The ideological phase of the conflict in Somalia: A mixed picture of hope and despair,By Adam Musse Jibril
Nowhere in Africa that Nature and man-made hazards such as wars and their impact on life and environment are so critical, so complex, and so intertwined as in this sub-region of the Horn, where current state of affairs is one that increases tempo towards protracted religious wars. One of the focal points of this complexity lies in the recent developments in Somalia following the withdrawal of the Ethiopian forces and the vacuum left by the departure of the last contingent of the Ethiopian army from Bay-dhaba, the seat of the TFG parliament. This has caused further escalation of tensions, this time, between radical Islamists on one side, and the government forces and moderate Islamists on the other. This new polarization of forces reshaped the already contradictory situation of uncertainty and hope by casting more doubts on which way things will be turning about. Both ample opportunities and great challenges became open possibilities to inspire sense of optimism but also yielded source of despair in the same time.
In the short and medium terms, one can envisage the direction where the stream of events is heading to, through which different options and scenario would justifiably expected. Following the Djibouti agreement, a shift towards exertion to building an Islamic state in Somalia seemed to be the main trend that may decide much of the future developments. The main driving force of this trend and the actors of change are predominantly Islamists who have acquired strength at the formation of the new government of Sheikh Sharief.
Serious imbalance of forces have occurred in favor of those who inclined to Shari’a implementation, a matter which added to the Somali conflict still a more difficult religious dimension. The conflict amongst Islamist groups, who have different understanding vis-à-vis the tenets, ways and means to building an Islamic State further radicalized and intensified the conflict over Shari’ a Law. Already the gap between radical and moderates in the Islamist’s front is noticeable. Moreover, different radical Islamist groups each of whom have their own brand of Islam in mind according to their own interpretation of Islam seemed to be stubborn in their believes and dogmas to realizing their objectives. In this regard a promising step was taken by Sh. Shariif’s group of the Islamic Courts Union who recognize political dialogue, rejecting violence and opted to join the peace process. As a result they have deserved acceptance on worldwide level as moderates whom one can deal with and seemingly represent the voice of reason and hope.
These positive signs regarding the new leadership seemed justifiable since Sheikh Shariif’s election gave additional hope to Mogadishu population in particular, he as a person has, so far, shown certain degree of leadership qualities and sense of tolerance in his short period of involvement in politics. His decision to leave Asmara camp with his wing of Re-liberation and Reinstitution of Somalia made him seen inside and abroad as a man of wisdom and not only a Machiavellian type of politician like most of his predecessors.
In spite, of this optimism mentioned above, the way ahead to a real breakthrough to ending the stalemate in Somalia is obviously long and rough, and the challenges ahead are increasingly formidable calling the new leadership to seriously consider the following momentous issues:-
What kind of Somalia do you want to build?. This question is the key to better understanding about what the coming days and years will be caring to this already miserable region of the Horn. Hence, there is an urgent need to comprehend the kind of Islamic state the new government in Mogadishu meant by their decision to implement Shari’a law.
The reason for such concerns reside in the fact that eventually there will be only two types of states known to mankind, no matter what name they take and on what principles they are based: dictatorship or democracy, social equality or tyranny.
After a long history of suffering from brutality of tyranny followed by civil wars and statelessness, Somali people in south have every right to expect a new type of state that constitute an alternative which negates the past atrocities and oppression. The sort of state the Somali people hoped to see has certain qualities and characteristics which qualify for any state in the 21 century to be acceptable locally, regionally and internationally.
The new leadership in Mogadishu, whose fate is to face the challenges of the 21 century need to define their priorities accordingly. While dealing with the immediate tasks of peace building and reconciliation, long and medium range challenges will demand equal attention. The capability to foresee and pre-plan for the problems that are on the way will necessarily lead to a realistic approach in dealing with them on time. This will necessitate to depend not only on one’s personal experience and knowledge but mainly on those sincere and credible intellectuals who can produce ideas. Both Local and foreign expertise as knowledgeable think-tang, are indispensably imperative for any statesman in the modern world.
Old ideologies and dogmas do not provide appropriate answers for today’s problems in the age of globalization and interdependency, but complicate, confuse understanding, and limit the ability to look at the world as it is in reality. Moreover, it creates imaginary worlds, of permanent enemies and friends.
The world outlook that is based on ideology is a claim to have absolute truth which necessarily leads its believers to counteract realities and cancel out the facts on earth. Conservative ideological world standpoint predetermines the inevitability of wars, and as a result presupposed imaginary enemies would be needed to fight on, this happens when the real enemies are forgotten.
Somalis and, not necessarily foreigners, are the real enemies whose words and deeds have been against the interests of the Somali people over the years. Experience in the last forty years confirms this fact. Siyaad Barre’s era, was a time when all resources and ideas were monopolized by one man, who claimed to have had the absolute wisdom; “Father of knowledge of our Universe” (Guule-wade Siyad Aabihii garashada Geyigayagow). Followed by the era of Warlordism, the lot of evils, whose slogans had been ‘agree not to agree’, employed clan militias to enrich through destruction and killing. Then came the era of Islamists who declared religious wars, shooting to all directions and killing anyone who might have a different opinion.
Democracy is the alternative: To address the controversy over the question of which comes first, democracy or unity and its relevance to ‘Greater Somalia’ quest, one has to generalize the contemporary African political history which has been divided, by scholars, into two main stages, the first phase (1950s-1970s) which was characterized by particular tasks related to liberation from the conventional colonial domination of Europe. The awareness and aspiration of that generation of leaders were focused on political disengagement from colonial powers. The issues of social and economic freedoms were not yet been elaborated and comprehended beyond the scope of presupposed rosy picture related to post Colonial Africa. The awareness of social emancipation, in each of the African countries, was not included in the agenda of nation building at the time. As a result the issues of economic, social, and political liberties as human rights were not raised in a bold manner with the exception of few countries where social classes had been crystallized to certan extent and where strong trade union movements spearheaded these demands, Sudan, Senegal, Angola, South Africa extra. This period in history was known as National liberation phase of Africa. In the second phase, started from late sixties of the last century, democratization became a pressing need as the last Portuguese colonies were liberated and long after South Africa and Namibia followed to deepen the responsiveness to the democratic dimension of the process. By the time Africa entered in the period of democratization as an urgent task. As the peoples of the continent acquired consciousness to social liberties in the course of which distribution of national wealth, and concerns of participation and equity moved to the forefront in the agenda of political and social change in the post colonial Africa.
However, democracy was not seen as a long evolutionary process, during which ups and downs are objectively unavoidable. As a result of lack of democracy, which has been the root-cause of all these conflicts between man and between man and Nature, Africa got itself passing through critical times. The phenomenon of failed state became a historical trend, Some countries have already failed, and many others are becoming failing states. Somalia is one of the first failed states in the continent. Problems of failing and failed states require internally induced solutions based on comprehensive national democratic orientation as external factor can be considered only a supportive catalyst.
Prismatic slogans such as Continental United States of Africa are attempts of escaping forward to step-over democratization tasks that Africa must face, by which the urgent questions on Africa’s problems are to be addressed. Hasty steps towards unrealistic prestigious projects create confusion and distort awareness to the need to democratization.
Against this background, ‘greater Somalia quest must be raised, reviewed, and reversed so that the past atrocities committed under its banner be corrected by taking seriously the co-relation and intertwining of nation building and democratization.
In the Somali context there are two different opinions vis-à-vis this issue. Those who sincerely aspire to a new Somalia as a factor of peace and progress in line with issues of rights of the people to choose their leaders through ballot boxes, and those who attempt to the imposition of extremism, propagate for violence at the expenses of peace, stability and democratic choice for Somalia and for the region.
Enough experience of atrocities in the past proved intolerable, attempts to repeat that legacy is unimaginable. Injustice can not be repeated under the same slogans of the 1960s. What implies here is to deny the rights of Digil-Mirfle people to rule their regions and to use their own local language, and to cast doubts on Puntland’s status of their people’s choice as an autonomous region with credible record of peace and institutional building and which is willing to be part in a democratic Somalia.
Somaliland, which had been a different country before the union with Somalia and which succeeded to make a different history of its own since 1991 has totally been denied (its existence) by Somalia’s leaders. In spite of this rejection, Somaliland does exist as a peaceful and democratic country, the same country which had entered with Somalia in partnership union. This union was abused by Southern political elite. By continuing refuting to acknowledge these facts of the past and present Somaliland, would only mean to make the gap wider and deeper. Democratic minded leadership in Somalia must reflect the interests of the peace and stability in the region, denounce patronage behavior and expansionism, a matter that could open the horizon to pave the way to wider space of opportunities for a peaceful and democratic solutions for the regional problems as a whole.
The kind of ‘Greater Somalia’ rhetoric in use in Mogadishu these days worries all peace loving people in this region. The new leadership in Mogadishu should somehow clarify which positions they stand from these basic conceptual issues in question. By so doing they will acquire both more friends and more foes. Somali wisdom that says ‘Laba daran mid dooro’ meaning, the wise person is he who can select one from two difficult choices, is very much in point here. Which way they go will determine the future of Somalia, and the region. New Somalia which is peaceful with itself, with its neighbors and with the world at large would mark the type Somalis need to see. Repeating the history of totalitarianism with the eventuality of Islamic Emirate in the Horn of Africa will open unpredictable options and scenarios.
Islam is not the problem, it has been here and known even before most of the Arab countries, deep-rooted in the hearts and minds of this people, the Suffi order of Islam, has been a factor of tolerance, peace and stability over the centuries. The problem is politicizing religion with the aim to use it as a weapon of oppression and a stair to power and money, relevant question, however, is what type of Islam, the Suffi order of Islam, which all Somalis and indeed the entire muslim peoples of the region belong to or Dalibanization of Somalia?
Adam Musse Jibril
Can be reached by this email address:


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