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Issue 533/ 14th - 20th Apr 2012
Calling A Spade A Spade
By Ahmed I. Hassan – Part 7
The post-Siyad Barre era has, indeed, been a tumultuous period for Somalis everywhere. The persistence of this turmoil is fueled by two stubborn legacies of his regime.
The first caustic legacy is that his metaphorical avowal to “leave neither a country nor a people intact behind” had been no mean joke. It was for real. Before he was forced out of power, he had made absolutely certain that there would be no national cohesion; no national institutions; thoroughly shattered inter-communal customs; erosion of the traditional authorities of clan elders, clerics and statesmen in the society and ingrained mistrust as well as ill-will between all sectors of the society upon his departure. This is in addition to the unspeakable physical human suffering which he caused to so many whom he had been supposed to serve and protect.
People and especially Somalis are, by nature or necessity, resilient. They are bound to strive rebuilding their personal lives as best as they can. However, rebuilding a national life (that is reconstituting a state) is entirely another matter. Attempting to accomplish such an intricate task is a tall order at the best of times. In the absence of national cohesion, institutions, goodwill and trust, respect for leadership both modern and traditional etc. it is a devilishly monumental undertaking.
Then, there is another crucial factor that the country’s systematically broken state has brought into more ubiquitous and complicating play. Now, devoid of the conventional national defense mechanisms and a unified representative authority to speak on its behalf, Somalia’s foreign meddlers have become like hyenas living in the same encampment as the sheep.
For the second Siyad legacy that continues to sustain the Somali disorder, revisit the veracity of the previously mentioned Somali adage, “Rather than what [the suffering] he caused to us, what [the misbehavior] he taught us is more harmful”. More than twenty year after his downfall and under entirely different circumstances, there are still those Somalis who still adhere to—and strive to replicate—some of his perspectives and/or practices.
One of the crucial pillars of the dictator’s regime had been the manipulation of tribalism. As a matter of policy, he had persecuted certain tribes in more ways than one. He used all means that had been available to him to disadvantage these tribes. Among those, for instance, he had employed his autocratic powers to redraw the country’s regional borders in order to dilute the political influence and otherwise disenfranchise those who had been in his disfavor.
Conversely, he used to openly confer undue and conspicuous favors to other tribes. These indulgences traversed all corners of the state assets and institutions as well as employment and business opportunities. Nothing was off limits in dispensing this gigantic generosity. Where, for example, he had interfered with the regional borders at the expense of the disliked tribes, he had created new regions in order to empower the favored ones beyond their actual numbers and traditional habitats. As the backbone of both his grassroots support and ruling establishment, the main beneficiary of this limitless largesse was, of course, his own tribe: the Darod.
Having been uninterruptedly enjoying these lopsided privileges for long, the beneficiaries have in due course come to take them for granted. Then they saw the favors as their unalienable right. Then they developed untoward behavioral attitudes such as offensive arrogance, shallow superiority complex and reinforced clannish chauvinism among others. They saw their role as the country’s natural rulers and first claimants of its resources. All others were their subjects and the scavengers of the leftover crumps. That their easier circumstances were only possible at the expense of fellow Somalis was forgotten long ago if, indeed, it had registered with them in the first place.
The regime that had instituted this unsustainable environment inevitably collapsed in 1991 like a house of cards. However, the spoiled brats, the elites of all tribes would not shake off their acquired chauvinism addiction and adapt to the new circumstances.
After their initial shock at the loss of the goose that had been laying the golden eggs, the spoiled brats regrouped. They decided that, in any entity or governing authority that might replace the erstwhile Somali republic and/or the fallen regime, most if not all of their exclusive privileges of the old should be maintained in the new. This is because these privileges, in case you have forgotten—stupid!—was their inalienable right. Nothing less would suffice. They had their own plans and intrigues to insure that this happened. Besides, whenever or wherever an arrangement which would not be amenable to their wishes was contemplated, it should be frustrated until it was rendered undoable.
The cornerstone of the chauvinists’ strategy transpired to be the revival of most elements of the old Siyadist order—in substance if not in style—in any new Somali entity or governing authority. Where any of their demands could not be realized directly, it would be ingeniously (or may we say disingenuously?) repackaged and sold to Somalis and the International community at large as a new and appropriate idea that should contribute to the Somali reconciliation and state- rebuilding processes.
In this regard, consider the following selection of maneuverings, among many others, which could not escape any perceptive scholar of the Somali political dynamics in the last two decades:
Ø The Darod has left no stone unturned in putting wedges between the sub-clans of the Hawiye tribe especially the two main sub-clans, the Abgal and the Habr Gidir, at every opportune instance. The purpose was obvious: A divided Hawiye was a week Hawiye and as such could be more easily manipulated by playing one sub-clan against another whenever the need or the desire arose. This would confer more power and influence to the Darod than should be fairly its due.
Ø In 1988 the Darod sub-clan, the Mejertan, established what they so-called the Puntland State of Somalia. This scheme had two primary objectives.
a) The first was to create a large expanse of territory that would be effectively outside the jurisdiction of any central authority which was likely to emerge in Mogadishu—essentially handing them veto powers or disproportionate influences over the form and shape of potential national entity and/or governance that might eventually materialize.
b) Somaliland was direct target of the second objective of the ‘Puntland’ theatrics. Its castle-builders declared that certain regions of Somaliland were part and parcel of Puntland. The only justification they forwarded as the basis of their strange assertion was even stranger: These regions were home of kindred clans of the Mejertan (the Mejertan of Somalia along with the Dhulbahante and the Warsangele of Somaliland collectively make the Harti, a sub-tribe of the Darod). It was the first time ever in Somali history that a Somali entity was not only proposed to be constituted on purely clannish foundations, but also the proposers did so with a straight face without the slightest trace of shame, irony or incongruity discernable. (This was yet again another Darodist precedent. From that time to this day, purely clannish xxxxxx-State-of-Somalia enclaves à la Puntland have cropping up in Somalia like weeds in an unkempt garden. One or two have been also attempted in Somaliland. At least give the Isaac credit for protesting the Wailers’ assertion that Somaliland is a one-clan entity). What blinded them from seeing this absurdity was the other purpose of the ‘Puntland’ creation: It was an attempt to deny Somaliland one of the fundamental tenets of statehood i.e. its territorial integrity within defined borders. If successful this would have rendered Somaliland neither feasible nor viable.
Ø The fiendish 4.5 power-sharing mechanism was the brainchild of the Darod and others with similar chauvinistic interests or aspirations. The system bestows the Darod the lion’s share of power, which in reality is not commensurate with their numbers and other defining attributes. With the Ogaden, by far the most numerous of Darod’s sub-clans mostly found in Ethiopia and Kenya, the other Darod sub-clans—the Majertan, the Dhulbahante, the Warsangale and the Merehan—can at best rank as the fourth biggest tribe in the erstwhile Somali Republic, behind the Hawiye, the Rahanwein and the Isaac. At any rate, the overriding purpose of the 4.5 invention was the malicious marginalization of the Isaac. In the process, other undeserving tribes, such as the Samaroon of Somaliland and the Dirs of Somalia were also adversely shed in bad light numerically speaking, that is.
Ø The addicted chauvinists have been behind the defeat of every post-Siyad national authority not to their liking, which was attempted to be established in Mogadishu. Count them with me if you may: Ali Mahdi, Aidid, the Abdiqasim TNG, and the Sharif/Farmajo TFG (though Farmajo is a Darod, he was not a diehard addicted chauvinist; rather, he was their black sheep). When they succeeded to be at the helm of a government in Mogadishu, they could not have made a worse choice than Abdillahi the Traitor as their candidate and eventual ‘president’. Thus his subsequent demise reserved them right. But that was a temporary aberration. The grand plan is back on track. These days, they are more amenable to the Sharif/Abdiwali TFG since it is more acquiescent to the grand plan.
Ø If one reads between the lines of the so-called Road Map, the Garowe I and Garowe II agreements, the drafts of the much-hyped Constitution, one would see that the elitist pork barrel special privileges are essentially and ingeniously (or may we say disingenuously) embedded in these documents. One telling point of this is the proposal to maintain the so-called 18 Regions that Siyad Barre had imposed on the nation without legitimacy and whose sole purpose and outcome was the institution of the very elitist pork barrel special privileges that the addicted chauvinists are after anew.
There are those who argue, and not without substantial credence, that this chauvinism addiction and the tireless efforts to keep that affliction is the main driving factor behind not only the persistent intractability of the turmoil in Somalia, but also some recurring—though typically less successful—threats that Somaliland has been subjected to since its rebirth.
To be continued