Somali Leader Expresses Optimism [Archives:1997/43/Law & Diplomacy]

October 27 1997

Tremendous diplomatic efforts by regional and international powers are being made to find a way out of the crisis in war-torn Somalia. These efforts go through three main channels: Ethiopian-American, European-Kenyan, and Arabic. Coordination among them, however, is quite lacking After a two-year impasse, Yemen has played an important role in reactivating the peace process in Somalia. Several faction leaders have visited Sana’a in the last few months as part of an overall attempt to bring national reconciliation. The President and members of the Somali National Salvation Council are currently visiting Yemen to hold talks with Yemeni officials. Bin Sallam of Yemen Times met Mr. Abdulkadir Mohammed Adam the President of the Somali National Salvation Council, and filed this interview. Excerpts: ý
Q: What is the purpose of your visit to Yemen? A: Yemen is the only Arab League country that realized the truth about the current conditions in Somalia. We have come to inform the Yemeni government of the latest developments in the events in Somalia. Yemen has now a lot of experience and extensive knowledge of the situation in our country. The similar tribal structure in both Yemen and Somalia and Yemen’s experience in dealing with inter-tribal conflicts have made it possible for the Yemeni government to mediate constructively. We want to learn from Yemen how to tackle our tribal disputes. First and foremost, however, we want to get positive political support and leverage from the Yemeni government during the next conference between factions due to be held in Bisaso.
Q: What are the results, so far, of your meeting with the Yemeni officials? A: We have had very cordial meetings with the head of the Political Security Office and the Vice-President, Mr. Abdorabbu Mansoor Hadi. We informed them about the tragic and dangerous situation in Somalia for which they expressed their utmost concern. The relations between Yemen and Somalia are historic. There is an appreciable Yemeni expatriate community in Somalia. Also, Yemen is the only Arab country which gives refuge to thousands of Somalis and who allow them to live freely among its citizens. Yemen has played a noble role in trying to solve the conflict among the various Somali factions, whether within the Arab League or other international forums. Yemen is a member of the special committee formed by the Arab League to resolve the Somali issue.
Q: Could you briefly tell us about the Bisaso conference? A: After leaving Yemen and visiting a number of Arab countries, we’ll go to the town of Bisaso in north-eastern Somalia. where the national reconciliation conference will be held at the beginning of November. All Somali factions and tribes are expected to attend. It is hoped that an interim government with a wide popular base will be formed by the participants at the conference. ý
Q: Do you receive the necessary political and financial support from the Yemeni government? A: The Yemeni government has made great efforts to gather all the Somali factions together, especially after the departure of the international force. Yemen was the only Arab country to feel the world has abandoned Somalia to face its ominous fate. Our current visit is part of the noble Yemeni attempt to find a resolution that would satisfy all Somalis. We have applied for political and financial support, and hope that Yemen will act on our behalf in seeking the support of the richer Arab countries. We call on all Arab countries to help us to get out of our tragic predicament and find a long-lasting peace.
Q: Are all Somali tribes and factions represented in the National Salvation Council (NSC)? A: The NSC consists of 26 factions representing the majority of the Somali people. It has an executive committee and a presidential council, which I head. There are only two factions outside of the NSC – one is headed by Hassan Aideed and the other by Aqal. These two secessionist factions represent a very small minority. However, a reconciliatory conference will be held by the end of this month in Cairo to make amends with Aideed and Aqal.
Q: Is the NSC recognized and supported by other regional and international powers? A: The NSC is recognized by the Organization of African Unity , the Arab League, and the Non-Aligned Movement which comprises 113 countries. The UN Security Council, in its last session, has announced that the NSC is the authority and mechanism that will help bring Somalia back to the international community and help the progress of national reconciliation.
Q: How do you view the future government of Somalia? A: There will be two stages. The first is the transitional stage which will last for three years. The NSC has already endorsed a draft of the provisory constitution which stipulates that participation in authority is done according to one of two ways. An alternately presidential council would be formed whose members successively alternate in power. The other alternative is to have a president with several deputies as well as a legislative council consisting of 83 members and an independent judicial system. In the second stage, the legislative council will conduct a national census, propose a permanent constitution, and organize free elections to be monitored by international observers and neutral organizations. A new federal system will then come into being.
Q: What kind of obstacles impede reaching a reconciliation between you and the other factions? A: We have made all possible efforts through our channels and via some neighboring countries to bring the absent factions into the peace process. Aideed was met by Ali Mahdi in Cairo and an agreement was reached. A similar agreement was also made in Sana’a, but Aideed always goes back on his word. Aideed was supposed to meet the NSC in Addis Ababa to conclude the agreement, but he did not come. We also sent a five-man delegation to Mogadishu two months ago to meet Aideed, but he refused to receive them. It seems that Aideed sees himself as the strongest man who can control all of Somalia, which is totally false. He is weaker than one can imagine. In fact, just a few days ago on October 9th, an area controlled by Aideed was captured by forces loyal to the NSC. It is the area where I come from.
Q: What about the secessionist who call themselves the Republic of the Land of Somalia? A: The NSC considers Somalia as one entity. There are factions in the NSC which come from northern Somalia where the secessionists claim their republic. These people do not receive any support or recognition. Even the other factions which recognized them at the beginning has withdrawn their support now.
Q: Does Somalia have problems with its neighbors? A: Apart from the burden imposed by Somali refugees, we do not have any problems with our neighboring countries. All countries unanimously support Somalia’s unity and national reconciliation. Ethiopia, for instance, had hosted a national reconciliation conference in April in which the Organization of African Unity recognized the NSC. The neighboring countries look forward to the day when peace will be established in Somalia and the Somali refugees would return back. Some neighboring countries also complain of the arms flow from Somalia into their territories which can lead to destabilizing their peace and security. So these countries sincerely want peace to prevail in our country.
Q: What about the Somali economy? A: The Somali economy has deteriorated. As a matter of fact, there is now no such thing as an economy in Somalia. The reason behind that is the absence of a central authority to protect the country’s natural resources. The 7-year war has led to the destruction of much of the country’s infrastructure, rendering the economy in tatters.
Q: Any last word? A: It is worth mentioning here that Somalia has one religion, one language, one race, and one culture. The current conflict is due mainly to personal greed and political ambition on part of some faction leaders. The complex tribal structure in Somalia has led to much of Somalia’s trouble. I’d like to thank President Ali Abduallah Saleh, the Yemeni government and people for their support and hospitality. We appreciate Yemen’s concern for the troubles in our country. We wish Yemen all the prosperity and progress and to avoid any internal strife.