The Largest Security-Cleared Career Network for Defense and Intelligence Jobs - JOIN NOW


Somalia Civil War - Southern Somalia

Despite UN Operations in Somalia (UNOSOM) efforts, the Somalis were not been able to reestablish traditional means of social control and administration of justice. The clans and subclans that had dominated all important aspects of life lost influence to a variety of political factions and armed militias. Large numbers of persons remained displaced and continued to live in fear for their lives and property.

By late 1994 the Somali leaders still had not carried out commitments entered into under the Addis Ababa Agreement and the Nairobi Declaration. The UNOSOM goal of assisting the process of political reconciliation was becoming ever more elusive, while the burden and cost of maintaining a high level of troops were proving increasingly difficult for Member States to justify. The presence of UNOSOM II troops was having a limited impact on the peace process and on security in the face of continuing inter-clan fighting and banditry.

The Hawiye clan's United Somali Congress (USC), which controlled much of southern and central Somalia, including Mogadishu, continued to be split between General Mohammed Farah Aideed of the Somali National Alliance (SNA) and Ali Mahdi Mohammed of the Somali Salvation Alliance (SSA). Attempts to reach reconciliation failed. In the extreme south, where Darod clans are strong, remnants of Siad Barre's Somalia National Front (SNF) vie for control with other groups, including a divided Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM). The Isaak-dominated Somali National Movement (SNM) continued to control the northwestern "Somaliland" area, and in the northeast, the divided Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF) controlled the traditionally Majertain homelands. In both areas, violent intrafactional conflicts developed during the last months of 1994. The fighting in Hargeisa, capital of the Somaliland region, was particularly intense and resulted in numerous civilian casualties and the suspension of almost all humanitarian assistance programs.

On 26 and 27 October 1994, before taking a decision on the withdrawal of UNOSOM II, the Council sent a mission to Somalia to convey its views directly to the Somali leaders. The mission concluded that 31 March 1995 was the appropriate date for the end of the mandate of UNOSOM II. None of the Somali factions, humanitarian agencies or non-governmental organizations had requested a longer extension.

On 1 November 1994, the United Somali Congress/Somali National Alliance (USC/SNA), led by General Mohamed Farah Aidid, and other factions convened a unilateral national reconciliation conference in south Mogadishu. This was against the advice and warning of the Security Council mission and the UN Special Representative, Mr. Victor Gbeho, who had warned that the convening of such a conference before the question of participation in it was resolved would be a recipe for continued strife.

Prior to the withdrawal of UNOSOM II, General Aidid and Mr. Ali Mahdi signed a peace agreement on behalf of the SNA and the Somali Salvation Alliance (SSA), respectively. In February 1995 they also signed three other agreements to manage the operations of the Mogadishu airport and seaport by a joint committee. The Mogadishu seaport was reopened to civilian traffic on 9 March 1995. The signing of these agreements helped to avert fighting over the facilities.

After the withdrawal of the last UN peacekeepers in 1995, clan and factional militias, in some cases supplemented by local police forces established with UN help in the early 1990's, continued to function with varying degrees of effectiveness.

On 15 June 1995, General Aidid was named "interim president" by his supporters. Following his announcement of a unilateral "government", General Aidid made an attempt to claim Somalia's seat at the OAU summit meeting, but OAU refused to recognize his "government" and decided to keep Somalia's seat open until a generally accepted government was formed. OAU urged the Somali leaders urgently to promote dialogue to ensure the formation of a broad-based national authority.

Repeated intervention by Ethiopian troops helped to maintain order in Gedo region, a base of support for a local radical Islamic group called Al'Ittihad. Police and militia committed numerous human rights abuses.

Serious interclan fighting occurred only in part of the country, notably in the central Somali regions of Bay and Bakool, in the southern regions of Gedo and Lower Juba, and around Kismayo. International efforts to forge a peace accord achieved little.

In a conference in Cairo, Egypt, in December 1997, all parties except two signed the so-called "Cairo Declaration." The Declaration provided for a 13-person council of Presidents, a Prime Minister, and a National Assembly. A national reconciliation conference was held early in the year in Baidoa to negotiate further details, including appointments, but produced no significant results. After months of detailed negotiations, Hussein Aideed, leader of the city's southern zone, and Ali Mahdi Mohammed, the dominant leader in the north, agreed on 30 July 1998 to form a joint provincial administration. However, this agreement did not lead to a more permanent settlement. Nominal supporters of both Aideed and Ali Mahdi objected to the agreement, generally on grounds of personal self-interest or the interests of their clan. In one brief instance, an opponent of the agreement launched a violent attack to undermine one of the agreement's key elements, the reopening of Mogadishu harbor.

Insecurity, bad weather, and crop-destroying pests helped worsen the country's already dire economic situation. The continuation of a ban against the export of livestock to the Gulf states and to Saudi Arabia worsened matters. During some times of the year, livestock exports accounted for far more than half the trade from some Somali ports. The country's economic problems caused a serious lack of employment opportunities and led to pockets of malnutrition in Mogadishu and some other communities.

There is no national judicial system. The three-tier national judicial system based on the 1962 Criminal Code and the 1963 Penal Code that was prepared by UNOSOM in 1993 could not be implemented because of the poor security situation. Although local authorities have attempted to administer some type of justice, few Somalis feel confident of protection from retaliation based on clan loyalties. By the end of 1994, no civil courts functioned. The vacuum created by the lack of a functioning government led to the expansion of the role of traditional clan-based Islamic courts. While in the past Islamic courts were used to settle property disputes, these courts increasingly heard criminal cases. Anecdotal evidence suggested that the Islamic courts are applying a very strict interpretation of Shari'a law. These informal courts are not standardized and do not provide for procedural safeguards that meet accepted international standards for a fair trial. There is no right to appeal the verdict of the Islamic courts, and defendants reportedly are not provided with legal counsel.

A Transitional National Government (TNG) was created in October 2000 with the three-year mandate of creating a permanent national Somali government. Puntland does not accept the TNG government and has gone temporarily independent. Although they declared their independence, the TNG does not recognize Somaliland and Puntland as independent republics but has been unable to reunite the country. Southwestern Somalia status is parallel to Puntland's. A spokesman of the new state told the UN in April 2002 that the RRA [Rahanwein Resistance Army] would participate in the Nairobi regional summit on Somali reconciliation, but "as the autonomous Southwestern State of Somalia." Somaliland does not participate. in Somaliland, Egal remained in power until his death on 3 May 2002. The vice president Dahir Riyale Kahin was declared the new president shortly afterwards.

Somalia's Transitional National Government, whose term in office ended 12 August 2003, will remain in power until a new government is formed. The transitional government was formed three earlier in Djibouti. The Somali peace talks, which began in 2002 in Kenya, bring together representatives from several African countries and more than 20 warlords who have been in battle since 1991. A big concern is whether President Abdiqassim Salat Hassan, who had walked out of the talks earlier, will give up his post. He had said then he would not recognize any government coming out of the talks. The prime minister, the speaker of the Parliament, and the majority of the TNG (Transitional National Government) participated in the conference and therefore will hand over power. The delegates to the peace talks are drafting a constitution for Somalia and, once that is done, will chose 351 members of parliament, which, in turn, will elect the next president.

On 28 January 2004 an accord was signed by Somali leaders on the political transition of their country, which has long been wracked by war and poverty. Meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, they reached agreement on a charter that would help lay the foundations for an effective, working system of government after years of civil conflict. UN Secretary General Annan encouraged Somali leaders to build on the progress achieved and swiftly conclude the Somali National Reconciliation Conference with the establishment of an inclusive government. The Secretary-General praised the work of Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, Uganda President Yoweri Museveni, other leaders of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and international supporters of the Somali peace process for their perseverance.

The signing marks the first time that all major Somali warlords have endorsed a document that could help end Somalia's 13-year civil war. The agreement consists of amendments to a controversial interim charter, which was adopted July 2003 by delegates to the Kenyan-sponsored talks. Among other things, the delegates at the July talks had agreed that a new transitional parliament would be in power for four years, and its 351 members would be selected by clan political leaders. But several factional leaders rejected the proposal for not including traditional elders in the selection process, and walked out of the talks. The compromise agreement reduces the number of parliament members to 275. And, while they will be elected by clan political leaders, all members must be endorsed by traditional elders as well. In addition, the transitional parliament would now be in power for five years, not four. Once the parliament is formed, members will choose a president who will, in turn, nominate a prime minister to form a government.

A final peace agreement is still some distance away. The warlords have yet to tackle the issue of how to share power among groups which, for more than a decade, have relied on guns to settle their differences.

In early February 2004 many Somali factional leaders said they rejected a landmark agreement on the formation of a new parliament they signed a few-days ealier. Factional leader Mohammed Sa'id Hersi, known as General Morgan, said the agreement that 30 warlords, politicians, and civil representatives signed in front of Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki on 29 January 2003 was not the same as the document they had agreed to just three-days earlier. He said there were significant changes made in the formal agreement that the signatories discovered only after the signing ceremony.

By 13 May 2004 at least 60 people had died in the latest fighting in the capital, Mogadishu, which has continued to rage for a fourth day, with hundreds wounded, and thousands displaced. One of the bloodiest episodes of fighting in the city in the last few years erupted after a disagreement between two militias of the same clan who are loyal to two business people. It involved forces guarding a hotel in the northern district of Behani, and those loyal to a local businessman from the Warsangeli clan, which reportedly attacked the hotel, the property of a businesswoman from the Wabudan clan.

In May 2006, heavy fighting broke out in Mogadishu between the non TFG-affiliated Supreme Islamic Courts Union (ICU) and TFG warlords hoping to curry favor with the United States by fighting against supposed terrorist supporters. The ICU was formed in 2000 by former members of al-Ittihad al-Islamiya (AIAI), a group that fought along with the ethnically-Somali Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). AIAI and OLF forces sought the secession of the Ogaden region from Southern Ethiopia. The TFG warlords, and a group known as the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (ARPCT), were widely believed to be receiving money from America. In June 2006, the ICU seized control of Mogadishu and much of the Southern Somalia, driving Yusuf's TFG from Jowhar to Baidoa. As of July 2006, Yusuf's government, with the backing of Ethiopia, still hoped to wrest power from the Islamists but had taken little action to do so. The ICU had pushed moderates aside and began to set up a conservative Islamic state. Yusuf has called for peacekeepers from the African Union since the fall of Mogadishu in June 2006, but many have feared that this could lead to further instability. TFG and ICU leaders met in Khartoum in June 2006 for peace talks, but no deal was reached. It might have been difficult to reach an agreement with the ICU, as it was composed of 11 different clans and an asymmetrical power structure.

Because the TFG did not have full control of Mogadishu when it was formed, it was forced to locate to Jowhar, a town 100 kilometers north of the capital. After the ARCPT was defeated in Mogadishu in June 2006, the TFG transferred its central location to Baidoia, 250 kilometers northwest of the capital. On 18 September 2006, a convoy carrying Yusuf was attacked by a suicide car bomber in Baidoa. Yusuf survived the attack, but 11 people were killed, including his brother. As of early October 2006, it appeared as if the TFG was going to lose Baidoa, the only major Southern Somali city not controlled by the ICU.

TFG and ARPCT forces began mounting attacks on ICU locations in the town of Burahakaba on 9 October 2006. Burahakaba was strategically very important, as it was located approximately 50 kilometers south of Baidoa on the road to Mogadishu. ICU Chairman, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, had stated that the Ethiopian army had fought along with TFG and ARPCT forces. Ethiopia denied this claim.

On 25 October, Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said that Ethiopia was "technically at war" with the ICU. He added that the conflict was not yet a "shooting war" and he preferred to avoid one. A contingent of Ethiopian troops, Zenawi concluded, would continue to assist and train forces of Somalia's interim government.

This commitment so exasperated any attempts at peace talks that the ICU and the interim government refused to meet face-to-face. On 11 November 2006, a breakthrough seemed apparent when the ICU announced that it had reached a peace deal with the government. The government was represented by parliamentary speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan. Almost immediately the government declared the deal "irrelevant," because Adan did not have any permission or authority to negotiate.

On 23 November 2006, Zenawi announced that Ethiopia was "ready for Islamist war." The UIC responded in kind, saying that it was prepared to face Ethiopia. The situation escalated on 28 November 2006 when Ethiopian troops engaged the UIC and fired rockets on Bandiradley, a strategic town north of Mogadishu. In response, the UIC ambushed an Ethiopian convoy and claimed it had killed 20 Ethiopians. A car bomb also went off in Baidoa, but the UIC denied any involvement. The same day, the Ethiopian parliament authorized "all legal and necessary steps against any invasion" by the UIC.

On 7 December 2006, the UN Security Council voted to authorize an 8,000-strong peacekeeping mission built from the forces of members of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). IGAD's 7 members at the time were Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, and Uganda. The makeup of IGAD, whose members supported both sides, was expected to make an actual mission difficult. The resolution also eased a 1992 arms embargo against the Somali government.

Bolstered by the UN resolution, the interim government attacked ICU positions on 8 December 2006 with assistance from Ethiopian troops. An ICU counterattack, meant to cut off Baidoa from Ethiopian assistance, targeted a town near the Somali-Ethiopian border. By January 2007, the Ethiopian government had claimed victory over the ICU, which had effectively been dispersed. In its place, a militant wing generally called al-Shabaab, continued to fight against the TFG and foreign forces.

In January 2007, the African Union Peace and Security Council authorized the deployment of the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) with 9 infantry battalions of 850 each, and the accompanying support elements. While a number of AU member nations pledged support, Uganda sent the bulk of the forces to support the mission. By 2008, of the authorized 9 battalions, only 3 had been deployed, together, with a level 2 field hospital.

Terrorist attacks have occurred against international relief workers, including Westerners, throughout Somalia, including Puntland and Somaliland. In every year since 2008, there have been violent kidnappings and assassinations, including by suicide bombing, of local and foreign staff working for international organizations. Additionally, there have been threats against Westerners in Somalia, including Somaliland. Terrorist operatives and armed groups in Somalia have demonstrated the intent to attack UN compounds and other places frequented by foreigners in Mogadishu, including Mogadishu International Airport.

Join the mailing list

One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias

Page last modified: 09-05-2013 17:36:01 ZULU