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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Son of Warlord Hearkens back to old Somalia

"What experience and history teach is this- that people and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it."

-George Wilhelm Hegel- Philosophy of History.


BULLETIN: Somalia: in awar-torn country polarized on the surface between Islamists and a western-backed transitional government, Somalis still struggle to find their independence in a revivial of the tribal concensus that once provided order.

IN THE NEWS TODAY. . Transitional Government Deputy Prime Minister Hussein Aideed, son of the late “warlord” Mohammed Aideed, turns against his Ethiopia-backed government and lambastes Ethiopia for its bloody attacks on Mogadishu.

LOOKING BACK: With the fall of Communism in q990, Somali Communist-backed President Siad Barre was overthrown and Somalia descended into the anarchy of rule by rival warlords. The situation was no better under the rule of the western-backed President, Ahmed Mahdi whose espousal of a westen-style state merely concealed a condition of anarchy. In 1993, however, in central and northern Somalia, Major Mohammed Aideed rose to defend the traditional consensus of rule by clans and tribes, known as "kritarchy' and the tribal constitution known as the 'Xeer'. Major Aideed unified tribes from the north and the centre and proposed an alternative to state rule from Mogadishu in the south. The West, briefly seeing the wisdom in it, backed Aideed as president. The result, inevitably, was civil war. When Aideed, on nationalist grounds, protested United Nations and US military and humanitarian intervention and American attempts to arrest him, his militia drove out the Americans, who lost 18 soldiers in the battle commemorated in "Black hawk Down". With his dream of balanced rule by clans in tatters, Aideed was assassinated in 1996. The anarchy increased with the arrival in Somalia of Islamist miltiants in 1998. Attracted by nothing more than the advantages of setting up shop in a failed state, the Union of Islamic Courts, as they came to be called, moved from the relatively stable north Somalia into anarchic south Somalia and Mogadishu. Many of them were adherents of Aideed's Hawiye clan of central and south Somalia. The Hawiye happened already to be rivals of the Darood clan of northern Somalia.

The possibility of a adminstrration by clans and a balance of power among tribes which had been the primciple behind the traditional 'Xeer' espoused by Major Aideed was now more remote than ever as Wahsington overlaid rivalries between north and south, between the northern clan system and the southern idea of a modern state- with its own War on Terror.

The US, having backed Ethiopia since the end of the Cold War, supported Ethiopia in an invasion of Somalia in the fall of 2006 in order to root out the Islamic Courts in the belief that they were working for Al Qaeda. In so doing, the Ethiopians pushed back the Islamic Courts Union and set up a Somali Transtional Government whose President Yusuf was, naturally, a member of the Darood clan. Members of the late Major Aideed's Hawiye tribe were to be found both in the Transitional Government and among the islamic Courts Union who opposed it.

More and more, the Hawiye have been trying to tell the world that the Islamic Courts and Washington's War on Terror are superficial. The real struggle is a tribal struggle between north and south, a struggle that erupted precisely because much of the indigenous, tribal system by which Somalia had been ruled had been destroyed by western colonialism, by intervention during the cold war and presently bythe War on Terror.

Now, major Aideed's son, Hussein Aideed, deputy Prime Minister in the Transitional government, and a Hawiye like his father, must be recalling his father's dream of in independent Somalia with an indigenous system of government. Having protested the intervention in Somalia by the Islamist and foreign-inspired Union of Islamic Courts and having agreed to intervention by Ethiopia, he has now seen Ethiopia going much too far in its intervantion by causing immense carnage in Mogadishu. Aideed junior wants Ethiopia out of Somalia.

Te conflict can best be understood by how far or how close Somalia is to returning to some reasonable form of traditional clan rule.

FROM PAST INTO PRESENT: Indeed, that was how Somalia more or less began. In 600-1000 AD Somaliss converted to Islam but remained a congeries of tribal domains and sultanates. Some sort of balance persisted even as coastal Somalia, in the 16th century, was occupied alternately by the Sultan of Zanzibar and by the Portugeuse. On behlaf of present day Ethiopia, it must be admitted that in 1535 the Somali Islamic warrior Sultan Gran attacked Christian Ethiopia and in the same century a Somali Islamist jihad was actually led against Ethiopia by one Ahmad ibn Ibrihim al Ghazi. Ethiopians to this day see Somali national and Islamist ambitions in the Ogaden region of eastern Ethiopia. Indeed it was Somali incursions in the Ogaden that supplied the pretext for the US-backed Ethiopian invasion.

By the mid 19th century, Somalia was the last region of Africa to be explored by Europeans. Shrotly afterward, however, European colonialists divided Somlia between a French-ruled northwest, a British north and an Italian south. In the north Britain preserved the clan system as means for governing. In the south, however, the Italians reduced and repressed the clan system in favour of a European-style centralized state which eliminated whatever order had been maintained by the tribes, leaving anarchy within the shell of an artificial state. It's not surprising that Somali nationalism developed not not in the Italian south but in the British north and under British occupation during World War Two. In 1960, Somalia gained independence. In 1969 Somalia fell viticm to the Cold War and was ruled by the Soviet-backed presdent,-Siad Barre. The fall of the Soviet Union in 1990 and the withdrawal of its influence left Somalia a mess of tribes but without the tribal traditions that once held it together, however loosely. That 'Kritarchy' and the Xeer have nevertheless persisted more in north than in the anarchic vacuum of south is an issue that remains at the heart of the struggle in Somalia.

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