|The Somaliland Times|
|ISSUE 40 October 26, 2002||
Notes on Mr. Omer Arteh Ghalib
Stratfor Strategic Forecasting
Omer Arteh Ghalib has one of the most distinguished diplomatic service careers in Somali history. His diplomatic career spans 30 years in international politics. He is remembered by Somalis as an educator, administrator, politician, and parliamentarian. Mr. Arteh has educated a substantial number of the Somali elite. He is a beloved and respected politician who is notable for his honesty, righteousness, and his love of his country.
Mr. Arteh is acknowledged as one of the most outstanding advocates for the liberation of Africa. Africans from Djibouti, Mozambique, Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Eritrea, just to mention a few, remember him as a liberator. Acclaimed as the bridge between Africa and the Arab world, he is accredited for making the former Somalia part of the Arab world. He is remembered by Muslims all over the world for his remarkable contribution as a spokesman and secretary-general for the organization of Islamic Countries (OIC).
Mr. Arteh is the eldest son of a devout Muslim family of five. He started Elementary and intermediate education in Hargeisa and completed Secondary education in Sheikh, and higher education in England. His father Mr. Arteh Ghalib, was a sailor in merchant ships and later an interpreter for the British. His father’s long absence helped him mature early. He started his career as a school master and then headmaster of elementary schools of Las-Anod, Berbera and Hargeisa respectively. Just before he went to UK in 1956, he was appointed as vice principal of Sheikh Intermediate School, a great honor, since Sheikh was the birthplace of education in Somaliland. After his success in Sheikh, he went to England for higher Education. On his return in 1958 he was promoted as the first principal of Gabileh Intermediate Boarding School.
As a teacher he had the ability to infuse his students with his own enthusiasm and energy. Outside the classroom, he organized them to act in plays personifying historical figures while himself playing the flute, and encouraged them to play sports as well. As a teacher, in teaching his students his aim was not just the blackboard and the exercise book, but to prepare them as the future leaders of the country. His dream came true, though shattered by wars, today his former students are ministers, Ambassadors, Generals, Administrators, and successful businessmen.
Being a young officer of great promise, he was elected as President of Somali Official Union of (SOBA) Somali Youth Organization, President of Teacher’s Association.
Prime Minister Interim Government
Mr. Arteh was unanimously elected by a national committee to take over power from dictator Said Barre. After a popular uprising ousted the dictator Siad Barre, his appointment as Prime Minister was reconfirmed. Mr. Arteh was for the third time re-appointed by the Djibouti National Reconciliation Conference. He was appointed head of government at an extremely fragile time.
The Tragic Years 1982 - 1988
On June 16, 1988, Siad Barre sent Arteh and a group of politicians to prison and charged them with high treason where they spent 6 years in solitary confinement. It was a very difficult period for him and his family.
"It was about 5pm in Mogadishu. The sun was being partially covered by clouds but its strong rays were conspicuously beaming through. "There was a sudden wind that shook the tall trees around our two-story villa, but it was soon followed by a pleasant breeze."
I just came back home from a barbecue lunch in one of the suburban restaurants- open air outside Mogadishu.
My wife and I were having a conversation with our children when suddenly the telephone rang. As it happens in all houses children rush sportingly to the telephone set. This time Ghalib (our youngest son) answered the telephone.
Ghalib was beginning to talk but he did not know what to say and hung up as though he was saying I do not want to hear it.
The telephone rang again and I answered. A familiar voice said "you are invited to a meeting in the vice-president's office."
I did not panic. I went to the party that was held in honour of a very good friend of mine, the Ambassador of the Kindom of Saudi Arabia, Dr. Daha Al Duqaythir. I was there only for a few minutes and I went to my office, organized it and left it locked as usual. Then I went to see my sisters Nura and Ilham to bid them good-bye as well.
Nothing took me by surprise. I was prepared for the worst because from the day I spoke in parliament, I was ready for any eventuality and I knew this was coming. Five minutes later an officer with an armed squad came in and searched my pockets at gun point. They found nothing and the only valuables I had on me were my watch and my pen that they took and later given back to me on my release.
They threw me into a cell uninhabited for years and in an indescribable condition - no bed nod bedding and no light. The cell had two doors - an outer steel door with a lock and an inner door with bars and a lock.
They left me there at the mercy of insects, snakes and small reptiles that were agitated by the intrusion of a big sized stranger. Fortunately, I had my luggage and a shawl which I used in a method I had learnt from our nomads when in difficult surroundings. Covering oneself with half of the shawl from head to feet, and using the other part as a ground sheet.
After six long years in solitary confinement, Mr. Arteh and the other politicians were tried in a communist-style court. The venue was the old parliament building transformed into a so-called National Security Court. “I stood handcuffed in the same podium were I used to stand as an elected representative of the people.” The Security Court as it was called was formed to systematically eliminate anybody who stood against the dictator, the same old story about dictators.
The judge read out the verdict as ‘Death Sentence for high treason.’ When this was known to the world, there was an uproar internally and externally. This frightened Siad Barre, and he commuted the sentence to house arrest instead.
Vice-president People’s Assembly 1980 - 1982
Mr. Arteh’s opposition to Siad Barre’s autocratic rule became evident when Siad Barre decided to keep him out of the government’s day-to-day business. His posting as Vice President of the People’s Assembly did not in any way stop him from serving his country. This period gave him a chance to see how his people felt about the dictatorial regime that he was defending in international circles.
The army was committing atrocities and injustice particularly against the people in the North, his own region. This led to the formation of the SNM in 1982, which waged guerrilla wars against Siad Barre’s regime. In an effort to correct conditions in the country, Mr. Arteh led a group of politicians and opened a dialogue with the dictator. They advised him to change his policies of aggression against his own people, and to keep the social fabric intact and to introduce democratic reforms to regain the confidence of the people. Unfortunately, Siad Barre sent them to prison for treason charges instead.
Minister of Presidency, 1979 - 1980
The Somali Ethiopian war was the turning point for him like many Somalis. The Somali army was defeated; withdrawing in March 1978 after many losses.
Ethnic Somalis in Ethiopia were displaced and poured into the Republic as refugees, thus creating bitterness against the regime.
Minister of Higher Education & Culture, 1977 - 1979.
Head of the Nation’s highest authority in education, Mr. Arteh contributed by improving the university system in the country.
Mr. Arteh fought hard to keep Arabic, English, and Italian languages as the media of instruction of the University and its faculties. It was, believed by many that the Somalization of the schools affected the standard of Education. In order to assess the situation, Mr. Arteh invited foreign groups to evaluate the standard of Education of Somali students, and expanded the academic program of the University.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, 1969 - 1976
Mr. Arteh is most famous as head of Somalia’s Foreign Ministry. During his term of office, Somalia saw itself transformed from a small country to a leader in Third World politics. All credit is due to this one man, who as Foreign Minister brought the world to Somalia, and successfully mediated Tanzania and Uganda when the two countries were at war. Apart from holding different International posts representing his country, he organized numerous conferences that were held in Mogadishu. These included:
East and Central Africa Summit, Mogadishu 1972, this regional conference had paved the way for the OAU summit that was held in Mogadishu. Statesmen including Emperor Haile Salaise of Ethiopia, came to Somalia. This was a turning point in the relationship between Somalia and Ethiopia, and saw for the first time an Ethiopian Emperor paying a friendly visit to Somalia.
Security Council Meeting, in Addis Ababa 1972, for the first and the last time so far, the Security Council members met outside New York in Addis Ababa, to discuss the question of Liberation of Africa. As President of the Security Council, it gave him a great sense of satisfaction to Chair the Security Council meeting in Africa, and discuss the liberation of Africa.
Making use of this opportunity, he arranged for the members to visit Mogadishu, Somalia. Somalia’s international prominence was apparent from the Security Council members’ visit to Somalia. Included in the members was former US President George Bush who then was US Ambassador to the United Nations in New York.
The OAU Summit, in Mogadishu 1974, the crowning achievement of Mr. Arteh’s relentless efforts to turn Somalia to a Third World power came in 1974, when he arranged to hold the OAU Summit in Mogadishu. In that year, he was the Chairman of the African Liberation Committee, Chairman of the OAU Conference.
Membership in the Arab League, 1974, this historic feat epitomizes his term as head of the Somali Foreign Service. Mr. Arteh is known to be the bridge of Afro-Arab relations. He is credited to have taken Somalia singly into the Arab league, a lifetime achievement. It was his personal friendship with the Arab leaders, in addition to the fact that Somalia has always been part of the Arab world that influenced them to accept Somalia as its newest member.
Secretary-General and Spokesman of the OIC from 1972 - 1975, while serving as Foreign Minister, he carried out additional responsibilities as the Secretary-general and Spokesman for the OIC for a period of three years. As Secretary-general of the OIC, Mr. Arteh laid down the foundations of the organization. The Organization under his leadership, mediated successfully in 1972 between Pakistan/Bangladesh and the Philippine Government and MORO Liberation front.
Member of Parliament, 1969
Ambassador to Ethiopia, 1965 - 1968
Diplomatic Service, 1961 - 1964
Administrative Service, 1960 - 1961