THE ASMARA PROJECT: AN ABYSMAL FAILURE
by Avv. Abdurahman Hosh Jibril
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Asmara Gathering: "If the TFG negotiates with this rebel group, it would set a uniquely immoral precedent by rewarding bad behavior"
The Asmara gatherings had all the fanfares of a political confab; the hotels, the number of the conference attendees, the political rhetoric emanating from leading figures, delivered with the solemnity of a religious sermon, not to mention the flag waving and chest thumbing of the attendees who have wrapped themselves with the Somali flag; A good party, yes, but below the radar, it is obvious that this gathering has already ended up in an abysmal failure for several reasons.
For any political agenda to advance beyond its conceptual state, the agenda setters must be united to move the agenda beyond the concept and coalesce into a concretized platform that becomes a basis for implementation. Not so in Asmara and there is no chance that the motley crew that has met in Asmara would ever see eye to eye on many fundamental issues. The Asmara group are in a big tent, and in that tent, you will find radical fundamentalists Muslims who will never settle for anything less than Sharia Law as the basis for a governance model; you will also find in the tent, remnants of the criminal business enterprises of Somalia that hankers back for the good old days of the cannibalistic monopoly of the illegal businesses of Mogadishu and elsewhere, and this group is not interested in governance; rather it is interested in the restoration of the Frontier capitalism under which they flourished and the attendant anarchy of that era. The tent also includes professional peace conference attendees who have been ubiquitously present in every peace conference for the last 16 years.( it is interesting and ironic that some members of this group are loudly highlighting the fact that all the peace conferences of the last 16 years ended up in failure without looking themselves in the mirror and pointing the finger at the mirror); the big tent further includes former parliamentarians of the TFG who became disenchanted with the TFG simply because they did not make it to the TFG cabinet and that is only because under the 4.5 formula which they signed onto in 2004, only shared cabinet quota posts prorated under that formula went to individual clans. In a sane world, these parliamentarians would admit that they are only envious of the individuals whom their respective clans passed them over for cabinet, but true to their form, they are now dishonestly couching their envy and anger in nationalist, anti-TFG and anti-Ethiopian sentiments. The most despicable group in the tent is the Arta faction, which has no agenda per se, other than a strong desire to see the TFG fail because it harbors a feeling of Schadenfreude towards the TFG.
A further complication that makes any closing of the gap of the divergent personal, emotional, business, political, and religious interests of these rebels is the fact that a significant number of the leading personalities of the Asmara group are notoriously deficient in the trust department in that they have in the past been known to betray their political colleagues, and also renege on their promises: At least two leading personalities in this group betrayed friends and colleagues both in Arta and also in the TFG; Another is a notorious back stabber even if one does not take his emotional instability into account; The former Speaker, Sharif Hassan does not need any elaboration as he is remembered for betraying the TFG and the Somali public in favor of his criminal business partners in Mogadishu as well as his personal pecuniary interests; Yusuf Dheeg was the Ethiopian spy master inside the cabinet of the Arta regime in 2001 and his handler was the late Ethiopian Ambassador Abdulmajid; The good Shiekh, Shiekh Sharif Ahmed was on the phone with the Americans and plausibly the Ethiopians in December 2006 while his brainwashed, forcefully conscripted child-soldier Mujahiddiin were being annihilated by the Ethiopian killing machine, a machine he personally provoked to engage in combat. Would one buy a used car from any member of this lot, let alone negotiate with? Not likely!
But even if the Asmara rebels suddenly found a meeting of the mind and converged their disparate interests, they will not advance beyond their Asmara hotels as their project was stillborn from the beginning because Almighty History is not on their side. The Asmara group is operating in a geopolitical barren landscape, if you will, in that it does not have the fortune and benefit of the Cold War which could have easily guaranteed it political and military benefactors to help it fulfill its agendas, if at all it has any discernible agenda. But even if it could find powerful benefactors, the fact remains that the world has changed and this group does not appreciate that fact. The era of liberation movements with legitimate discernable values and causes and with moral clarity is part of history in so far as Africa is concerned and therefore no longer relevant. The last great legitimate African liberation struggle was the anti-apartheid struggle of South Africa which gracefully ended with the vindication of Nelson Mandela as an alleged terrorist and his coronation as the first democratically elected leader of that great country. That struggle was genuine, had an unambiguous moral clarity and had also a certain gravitas.
After that great struggle, numerous armed charlatan groups began falsely and perhaps ignorantly using the lingo and rhetoric of liberation while they carried out their brutal fratricidal campaigns and the human and political implications of the mayhem and suffering caused by these wannabe Mandela/Che’ should be a required history course for future African children. Where does one begin?. Charles Taylor of Liberia, Foday Sonkah of Sierra Leone, Laurent Kablia, of Congo, the Warlords of Somalia, The Lords Resistance Army of Uganda etc. Sadly, the most salient feature of the “struggle” of these wannabe revolutionaries was that they all engaged in killing thousands of their country men, women, and children and irresponsibly destroyed the public infrastructure and private properties of their countries and held the populace hostage to the extent that the African victims in these man-made conflicts have since become inured to suffering and accepted it as the “new Normal” in life. They also helped destabilize the respective regions in which they waged their delusional “struggle”.
Against this background, The Asmara group is “clutching sand” (bacaad eey ku dhagganyihiin), to use a Somali idiom. That backdrop should raise a red flag because they have not articulated why it is that they want Power, what would they do with this Power, and how are they different from the cannibalistic African Guerrillas movements mentioned above. Their shrill assertion that Ethiopia is an occupying force in Somalia is not enough as it has fallen on deaf ears since the world community views Ethiopia as engaged in essentially what Nigeria has done in Sierra Leone and Liberia, that is, to contribute to the regional security of the Horn Africa by helping reconstitute a strong Somali state that can secure its borders from international terrorism, piracy, civil wars etc. This pragmatic policy has been a corner stone of IGAD member states ( with the exception perhaps of the rogue state of Eritrea which has recently recused itself from any IGAD deliberations on Somalia) since January 2007. Additionally, the USA Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Madam Jendayi Frazer underscored this point last week when she stated in unequivocal terms that the International community will not let Ethiopia withdraw its support unless replacement peace keeping forces are ready to take over this essential responsibility. Add to this, the fact that the Saudi Kingdom has on September 18, 2007, on principle accepted the Somali Reconciliation Conference held in Mogadishu between July 15 to August 30, 2007 to be a legitimate peace making conference among the Somali clans that warrants diplomatic backing. It also chastised the Asmara rebels as being bereft of any political solution to the Somali conundrum and for being part of the radical Islamist agendas now wreaking social havoc in Muslim and Arabic countries.
President Issias Afeworki: Reduced the Eritrean nation into a police state.
Of course, it does not also help that these rebels are hosts to one of the most notorious dictators Africa has known since the early 1990s. President Issias Afeworki and his regime have squandered the idealism steeped in rich history of the revolutionary struggle and ingenuity of the EPLF’s Shabia movement, and have turned it into a cult of personality that revolves around Afeworki and that has reduced the Eritrean nation into a police state and its public to abject poverty. It is therefore beguiling for the former Somali parliamentarian rebels in Asmara to call themselves ‘The Free and Independent Parliamentarians’ when there is no parliament in Eritrea and the country is ruled by presidential decrees and edicts, when there is no free press, where as many 20 former cabinet ministers are either in prison, dead or have simply disappeared, where Pentecostal and Jehova Witness religious adherents have been banned to practice their religion, where all the brightest citizens and entrepreneurs, some of them veterans of the Eritrean Shabia movement have fled the country and opened up shop elsewhere in Africa, Europe and North America. The afeworki regime has also become a Pariah state in the region as it has, in its short reign, sparked so many regional wars in Sudan, in Yemen, in Ethiopia and now in Somalia. Moreover, Afeworki does not care an iota about peace in Somalia but is only using these Somali rebels as a bargaining chip to secure a stronger hand in the stalled negotiations regarding the God forsaken windswept town of Bademe which he lost in his war with Ethiopia. Also Pariah states are known to host conferences and international symposiums simply to stay politically relevant since they are not taken seriously in all the international arenas that really matter.
All this do not augur well for the Asmara rebels and that is why they are an abysmal failure and will remain Qurbojoog (exiles) for quite sometime. For that reason, the TFGistas should not negotiate with this group. A die hard Canadian TFGista, Mr. Ismail Gaafow put it succinctly to me the other day when he said, “ If the TFG negotiates with this rebel group, it would set a uniquely immoral precedent by rewarding bad behavior”. I concur with him. Why negotiate with a non-entity that cannot deliver the goods that the TFG wants to trade with, namely, Peace and stability.