An odious affair: The UN in Somalia
The organisation may destroy the country's political autonomy if there is no
immediate pro-Somali intervention.
Last Modified: 03 Apr 2012 10:01
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Mogadishu, Somalia - The Somali people have suffered a great deal and are
heading towards oblivion unless dramatic action is urgently taken. Somalia's
condition is the product of internal and external actors' attempt to realise
their respective political agendas. The cumulative effects of the military
dictatorship, cold/terror warriors, faction leaders, warlords, client Somali
regimes, Ethiopian and Kenyan invasions, and most recently, Uganda and the
United Nations interventions have all contributed to Somalia's devastation.
This brief essay examines the particular roles played by two UN agencies -
the Monitoring Group for Somalia and Eritrea (MG) and the United Nations
Special Representative (SR) - in the reproduction of the disaster in the
country. These two agencies have separate mandates, but collectively they
have been engaged in activities that undermine Somali efforts to rebuild the
The MG was established to undertake investigations that would expose
countries, groups and individuals that contravened the UN's arms embargo on
Somalia. The group's reports are submitted to the UN Security Council's
Sanctions Committee which then has the authority to impose penalties on
those who have breached the arms embargo.
My aim in this essay is to expose some of the fraudulent reports the MG has
produced, which have illegitimately marred the reputation of Somalis and
which have been used by the Sanctions Committee to impose penalties on
Somali economic entities without due process. Three instances clearly show
that the MG's reports were politically motivated to allow dominant powers to
achieve their political ends in Somalia.
First, in its <http://www.fas.org/asmp/resources/govern/109th/S2006913.pdf
report of 2006[PDF], the MG claimed that the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC)
which had defeated the warlords and pacified much of southern Somalia had a
terrorist agenda. The authors falsely asserted that UIC sent several
hundreds of its militia members to Lebanon to assist Hezbollah. No trace of
evidence has been discovered since the assertion was made, but the
accusation provided a pretext for the West and its Ethiopian ally to attack
Second, MG's <http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/2010/91
March 2010 report [PDF] callously politicised humanitarian assistance. One
of the most astonishing claims it made was that Somali transport contractors
employed by the World Food Programme (WFP) were in cahoots with "terrorist
groups" or diverting food aid to the black market, thus enabling contractors
to earn hundreds of millions of dollars, while local WFP operatives looked
the other way.
This incredibly sensational report, which named several Somali individuals
as culprits, was leaked to the media before it was officially adopted by the
Sanctions Committee. These leaks triggered
ia%2Bun%2Breport8217s%2Bkey%2Bfindings/3576982.html> a cascade of media
reports which damned those individuals and that led to the United States
its substantial financial support of the WFP.
The reports virtually crippled the WFP's capacity to deliver food to Somalis
in areas controlled by Al-Shabaab. WFP immediately dropped the named
contractors without careful examination of the claims against them in order
to please its donors. Meanwhile, Al-Shabaab reacted to the claims and
es-6269288.html> banned many humanitarian agencies, including WFP, from
operating in its areas. Such politics produced
> the worst famine
in the country since 1992. Two years on, the MG's claims have yet to be
supported by any independent investigation.
Third, MG's <http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/2011/433
July 2011 report [PDF] made yet another unfounded accusation that a number
of Somali businessmen were assisting Al-Shabaab. Using the aforementioned
report, the Sanctions Committee imposed penalties on Somali personalities.
Among the most problematic of those named was one Ahmed Ali Jimale.
Jimale was the largest shareholder of the defunct Somali money transfer
agency, Barakat, which was shut down by the US government shortly after
9/11. He and the company were accused of supporting al-Qaeda, but so far, US
investigations have uncovered no evidence to nail Jimale.
"It has been alleged that the Barkaat Group of Companies were assisting,
sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or other services in support
of known terrorist organisation. Media & US law enforcement reports have
linked Al-Barkaat Companies & their principle manager, Ahmed Nur Ali
Jimaleh, to Usama bin Ladin & bin Ladin's efforts to fund terrorist
activities. However, this information is generally not firsthand information
or it has not been corroborated by documentary or other circumstantial
evidence that supports the allegation. At this time, these items of
information have not been substantiated through investigative means."
(National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States,
Only recently was Barakaat
> de-listed from the
sanction's list. However, Barakat was liquidated and its assets sold off
after its closure. Those who bought the assets established a telephone
company, namely Hormud, which has become the largest telecom operator in the
country. Hormud has 3,000 Somali shareholders and Jimale is reportedly not
one of these.
The MG report provides no evidence, linking Jimale to Hormud. But naming
Hormud in association with Jimale means that the largest employer in Somalia
could be brought under UN sanctions and such an act will devastate more than
5,000 employees, as well as business associates and dependents estimated at
150,000 people. More critically, it will unjustly destroy a firm that has
not committed any crime.
Finally, the irony is that on October 19, 2010, Al-Shabaab - which Hormud
supposedly supports, via the imagined Jimale connection - has accused the
telecomms company of engaging in businesses that aid the West (October 19,
'Creating its own facts'
From the available evidence in the three instances cited, it appears the MG
does not take its responsibilities seriously, instead it seems to be an
operation that collects rumours and innuendo to support its political
objectives. After several years of making claims about WFP, its contractors
and other Somali businesses, the MG's assertions about these entities is yet
to be corroborated by independent investigation.
The irony is that the biggest violator of the arms embargo is a neighbouring
country which the Sanctions Committee has yet to act against. Consequently,
one is forced to conclude that the MG "creates its own facts" to paraphrase
a former adviser to President Bush.
The United Nations Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) is another agency
that has played a disabling role in the country. In particular, its Special
Representative's (SR) interventions since 2007 have undermined any
autonomous Somali effort to rebuild their country's institutions. A careful
study of the SR's involvement in the
praises-progress-on-djibouti-agreement/> Djibouti-based political process
(2008), and his contributions since, are illustrative of a diplomat who acts
as the authority of the country rather than a facilitator of Somali efforts
to define their destiny.
The Djibouti process, which came on the heels of the tough Somali resistance
to the US-supported Ethiopian occupation of Somalia, had two objectives.
First, once it became clear that the Ethiopian forces could not defeat the
resistance, the forum was planned to recast the Transitional Federal
Government in order to provide the pretext for the Ethiopians to go home and
Second, to make the above scenario feasible, a scheme was developed to split
the resistance into two groups, moderates deemed amenable to Western
influence - and the rest. The former group was groomed to inherit the mantle
of the Islamic Courts and take over the TFG, while the second group was to
During the Djibouti conference, the SR, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, emerged as
the key manager who directed the deliberations. Consequently, Somali
participants became clients who sought his favours rather than behaving as
legitimate actors negotiating with their political opponents. An Ethiopian
official central to the occupying force mockingly noted that his regime did
not humiliate Somalis as much as the SR had done.
The conference produced another pliant Somali leadership and plunged the
country into greater violence - engineered by those who orchestrated the
Djibouti conference. This context made the new TFG even more dependent on
outsiders and the SR.
A year and half later, a new envoy - Augustine Philip Mahiga - was
appointed. From all the available evidence, he has come to dominate Somalis
even more. He privileges certain individuals among the TFG and parliament
rather than encouraging a holistic approach which would respect the
transitional character and authority of parliament.
As the end of the transitional period loomed large in the spring of 2011,
internal power struggles between the speaker of parliament, the prime
minister and the president intensified as the first two jostled for
dominance. The envoy intervened and, with the help of Uganda, bypassed
parliamentary procedures and the charter by producing the
Accord [PDF]. This accord forced the prime minister out, extended the
transition period by a year, stipulated that parliament could not replace
the president or speaker, and outlined a "road map" to end the transition.
Subsequently, the speaker was emboldened to ignore calls from MPs to seat
parliament, so it could examine the agreements reached in Uganda, Garowe and
elsewhere. After a long stalemate, a small majority in parliament endorsed
the accord. Now, the speaker felt immune to pressure from parliament, locked
up the parliament building and failed to call it into session.
Little progress on crafting the post-transition agenda was made for several
months, when the SR decided to bypass parliament altogether. A meeting was
convened in Garowe, Puntland, where the prime minister, his ally in Puntland
and a few others were invited to chart the way out of the transition period.
Parliamentarians in Mogadishu called on the speaker to convene parliament,
but these requests fell on deaf ears and the Garowe affair received the
blessing of the SR. Finally, a majority of MPs decided to take matters into
their hands and asked one of the speaker's deputies to seat parliament, as
stipulated in the charter.
SR base at airport
Parliament convened, a motion to fire the speaker was passed and a new one
was appointed by 285 votes. The SR, the TFG president and the
Inter-Governmental Authority on Development described the move as illegal
and depicted parliament as an obstacle to progress. This constellation of
forces is least interested in following the Transitional Charter and has
since bypassed parliament to pursue a parallel process which culminated in
Garowe II and now Galkayo I.
Parliament has demanded that Garowe II should be brought for debate, but the
SR, the prime minister and the TFG president have failed to heed the call.
To add insult to injury, the British government convened a
conference in London and endorsed the Garowe II agreement without minding
the latter's illegitimacy.
Since then, the SR has established a base at the Mogadishu airport which has
become the political hub of the country, as he demands that the TFG
President, the prime minister and the deposed speaker come to his court,
rather than visit them in their offices.
This state of affairs has not been lost to Mogadishu's denizens who speak of
"Somalia's emperor". It is clear from the available evidence that the SR's
relation with the TFG leaders is one of master and servant. His behaviour
does not only degrade the TFG personalities, but it is an affront to all
Somalis, as he transgresses on both diplomatic and cultural ethos. Twice he
has publicly stated his preference for a
ng-up-somalia-50180834.html> balkanised Somalia without a central
In an earlier era, the UN was a major friend and supporter of
disenfranchised people in the colonial world. In the 1950s, Somalis under
Italian colonialism wished for a civic republic, rather than a fragmented
tribal dispensation - which the Italians preferred and received ample
support at the UN.
Now, the Somalis remember that history will find the operations and the
behaviour of the MG and the SR unfathomable. The MG and the Sanctions
Committee run a kangaroo court, while the SR and UNPOS reinvent colonial
servitude. Hence, one cannot but conclude that these two UN agencies will
destroy Somalis' livelihoods and political autonomy, unless there is an
immediate pro-Somali intervention.
Abdi Ismail SamatarAbdi Ismail Samatar is a Professor of Geography at the
University of Minnesota & Research Fellow at the University of Pretoria,
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Received on Tue Apr 03 2012 - 15:50:36 EDT