Bod.
While Belet Weyne, and Galcayo mark the probable limits of SICS/Hawiye expansion in central Somalia, the SICS have yet to make much progress to the south, though the SICS have significant support in Lower Shebelli region where Sheikh Yusuf ‘Inde Adde’ is governor. At the same time, the SICS faces significant long term opposition both in the Shebelli Valley and further south in the Juba Valley and around Kismayo.
What the Future Holds for Somalia
One major long-term problem for any future administration, whether SICS or secular, is the issue of land ownership in Mogadishu and in the Lower Shebelli region all the way to Kismayo, and in the Lower Juba region, where there have been numerous changes, mostly by violence during the last decades. At one level, this is part of a wider cycle of the migration of clans from the more arid central and Ogaden plains to the better pastures and water of the river valleys, bringing pastoral Darod and Hawiye clans into conflict with the agro-pastoral clans of the Digil and Merifle as well as the Bimaal/Dir and the Jareer/Gosha clans of the Juba and Shebelli valleys.
Equally, the current problems arose in the first place with the creation of state-farms and agro-industrial enterprises in the 1970s and 1980s, and the resettlement projects after the 1974 drought and following the Ogaden war of 1977-78 with Ethiopia. The main beneficiaries of this were Darod clans, particularly President Siad Barre’s own Marehan clan, and the Ogaden.
Another major change came in the early 1990s when the Darod population of Mogadishu fled the civil war after Siad Barre’s overthrow and the Habir Gidir fighters of General Mohammed Farah "Aydeed" arrived. Kismayo’s population, no more than 60,000 in the 1980s, rose to half a million, a majority of them Darod, by the mid 1990s. In the same time frame, Mogadishu moved from being a multi-clan capital to a Hawiye occupied city; the Hawiye, particularly the Habir Gidir, took over many of the farms and plantations all along the Shebelli as far as Kismayo.
The resultant claims and confusion will take years to unravel. The Darod clans, well represented in both the TNG and now the TFG, want their lands back, though it is relevant to note that most of these were also acquired with doubtful legality during Siad Barre’s regime. The Habir Gidir, and therefore the SICS, will be very reluctant to hand back what they acquired by conquest in the early 1990s. This is one reason why the Hawiye have been extremely hesitant to let the TFG and its Darod president, Abdullahi Yusuf, back into Mogadishu.
The one certainty is that the original owners, the Jereer clans, the Gosha, are unlikely to benefit. It is true the ICU said in July that it would return all looted or occupied properties, but it appears to have been referring to the most recent conflicts of the last few months. There is no indication that the Habir Gidir are prepared to return what was taken during the civil war of the early 1990s.
Equally complicated problems will need to be resolved in Kismayo where there are similar fault lines between newcomers (galti) and the original inhabitants (guri) as well as different clan claims to the region and to the resources provided through control of the port. The ruling Juba Valley Authority has been an uneasy coalition of Ayr/Habir Gidir and Marehan, both galti, and based on the exploitation of Kismayo’s port.
In fact, three Darod clans claim Kismayo: the Harti (a linkage of Majerteen, Dhulbahunta and Warsengeli); the Ogaden, a majority in the region around Kismayo though not in the town; and the Marehan, largely from Gedo region up the Juba river but who claim Kismayo on the basis that trans-Juba should be seen as a single region and one in which they have a majority. The guri include the Mohamed Zubeir, Bajuni and other indigenous clans that sometimes refer to themselves collectively as the Reer Wamo to distinguish themselves from the galti.
Aside from the Harti and Marehan, the main group of newcomers are the Habir Gidir and other Hawiye who came in 1991-1993 as General "Aydeed" drove Siad Barre and General Morgan (Majerteen) out. On the last occasion when General Morgan moved towards the town in 2000/2001, a force of 60 Ayr technicals was raised by the Ayr courts in Mogadishu and Merka with the support of Mohamed Deilaf and other interested businessmen.
Mohamed Deilaf’s interests include the import of sugar from Brazil en route for Kenya. The JVA is currently headed by Colonel Barre Adam Shire "Hiraale" (Marehan), but remains dependent upon Ayr business interests and the associated Ayr militia; while this is the case, Marehan and Ayr can be expected to co-operate. Attempts to set up an Islamic court, however, will upset the local consensus and is likely to lead to infighting between Marehan and Ayr.
The security situation in Kismayo has been deteriorating in recent weeks. Colonel Barre is now Minister of Defence in the TFG (previously he held the ministry of Reconstruction and Resettlement). In July, he returned to Kismayo from Baidoa with apparent support from President Abdullahi Yusuf to organise a regional administration for the whole trans-Juba, Lower and Middle Juba and Gedo regions. This will run up against Ayr interests as well as other Hawiye clans around Jilib where the SICS has been trying to set up an Islamic court. It will also meet with opposition from both the Harti and the Ogaden.
The eminent Somali scholar, Dr. Said Samatar in March 2005 ventured to suggests, that "segmentation (which he identifies as ‘a social system that results in and sanctions institutional instability as a cultural norm’) has forbidden the emergence of a creditable Islamic fundamentalist force to make a bid for political power". He allowed one exception, in the early 1990s, "the shadowy, toothless entity known as al-Itihaad", al-Itihaad al-Islami (AIAI).
AIAI’s role in the SICS is unclear, indeed it remains uncertain just how organised AIAI now is. genuine strategic interest in events in southern Somalia. Inevitably, recent events and the rise of Sheikh ‘Aweys’ to prominence are causing some concern. As commander of the Harekal Askari, the military wing of AIAI, in the mid-1990s, Sheikh ‘Aweys’ was deeply involved in a series of terrorist operations in eastern Ethiopia, in close cooperation with the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) whose aspirations were supported by AIAI.
AIAI claimed responsibility for a number of bomb attacks on hotels in Dire Dawa, Harar and Jijiga as well as in Addis Abeba. There were several assassination attempts, including the shooting in Addis Abeba of Abdul Majeed Hussein, minister of Transport and Communications and head of the Ethiopian Somali Democratic League, as well as other shootings and killings in Gode, Deghabur, Kebridar and Warder, and attacks on the railway and on government vehicles throughout the Ogaden region of the Ethiopian Somali State.
These activities only came to an end when Ethiopian government forces crossed into Gedeo region, driving AIAI out of Dolo and Luq, inflicting some 200 casualties, among them 19 Arab Mudjadeen and including some from Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Following this, and an attempt on the life of Sheikh ‘Aweys’ in 1997 near Mogadishu, AIAI took a decision to withdraw from cross-border/international activity and turned its attention to social projects within Somalia, operating through Islamic courts. There were some exceptions to this.
AIAI units were involved in piracy in 1999, seizing MV Sea Johann, en route from Mombassa to India near Kismayo. In 2003-2004, AIAI was recruiting from the Dabaab refugee camp in northern Kenya. One unit of some 200 fighters, originally based in Ras Kamboni near the Kenyan border, under the command of Colonel Hassan Abdle Fehiye "Turki" (Ogadeni), also remained in close touch with the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF). It was operating in the Webi Shebelli Valley in Ethiopia during 2003-2004.
The ONLF, despite a number of splits, and agreements reached between some factions of the movement and the regional government, continued with a low level of armed struggle. Its main activities have been the mining of roads and attacks on government vehicles. On its own, it poses no real threat to national or regional security, although it does make problems for proposed developments, and create continual insecurity and instability.
Coincidentally, with the defeat of AIAI in Gedeo, the ONLF held its 2nd national congress. Its chairman, Sheikh Ibrahim Abdallah, who had very close ties with AIAI, was replaced by Admiral Mohamed Omar Osman, who like foreign affairs spokesman Mohamed Sirad Dolal, is based in London. Despite criticism from other clans, the ONLF has always refused to drop Ogaden from its name, confirming widespread suspicion that the movement is no more than a vehicle for Ogaden regional domination. As a result, its support remains largely confined to one or two Ogadeni sub-clans and it has failed even to gain wider Darod support.
There have been several attempts to negotiate a settlement to the ONLF insurgency, most recently last year. This latest attempt was apparently at the request of clan leaders, and its failure earlier this year coincided with Eritrean efforts to widen its attempted destabilisation of Ethiopia by sending several hundred Ogadeni fighters trained in Eritrea into the Ogaden through Somalia via AIAI and the Islamic courts.
Significant quantities of arms were sent to the ICU in February and March for its conflict with the ARPCT in Mogadishu and a considerable element was passed on to ONLF. More has arrived in the last month or so with the re-opening of Mogadishu airport; the ONLF is likely to get its share of this. With Sheikh ‘Aweys’ reiterating AIAI’s former support for Somalia to take over the Somali inhabited regions of Ethiopia (as well as those in Kenya and Djibouti), it is hardly surprising Ethiopia is concerned by the rise of the ICU and the SCIC, the re-emergence of AIAI, and to the security threat to the Somali Regional State of Ethiopia.
Ethio-Eritrean Factors in the Somalian Saga
Another concern for Ethiopia is, of course, the role of Eritrea, which has had a number of military advisers in Mogadishu for several months. They have been residing in a villa near the Ramadan Hotel, owned by Abukor Omar Adaani. While claims last week of 2,000 Eritrean troops arriving in Mogadishu are as likely to be exaggerated as the claims of 7,000 Ethiopian troops deployed in Somalia, there certainly are a significant number of Eritrean advisers and trainers now in Somalia. Like Eritrea, Ethiopia denies that it has any troops inside Somalia. It is an open secret that a unit did move into the region of Baidoa when the SICS appeared to be advancing with hostile intent towards the headquarters of the TFG. It had the effect of persuading the SICS to withdraw; the Ethiopian troops also left Somalia a week later.
It would be surprising if President Abdullahi does not have some Ethiopians training his militia; and the President of Puntland, also facing a threat from the SICS, recently indicated there were 250 Ethiopians training Puntland forces. However, Ethiopia, unlike Eritrea, does have genuine reason for its interest in Somalia. The only basis for Eritrea’s involvement is its continued efforts to destabilise Ethiopia and support any of its enemies.
In a ‘Working Paper on Somalia’ two weeks ago, Eritrea claimed that "any external military intervention" would further polarise political realities in Somalia. It argued that Ethiopia should immediately cease "its intermittent intervention and withdraw the forces deployed in the past few days". Ethiopia had, in fact, withdrawn the troops referred to by the time the Eritrean statement was made public, but the Eritrean statement was somewhat cheeky considering the undeniable evidence for its own involvement in Somalia and the sizeable quantity of itemised arms that the UN Report identified as originating from Eritrea.
The SICS does also get support, indirectly through Eritrea, from Egypt and Libya, as well as Wahabi backing from individuals in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. Latest reports, now denied, of the appearance of Pakistan and Afghanistan military trainers, as well as Eritreans, at a new SICS military camp set up near Jowhar, also suggest a wider degree of interest in SICS activity, but this is easy to exaggerate.
Despite claims to the contrary, and statements by Osama bin Ladin, Al Qaeda has never had any real presence in Somalia, nor great interest. Mogadishu has, however, been used as a transit point and AIAI elements have provided safe houses from time to time for alleged perpetrators of terrorist attacks in East Africa. Sheikh ‘Aweys’ has denied links with Al Qaeda, though he has gone to the extent of comparing Osama bin Ladin to Nelson Mandela.
Equally, some of the Jihadist elements in the SCIC, including Aden Hashi Ayro, are known to have participated in fighting for the Taliban in Afghanistan. AIAI, and Sheikh ‘Aweys’, has made it clear that it still has wider interests in the Horn of Africa, and both the organisation and Sheikh ‘Aweys" have yet to disavow their terrorist past.
Neither the SICS nor the TFG were entering the Arab League talks in Khartoum from a position of strength. The SICS appears to have reached the limit of its efforts to control Somalia. It has proved unable to break out of its Hawiye straitjacket and is still facing uncertainties within its own ranks. It has failed to advance to any real extent outside Hawiye areas or even gain total Hawiye support.
The SICS is well aware of the Somali propensity for coalitions and clan agreements to fracture. Efforts to set up Islamic courts in Puntland and other areas outside its control have been blocked. Despite vociferous criticism and some threats, it has failed to stop Ethiopian support for the TFG, or prevent the AU and IGAD from continuing to work towards a proposed international peacekeeping force for Somalia. It can and no doubt will continue to build up its forces but it has not the strength to advance against a TFG in Baidoa that is supported by Ethiopia or internationally. Nor is it likely to acquire this for a long time to come, even with Eritrean support.
The TFG’s negotiating position has been seriously undermined by the International Contact Group and Sweden. Parliament has been split between those who wanted to hold talks with the SICS and those who were reluctant. The internal disputes between the Prime Minister and the Speaker of the Parliament reached a point where the TFG appeared on the point of collapse. The Prime Minister was forced to appoint a new and smaller government of 31 ministers.
There had previously been well over a hundred ministers and deputy ministers to satisfy all relevant clans and sub-clans in attendance at the Mbagathi conference. The new government was chosen on the same 4.5 formula used for the choice of members of parliament, with each of the four main clan families, Darod, Dir, Hawiye and Rahenweyne, getting a quarter of posts, and the minority clans having the ‘point five’.
This may pave the way for an agreement on the basis of possible power-sharing. There have been indications that the SICS is looking to take seats in Parliament and in the cabinet, and even the post of Prime Minister.
Prime Minister Gedi is from the Hawiye and there is therefore a possibility that the SICS might provide the representatives of the Hawiye allowing it to take most, or all, of the Hawiye posts in the cabinet. The TFG will certainly reject any SICS claim that it is a non-clan organisation.
Equally, the removal of Ethiopian troops is likely to be high up the SICS agenda. The SICS sees Ethiopia as the main protector of the TFG and believes that without this assistance, the TFG would fall apart. This is why it remains firmly against the arrival of any external forces whether from Uganda, Sudan or elsewhere as alternatives to Ethiopia. It does, however, accept that the international community regards the TFG as the legitimate government of Somalia and it is this that has encouraged its participation in the talks.
The TFG for its part sees support from Ethiopia as one major reason why the SCIS has been prepared, however reluctantly, to re-enter the talks. The first round of talks produced a ceasefire and mutual recognition. A second round failed to materialise after the TFG accused the SICS of breaking the ceasefire and the SICS claimed Ethiopian troops had entered Somalia.
A negotiated settlement has much to offer, both to the two parties and to Somalia. However, indications are that any talks will remain difficult. There is considerable personal animosity between the two main protagonists, President Abdullahi Yusuf and Sheikh ‘Aweys’, going back to Abdullahi’s bloody defeat of AIAI’s attempt to seize power in what is now Puntland in 1992. Neither side will be prepared to acknowledge the other’s primacy.
The SICS may be tempted to try and continue to build on its Eritrean support, even though the evidence now suggests that Ethiopia is prepared to step back and allow the TFG and the SICS to work out their own relationship. This might offer another basis for agreement, if Eritrea was prepared to stop its support for the SICS and the ONLF; but this would require a change in Eritrean policy that currently looks unlikely. Ethiopia would also expect, and need, guarantees for the security of its border, and an acknowledgement of its legitimate security interests in any settlement.