Somalia tries to come out of the horror of civil war: Duale Yusuf
An analyst says, after two decades of violent US intervention and tribalism Somalia has the political and educational means to transcend into a civil society.
In the background of this after two decades of civil war and foreign intervention in Somalia it seemingly is emerging out of chaos with a new Constitution, a new parliament and new president and dreams of a civil future. During the past month a significant step has been made with formal relations being reestablished with the United States. US drone strikes in the country have continued to date as part of the counter terrorism policy and the war on terror has taken its toll by further deteriorating conditions in the country and exacerbating poverty and a humanitarian crisis in certain parts of Somalia. All attempts at self-determination by the Somali people have been sabotaged by the US and its regional allies, Kenya and Ethiopia, all in the name of foreign interests, as well as with local tribalism problems. So this sudden turn around by the United States to extend diplomacy and begin to involve Somalians in decisions about Somalia is being seen as a ray of hope.
Press TV has interviewed Duale Yusuf, foreign secretary of the Somali Unity Council about this issue. Joining him is Hassan Dudde, Director Somali Economic Forum, London and Said Mohamud Isse, freelance journalist & blogger from Kenya. The following is an approximate transcription of the interview.
Press TV: What are your thoughts as you hear about American formerly shaking hands with Somalia for the first time in 20 years. Are you optimistic and trustful of the whole situation?
Yusuf: If we go back to 1992 when America invaded Somalia under operation ‘Restore Hope’, since that time we see a lot of difficulties Somalia has been facing.
When America invaded the country they didn’t start to help straight away to establish a form of police or legal framework.
Press TV: Indeed a lot of writers at the time noticed that Somalians weren’t even in the equation. When the Americans came the aid agencies were there and the Americans and the aid agencies were talking with the UN and other bodies about what to do for Somalia, but no Somalian was involved.
Yusuf: That is correct. Somalia has been pushed outside this operation and that’s why it’s failed. But if Somalia were given a chance to be part of this operation, Somalia would have a chance to come out of the horror of civil war.
What happened, the American brought over 25,000 troops with civilians who were armed already - without any police; there was no authority around and that was the biggest problem.
But now over 22 years later, we have experience, the time has changed. If America wants to change their tone... You know, one of the foreign secretaries - Rumsfeld said recently I think in 2008, 2009 that Somalia was a place of al-Qaeda...
Press TV: A place for al-Qaeda?
Yusuf: An al-Qaeda base, that’s what he said and I believed in it so if America is changing their mind today that would be brilliant. We welcome that.
Press TV: According to our other guest, Said Mohamud Isse, he says, “In 1993 in operation Restore Hope when American came to Somalia and that mission led Somalia for 20 years in conflict. That mission was supposed to help Somalis, but it led Somalia to suffer for so many years. Now this new occupation by America some Somalis believe it will lead to prosperity and stability in the country”. Do you agree with that?
Yusuf: I disagree with that. American drones are now inflicting more killing in Somalia and also the Kenyans and Ethiopians had a great support from the United States. As you know in 2006... Somalia had a 16 year civil war... When the Islamic Courts came up they cleaned out all the warlords and all tribalisms and life came back... but who destroyed that?
Ethiopia received military support and financial support. Ethiopia couldn’t invade Somalia without the support of the United States of America. Now in 2010 they also supported the Kenyan invasion in Somalia. There is no coverage of the killing and the destruction of Somalia.
So if America wants to have a good relationship they should... you know, Somalia is not a sovereign country today. Kenya occupied and violated the sovereignty of Somalia since 2010.
Press TV: We’ve got a lot of issue, which we’ve already outlined that the government needs to look at, but a lot of people may not be aware of the existence of a little place called Somaliland.
Do you see Somaliland as a bit of a model for Somalia to look to for inspiration as to how they may go forward? First of all explain what Somaliland is for those who don’t know.
Yusuf: Somaliland is the north of Somalia, which was declared after the collapse of the central government in 1991.
But there are a lot of disagreement because Somalia are tribes and the cause of the problem for the last 22 years is the tribalism. And if we didn’t have that we would now have a functioning government.
But the problem is that unless the clans who live in that area unite and form a government called Somaliland, it would be very difficult. The majority of Somalians, we want to unite - as the United Kingdom always combined together.
Scotland wants to be independent from Britain, but still the British are saying we need to be united because of our economy and we are stronger. So we as Somalians we need to be united.
Press TV: So you mean to incorporate Somaliland into one big Somalia?
Yusuf: Absolutely. Another thing is for it to be Somali-led. We don’t want a foreign intervention anymore. If the Somalians led the international community, Somalians - patriots, we can build again our country because those previous problems are now fading away. Tribalism is, inshallah, fading away and this president is trying to combine the hearts and minds of all parts of Somalia.
But remember - 22 years of conflict - it devastated the land and the international community neglected Somalia including the United States. And the Arab Muslims, too. We don’t only blame the West, but Muslim countries as well. But mostly who we blame is Somalia. Now is the time that we must recognize that unless we help ourselves, no one is going to help.
Press TV: In terms of the practicalities of making this happen there is a huge expatriate community in the diaspora who’ve got some wonderful ideas, but the hard reality on the ground for Somalians in Somalia is: we are still dealing with poverty; there are still concerns about al-Shabab; there are issues of press freedom; the different tribal issues that you discussed...
So, what would you say to a Somalian in Somali right now? You have optimism, but they may say because you’re outside, fine for you.
Yusuf: I think it comes down to leadership. Somalia has lacked a leader for the last 20 years and Hassan Sheikh Mohamud looks like a new leader, optimistic, educated person and has come from a background of civil society and he is willing to listen.
I met him a few days ago, with the president himself, and we talked about how we’re going to change and how we’re going to solve all of these problems. We have talked about a lot of issues and he is ready to work with the diaspora and the people at home.
The first problem we need to fight is poverty. Secondly, peace and reconciliation among all Somalians. The third phase is to establish work, people have to be provided with jobs, employment. And these three things will destroy any difference among the community and all terrorism around the country. And the younger generation - we have more graduated Africans than any African country.
So now we are well-equipped in education, well-equipped in experience of difficulties so here is the time we want to change the hearts and minds of all tribalism. That’s why we call for Somalia unity, that’s why we want to work with the president with the community to support each other. Let Somalians support each other with the president and with the community so Somalia can come out of these difficulties.
We are ready to govern our lives, our future and that’s what we want for the next years to come.