A Throne for Terror Leader
Ethiopian-backed warlord Colonel Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed has been crowned as the national leader of Somalia. He was allegedly born in December 1923 at Wardheer in the Somali west region near Galkacyo. The ambitious warlord intends to impose order on his country while Ethiopia solicits a policy of anarchy. He became a lieutenant of army officer in 1960 without having any qualification or applicable training. His clan elders at the time of the colonization of Somalia backed and lobbied for him. He had continuous disagreements with the senior authorities in military so he was exiled to Italy and Soviet Union. During this time he was “rehabilitated” by having minor training. His military career was not very successful due to insufficient knowledge and incompetence in the field. The only positive skills he has are that he is goal oriented and a brave officer, which are common traits among Somali army commanders. Those only two traits are not enough to hold a leading position in the top ranks of the Somali military hierarchy. Colonel Abdullahi was associated with the plot that killed the beloved late President Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke and after the military coupe in October 21st 1969 he was detained for that purpose for six years. A police officer named Bedel Hersi who was linked with the murder of the president leaked the information to the investigating board at that time. Colonel Bedel Hersi is a close relative with Colonel Abdullahi Yusuf.
Col. Abdullahi Yusuf was well known for his clan loyalty and his ethnic chauvinistic attitude. He was a senior army commander during the reign of military dictatorial regime in Somalia and served as a senior clan adviser to Dictator Siad Barre, until he led an unsuccessful tribal military coup against Siad Barre. In 1977, the war with Ethiopia was militarily very successful, but failed politically due to lack of effective foreign policy. After the war, in principle, most of the army officers were in agreement to overthrow the regime of Siad Barre. They planned during the end of the war to make the coupe in April 12th 1978, but late Colonel Ciro and his associate clansman, Colonel Abdullah Yusuf anticipated the date of the coupe to April 9th 1978. They did so because they wanted the power served to be in favor for the interest of their clan. The anticipation was a big surprise to the military officers in other clans who were devoted to the idea of power sharing. In the 1977 war with Ethiopia, Colonel Abdullahi Yusuf was the head of the military base in Dollo. During the war, his military strategy was inefficient and most of his offensive operations were ended unsuccessfully against the Ethiopian forces. Many of his military colleagues interpreted his actions differently and mentioned the case as sabotage to the war. They believed that he was very busy with the strategy for developing a plot to eliminate prominent, honest army officers who were in compliance with nationalistic views. To fulfill his objectives, he was implementing his manipulations through the late Colonel Ciro who was the close aide of Siad Barre. Many of his close military friends agreed that Colonel Abdullahi is a military man who feels uneasy participating in external major military confrontations. They described that he preferred enthusiastically participating in internal clan warfare in civilians (ethnic cleansing).
After his clansmen failed to overthrow Dictator Siad Barre in April 9th, 1978, he fled to Ethiopia and led the clan based guerrilla movement, the Somali Salvation Front. In 1998, he emerged as clan and a faction leader in his native region. He self-renamed the two tiny semi-desert northeast regions, Bari and Nugaal, as “Puntland”. The Somalis do not adhere to either the new name or the autonomy, because the region is less populated and suffers limited resources. With the help of his clan literacy and clan-ideology perceptions, he managed to establish a clan council in his native region that composed of his tribal elders. After that, he appointed himself as the only clan leader and declared his home region as autonomous.
Warlord Abdullahi Yusuf has never been seen as a national figure. Since the creation of the Somali nation in 1960, he did not have the motivation to earn military credibility during the two wars with Ethiopia. In his military career, Col. Abdullahi was seen as a man who stuck with out-dated colonial-attitude rule as well as old military-style ruling attitude. In March1964 and May1978, he handed over many sensitive Somali military secrets to neighboring Ethiopia and in 1978 he allied openly with the Ethiopian forces that at that time were in full war with Somalia. In July 1982, Col. Abdullahi again led an invasion in which his clansmen militia took part in an Ethiopian major offensive against Somalia. Two Somali territories, namely Balanbal and Galdogob, failed under Ethiopian control and the Mengistu regime declared that these territories were part of Ethiopia. Col. Abdullahi was the first Somali citizen who accepted the Ethiopian flag being hung and flown on Somali soil. In 1998, the secessionist-warlord proclaimed himself as the North-East region president and declared the region as autonomous and succeeded from the rest of the country, as a nation with clan federation as one of its top priorities. Warlord Abdullahi is still loyal to Somali’s enemy neighbor, leading a military, political war campaign against the existence of Somali nation. He was crowned by Ethiopia and mandated to install a dictatorial regime whose main goal was to divide and polarize tribal grievances, succeeding into clan-based wars and eventually to secession of the country into small emirates.
Col. Abdullahi was neither a military strongman nor a deep-rooted politician. His approach to leadership is depicted as an authoritarian style and Machiavellian rule. After his failed attempt to overthrow Dictator Siad Barre, he organized a terror movement aimed at civilians in the Somali territories. He started a bloody clan-based resistance to the clan supporters of Siad Barre and in retaliation killed thousands of innocent civilians and caused the displacement of many more in central regions.
The Somali Salvation Democratic Front, a military structure built up by Ethiopia, was established in October 1981 at Aden, Yemen through the merge of three dissident groups. A conflict soon surfaced between the groups. The Somali Salvation Front, led by Yusuf, wanted to dominate the SSDF and secretly made a deal with the Ethiopian Military ruler. With the help of Ethiopian military force, Col. Abdullahi succeed in purging and jailing many leading oppositional members from the organization. When he was emerged as the leader of SSDF, he systematically murdered other prominent leaders from clans such as Dr. Abdirahman Aideed from Sool region, Mr. Shandiile from Mogadishu, and Colonel Gosaar from North. In 1983 General Morgan brought many SSDF fighters to Siad Barre. In 1985 SSDF completely collapsed and its military operations ceased to function, because most of its fighters defected to Morgan.
Since 1991 uncoordinated clan elders have assumed control of North-Eastern Somalia. After the fall of the Dictator Siad Barre, SSDF emerged as a political party led by General Mohamed Abshir Muse “Hamaan”. Traditional elders held a congress in August 1994 and both General Abshir and Colonel Abdullahi proclaimed to be the winner chairman of SSDF. General Abshir stayed in Saudi Arabia for religious reasons and seemed to abandon the conflict. Col. Abdullahi Yusuf emerged as the self-proclaimed head in the Northeastern region in 1998. In order to avoid further disputes, a delegation of tribal elders had reached a compromise with him for a three years office term in the regional administration. Immediately he engaged an armed conflict with General Abshir’s faction and he killed hundreds of civilians in the war including armed religious groups. During his term he ruled the region with iron fist. His faction-linked militias were also responsible for kidnappings, executions and rapes of the opposing clans and the minorities in the region. The authority established a single council of tribal elders and banned political parties. Political demonstrators were detained and human rights defenders were frequently at risk from his faction militias. There were major humanitarian problems, limited resources, and few social facilities in the region. Humanitarian workers were at great risk of being kidnapped or killed. Courts functioned in customary clan level and did not adhere to international standards of a fair trial. The courts imposed several death sentences that were carried out swiftly. There were allegations of clansmen militia committing killings and human rights abuses; there were no efforts to bring them to justice. The conditions of prisoners were extremely poor and crowded. There were no juvenile courts or custody facilities and children were imprisoned with adults.
The colonel’s term expired on July 1st 2001, but he asked for his term to be extended for two years. The regional Supreme Court declined this on July 3rd 2001. The Colonel declared himself as acting president until a new election was established. On November 14th 2001 Col. Jamac Ali Jamac was elected head of the regional administration, but Col. Abdullahi refused to recognize the election results and stayed in office. The warlord Abdullahi appealed to Ethiopia, which seemed to take advantage of the U.S. vision toward Somalia, because U.S. officials have seen Somalia as a heaven for militants suspected of al-Qaeda-links. The Colonel started the fight to gain the control of the region, claiming that he was fighting with Islamic terrorists. With the help of Ethiopian military forces and armies, he gained control of the region on May 8th 2002. Hundreds of civilians and faction militias have lost their lives in the heavy army fighting in the area.
Later, in June 2002, Yusuf Abdiaziz, president of the East African University was jailed and tortured in prison by the Colonel’s forces. In august 2002, Sultan Ahmed Mahamud Mahamed Hurre who was a prominent opponent of Colonel Abdullahi Yusuf was killed near Garowe by the Colonel’s forces. He was extra-judicially executed on the order of the colonel. In September 2002, independent journalists were under threat and some of them were jailed for three-month periods. The editor of the SomaliPress was detained for an undetermined period without charge or trial and some private radio stations that criticize the authorities were shut down.
The Colonel’s forces attacked the neighboring northern region to settle differences with military solution. Military confrontation continued during September through October 2004, and hundreds of civilians and armed militia were killed in the clash over the contested status of Sool and Sanag regions. Most of the inhabitants of those regions belong to the clan associated with the Northeast region, but the land belongs geographically to the inhabitants of the northern region with a recognized treaty signed under the borders of British Somaliland. In the six years of military rule, the northeast region administration has never been really functional and has failed to establish democratic governance due to incompetence and lack of capacity.
A national Reconciliation Conference was lunched in October 2002, under the mediation of IGAD. Ethiopia played double roles; at times it showed off the International Community lip services of honestly mediating peace negotiations and at other times it is deeply involved as an actual sponsor for wars in Somalia. Ethiopia fuels conflicts by continuously sending flows of weapons to the Ethiopian-backed warlords.
The conference was intended to reconcile serious clan conflicts. Ethiopia derailed the conference and targeted warlords as the issues of the reconciliation. Warlords populated the conference; Somali representatives from foreign interests and incompetent people had left the country for many years. After two years of lengthy negotiation efforts, the reconciliation was not achieved and in Mbagathi, Kenya, the conference got tired of endless plots from Ethiopia and its Somali warlords. In the end, to justify the costly foreign investments to the conference, IGAD agreed to come up with an alternative to save the conference from being a failure. Ethiopia’s policy gained ground at the end of the conference, IGAD agreed with the 275-member parliament, which in October 10th 2004 elected Ethiopian-backed warlord Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed for a transitional period of five years. However, the parliament, government, and the warlord president remained in exile in Kenya. They await foreign troops to bring them home safely, because their security seemed to be much important than the job they were appointed for. If the conference succeeded in reconciliation the newly formed government could relocate immediately in the capital Mogadishu and could continue building a sustainable reconciliation and reconstruction throughout the country. Despite efforts by civil society, elders, businessmen, and local administrations interested in establishing a more peaceful and secure environment in Mogadishu, the warlord president insists on his request of foreign troops. Instead of seeking reconciliation from his people he preferred to ask for protection from Ethiopia. The warlord president proved to the Somali people that he is an instrument of Ethiopia, predator of foreign aid, repressor, and clan prejudice.
Col. Abdullahi seems to derive his power from corruption, tribalism, army conflicts, and social anarchy. The Somali intellectuals are uneasy about the prospect of his government and believe that the consolidation of a functional government and rule of law are not expected in the coming five years. The low expectations towards the colonel came from his record full of incompetence for peace, inability to unify the divisions among the Somalis. This warlord has been described as warmonger, because he was engaged in fighting for 37 years and doesn’t have a track record of peace in his life career. He also has a dirty record of human rights abuses. He is a ruthless and brutal dictator who wants to hold all power in his hands. No matter what it costs to others, for any price he appears to have devoted most of his energies to remain president for the rest of his life. His authoritarian style of leadership had cut short the lives of so many innocent civilians.
He was having trouble with the ordered, organized authorities in the government system and he was in continuous resistance against the rule of law. His rebellious attitude toward authorities is deeply rooted from libertarian, lawless nomadic style and close-minded conservative, tribal mentality. It is clear if someone doesn’t obey the rule of his superiors and is defiant to be led, then in turn he would not have the capability to lead either.
Dr. Said Mohamud