Hussein Aideed took over the leadership of the Somali National Alliance (SNA) on 2 August 1996 after the death of his father, General Mohamed Aideed. He controls South Mogadishu, and is co-chairman - along with Ali Mahdi Mohamed in North Mogadishu - of the Benadir Administration.
The following is an interview with Hussein Aideed at the former
presidential palace, Villa Somalia, in Mogadishu - April 1999.
QUESTION: You have just sent a joint letter to the UN Security Council about Ethiopian incursions on the border. Is there any other action you plan to take?
ANSWER: I will call the chief of intelligence and foreign minister in Ethiopia and pressure them not to interfere in Somalia's affairs.
Ethiopian troops went into Bula How and Dolo because Ali Noor, the vice chairman of the Somali National Front [a Mujerteen faction, led by General Omar Haji Masale, currently in South Mogadishu and part of the Benadir Administration] was killed. Ethiopia was working with Ali Noor and thought it was a political assassination - but they can't solve it. For two years
I refused to go to Ethiopia because I wanted them to get out of Somalia.
SNA is trying to strengthen the regions, and we don't violate borders. We have a problem in Dolo because the bridge there is half Somalia's and half Ethiopia's, but we want to remove Ethiopia from inside our territory.
Q: Ethiopia has justified incursions on the basis that Islamic
fundamentalists operate from the border, and a general lack of border security.
A: Yes, we should have a joint force against Al-Ittihad. But Ethiopia has had a military training school in Bula How for almost a year, and they occupy the town as if it were their own. When I visited Ethiopia in August-September 1998 I met with [Ethiopian Prime Minister] Meles Zenawi and others, and we established a nine point agreement on security, politics and cooperation. Yet they seem to oppose the interim government
that was first established with my father, General Aideed, in 1995. My father was in charge of that government for one year, then I took over after his death. I don't know why Ethiopia will not recognise it - we have managed to establish some unity and bring together society, control some of the airports and set up an administration. One of the problems is that Ethiopia is suspicious of Cairo, because there is a Nile problem between
Egypt and Ethiopia. Ethiopia also has a strong suspicion of Arab countries - they have said it too me - whereas Somalis are both African and Arab and I have to join the conflicting sides.
Q: Eritrea is said to be supporting and supplying you, and through you, Ethiopian opposition groups in Somalia.
A: I think this is a problem of misinterpretation by Ethiopia. There are over 50,000 Oromos, Tigrayans and Eritreans here - we have an open border. And there are some four million Somalis in Ethiopia. They talk about the Oromos here, the political refugees. In fact, they have been here since 1977 [the Ogaden war]. The SNA has provided a safe haven for Oromos and allows them to express their political views. Only about 700 are organised politically. This is very small - and we do not allow a weapons supply.
Now we have a problem of Ethiopia trying to hire local Somalis and Ethiopians to capture the Oromo leaders in Mogadishu, and we had to kill three hired Somalis this month.
We have a good relationship with Eritrea and Kenya. I also talk often to Ethiopia - Ethiopia called me recently to talk about Eritrea. They expect me to mediate, because this war [Ethiopia-Eritrea] is a family war, it is egos between leaders, and should be discussed inside as personal differences. Both leaders trained in Somalia [under the previous regime] and we have a special relationship with both of them.
Q: And what about speculation that Somalia is being used by international terrorists? There have been rumours that Osama bin Laden may be in Somalia.
A: There is a rumour that he is in Gedo region, but we have sent our own intelligence out and to this point we are treating it as a rumour. Bin Laden has never been in Mogadishu but we believe he passed through El Wak region and the border area in 1992-93. The absence of border controls means it is possible he could pass through, but we need intelligence from the international community to help us investigate. Bin Laden has a huge
construction company in Saudia Arabia. He is very rich, and funds
Al-Ittihad: he can fund them in Sudan, here, and in Ethiopia. We have to share intelligence on this matter. It is something the US State Department has called me about. Al-Ittihad was a problem during UNOSOM, and still operates in Kismayo, along the Indian Ocean coastline, on the Kenyan border area, and in Bosasso. There are also pockets in Mogadishu, but they are not active. We need a unified government to tackle this, and it is
difficult when there are no international representatives here - we need US, EU and UN representatives. Al-Ittihad uses religion to control society, which we, as Somalis, do not allow; it is against Somali beliefs, because we are Sunna.
Q: The Benadir Administration seems to have been compromised by renewed fighting in Mogadishu. What damage has Musa Sude Yallahow inflicted on this new agreement?
A: The Cairo mediated agreement was the culmination of the last nine years of talks. We talked on how to make a unified government with an executive and how to have laws to safeguard the system. We will eventually have elections. But first, we had to unite Mogadishu, then we need to get international recognition of the Mogadishu administration. We need to control and open the airport and ports. So far, we have done more than
anything before, and we hope to continue this progress by having a meeting in Baidoa, including representatives from other parts of Somalia. There are details of power sharing on paper - each area will have delegates in view of having a council and a prime minister.
Q: And what about Musa Sude, who is technically part of the Benadir Administration, but is now opposed to it?
A: Musa Sude was the former vice chairman to Ali Mahdi Mohamed, and he controls maybe 70 to 80 gangs in Mogadishu. He was able to take advantage of the openness of the city since the administration was set up in August.
Elders are talking to him, and he is obliged to rebuild the governor's house [destroyed by Musa Sude] and rectify his mistakes. If not, we will take military and police action. Musa Sude and Osman Ato [former vice chairman to General Aideed, now working with Musa Sude in opposition]actions make it difficult to control weapons.
Q: Is the police force able to take any action?
A: We have funding problems with the police. We keep them as professionals and they run much of the districts. Courts are being established. I also have a contingent of about 10,000 militia ready to strike at any special problem. The key now is to reinforce the police and open the ports. We need the equipment back that the UN took - the cranes, the computers - and
we need funding for the port. Diplomats and international representatives, including the UN, have seen and approved the administration here, and seen how we are reconstructing the hospital and opening roads. We need social services. But we also need the shipping lines to open, we need administration of ports, and expert skills to help run and train personnel.
Q: With your training as an American marine, do you find the chaos of the Somali militia frustrating?
A: Yes, sometimes it is very frustrating to see the chaos of the militia here, that's why I brought in uniforms. I bought 20,000 uniforms from China, where they are very cheap, and I was also given some from African countries, like Eritrea and Uganda. I also invested US $4 million in renovating the presidential offices in Villa Somalia. The militia have to learn. One of the most difficult things is re-training the militia and a large part of my efforts go on this. Many things are frustrating - like
the fact we can't use national troops to protect our borders. It is difficult for me to use force and achieve reconciliation. If there is fighting in Mogadishu, I can't use force, because it would look bad. What we need is a constitutional government.
I am democratically oriented because of living in the US and because of my father's ideals. I am trying to close the gap now between the international community and Somalia. After the failure of UNOSOM, the US and the West became shy about coming here, but there is a moral obligation to Somalia. For example 800 million dollars of EU aid, which is our share, is blocked because we have no government. We need to engage the international community in a more positive way now that things have improved.