Somali sub-clans unite against Ethiopian occupation

Two prominent Somali clan leaders, Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed and Hussein Aideed, have issued an ultimatum to the Ethiopian forces to leave Somalia now or prepare to fight to the death. The two leaders of the Hawiye clan that dominates the Somali capital, Mogadishu, spoke after holding talks in Eritrea. Aideed said that Somalis will unite against “the brutal occupation” by Ethiopia.

Ahmed and Aideed were joined by Sharif Hassan Aden, the interim government’s former speaker of parliament and leader of another major Somali tribe, the Digil-Mirifle. He was removed from his post in January for being too conciliatory toward the ousted Islamists, and on April 17 was among 30 dissident Somali lawmakers fired by the government.

A South African-based expert on Somalia, Richard Cornwell, told VOA that Aideed’s apparent alliance with the Islamists is a sign that Hawiye’s numerous sub-clans have decided to unite to oppose the interim government. Aideed and Ahmed belong to different Hawiye sub-clans, who have fought each other for control of Mogadishu for more than 15 years.

Cornwell notes that since the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) took power in Mogadishu in January, the Hawiye clan has become alarmed over moves to forcibly disarm Hawiye militias and give key security posts to members of President Abdullahi Yusuf’s clan, the Darod.

“I think what has happened is that the TFG-Ethiopian assault on Mogadishu is cementing the Hawiye back together,” he said. “A large part of the Islamic courts movement was always based on the Hawiye. So, basically, it has melted back into the clan structure. What we could well be looking at, if things turn nasty, is a Hawiye-Darod civil war. Unless the international community manages to understand that they must not continue with this unquestioning support of the TFG, we are going to head down the path of civil war.”

A Somali observer in the United States, J. Peter Pham, says the withdrawal of Ethiopian forces could allow for a new government with a broader base of support. “If those forces withdrew, that will be the end of the TFG,” he noted. “However, I would not see that necessarily as the worst possible outcome. One of the TFG’s on-going problems is that it is not a representative institution of Somalis. If the TFG falls, so be it, and let the Somali people themselves decide what they want.” (VOA via Red Bolivia, April 20)

See our last post on Somalia and the struggle for the Horn of Africa.