A Parody of a Parliament


Golaha Shacabka

Another meeting delayed, another MP resigns, another punch-up on the way. Amid the never-ending saga that has crippled the Somali parliament, the long-awaited meeting of the MPs scheduled for Sunday 18 has now also been cancelled. The parliament was expected to convene today for the first time since December last year, but it failed. Not surprisingly also, Cismaan Cilmi Boqorre, the second deputy speaker of the Parliament, has officially declared his resignation today. Criticizing the government of ineffectiveness and detailing some of the reasons that led to his resignation, Mr Boqorre said:

Though there was some dispute between me and the Parliament Speaker, the main reason of my resignation is the ineffectiveness of the parliament and its lack of action when needed…and after looking into all this I’ve decided to resign.

Mr Boqorre’s decision comes at a time when the parliament has been facing a severe power struggle from within. Divided into two camps, the parliamentarians have been at loggerheads ever since their call to duty.

On one hand, the Pro-Sharif division of the parliament has been calling for the speaker of the Parliament, Sheikh Adan Madoobe, to step down and allow the election of a new speaker. A call vociferously repudiated by the speaker who recently returned from a meeting with the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, to discuss security and bilateral relations. Also, the president and the Prime Minister both want to oust the Parliament speaker in favour of the President’s right hand man – Sharif Hassan. Read more of this post

Najma: The Abduction Case

As Mogadishu mourned the death of more than twenty civilians in the last two days, another depressing tale hit the airwaves today. But in a country afflicted with endless woes and suffering, the story of this young girl is not very unusual.

When a bus was stopped at the city control in Xudur, Bakool region, for a random check by Al-Shabaab administration, the shocking details of dreadful deed came to the surface. In the back of the bus was a woman holding a child in her lap; the child seemed to be fast asleep and, from the outward appearance, peaceful. But when the search was prolonged for some time, the annoyed passenger turned around to the screams of a panic-stricken child in the back. The ‘mother’ tried hopelessly to smother the child with kisses and soothing words, gently rocking her back and forth in her lap, as a mother would, to silence her but to no avail.

And when the child’s screams intensified and she began screaming ‘help! Help! The plot quickly unfolded. Najma Maxamad Shire, as the child identified herself, was a 12-year-old girl abducted from Bosaaso, more than a thousand kilometres away from where she was.

A Tanzanian man, who said his name was Ramadan Abdallah, and sat at the front of the bus was caught at the checkpoint, about 90 KM away from the Ethiopian border, accompanied by a Somali woman, Faduma Qasim Abdullahi, who claimed to be the mother of the child. And though this worrying trend of abduction has long been talked about here in Somalia, its hideous face has rarely been seen this clear and brazen. Travelling on land, it is thought that, throughout the journey, the couple administered a constant dose of sedatives to tranquilise the girl. The effects wore off just at the right time.

Najma’s father, an elderly man whose feeble voice was heard on the airwaves, broken up by bouts of silences and coughs, spoke to the journalists profusely thanking the Islamists:

‘we sent her to the shop to buy groceries…but…she never returned. Some people told us…that…a woman placed something on her nose…and led her away. We haven’t heard from her for 15 days. May Allah reward you!’

Najma is among the hundreds of children kidnapped from the streets of Somalia every month. The family of the child also confirmed that similar stories have been circulating widely in the North Eastern port city of Bosaaso. It is only a wonder how they managed to cross thousands of kilometres through Puntland without being noticed by the authorities; not to mention the infamous Puntland Intelligence Service (or rather Puntland Intelligence Agency)

Nonetheless, Al-Shabaab, who govern by a strict Sharia code, have vowed to sentence them according to the Shariah Law. And if thieves are getting their hands chopped off, one can only wonder what sentence awaits these child abductors?

I have personally heard of several stories of young children abducted from Somalia. These children, as legend has it, were either sold into slavery or taken to Europe where their organs were sold. Almost all of the kidnappers were Somali women luring the children with money or promises of taking them abroad. Though I usually dismissed such tales, only today have I come to realise the gravity of the situation!

How many more children, I wonder, have gone missing without a trace!

Mogadishu Without Music

Almost all of Mogadishu’s radio stations have stopped playing music in compliance with the order of Hizbul Islam, who ten days ago banned all radio stations from broadcasting music.

At that time, the government’s Ministry of Information Spokesman, Sheikh Abdirizak Mohammed Qeylow, strongly condemned the instructions of the Islamists, stating that their instructions would have no effect on the media:

“The so called Hizbul-Islam is now like a drowning man who clinches to straw, they are having no other options other than oppressing the media, they are ordering the radio stations not to air any sort of song may it be the national anthem. I know very well what they want to fill the gap of the songs – they are bringing the songs of Al-Qaida, and why they are doing all this is just because they are envious of Al-Shabab”

Today, however, except for the few radios under the TFG-controleld territory, Mogadishu’s radio stations remain silent. No music and no commercial jingles to spice up the programs. I don’t know how the rest of the Mogadishians here are coping with the ban, but luckily I brought my 160GB iPod along with me.

Missiles Rock Mogadishu

Mogadishu is under attack. Dozens of BM rockets, as they are called here, fired by the AMISOM forces have crippled the busy Bakara market and brought the entire business hub of Mogadishu into a complete standstill. Just as worshipers exited the mosques, after noon prayer today, the rockets fell. Hundreds of people in the market scrambled for safety, some hiding under concrete buildings and others rushing back into the mosques.

I had just left my apartment and decided to meet a journalist, Keyse, for lunch when the shelling began. Squeezing through the riotous crowds of shoppers, hawkers, tea ladies and past the tightly crammed stalls whose fetid odour assaulted our senses, medicine shops and juice bars, we made our way to Tawakkal Restaurant, a fairly clean and quiet place compared to the other noisy eating places in Bakara. But just before we could enter the restaurant, the sound of a rocket fired caught Keyse’s attention. Being still fairly new to this war-torn city, my senses were not quite alert yet, though I am now slowly becoming attuned to the music of mortars.

The frenzied look on my friend’s face explained it all. Without a second spared, we dashed into the nearest building, hurdling past donkey carts, screaming kids and stumbling women. Though it becomes the natural instinct to help the elderly and the weak when in need, but during times like these, and in Mogadishu’s mayhem, it is every man for his own. Several rockets, whose whistling noise was enough to send fear running through your veins, fell a few streets away from where we were.

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Exclusive Pics: Al-Shabaab & the BBC

I’ve gained these exclusive pictures of Al-Shabaab confiscating BBC equipment through a local journalist. Click on the images to enlarge.

Al-Shabaab Silences The BBC

Al-Shabaab has banned the BBC from operating in Southern Somalia. In a press release read out this morning here in Mogadishu, the Islamic Administrations in Mogadishu, Marka, Kismayo, Jowhar and Bidoa have taken all of BBC’s FM transmitters off the air and seized all their property. The statement described the organisation as a ‘vile western mouthpiece’ propagating ‘a barrage of depraved Western views’ to the unsuspecting Muslim population.

The air seems somewhat strange and silent here in Mogadishu. The renowned BBC tone is no longer on the radios and the public is buzzing with discussion and debate. HornAfrik radio which used to air the Somali Service apologised to the public on newshour. Al-Shabaab have also issued an order to HornAfrik, the only radio station that airs VOA news, to stop airing its programs.

Al-Shabaab’s daring display of authority comes at a time when majority of the Somali listeners have been expressing great concerns about the BBC’s management and editorial content. The BBC Somali Service has been riddled with complaints from the Somali media and the public alike.

Al-Shabaab, which has been banned as an organisation in Britain has struck back fiercely and banned the BBC, accusing it of inaccuracy, impartiality, lack of objectivity, propagation of Western views and fanning the flames of enmity among the Somali population. Some of these accusations, however, are coming not only from the Islamists but some professional and journalists have also voiced somewhat similar opinions.

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Al-Qaeda in Somalia

It may sound plausible; Yemeni Alqaeda would perhaps be welcomed by the thousands of Al-Shabaab fighters eager to receive them and they may even be garlanded with wreaths by Al-Shabaab’s unwavering local supporters.

But when Somalia’s Treasury Minister, Omar Osman, tells the world that according to the TFG’s superb ‘intelligence’ (who can’t seem to locate or capture even one of the thousands of Al-Shabaab youths by the way), 12 members of Al-Qaeda have crossed from Yemen into Somalia, what was the implication of his message?

Perhaps it was to distract the world’s attention away from the failing government and point the beacon away from the chaotic situation of the Somali parliament. Parliamentarians have been at loggerheads with each other lately – particularly with the parliament speaker, Adan Madoobe, whom more than 75 MPs are forcefully urging to step down. But of course, he refused. And soon we might witness another classic parliament brawl

The MPs have also criticized the embattled government for doing nothing to improve the security situation of the country and also accused Shekh Sharif of spending his time jet-hopping instead of tending to the affairs of the country. The government did not sit idly too as it was reprimanded but instead retaliated and banned the MPs today from holding any meetings.

So with a country in such a mess, it is only a wonder how the Treasury Minister got his information! Good detective work, Mr. Osman, but though this story of yours may sell in Western publications, even the young shoe shiners of these ruthless Mogadishu streets will laugh at you when they hear your tale.

Regurgitating old Al-Qaeda tales is only fit for western consumption. Here in Mogadishu, the TFG has become but a laughing stock. But since Osman and his ministry are quite accustomed to taking bribes, perhaps he aims to point out that either Somaliland or Puntland is an accomplice in helping the Al-Qaeda fighters to cross into Southern Somalia.

And with the long awaited offensive now turning out to be simply a gradual push, and Kenya denying the TFG’s request for some troops, perhaps Osman’s attempt was to titillate the ears of the West once again with some poorly crafted Al-Qaeda fables.

The Law of Retribution: An eye for an Eye

The Islamic Administration of Lower Shabeelle region yesterday executed one of their own soldiers as a retribution for the murder of a local villager while on duty. Muuse Ali Abud’s sentence was carried out in Marka in front of hundreds of spectators by an Al-shabaab firing squad just after mid-day yesterday. The 27-year-old soldier confessed to killing a 20-year-old villager, Ahmed Abdi Yusuf, after a heated brawl in the market of the tiny village of Balow, near Awdheegle.

Shortly after he killed the villager, on the 27th of March, Muuse was arrested by his comrades and taken into custody. After an investigation into the matter, the family of deceased was called and presented with some options:

  1. To forgive him
  2. To accept blood money
  3. Qisas or retaliation

The family chose the third option, demanding the execution of the murderer, and Muuse’s fate was sealed. But in front of the large crowd that had gathered in Marka’s main square, the convicted soldier displayed a calm disposition and awaited his final moment. Though Muuse might have been the soldier responsible for arresting criminals and bringing them to the Islamic courts for justice in his earlier days, this time he was on the stand.

Sheikh Mohamed Abu Abdallah, Al-Shabaab’s governor of Lower Shabeelle, delivered a sermon to the expectant crowd just before the execution. He said:

‘Us and the public are equal in the eyes of the Shariah. We pledged to live under the rulings of the Qur’an and whoever commits a sin, he will be punishmed according to the rules dictated by the Shariah.’

But while the Sheikh’s speech was received with loud chants of ‘Allahu Akbar’ and Muuse’s case attracted a huge media attraction, another case went under the radar. Just as twilight fell yesterday, one of the TFG soldiers shot and killed a teenager as he left his house in Xamar Jajab district of Mogadishu. But this case has largely gone unreported in the media and no one was brought to trial for the murder. The number of killings has increased recently in the three government-controlled districts in Mogadishu as soldiers are said to often rob residents at gunpoint, killing whoever retaliates. Many of the residents have now relocated to areas such as Dayniile, under Al-Shabaab, and the remaining persistently complain to the government, which has done nothing so far.

Unlike the government’s corrupt and bribe-riddled system, Al-Shabaab follow a strict Shariah code and govern all the 10 regions under their control in this manner. The people living in regions under Al-Shabaab control have had a relatively greater degree of safety and peace compared to those living in the TFG controlled areas. With establishment of the Islamic Administrations in Al-Shabaab controlled regions, and the introduction of the Islamic penal code system, the number of killings has significantly decreased.

They may be branded as terrorists by the western world, but Al-Shabaab continue to gain more support and popularity here from the local population they govern. When questioned about the events, Ali Osman, one of the spectators in Marka, couldn’t control his tears:

‘I never thought I would live to see the day when a killer is punished for his crime in Somalia. Never! This is just a miracle. And on top of that he was their [Al-Shabaab] soldier. This is the justice we need and if every killer today was brought to this sort of justice, we would have lived happily. I feel sorry for the man and it was painful to watch but this is the justice we wish to live under.’

The Sufi Disintegration Phase – 2

Continued from The Sufi Disintegration Phase 1

We continue to look at the gradual decline of Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaaca.

Politically:

The merger of the Sufis with the TFG could not come at a worse time. When internal strife had debilitated the energy of the group, the Ethiopians concluded the merger between them and the TFG. Though the aim of the merger was also partly to save the Sufis from disintegration, it was primarily two-fold:

  • To bolster the weak government’s deteriorating credibility by allowing it to claim the few successes of the Sufis in Guriceel and Dhuusamareeb.

  • To pressure the Islamists in the middle regions so as to reduce the pressure from Mogadishu

The results, however, were quite the opposite. The Sufis and their allied TFG forces met with a series of defeats in Galguduud and Hiiraan after their initial victories. Now the Sufis are confined to Galguduud region and maintain only the towns of Guriceel, Dhuusamareeb and Caabudwaaq under their control, with the towns of Ceelbuur, Galhariiri, Wabxo, Warxoolo, Maxaas and Ceelgaras under Al-Shabaab. Many of the prominent Sufi leaders also criticized the deal and the political wrangle between its top leaders did not go unnoticed, despite the media’s attempts to bury it.

At a press conference in Nairobi the Vice Chairman of Ahlu Sunna, Sheikh Hassan Sheikh Abdi convened a meeting to openly denounce the deal. The main cause of the split in the Sufi leadership is a complex clan structures. Sufis are comprised of a Hawiye and a Darood group, all sharing one common goal, i.e. to avenge their scholars. But with the merger, it emerged that since the parliament and allocation of seats were based on a 4.5 formula, the few Darood clans would receive nothing; therefore they all denounced the deal. A power struggle ensued, with the Darood elements of the Sufis disowning the deal and intending to retain the name of the group for themselves and the Hawiye tribes eager to join the TFG.

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The Sufi Disintegration Phase

When Al-Shabaab exhumed the graves of the Sufi scholars in their Polytheism Eradication Campaign, all the people here in Mogadishu expected, in addition to the usual public outcries, an all-out war between Al-Shabaab and Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaa’a (ASWJ). Radio stations were abuzz with debates, coffee shops were alive with the silent Somali murmurs, animated discussions filled the public gatherings and the vociferous Sufi supporters protested as much as they could. But when the campaign swept through Somalia, leaving no stone unturned in its quest, and the Sufis, except for their spokesman vehemently expressing his sorrow on the airwaves and some demonstrations outside Somalia, silently bewailed their loss, the public noticed something slightly disconcerting. Was this all ASWJ could do? Or was there something more to come? The answer was a painful let-down for SWJ supporters. Nothing happened; not the much expected boldness in words and deeds, not the gathering of forces and not even the slightest of movement towards reclaiming their lost honour and saving the reputation of their saints.

Though it has been known fro quite some time here, as the well-versed politicians and coffee-shop pundits are quick to point out, that the Sufi elegance is slowly becoming out of fashion, it has now come to the realisation that soon they will no longer be able to survive. Made up of Sufis who claim mystical communication with their saints, unsuitable alliance of clan militia groups and political opportunists, ASWJ has now entered a phase of gradual disintegration. And there are many reasons for this. Some of which are:

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AMISOM Mortars Claim More Lives

While the rest of the world welcomed April with a feeling of unrestrained joviality, it was a sombre mood here in Mogadishu. For many of the weary Mogadishans living in these dismal blocks of concrete and tin-roofed houses, their mornings began with – well, the usual – death. No convivial atmosphere greeted them and no cheerful jokes made the rounds in the streets, for as March ended and the residents recoiled from the round of mortars that had crippled them, another greeted them.

Mogadishu knows no April fools day. Everything is real here.

Yesterday evening at around 5 PM, just as the workers returned home from a hard day’s work and reached their houses to spend some time with their families, the menacing sound of mortars began. AMISOM forces dished out their daily allotment of mortars to the unsuspecting civilians.

When a battle, between Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam on one side and the TFG forces on the other, raged on for a few hours in the once upper-class district of Hodan, some 500 metres away from the Ugandan base and now one of the many fronts in Mogadishu, AMISOM’s reply was unmistakably loud and clear.

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Al-Shabaab: On Pirates

Sheikh Ali Dheere, Al-Shabaab Spokesman

For the last few days, Mogadishans here have been fuming with anger; they are angry with the pirates. Though majority of Somalis supported their adventures as they hijacked ships from the sea, now it seems that the pirates have veered a few knots off course.

More than a week ago, a group of pirates hijacked 10 ships from the Somali coast through a series of co-ordinated attacks. The unusual thing this time is that all the ships were Somali-owned and belonged to a group of Somali businessmen. This is what  has infuriated the Somali public.

The issue sparked a heated debate on radio stations across Mogadishu and the indignant cries of the public filled the airwaves.

For the first time also Al-Shabaab, the Islamist group controlling much of Southern Somalia, spoke out about the pirates in public. Angered by the pirates’ actions as well as the foreseeable consequences their actions may have on the stability of the regions they govern, Al-Shabaab assured the public that these actions were not happening with their connivance and demanded the pirates to release the ships. Enunciating their stance on the matter, Sheikh Ali Mohamoud Raage said at a press conference:

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When Qat Rules…The Soldier Obeys


Qat

The putrid stench of blood waylays the senses as you walk past the covered bodies on the pavement. Blood, like depressing murals, paints a permanent sketch of red on the walls. Huddled around the corner, some few metres away, are the government troops, a rag-tag militia trained to serve as troops, dressed in a mismatch of colours and slinging their guns on their shoulders.

But despite the disparity in their uniform, they all share one thing in common: they are obsessed with Qat, a mild stimulant thought to produce a feeling of euphoria. And that is where the problem lies.

The corpses that lay lifeless on the pavement were all shot down by the government troops during their scuffle for Qat. At least 5 were reported to have been killed and several others injured. Incidents like these have become increasingly common among the TFG forces and tensions between the soldiers usually arise during their Qat sessions, as these are moments of absentmindedness and unrestrained feelings of elation. A drugged soldier with a gun.

But when the entity that was supposedly meant to govern the public and ensure their safety eats itself on the inside, because of a bundle of dry leaves, what remains of the governed?

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