[dehai-news] Garoweonline.com: Somalia's Political Circumstances in a New Year

New Message Reply About this list Date view Thread view Subject view Author view

From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Fri Jan 09 2009 - 06:52:38 EST

Somalia's Political Circumstances in a New Year

Report Drafted By: Dr. Michael A. Weinstein

Jan 9, 2009 - 3:40:18 PM

Through December and into early January, the configuration of power in south
and central Somalia was altered as a result of changes in the relative
strength of the country's four major political actors: Ethiopia, Western
powers and regional states working through international and regional
organizations, the internationally-recognized Transitional Federal
Government (T.F.G.), and the preponderantly Islamist opposition to the
T.F.G. made up of the factionalized Islamic Courts movement, which had
mounted an aborted revolution in 2006.

The shifts in power configuration were dominated by the beginnings of a
withdrawal of Ethiopian occupation forces from Somalia that might be
protracted and incomplete, yet signalled that Addis Ababa was falling back
to its traditional strategy towards Somalia of divide and rule by
manipulating factions.The Ethiopian pull back triggered responses from the
other three actors, all of which are divided within themselves. The
international and regional actors,which had failed to provide a peacekeeping
/ stabilization/ enforcement mission to replace the Ethiopians, showed a
continued lack of unity and resolve, opening up opportunities for the Courts
movement that it could not seize due to its internal divisions, and closing
them off for the T.F.G., which owed its very existence to the occupation and
is now in a state of suspended animation following the resignation of its
president, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, under pressure from the external actors
who viewed him as an "obstacle to peace" and to an ever-elusive "unity

The power configuration that has emerged in Somalia at the dawn of the new
is defined by the weakness of all the major actors. Having invaded Somalia
in Dec 2006 to knock out the Islamic Courts movement, and having occupied
the country to prop up the T.F.G., Ethiopia ended its two-year adventure
having failed to achieve either of its aims. Having been told by the other
external actors that they would muster a sufficient peacekeeping force,
which never came, to replace the occupation, Addis Ababa felt that it had
been had, and refused to respond to the pleas of the external actors to stay
put until peacekeepers somehow materialized. With the ball in its court, the
"international community was unwilling/unable to provide a credible
stabilization force to fill a perceived "security vacuum" and ward off the
collapse of the T.F.G., which became moribund. The Islamist opposition fared
best, maintaining its control over most of southern and central Somalia, yet
conflicts in the movement sapped the ability of its factions to unite under
a common program.

The characteristic of weakness that is shared by the major actors is due, in
Ethiopia's case, to having suffered defeat, and in the others to internal
divisions. Alone among the major actors, Addis Ababa seems to have a
coherent strategy - to secure its borders against possible threats to its
Somali Regional State and to manipulate Somali political factions to its
advantage. For the other major actors, internal divisions engender a process
of fragmentation and a resultant incoherence of interest and lack of overall
strategy, which leads to a dominance of micro-politics, pursuit of narrow
interests, and localism.

A configuration of power in which all the actors are weakened does not
mnecessarily indicate that there is an identifiable balance of power that
would allow for grounded judgments on the future course of events. Most
importantly, generalized weakness means that there is no protagonist to
define the political situation through offering clear challenges that focus
the responses of the others; instead, factions contend and cooperate with
one another within and across social boundaries, generating uncertainty on
the parts of all the actors. That is why all predictions about Somalia's
political future are bound to be unreliable, which has not stopped
observers, analysts and journalists from taking up the sport.

Two post-occupation scenarios dominate current opinion: the Ethiopian pull
back will usher in a war for control of southern and central Somalia among
the various Islamist factions that might lead to victory for the
internationalist revolutionary jihadist group Al-Shabaab (the international
community's nightmare); or the Islamists will check one another, providing
an opening for a"unity government" that would isolate Al-Shabaab. Neither of
those scenarios, which reflect the obsession of external actors with
revolutionary Islamism, bears up against the complexity of the actual
situation, in which the weakness of the major actors has caused a drainage
of power to the fundamental social unit for Somalis, the sub-clan, which
conditions conflict and cooperation among political factions.

Rather than all-out civil war or inclusive power sharing, the most likely
future is chronic conflict within the context of decentralized authorities,
which was the situation in Somalia before the 2006 Courts revolution and the
subsequent Ethiopian occupation; only now Islamism will be an element in
local and regional adjustments. What the balance of power might turn out to
be in such a configuration cannot be determined, dependent, as it is, on a
multitude of variables; and one should not exclude the possibility that a
protagonist might emerge out of the ferment, although none has yet appeared.

The Gradations of Weakness

The weakest component of Somalia's present power configuration is the
which is a creature of the "international community" and was riven by rifts
from its inception in 2004 at a conference in Kenya, and never achieved the
legitimacy among Somalis that would have allowed it to be any more than a
notional government dependent on external powers for its existence.

Always weak, the T.F.G. was dealt a body blow by the Courts movement in 2006
and would have disappeared had the Ethiopians not invaded. The T.F.G.
further lost strength when the failure of the Ethiopians to curb a rising
Islamist-led insurgency convinced the external actors to pressure the T.F.G.
to enter peace talks with the conciliatory wing of the resistance that after
four rounds led to an agreement in which the T.F.G. conceded to doubling the
size of the transitional parliament to accommodate the conciliatory
resistance, forming a "unity government" and merging its security forces
with forces loyal to the conciliatory resistance.

Djibouti IV put the T.F.G. into a state of suspended animation betwixt and
between its internationally-recognized and financially and militarily
dependent past, and its highly problematic future, if it has one at all.
Djibouti IV also made it necessary to end the conflict within the T.F.G.
between President Yusuf, who opposed the peace process and was bound to lose
his position if the power-sharing agreement was ever implemented; and Prime
Minister Nur Adde Hassan Hussein, a creature of the external powers who was
used to spearhead the peace process. Yusuf, the external actors decided, had
to be neutralized or removed.

The event that precipitated the full-court press to oust Yusuf was the
president's desperate last-ditch move to fire Nur Adde and replace him with
an ally, Mohamed Gamodheere, setting off a concerted reaction among the
external actors who branded Yusuf's action as "unconstitutional" and refused
to recognize Gamodheere. Meeting on December 22 in Addis Ababa, the
sub-regional organization of Horn of Africa states, the Inter-Governmental
Authority on Development (I.G.A.D.), voted to impose sanctions on Yusuf and
his associates that would include a travel ban and asset freeze. The next
day, the African Union's Peace and Security Council met in Addis Ababa and
decided to lend support to I.G.A.D.'s initiative by endorsing sanctions and
setting up a committee to formulate and implement its own.

Simultaneously, Washington moved to force Yusuf out. On December 22, U.S.
ambassador to Kenya, Michael Ranneberger, announced that U.S. assistant
secretary of state for Africa, Jendayi Frazer, would mediate talks between
Yusuf and Nur Adde in Nairobi. As it turned out, Frazer met the president
and prime minister separately at Nairobi's airport, lavishing support on Nur
Adde and reportedly telling Yusuf that he had the choice of acquiescing in
the peace process or facing sanctions and a possible war crimes prosecution
at the International Criminal Court.

On December 24, Yusuf returned to the transitional capital Baidoa where he
was met by the resignation of Gamodheere who had broken under the pressure.
With his last card having been played, Yusuf spent a few days hemming and
hawing, and testing parliamentary support centered in his Darod clan family,
until he decided to resign on December 29 and retreat to his power base in
the Darod- dominated sub-state of Puntland, carrying with him his militias,
which were a prime element of the T.F.G.'s security forces, and several
dozen parliamentary loyalists.

Although the external actors intended Yusuf's removal to facilitate an
"inclusive unity government," it is just as likely to weaken the T.F.G. even
further by withdrawal of Darod support, as indicated by the former
president's scorched-earth retreat. Djibouti IV is now in the hands of Nur
Adde and his counterpart in the conciliatory faction of the Alliance for the
Re-Liberation of Somalia (A.R.S.), Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmad, both of whom
are members of the Abgal sub-clan of the Hawiye clan family.

Yusuf's resignation left the T.F.G. with a caretaker president,
parliamentary speaker Adan Madobe, who has pledged to hold an election in
parliament to name a new president within thirty days of the resignation, as
specified in the transitional charter. The meaning of that election, should
it take place, is heavily clouded. In the first place, it is not clear that
enough M.P.s will be present to summon the two-thirds vote of all members
that is required to elect a president. Indeed, Madobe threatened M.P.s that
they would be replaced if they did not participate in the election.
Secondly, it is not clear what the next president would represent - the old
T.F.G. or the new and enhanced one - which has led some politicians to
suggest that naming a new president be deferred until power sharing has been

At present, the T.F.G. is in a state of suspended animation, from which it
might not recover. In a December 30 interview with Abdinasir Mohamed Guled
for Media Line, a dismissive Sheikh Sharif made it plain that the T.F.G. was
hardly worth talking about: "If the government does collapse, the Somali
people will decide their future, and implementing the agreement won't be
necessary." He added that "an agreement was reached; if it can't be
implemented, we'll have to make another agreement."

The T.F.G. ranks at the bottom of the gradient of strength to weakness; it
is abjectly dependent on external actors, unpopular, divided and, therefore,
ineffective. Based on a divisive formula of clan representation, populated
by (former) warlords, manipulated and undermined by the external actors that
birthed it, and deprived by them of sufficient resources to succeed,
because, for good reason (their own faulty design), they do not trust it,
the T.F.G. does not control its own fate and can hardly be considered an
actor at all.

The external actors are not much stronger, not because they are designed to
fail and lack resources, but because they are divided among themselves and,
more importantly, lack the will to take decisive action, due to the higher
priorities that other issues have on their agendas and their sense that a
fuller commitment to Somalia would not necessarily bear fruit. When, on
December 17, the United Nations Security Council failed to consider a
resolution proposed by Washington and later withdrawn that would have
enhanced the capacity of the small African Union peacekeeping mission
(AMISOM) in Somalia's official capital Mogadishu, it became obvious that the
external actors would not provide the support necessary to fill the
perceived "security
vacuum" that would be created by an Ethiopian pull back. In the following
weeks, the future of international peacekeeping in Somalia has become
increasingly uncertain.

Any hopes that external donors would be able to convince A.U. states to
AMISOM were dashed in the short term at a meeting of the A.U.'s Peace and
Security Council on December 23 when Council commissioner, Ramtane Lamamna,
reported that funds were not currently available to support the deployment
one new battalion each by Uganda and Burundi, the only states currently
participating in the mission, which now has 3600 troops on the ground out of
a projected 8000. Lamamna added that Nigeria's offer of three battalions
made on December 20 needed "further clarification." Lamamna concluded that
he did not have all the "elements" necessary to make "a firm recommendation
on the future of AMISOM." The A.U.'s special representative to Somalia,
Nicolas Bwakira, was even less sanguine, reporting that Uganda and Burundi
had put forward conditions for their continued deployment, including
credible indications that the U.N. would eventually take over the mission,
that the international community would provide adequate financial and
logistical support for AMISOM, and that an "inclusive" government would be
established in Somalia. Although Bwakira emphasized that none of those
conditions had been met, the A.U. decided to extend the mandate for AMISOM
for two months from its January 16 expiration, adding that the mission
needed to develop an unspecified "new concept of operations" and that the
U.N.S.C., which has the "primary responsibility for
peace and security," should authorize a stabilization force and, in the
interim, a "support package" for AMISOM.

>From then on, there has been no forward movement on peacekeepers. On
27, Uganda's shadow defense minister, Hussein Kyanjo, urged Kampala to
from AMISOM, because Ugandan forces would inevitably be drawn into factional
conflicts in Somalia and be beset by "conflicting loyalties." On December
AMISOM spokesman Barigye Bohoku announced that AMISOM was "deficient in
troop levels" and suggested that Al-Shabaab be invited into the peace
process, which
is anathema to Washington and Addis Ababa. According to Bohoku, it is "not
very correct to call these guys [Al-Shabaab] terrorists and I think there
are some positive elements in the group that we can identify and work with."
With momentum at a standstill, the A.U.'s Lamamna announced on December 30
that he expected the U.N.S.C. to act within 48 hours to pledge "a very
concrete logistical package" for AMISOM that would encourage greater troop
contributions to the mission. Lamamna's prediction proved to be baseless
and, on December 4, Uganda's deputy foreign minister, Henry Okello Oryon,
told Deutsche-Presse Agentur that "our army experts are on the ground to
establish the risk of our people staying there and we shall withdraw once
the risks are too high." Nonetheless, on January 6, the A.U.'s Peace and
Security Council denied that AMISOM would be terminated, stating that "the
task ahead of us is not to pull out the troops, but rather how to strengthen
the mission on the ground, and efforts are being made to that end."

ith the T.F.G. in abeyance and the "international community" lacking
resolve, Ethiopia turned a deaf ear to pleas from the A.U. to prolong its
occupation and began its pull back. Although it is in a weakened position,
Addis Ababa has a default strategy in place that will not allow it to
control events in south and central Somalia, but will insure that it remains
an active player. As it is emerging on the ground, that strategy involves
withdrawal to Ethiopia's long border with Somalia, periodic military
interventions into the latter to ward off Al-Shabaab and protect its Somali
clients, and to support to those clients as it pursues its traditional
policy of divide and rule.

Ethiopia's prime minister, Meles Zenawi, has repeatedly stated that
"withdrawal" of the occupation will not mean a hands-off disposition towards
Somalia, but will rather involve a vigilant pursuit of Addis Ababa's
perceived security interests. Before the pull back officially began on
January 2, occupation forces had disarmed Yusuf allies, former mayor of
Mogadishu, Mohamed Dheere, and head of the T.F.G.'s national security
agency, Mohamed Darwish, clearing the field for Nur Adde and Sheikh Sharif
to implement their "joint security" plans. At the same time, Addis Ababa
renewed a familiar pattern of moving its forces into and out of regions in
Somalia bordering Ethiopia, mounting incursions into the Gedo region, where
it supports clan warlord Barre Hirale in his attempt to oust Islamist
administrations from the deep south; the
Hiraan region, where it led a contingent of militias loyal to the region's
T.F.G.-supported former administration that had been ousted by Islamists;
and the Galgadud region, where it intervened briefly in a conflict between
Al- Shabaab and clan militias fronted by the previously non-political Muslim
organization Ahlu Sunna Wal-Jamaa, and reportedly provided the latter with
weapons and funds. Ethopia's most significant venture thus far has been to
lead Hirale's militia into the Gedo region, where the joint forces retook
strategic towns from Al-Shabaab on January 6.

A reasonable reading of Addis Ababa's strategy was provided by Al-Shabaab's
leader and spokesman, Sheikh Mukhtar Robow, who said on December 31 that
Ethiopia was planning to support three "rebel groups," one in the western
regions of Hiraan and Bakool, another in the southwestern region of Gedo,
and a third in the central regions of Galgadud and Mudug; implementation of
that strategy already seems to be underway. On December 29, Addis Ababa
stated that Al-Shabaab could not be considered a "reliable partner" in
Somalia's peace process, opening up a gap with AMISOM and positioning itself
as a potential "spoiler," which is a role that it has played in the past.

The T.F.G.'s collapse, the external actors' absenteeism and Ethiopia's fall
back leave the Islamists, the various factions of which hold to a greater or
lesser extent most of south and central Somalia, as the strongest among the
weak. They have remained, however, ideologically and politically divided,
and have no common program for governing Somalia, with Al-Shabaab committed
to instituting a state based on strict adherence to a Salafist
interpretation of Shari'a law and rejecting any political compromise; the
conciliatory wing of the A.R.S. committed to power sharing with the T.F.G.;
the militant wing of the A.R.S., based in Eritrea but with supporters on the
ground in Somalia, unwilling at present to join the conciliatory faction;
and a dizzying array of local factions rooted in the Islamic Courts movement
that vary in their
adherence to the positions of the other three.

The fragmentation of the Courts movement has led to a patchwork of
alliances, conflicts and re-positioning that defies any attempt to forecast
patterns that might develop. Al-Shabaab, which is the best organized faction
and arguably the most powerful one militarily has formed alliances with
elements of the Islamic Courts Union (I.C.U.), which was once the core of
the Courts movement, in the Hiraan and Bay and Bakool regions, and has
clashed with the forces of the A.R.S. conciliatory wing in the Middle
Shabelle region, and with clan militias fronted by A.S.W.J. in the Galgadud
region. Meanwhile, the A.R.S. conciliatory wing, which had been based in
Djibouti, moved some of its operations to Mogadishu in advance of the
Ethiopian pull back and, on January 2, took control of three police stations
there that had been vacated. Speaking for A.R.S. militants, Sheikh Hassan
Dahir Aweys pledged to continue armed struggle against the T.F.G. and
AMISOM, and rejected the Djibouti peace process. On January 4, Garowe Online
reported that Arab governments, including Egypt, had persuaded sheikhs
Sharif and Aweys to meet for talks in Cairo to reconcile their

Speaking of the various Islamist factions as though they were internally
coherent is, however, an over-simplification. The Washington Post reported
on January 2 that a group calling itself Ansara Sunnah had split from
Al-Shabaab in the Lower Shabelle region and that there were four Al-Shabaab
factions contending in the strategic port city of Kismayo - the largest city
controlled by Al-Shabaab - in the Lower Jubba region. Reports from closed
sources indicate that the conflict between A.S.W.J. and Al-Shabaab in the
Galgadud region is inextricably bound up with sub-clan rivalries and,
according to one source, only involved A.S.W.J. at the "tail end." Although
A.S.W.J. has been angered by Al-Shabaab's desecration of the graves of Sufi
spiritual leaders, it has no history of violence and does not have the
capacity to undertake military
operations on its own. Alliances between even smaller factions that have
tenuous links to the others are also ongoing; on January 5 in Mogadishu,
Jabhal Islamiya, Harakat Raskamboni, Arnole, and a splinter group of the
Islamic Courts Union announced that they had combined and welcomed efforts
by the Islamic Scholars Assembly that Al-Shabaab had denounced to mediate
factional conflict among the Islamists.

Although it would be possible to describe in greater detail the alliances
and conflicts among the Islamist factions, such an exercise would simply
reinforce the judgment that fragmentation has led to localism and
micro-politics. Doubtless, the conciliatory A.R.S. and Al-Shabaab are
positioning themselves to gain control of Mogadishu, but it is not clear
that they will wage war on one another, particularly in light of resistance
to that course of action by leaders of the Hawiye clan family,which
dominates Mogadishu. Indeed, the tendency towards localism and
micro-politics inevitably results in emphasis on sub-clan interest, which
infects Islamist factions and propels non-Islamist opposition to them.
Organized opposition to Islamist rule has already surfaced in Somalia; on
December 28, spokesman Mohamed Adan announced the formation of the Jubba
Resistance Front, which he said was set up by "local people who could not
endure the problems caused by Al-Shabaab." The Front aims at instituting a
"Jubbaland Autonomous Administration," which recalls the Jubba Valley
Alliance headed by Barre Hirale before the aborted Courts revolution,
although Adan denied a connection.


A review of the positions of the major political actors involved in southern
and central Somalia, based on daily monitoring of open sources with
supplementation from closed sources, at the dawn of the new year indicates a
devolved configuration of power that resembles the pre-Courts pattern of
localized authorities and endemic conflict with the addition of a
generalized Islamist formula with a multitude of variations covering
sub-clan interests. Although it is most probable that this pattern will be
prolonged due to the T.F.G.'s abeyance, the international community's malign
neglect, Ethiopia's
fall back and the Courts movement's fragmentation, it is always possible
interests will aggregate and realign if one or another of the domestic
actors gains sufficient momentum to attract others to its side: the
situation is too
volatile and complex to rule anything out.

What appears to be clear is that Addis Ababa will play divide and rule, that
the Islamist factions are far from reconciling, that the external actors
not provide security forces in the near term, and that the T.F.G. is broken
will either disappear or be reformed into a cumbersome mechanism that the
conciliatory A.R.S. hopes to dominate.

The extreme scenarios of an all-out civil war or the institution of an
"inclusive unity government" are both far-fetched given the seemingly
inexorable tendency towards micro-politics, which has been southern and
central Somalia's default drive since the fall of Siad Barre in 1991. That
tendency could be reversed by the emergence of a center of unifying energy,
but not through imposition from the outside, which, for the moment, is
unlikely because it has been tried and has failed abysmally. Surely, as
Ethiopia plays its game, the "international community" will persist in its
impotent charade, and both will be the "spoilers" that they claim to
deplore. The domestic actors will have to go through a period of radical
uncertainty, which they have become used to, along with the deep suffering
that such a condition engenders. It is possible that when this period ends
it will have precipitated a modus vivendi.

Report Drafted By:
Dr. Michael A. Weinstein, Professor of Political Science, Purdue University
 <mailto:weinstem@purdue.edu> weinstem@purdue.edu


         ----[This List to be used for Eritrea Related News Only]----

New Message Reply About this list Date view Thread view Subject view Author view

© Copyright DEHAI-Eritrea OnLine, 1993-2009
All rights reserved