Center for Peace and Democracy (CPD)

Friday, November 25, 2005

Regrettable Episode Unfolding Again!!

Prime Minister Ali Muhammad Ghedi’s recent comments on the issue of “One Somalia” principle (or Somali Weyn concept) raised some eyebrows [1]. The Prime Minister spoke about the relations between the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia and the neighbouring countries of Kenya and Ethiopia, pointing out that there is no territorial (and people) dispute between them. Ghedi’s comments underlined that Somalia and its neighbours together, as IGAD members, could form the starting point for securing stability in the region and building an economic and political cooperation. This, in turn, can guarantee the basis for a new socio-political framework of permanent well-being of all Somalis in the Horn of Africa.

This “optimistic outreach” has been interpreted differently, especially Somalis in the Diaspora. However, the majority of the Somalis in the Diaspora insist that Ghedi chose to shorten his journey to political ascendancy; and more importantly, the new TFG which also opted to mute Somali Weyn cause will surely find itself navigating in unmarked, maybe dangerous waters, like the elected 1967 civil government. To realize to the extent of the problem, many Somalis in the Diaspora have never, to begin with, accepted the peace-brokered efforts of Ethiopia and Kenya as genuine; they believe that it was a careful orchestrated scheme set up to lead Somalis to relax its Somali Weyn vigilance. In gathering places, you see Somalis fiercely debating whether any peace brokered by Somali neighbours could be real!

Furthermore, some political analysts have recently drawn to the conclusion that the Somali nation-State, as it was before the civil wars, is hardly to re-emerge. Yet, as an ethnic group, Somalis do play a vital role in the stability and the development of the region. This paradox is seemingly but exceptionally contradictory. Somali nomads were roaming in the Somali Peninsula for centuries, mostly without a Central Authority. Despite the many instances of clan-warfare, dismemberment, and anarchy, Somalis have always maintained the capabilities to deflect any permanent domination/occupation. There is always a common Somali denominator in the minds of the nomads, even though it does not manifest in their dealings of clan-politics. Therefore, foreign observers often find difficult to read nomads’ clan-politics; and therefore reach an elusive conclusion which frequently manifest itself in futile. This short paper will therefore attempt to reflect on the history of foreign complicity and manipulation in making “One Somalia” principle somehow redeemable.

Since 1991, Somali neighbours (particularly, Ethiopia and Kenya) have launched a series of political maneuvers to realize their determination of convincing the general Somali populace to swallow the unassailable Somali Weyn identity and unification. Taking advantage of the current Somali debacle, our neighbours have regularly intimidated Somali clan-elders, faction leaders/warlords, and regional leaders to first and foremost abandon any attempts that unify the Somalis and thus regenerate challenges against the existence artificial boundaries inherited from the European colonial administrations in the region. Thus, whenever a Somali peace reconciliation conference is held in Ethiopia or Kenya, the host takes a more drastic, but obvious covert actions to indicate to the Somalis that its toleration of any tendencies of Somali Weyn is wearing thin. However, failure of such political maneuvers to generate the desired intimidating effect will surely force the neighbouring countries to resort to either more reckless military attacks on Somalia or galvanize the West to “contain” Somalia for them. To measure Kenya and Ethiopia’s success or failure in resolving the territorial disputes, one has to look back the 1960s conflicts in the region.

The 1960s Scenario

At the inception of the Somali Republic in July 1st 1960, Somali leaders openly put forth their ambitions to rehabilitate the sovereignty of all Somalis in the Horn of Africa, including the Ogaden region of Ethiopia and the Northern Frontier District/Province of Kenya. This political line has immediately strained the relations between the new born Somali Republic and Ethiopia. For some time, the two sides accused each other for territorial violation and armed aggression on its borders. These border clashes led Somalia to seek military aid from the former U.S.S.R. On an interview conducted in English at his office in November 30, 1963, the Prime Minister of Somalia, Abdirashid Ali Shermarke, declared that “military aid promised by the Soviet Union is being accepted only because Somalia must defend itself from the Ethiopian attacks and pillaging of the Somali peoples.” Premier Shermarke also explained Somalia’s critical dilemma from an economic stand point in which he underlined that “ Somalia’s treasury could not much longer cope with the problem of feeding and sheltering thousands of Somali refugees”, escaping from the mayhem caused by the Ethiopian soldiers in the Ogaden region [2].

Extensive Political and media provocations between the two sides have instigated a sudden but sporadic bloody border clashes, as early as January of 1964. The Somali Foreign Minister, Abdullahi Isse Mohamud had submitted an official protest letter to the Ethiopian Ambassador in Mogadishu, Ahadu Sabura. By March of that year, the conflict widened into a full-scale war, both arms confronting at border between Somalia and Ethiopia. In these border clashes, Ethiopian military planes destroyed numerous police posts and civilian houses inside Somalia. Ethiopian military campaigns caused indiscriminate killings of civilians and wounding many others. Ethiopian border soldiers raided livestock belonging to Somali nomads and opened fire when the nomads resisted.

Moreover, Ethiopia and Kenya agreed to form a mutual defense pact that they referred as “a joint measures of dealing with the Somali disturbances” – a move which Somalis considered “as contrary to the spirit of the OAU” [3]. The few reconciliation efforts, in regional level, that have been arranged also failed to produce any peace settlements. At the Organization for African Union (OAU) Summit Conference in Cairo (July 23, 1964), African leaders have attempted to reach a ‘Resolution’ that satisfies on both sides; however, it failed to do so. Somali News in Mogadishu published that “Somalia will not be bound by the OAU ruling [which states] that its member-States’ present frontier are to be maintained”, in which the Somali National Assembly had passed a motion against OAU ruling, in October of 1964. That is, the Somali government officially rejected the outcome of the Cairo Conference, regarding on frontier issues.

In a net assessment of the outcome of the Somali-Ethiopian border skirmishes is that Super Power interventions in the region have officially began. Somali sought the military and technical aid of the Soviets; while the Ethiopian regime involved actively in convincing, as it seems, the American Administration to tackle Somali Weyn cause.

In September 1974, a conference held in Washington, sponsored by the Center for the National Security Studies was presented proceedings and papers on the subject of “The CIA and Covert Action”. Roger Morris and Richard Mauzy presented a comprehensive piece of research which is, as they state, based on both written sources and many oral conversations that they had with US decision-makers and foreign policy officials who supplied them many of their research discourse [4]. The title of their research paper is: Following the Scenario: Reflection on Five Case Histories in the Mode and Aftermath of CIA Intervention.

Morris and Mauzy unveil that the U. S. Central Intelligence Agency had been clandestinely funneling mainly a financial support to the political actors in Somalia since mid 1960s, in an effort to ward off Somali Weyn tendencies inside top brass leadership. In 1967 election campaigns, for example, the CIA provided thousands of dollars to assist in the election of the Prime late Prime Minister Mohamed Haji Ibrahim Egal and some of his fellow Somali Youth League (SYL) members. Here is a selection from Morris and Mauzy’s case history of CIA ‘campaign of financing’ in the 1967 Somali elections:
An impoverished land of less than three million along the northeast­ern coast of Africa where the Indian Ocean meets the Gulf of Aden, Somalia was of concern to Washington for a number of reasons. Ir­redentist claims threatened border warfare with both Kenya and Ethi­opia, the latter a long-time U.S. client state under Haile Selassie and the site of a major intelligence base. Somalia was also an early recipient of Soviet aid in Africa, and its coastline held potentially strategic ports for any future rivalry in the Persian Gulf or Indian Ocean, an interest shared by France and Britain. At that, however, the country was appar­ently not an urgent concern in U.S. diplomacy. When Somalia pre­dictably rejected a 1963 American offer of "defensive" arms, conditioned on the exclusion of all other supplies, the State Department leaked its "displeasure" but seemingly did no more.

Over the next four years, 1963-1967, official U.S.-Somali relations were distant and U.S. aid next to nothing while Somali leaders visited the Soviet bloc, Somali newspapers published anti-American forgeries planted by Soviet intelligence, and the country fought a brief but bloody border war with Ethiopia. Then suddenly, early in 1967, history took a turn for the better. President Abd-i-Rashid Shermarke was elected for a six-year term as President in June and in July appointed as Premier Muhammad Egal, American-educated and avowedly pro-Western. By fall, U.S. aid was resumed in amounts twice the previous total since independence, and Somalia had concluded a border agreement with Ethiopia [see the footnote to read the 1967-68 Somali Border Agreements with Ethiopia and Kenya] [5]. In 1968 Egal visited the United States, following a visit to Somalia by Vice President Humphrey, and was hailed by President Johnson as "enormously constructive in a troubled area of Africa." What the two leaders did not discuss, say official sources, was how "constructive" the CIA had been for Mr. Egal, whose rise, to power was reportedly facilitated by thousands of dollars in covert support to Egal and other pro-Western elements in the ruling Somali Youth League party prior to the 1967 Presidential election.

In retrospect, this clandestine bankrolling in Somalia seems very modest by CIA standards, only a tiny fraction of what the Agency has spent in a month in Southeast Asia or even what it spent in the Congo in the early sixties. And its immediate benefits-in rising U.S. influence, in the detente with a grateful Ethiopia-no doubt seemed real enough at the time. In any event, several sources say the subsidies were discontin­ued in 1968. But the withdrawal was to be perhaps too late. On October 15, 1969, while Egal was again visiting the United States, President Shermarke was assassinated. A week later the Army seized power, dis­solving the National Assembly and Constitution and arresting the entire Cabinet, including Egal. Among the charges against Egal would be corruption of the electoral process and complicity with foreign intelli­gence services. Ironically, the bizarre CIA political contributions before 1967 may have been a decisive factor in the eventual fall of the Agen­cy's candidate [6].
Reflecting the unwise decisions made by the CIA about its covert political interventions and subsidies, Premier Egal’s government lasted less than three years. In October 21st 1969, a military led coup d'état replaced the civilian government, detaining and charging (as mentioned above) the civilian Prime Minister of ‘complicity with foreign intelligence’. The military men have actually spoiled the CIA agenda – whether this was also instance of complicity of another foreign factor/s or genuine local revolutionary respond that vehemently opposed to the unfolding scenarios of border agreements, is debatable. However, one thing was sure: the military takeover was a bloodless transition that succeeded to frustrate the pro-American elements in the country and ended the American subsidiary civilian government. Italian writer, Luigi Pestalozza, who observed and recorded the early unfolding events of the Somali military Revolution states that “No tears were shed for the men who thus left the stage forever, disappearing from the [political] history of Somalia [7].”

The military regime soon declared to the commitments of “Greater Somali” doctrine, stressing that colonialism comes in all shades: White and Black – i.e. there are both White (European) and Black (referring to Ethiopians) colonizers. Despite the ousted government’s ‘marathon’ Border Agreements, the revolutionary regime simply regarded all border treaties as null and void; and thus an atmosphere of “no war and no peace” was created in the region.

The Somali military leadership also declared without hesitation that they will employ the use of force, as an ultimate answer, to unite Somalis in the region and resolve the territorial dispute between Ethiopia and Somalia. The leader of the Somali Revolution, Mohamad Siyad Barre, expressed his dissatisfaction with the OAU and the UN efforts to solve the prolonged Somali dilemma; and subsequently, he prepared the Somali nation to go to war.

Therefore, the lessons to be learned from the 1960s’ foreign intervention in the politics of the Somali State have been disastrous. So far, all the previous means utilized by foreign forces/agencies to intervene in Somali politics – including misinformation, manipulation, and conspiracy against the Somali nation-State – produced bad harvests or may I say remained in the memories of few Somali individuals.

Premier Ghedi’s Remarks: Flippant or Optimistic Outreach

Unless we overturn Premier Ghedi’s remarks (on Somali Weyn issue) and read it in the context of ‘optimistic outreach’, mainly catered to the ‘spirit’ of IGAD propositions and efforts of regional stability and cooperation, the 1960s futile strategies of “I jiid aan ku jiidee” scenario inside the Somali parliament seems unfolding again. For example, in mid 1964, an uproar and misunderstanding created a heated debate in the parliament, splitting the Somali National Assembly when the then Prime Minister, Abdirizak Haji Hussein put forth a sensitive program on the table, regarding the issue of Somali Weyn. Regrettably, the program was named: “The Destiny of the Somalis Living in Ethiopian Territory and NFD.” The importance and the sensitivity of the Somali Weyn feelings, inside the walls of the Somali Parliament, have been recorded expressively by Jeanne Contini in this manner:

All opposition speakers chose to interpret the reference to “in Ethiopian territory, etc.” as government acknowledgment of Ethiopian and Kenyan Sovereignty over Somali in-habited areas, thus concluding that the government had no intention of liberating the territories under foreign rule. The Prime Minister explained that there had been a misprint in the first published version of the program, and that the reference was later corrected to read “The Destiny of Somali Territories under Ethiopian and Kenyan Domination.” In countering the attack, he also called the attention to the fact that a Minister (without portfolio) for Somali Affairs had been included in the Cabinet for the first time, and that his function was expressly to deal with the problems of “Greater Somalia.” (One deputy thereupon criticized the title of the new Minister as having been inspired by foreigners, because it should have been “Minister for the Somali Affairs under Foreign Rule”) [8].

Bearing in mind the history of Somali Weyn controversy, conventional wisdom also informs us that due to the current tragic situation the TFG would not dare now to risk losing the support of Ethiopia and Kenya for the sake of Somali Weyn Principle. In addition, the clan-infested Somalis of today might also be reluctant to deal now any border disputes with their neighbours. Although we could not be certain about how Ethiopia and Kenya may respond to the re-emergence of Somali Weyn tendencies in Somalia, a military option will be their least option. Our neighbours are aware of the fact that Somali clannism presented them a valuable gift – i.e. an opportunity for covert operation. An open conflict between Clan-loyalty and State-loyalty is now fighting on the common grounds of Somali once again. It is therefore very difficult to tell a Somali from a Kenyan or Ethiopian; in fact, all sides are represented by Somali clans. A token subsidy can provide opportunities for recruiting clan-oriented Somalis as foreign agents.

Publicly, Prime Minister Ghedi should not however risk appearing to be too soft on “One Somalia” Principle because, as he is aware of it, recruiting Somali nomads by foreigners will not last that long. After all, nomad-loyalty is like a moving cloud which often betrays, and often shows us the nakedness of the true blue-sky. Thus, he should rather be remembered for achieving a “truce’ and understanding that concerns on our neighbours, without creating a political blunder. Yet, he has also to make sense to attract Somalis in order to look credible and trustworthy.

In doing so, the Prime Minister freezes his local enemies without a battle; he alienates them without insulting them and crushes their Isbaaro fiefdoms without military operations. To succeed in this strategy, the Premier has to convince all sides of the equation that he is prepared to act as a goodwill politician who is willing to avoid flippant remarks, irrespective of the consequences. In this way, the Prime Minister can reason his intent to tone down his declamatory speeches on the issue of Somali Weyn, unlike the forthright declamation speeches delivered by his predecessors. Finally, he should remind the Somali populace to espouse and commit their efforts to rebuild their shattered Somali Republic; and only then, when the Republic earns the rightful international recognition for the status of “recuperated” Somalia, can the issue of border talks resume on an equal footing.

A. S. Faamo
Roobdoon Forum
Toronto, Canada
roobdoon2000@yahoo.ca

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References:

[1] A telephone- interview with the BBC World Service, Somali Section, on November 11, 2005.

[2] An interview conducted at the Premier’s Office in November 30th 1963. Sources from The New York Times and Hindustan Times, New Delhi.

[3] Africa Confidential, No. 1, (January 10, 1964), p. 7.

[4] Rogers Morris and Richard Mauzy, “Following the Scenarios: Reflections on Five Case Histories in the Mode and Aftermath of CIA Intervention”, in The CIA File (New York: Grossman Publishers, 1976), edited by Robert L. Borosage and John Marks, p. 28.

[5] On the first week of September, 1968, the Ethiopian Herald covered Premier Egal’s four-day official visit to Addis Ababa. Mr. Egal signed a joint communiqué with Ethiopia that aimed to create a good neighbourly relation between the two countries. Immediately after he signed the communiqué with his counterpart, Mr. Akilu Habtewold, Ethiopian Herald published Egal’s comments about the talks between the two sides, stating that he has said, “It is going to be the beginning of a new era in the Ethiopian-Somali relation.” Also, Roobdoon Forum has posted the Somali Border Agreements on the following websites:

http://www.biyokulule.com/somali%20border.htm
http://www.dhahar.com/articles/roobdoon101105.html
http://www.laasqoray.net/article.php?articleid=565
http://www.radiosanaag.com/roob.htm

[6] Rogers Morris and Richard Mauzy, “Following the Scenarios: Reflections on Five Case Histories in the Mode and Aftermath of CIA Intervention”, in The CIA File (New York: Grossman Publishers, 1976), edited by Robert L. Borosage and John Marks, p. 3-38.

[7] Luigi Pestalozza, The Somalian Revolution, translated from Italian by Peter Glendening (Paris: Editions Afrique Asie Amerique Latine, 1974), p. 40.

[8] Jeanne Contini, “The Somali Republic: Politics with a Difference,” Africa Report, Vol. 9. No. 10 (November, 1964), p. 6.
The opinions contained in this article are solely those of the writer, and in no way, form or shape represent the editorial opinions of "the Center for Peace and Democracy in Somalia (CPD)"