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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 108

Somalia: the Ethiopian occupation, the reconciliation pipedream, and the way forward

By Abdulkadir Abdirahman

For some everything that could go wrong for Somalia has came to pass, for others, considering how rapidly Mogadishu is turning into Baghdad, the worst, both for Somalia and the region, is yet to come. However, there is no dispute that each day that passes makes it more evident that occupation leads neither to "reconciliation" nor to a "way forward."

Seven months after disrupting what was widely recognized as "semblance of peace" that enabled Mogadishu to experience glimpses of normalcy, the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) who arrived in the Somali capitol on top of Ethiopian tanks continues on its brutal and self-sabotaging path.

June 26th would probably remain in Prime Minister Gedi's mind as the most politically challenging day of his three-year career. It is the day when Mr. Gedi came to Washington on an unofficial visit on his way to New York to address the UN Security Council.

His day started with an off the record meeting hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Along with Mr. Gedi, the center invited some academicians, policy researchers, and prominent Somali activists and organizational leaders.

In that meeting Mr. Gedi was rigorously scrutinized on three specific issues: "security, governance, and reconciliation." He scrambled desperately to provide cogent answers to some of the questions. On several occasions he had to rely entirely on his non-Somali spin-doctors who passed him notes.

He was asked whether or not his government (in light of the renewed violence and chaos) was capable of expanding its power outside Mogadishu and if it has the capacity and the vision to move Somalia out of its current turmoil. His response was expectedly "yes." He said "It was our strategic position to control the city in a peaceful manner. We have succeeded in bringing peace to the city with the support of the Ethiopian government…," leaving the audience with sense of disbelief and dismay.

When asked about how Ethiopia could be part of the solution considering its lingering political animosity and suspicion in relation to Somalia, his answer was "True that there was a history between Somalia and Ethiopia, but that history has changed and that is the perception of the Somali people."

Furthermore, he was asked about the evident corruption and the viability of his "warlord infested government" and how characters such as Abdi Qaybdiid with 17 year record of killing, displacing, and starving countless Somalis, who is believed to have masterminded the Black Hawk Down battle that killed 18 US Rangers and over a thousand Somalis could ever be part of the solution. Also Mohammed Dheere (one of the most brutal of all the warlords- a man who is Mr. Gedi's closest of kin and the one who vacated his parliament seat to enable the Prime Minister who was never elected through the clan representation process to win office) and appointing him as the Mayor of Mogadishu in charge of restoring peace and order.

Brushing off the question, Mr. Gedi's said that only time will tell if the TFG has become a warlord-infested government. Of course forgetting the statement he made as he appointed this ruthless character: "This is not the time for soft, reflective consensus builders…We need strong leaders who can implement their programs. Mohammed Dheere is the right man at the right time." The new Mayor of Mogadishu has his own private militia to implement his program.

Perhaps the question that cornered Mr. Gedi the most and put him through political dire straights as it gave a human face to what became a routine power-abuse is the one raised by one of the Somali activists: "Mr. Prime Minister, since the Ethiopian invasion, Somalis have suffered- young men, businessmen and the leaders of the civil society became a daily target. People were and still are being taken out of their homes in the dead of the night; NGOs' officers are being detained and their basic rights violated. A member of our organization is currently in Somalia and has sadly detailed to us the violation of your personal security forces that invaded their NGO and took everything that was movable. You know these people as they are your neighbors. My question is when will these violent efforts of silencing the civil society (organizations) end?"

Mr. Gedi resorted to his routine equivocation and baseless accusations claiming that "Some of these NGOs had 1000s of metric tons of weapons which we found and that should not be." although none have been charged nor convicted.

Later that same day, a coalition of eleven Diaspora-based Somali organizations has organized a rally outside the State Department. This marked the first time since the bloody fratricide that a coalition of Somali organizations transcending clan and regional divisions were formed.

The day closed with a delegation of six individuals representing the coalition meeting with Deputy Assistant Secretary James Swan of the US State Department and expressing their concerns regarding the Ethiopian occupation, the recent Mogadishu massacre and continued brutality, the violation of the system of checks and balances which led to the unconstitutional termination of the "free Parliamentarians" (the oppositions in the Parliament), the humanitarian and human rights abuses, and the "extraordinary renditions" condemned by Amnesty International.

The delegation stressed that genuine peace and reconciliation hinges upon the removal of these barriers- something that they would reiterate in an official letter to the UN Secretary General and members of the Security Council.

Abdulkadir Abdirahman is Somali American Community activist who lives in Washington DC Metro Area.

- Asian Tribune -

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