Why Somali Talks Have Not Led to Peace



Why Somali Talks Have Not Led to Peace


Monday, August 9, 2004 

The protracted and often acrimonious proceedings of the 14th Somali peace and reconciliation conference at Mbagathi in Nairobi, Kenya, are now nearing completion. 

Twenty months into the talks, the stark reality facing Somalis is another failed attempt at peace making Ė not any different from the 13 previous conferences. The international community and regional governments provided both the moral and material support to bring back some semblance of human civility to the chaos of Walaweynian Somalia. 

Unfortunately, the parties to the conflict donít have the ethical and moral integrity and/or the credibility to engage themselves in a genuine and sincere dialogue to settle their disputes at the negotiating table. The failure of all these never-ending conferences is basically the culture of the society. 

It is a culture that rejects any sense of responsibility for its behaviour. The irony is that the architects who engineered the demise of the old Somalia are negotiating to resurrect a new nation from the ashes of the old one. 

The undeclared agenda of the Arta peace conference of 2000 was based on a rather erroneous political gamble based on the premise that if the Hawiye, according to Salad Qassim's contention, were granted the position of life-time presidency, the rest of the Somali clans will immediately fall in line and the Somali conflict will be over within months. Of course, that was a naive and short-sighted miscalculation by the new elder statesman of the region. Four years later, Salad Qassim has proven himself to be a character of little credibility even within his own Hawiye clan. 

The rest of the southern community withheld their support and collaboration with Qassim's Made-in-Djibouti transitional national government. That is why Qassim's administration is confined to a mere 1km by 1.2km area in north Mogadishu. What it boils down to is the fact that the man lacks the basic credentials to run a modern nation-state. 

To shore up the sagging fortunes of the Mbagathi convention, Abdulrezak Haji Hussein and his supporters offered the Somali National Movement the presidency of a new Somali state. The objective was to create suspicion, uncertainty and chaos in Somaliland. But since that attempt backfired, the former prime minister has set his real intentions in motion. In a recent article, Mr Abdulrezak wrote, "The Darood and the Hawiye clans should relinguish the position of the presidency and the office of the prime minister in favour of other clans." 

On the surface, this is a categorical admission that the root cause of the current quagmire in southern Somalia, as well as the ultimate failure of the Somali state, has been mainly due to the irreconcilable and always antagonistic political ambitions of the said two communities. A coronation of sorts, shall we say, and a point for political pundits and historians to ponder for years to come? 

However, the flip side of the ex-prime minister's statement is a carefully well-timed prelude to a much sinister and far-reaching hidden agenda. The corollary to Abdulrezak's article is this: "The rivalry between our two communities has failed to make us accomodate each other; let us entice the Isaq group to act as a bulwark between us; let us explore this option for the last time." 

This has definitely refocused the disarrayed and hapless Somali pseudo-politicians. It has revitalised the moribund quasi-intellectual communities with an unprecedented sense of duty and responsibility towards the suffering and the agony of the Somali people. This new-found dose of latent energy is reawakening the hybernating Greater Somalia dream. The hordes of people heading for Mogadishu these days is a direct response to this new intitiative from the former prime minister. The message has struck a chord. 

Traders at Mogadishu's Bakara market. The architects who engineered the demise of the old Somalia are the ones negotiating to resurrect a new nation from the ashes of the old one.