[dehai-news] allafrica.com: Somalia: Situation Brief Two

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

From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Wed Feb 25 2009 - 08:30:16 EST

Somalia: Situation Brief Two

Michael A. Weinstein


25 Feb 24, 2009 - 1:21:52 PM


During the week of February 16, Sh. Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, the weak
protagonist in Somalia's political situation and president of the country's
recently expanded Transitional Federal Government (T.F.G.), made his first
moves to establish control over the transitional institutions and to achieve
security in Somalia's official capital Mogadishu, so that his administration
could re-locate there from its present base in Djibouti. He was able to
pressure Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke - the choice of the donor
powers - to staff the power ministries in the cabinet with hardcore backers
of his faction of the Islamic Courts Union and the Alliance for the
Re-Liberation of Somalia - Djibouti (A.R.S.-D), which he had brought as a
bloc into the transitional institutions. Through the Islamic Courts militias
in Mogadishu, Sh. Sharif directed security operations to clear extortionate
roadblocks and gain control of district policing.

Sh. Sharif's initiatives showed the other actors in the situation that his
power play was serious, and they proceeded to organize and develop
strategies, bringing Somalia's configuration of power into sharper focus, in
which broad battle lines simplifying and abstracting from dense
micro-political conflicts became visible - uncertainty ceded to actors
taking positions. Sh. Sharif's partners (not allies, but qualified
supporters with their own agendas that they will not sacrifice for him)
continued their tug of war over him, as his clerical base organized and
attempted to pull him into a commitment to implement Shari'a law throughout
Somalia; and the regional African states and organizations that front for
the donor powers pulled him to maintain a secular ("inclusive")
government.Sh.Sharif's adversaries stiffened their stances towards him, as
the armed opposition to the T.F.G. comprising the al-Shabab militia and the
Hizbul Islam (Party of Islam) - an alliance of four armed-opposition
factions - rejected the T.F.G.'s legitimacy; and Ethiopia, their nemesis,
made incursions over Somalia's border in order to help warlord-clan militias
displace the armed opposition from its control over most of Somalia's south.

The stage has been set for civil conflict/war over the nature of the future
Somali state, if there is to be one. Will it be Islamist or secular or some
mix of the two? Those have become the high political stakes, albeit all the
fragmented conflicts and tensions that remain in force. Somalia is a
contested would-be state, not a legitimate government facing an "insurgency"
or "spoilers." The struggle might be unsuccessful for any side and draw
Somalia back into devolution to sub-clan loyalties; or it might generate
some kind of non-notional government; what that might be and what its
political formula would be are impossible to predict.


Sh. Sharif's success in placing his loyalists in the posts of
internal-security minister and interior minister, and his decision to let
the Islamic Courts militias attempt to police Mogadishu show that he is
proceeding as a political realist who is cognizant of the need to get
control of the transitional institutions so that he can build a machine and
situate it in Mogadishu. He has an uphill battle and a low probability of
success, yet he has his priorities straight and does not seem to be addled
by any idealism or false optimism.

In a revealing interview with IRIN, Sh. Sharif noted that Somali political
institutions had to be created "from scratch," and that the T.F.G. is "broke
and the country is broken." He added that it was too early to tell whether
the donor powers would give him adequate support.

Despite his initiatives, Sh. Sharif is hemmed in and pulled apart by his
clerical base and his external "partners." The most significant development
of the week was the meeting of Islamic scholars (that had been inspired by
Sh. Sharif to gain support), which ended in the scholars forming a pressure
group - the new Islamic Clerics Council (I.C.C.) - in order to get Sh.
Sharif to implement Shari'a law.

Cutting no slack to Sh. Sharif, the I.C.C. issued a communique demanding
that the transitional parliament announce the implementation of Shari'a law
(which would mean altering the transitional constitution) within 90 days
after March 1, and that the African Union pull out its peacekeeping mission
(AMISOM), which helps to protect the T.F.G. and to train its nascent
security forces, within 120 days from March 1. Were Sh. Sharif to comply
with those demands, he would immediately come to cross-purposes with the
donor powers and their regional agents. Yet if he does not move towards
implementing Shari'a and getting the peacekeepers out, Sh. Sharif risks the
erosion of his base, upon which he depends for his launching pad to

The external partners responded to the clerical tug with a counter-pull.
Most pointedly, the A.U.'s special envoy to Somalia, Nicolas Bwakira, said
that Sh. Sharif had "indicated" to him that "on the matter of religion it
would be the government, the State which will outline the policy, not the
clerics." From Mogadishu, AMISOM affirmed its commitment to remain in
Somalia until the country was "stabilized." The A.U.'s Peace and Security
Commission "welcomed" promised United Nations support for AMISOM.

The external partners' position was weakened when Nigeria's defense
minister, Dr. Shettina Mustapha, backtracked from the country's commitment
to beef up AMISOM, stating "we will only send troops to keep peace, not
enforce it." In a withering and accurate analysis, Mustapha explained: "From
our findings there is no government on the ground. What we have are various
groups controlling several areas. It means you will fight to enforce peace
there. So if you go there, you will be fighting several groups."

As for the donor powers, upon whom Sh. Sharif is radically dependent for
financing, they were silent. The Wall Street Journal quoted an anonymous
diplomatic source who said that although the donors would support the
T.F.G., "we are not going to suddenly open a spigot that wasn't previously

With friends like the clerics and the donor coalition, Sh.Sharif does not
need enemies, yet, of course, he has them. Al-Shabaab confined itself
rhetorically to stating its opposition to any security operations in
Mogadishu and then carried out two major attacks on AMISOM, showing that it
meant business. Hizbul Islam made its position clear; its military
spokesman, Sh. Muse Abdi Arale, declared that they would fight any T.F.G.
forces that attempted to enter neighborhoods in Mogadishu that they
controlled, adding that there was "no government in the country." In an
al-Jazeera interview, Hizbul Islam's chairman, Sh. Umar Iman, stated that
the party would keep up armed resistance until enemy forces (AMISOM) were
evicted from Somalia, the Somali people had achieved "self-determination,"
and Shari'a law had been implemented. Taunting the T.F.G., Iman said: "If
they are serious, let their parliament with its 550 members meet and cancel
the constitution and announce that the Islamic Shari'a is the constitution
for the country."

Sh. Sharif's other major antagonist, Ethiopia, whose own agenda comes into
conflict with the new T.F.G., moved troops across its border into the Bakool
region to support an attempt by clan militias and former T.F.G. officials to
displace the armed opposition from its control over the south-central Bay
region, where the transitional parliament had been based in its capital
Baidoa. More significantly, Somali media reported that Addis Ababa was
training warlord-clan militias from the Hiraan, Gedo, Bay, and Galgadud
regions in its Somali Regional State (S.R.S.) in order to destabilize or
replace the Islamist authorities in those regions, some of which are loyal
to Sh. Sharif. It is becoming clear that Addis Ababa is pursuing its grand
strategy of keeping
Somalia weak and divided, and, in the short run, pre-empting any threat to
the S.R.S. from across the border.

In summary, the forces pulling at and undermining Sh. Sharif appear to be
insurmountable, although he is proceeding as a political realist who is
aware of the present power configuration. Expect him to continue pushing,
the clerics to ramp up their pressure, the donors to exert a weaker
counter-pressure due to their insufficient commitment (although they are
unlikely to pull the money plug in the short term), the armed opposition to
consolidate their territorial control and expand it when possible, and Addis
Ababa to continue its intrigues and incursions. This is a prescription for
civil conflict/war

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