The Civil Initiative
The Somali National Peace Conference was originally conceived in March 1998 by the regional body Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). After the Somali state collapsed in 1991, 13 conferences variously hosted or convened by the US, UN, Ethiopia and Egypt failed to make significant progress, leaving Somalia without a central government for nearly a decade. Faction leaders maintained tenuous control of clan-defined areas in the south, including the capital, Mogadishu; Somaliland, in the northwest declared itself an independent republic in 1991, adopting the old British Somaliland boundaries; and Puntland in the northeast became an autonomous region.
In 1998 the chair of IGAD, former Djibouti president, Hassan Guled Aptidon, asserted that any Somali peace process should be moved away from the faction leaders and warlords. The initiative to hold the next conference in Djibouti was taken in March-April 1999 when newly elected Djiboutian president, Ismail Omar Guelleh, took over the IGAD chair. Djibouti negotiated with Ethiopia to move the Somali peace mandate to the current chairman. The importance of “civil society” - namely academics, NGOs and women - had been recognised in 1993 in the second UN-organised conference in Addis Ababa, but the delegations had been sidelined while peace and power negotiations revolved around faction and militia leaders.
The IGAD initiative converged with a movement among Somali academics to hold a national conference based on civil society in Djibouti. Djibouti was proposed as the most suitable environment, as a Somali state, with no language barriers: but is not accepted as neutral by all. A Djibouti-hosted conference in 1991 had played a disastrous role when politicians and businessmen elected Hawiye businessman Ali Mahdi Mohamed as president. He was immediately challenged by fellow Hawiye aspirant, former ambassador and military leader, General Mohamed Farah Aideed. Clan-led battles revolving around land, economic and power issues pulled in other armed clan alliances across the country. Famine, killings, and the unprecedented destruction of the Somali state and its capital Mogadishu eventually resulted in a US-led military intervention in 1992, which failed to curb the power of the warlords. Intervention ended in the deaths of UN peacekeepers, US troops, and hundreds of Somalis, and led to effective international abandonment of a country without government, institutions or basic services.
Once the Djibouti initiative had international and regional backing - although often tinged by scepticism and fear of security repercussions - a general invitation was put out, directed at Somali traditional leaders and civil society. Djiboutian delegations travelled to different regions to encourage attendance.
Somaliland and Puntland administrations rejected the conference, as did faction leaders in Mogadishu. Conference representatives say, however, that all the main clans are now represented and most of the sub-clans. The conference, held in Arta, 30 km from the capital, has the official backing of the UN Secretary-General, the Arab League, the Organisation of African Unity, as well as IGAD. It aims in July to elect a Transitional National Council, a President and a Prime Minister.
Established in March, a Technical Committee was established made up of some of the key academics (many expatriate since the early 1990s) who campaigned for a peace process based on civil society since establishing the Somali Intellectuals Forum in 1993. The Technical Committee has eight members and liaised with the Djibouti government, until an all-Somali conference committee was elected 15 May.
Professor Mohamed Abdi Gandi (coordinator, member of Somali Intellectuals Forum; based in Germany as Director of NGO Somali Peaceline); Zakaria Mohamed Haji-Abdi (Secretary General, head of Secretariat for Selection and Drafting Committee; founder member of Somali Intellectuals Forum, based in London); Ahmed Abdi Dahir “Shell” (deputy coordinator of Somalia Technical Committee; former member of Somali Intellectuals Forum); Jama Ali Jama (head of Public Relations Section); Mohamed Ahmed Awale (member of National Transitional Constitution Committee; former advisor to General Mohamed Aideed); Abdirahman Moallim (member of National Transitional Constitution Committee); Mohamed Abdi Ali Bayr (member of Drafting Committee); Omar Adam Kadi (member of Drafting Committee).
The Technical Committee continued to work closely with members of the Djibouti government - from the foreign ministry and the president’s office - while about a thousand Somalis from Somalia and the diaspora arrived to participate. They were mainly accommodated in Arta and in various hotels in Djibouti itself. The conference resolved to establish clan delegations, and a six-member Conference Committee was elected. There was initial reluctance on the part of academics and NGO members to organise the conference on clan basis, but it was eventually decided that clan was a crucial organisation factor.
Hassan Abshire Farah (chairman, former Mayor of Mogadishu; ambassador to Japan and Germany. Appointed Minister of Interior by Abdulahi Yusuf in Puntland, but resigned in April to attend Djibouti Conference. Mujerteen, living mainly in Garowe with US-based family); Abdalla Deerow (co-chairman, deputy of Rahanwien Resistance Army; studied education at Mogadishu University. Digilmirifle living in Baidoa); Asha Haji Elmi (chairperson of Women’s Association, NGO, Mogadishu; economist, studied at University of Mogadishu. Hawiye, living in Mogadishu); Abdullahi Maalim “Faar” (former director in Ministry of Labour and Sports, Siad Barre regime; Hawiye, based in Nairobi); Abdulaziz Mukhtar Qaridi (political scientist, University of Mogadishu, representing minority groups. Jarer); Abdulrahman Duale Ali (president of United Somali Front;
Clan elders met to decide the relative size of clan delegations and chose representatives for the following fixed-number delegations: Darod (175), Hawiye (175) and Digilmirifle (175); Dir (205) including Issak 100, Gadabursi 40, Issa 30, Southern Dir 35; Alliance of minorities (90) including (not exclusively) Jareer, Midgaan and Yibir. Women (100). Some women are also included in the clan delegations.
Delegations: guide to traditional heads and politicians
Dir: (Southern Dir: Ugas Said Ali; Issak: Sultan Mohamed, Sultan Abdulkadir) Gadabursi: Sultan Suleban Ali, Sultan Ugas Osman, Ugas Dodi;
Issa: Farah Weis Dule, Abdulrahman Duale Ali, USF) Hawiye: (Iman Omar, Iman Mohamed); Marehan: (Geddow region: Ugas Omar, Ugas Hirsi; Central region: Ugas Siraji, Ugas Farah; Mogadishu: Farah Nure Hubey) Puntland:
(Bogor Abdullahi “King Kong”, Hassan Abshire, Mohamed Abshire) Ogadeni:
(Sultan Ina Ali Soker) Mudhiban: (General Hayd) Rahanwein: (Dr Abdulla Deerow; “Shatgudud” Dr Hassan Mohamed Noor)
After the clan delegations appointed representatives, the conference split into working committees to debate special issues, and proposals, in the last week of June, were being prepared for submission to the conference.
The Secretariat (operates for the whole conference and other committees, taking minutes, preparing documentation); Drafting Committee (issues press releases, writes up resolutions adopted. All committes submit proposals and drafts to this committee); Economic Development Committee (composed of economic experts, including former government members and economists); Security Committee (composed of former officials, police and military personnel. Includes officers from the Djibouti government);
National Transitional Committee (made up of 30 members, including constitutional experts and lawyers, as well as police officers); Mogadishu Committee (25 members, including NGO representatives, former government officials, academics and members of Somali Intellectuals Forum)
Other committees were established in early June, after the election of the Conference Committee, to deal with issues relevant to the “New Somali Government” - for Education; Health; Industry and Trade; Agriculture and Animal Husbandry; and Developing Sectors. Team leaders are: Engineer Abdulkadir Madahay (Team Head); Dr Noor Sheik Hussein (Education); Dr Abdurahman Haidar (Geography); Dr Maryam Farah, and Professor Abdurahman Aden Ibbi (Developing Sector).
The committees are expected to submit their proposals to the conference for debate and resolution during the first week of July, in preparation for electing members of a Transitional National Assembly (TNA). It will then be decided, say representatives, whether the TNA should elect the President and Prime Minister, or whether members of the conference will vote directly. The Djibouti Government, under great financial and political pressure to conclude the conference successfully, hopes to start celebrations for a “New Somali Government” - some form of recognised transitional authority to be based in Somalia - by 15 July.
Faction leaders and warlords present, include: Ali Mahdi Mohamed: faction leader of the divided United Somali Congress, based in northern Mogadishu, immediately took up the invitation. He is staying in Arta. “Shatgadud” (Red Shirt) Dr Hassan Mohamed Nor: leader of Rahanwein Resistance Army.
Initially rejected the conference, but arrived in Djibouti, with persuasion from the Ethiopian government (which reportedly backs the RRA) in June. He is staying at the Sheraton Hotel, Djibouti. Mohamed Abshire: former police chief and fellow detainee with Mohamed Ibrahim Egal in the 1970s. Rival to Abdullahi Yusuf in Puntland.
Favoured by US in first Addis Ababa conference as potential president.
Abdulrahman “Tur”: first president of Somaliland 1991-1993. Was roundly condemned in Somaliland for ineffective governance - which led to heavy artillery battles in Hargeisa and Berbera - and thereafter based himself in Mogadishu. Formed an alliance with General Mohamed Farah Aideed, and declared himself in favour of unity.
General Hirsi Morgan: military contender for control of Kismayo, reportedly persuaded by Ethiopia to accept the outcome of the conference, although not present. Considered a war criminal in Somaliland, where he was in control in 1988.
The absent warlords:
There has been much debate about the importance or otherwise of faction leaders and warlords, particularly among international bodies. Although the official line is that no special invitations have been extended to the faction leaders, there is constant “behind the scenes” communication by regional and international diplomats, and Somali representatives at the conference, to encourage reluctant faction and administration leaders to attend. Notable absentees include:
Mohamed Ibrahim Egal: Elected President of the self-declared state in 1993 at the Borema conference.
Elder statesman, was Prime Minister of Somalia at independence 1960, but later detained by Siad Barre. Was in exile when Somali National Movement (SNM) “liberated” Somaliland, and remained a non-member. Has publicly stated fierce opposition to the conference, but has recently toned down aggressive language. There have been arrests in Somaliland of people supporting the process, and the Djibouti delegation was prevented from visiting Hargeisa.
Colonel Abdullahi Yusuf: present leader of Puntland, represents the most aggressive opposition to the conference. A military leader of the Somali Salvation Democratic Front, he was detained alongside General Mohamed Farah Aideed, and was also imprisoned by Ethiopian dictator President Mengistu Haile Mariam in a post-Ogaden pact with Siad Barre. He was released in 1991, when Mengistu was overthrown, but his health had deteriorated.
Public opinion has demonstrated against Abdullahi Yusuf’s hardline stance against the conference.
Hussein Aideed: took on his father’s mantle when the notorious General Aideed died. The US put out a never-claimed reward for the capture of his father, General Aideed, seen as implicated in the deaths of peacekeepers and US military personnel. Hussein Aideed was a US marine in his early thirties before he returned to Mogadishu, and was legitimised by clan elders. Perceived as a major player, his real power is nevertheless tenuous, and members of his militia recently rebelled and looted his residence. He is reported to be considering attendance of the conference - after initial rejection - along with other Mogadishu-based faction leaders, Osman Ato, Hussein Bod and Mohamed Kanyare Afrah.