19 May 2007 04:14


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  • Title: [SW Column]( Mohamed Urdoh) Gelleh’s initiative nixed in Canada
  • From:[]
  • Date :[20 April 2000]


Gelleh’s initiative nixed in Canada.

By Mohamed Urdoh

It is a disturbing moment for the some two hundred Somali-Canadians in the auditorium of Kipling Collegiate Institute, Etobicoke (Toronto), in this warm Saturday evening when, under normal circumstance, it makes more sense to take a leisurely stroll along the waterfront.

The task of the organizers of the get-to-gather is hardly enviable. Wondering if the former Somali Republic is retrievable from the global junkyard of derelict states, where it has been laying lifeless for a decade now, they want the participants to excruciatingly mull over how to lend a hand to Djibouti president Ismail Gelleh who promises to resurrect their lost "paradise" from its ashes.

While the intentions of the Djibouti leader are suspect in the eyes of many, an even worse dilemma faces his acolytes in Canada. Simply put, just like their brothers and sisters back home, Somali-Canadians have no common political grounds.

In fact, when President Hassan Gulaid, Mr. Gelleh’s predecessor, and paternal uncle, was making similar, if ill-fated, efforts a decade back, the Somali political scene was much better than what it is now.

Since 1991, the number of active armed militias went up, the old ones have broken into several splinter groups and such new administrations as Puntland and Jubaland popped out in the south, while Somaliland remained unshakable in its resolve to part roads with it’s former partner.

Therefore, unlike a previous meeting largely attended by participants supportive to the Djibouti leader, this evening’s event reflects the latest developments in the hapless nation. Thus, as tempers shoot high and acrimonious tirades are traded by people from different shades of the political spectrum, the meeting is progressively falling into utter chaos.

This was not unpredictable. Even before the discussions were in the offing, one could hear people grumbling coming from the floor.

"What a cheek! The Ka’aan songs are being played. Some people have given themselves the right to make decisions for all of us even though they don’t know our names," comments a male critic. "Ka’aan" is a word coined by Siad Barre to depict his military regime as a "Revolutionary force."

Others were not flattered by being treated to a documentary featuring the Somalia of 1963 while everyone was incensed because the keynote speaker, Djibouti Ambassador to the UN and the designated chairman of the forthcoming conference, failed to show up.

"The man was not expected in the first place. They used his name to lure us into this filthy meeting. They are liars big time. Boy! Is he lucky or what. I wanted to put him on the carpet," a revolted woman snaps.

But, the full intensity of the electricity in the air was not completely felt before the discussions started rolling.

Setting the tone for what would become a head-on-collision between the protagonists, Mohamoud Naser, an engineer who left Somalia for conscientious reasons 25 years ago, stresses "Djibouti was one of the five parts of the Somali nation for whose unity we fought very hard."

" In the 60's" continues Naser who hails from the Awdal region of Somaliland, "(two thirds of Somalia’s annual budget) used to be allocated to campaigns for the liberation of Djibouti, the former Northern Frontier District in Kenya and the current Fifth Province of Ethiopia. That hope was dashed by Djibouti. It went its own separate way after independence. It did not even bother to give us so much as glance. We have no a reason to be grateful to them."

Echoing similar sentiments, another Somalilander, who shies away from revealing her name, asserts "We are staunchly opposed to Djibouti conference. Forty years ago, we became victims. The flag (of the defunct Somali Republic) is what killed us. My mother was murdered in Hargeisa. That flag will never again fly in the skies of Hargeisa."

Abdihakim Ollow, whose brother belongs to the Gelleh camp, is one more outspoken nay-sayer who doesn’t mince his words.

"My brother supports the conference. I’m opposed to it. The people who face the problems pestering Somalia are not involved in it. I’m a part of Jubaland. Our land is still dominated," he emphasizes in an emotion-charged voice.

Earlier, Amina Shrief, the only female among the five people invited from Canada for a symposium paving the way for the conference, which brought together some 70 people handpicked by Gelleh, painted a rosy picture about the groundwork laid down for the conference in Djibouti.

Praising Djibouti for launching the reconciliation initiative, she reports "The participants were drawn from all over the world. They were sincere nationalists. None of them had an axe to grind. They included elders, intellectuals and ordinary people. We had a hard and difficult agenda. We dropped some points, added others and had lengthy discussions on some more. Our discussions were objective and thorough."

Mohamed Farah, a strong fan of Mr. Gelleh explains "Djibouti is pained by our tribulations. They want us to stand on our feet so that they can lean on us. I support the initiative. Our dignity and our state will be restored. Even if it fails, we can pick up from there in the future."

Meanwhile, Hassan Ollow (the brother of the above-mentioned speaker with the same last name) suggests "the leaders of Somaliland use Somali passports to travel around. They must be disallowed to do so since they have rejected to be part of Somalia."

As the wrangling between the various sides of the divide continues sharpening, Mohamed Yasin tries to knock some sense into the heads of the participants.

"We are in Canada. Anyone who wants to change Somalia must go back there. We are not even united in Canada. I don’t think we will ever come together. Every nation has a handful of people who are willing to make sacrifices. The Somali nation does not have this type of people," he laments.

The scenario unfolding at the Toronto school could have been dismissed as an isolated event had it not been for a late December Ottawa conference, Awdal Conference 1, which backfired on the Djibouti ruler who expected it to be a significant phase of a wider campaign designed to lure the European and North American Awdal Diaspora communities to his side.

Referring to the needs of Somaliland, Dr. Mohamoud Sh. Hassan Tani, who spoke at that conference stated "We are for peace. We support the status quo. We want no guns. We want anti-biotics. We want working roads. We want education. We want income generation projects. We want conflict resolution (mechanisms.)"

Against this backdrop, if the mood prevailing at the current assembly is the taste of what is to come, the big picture no cheers for Mr. Gelleh.

This is particularly true since he desperately needs the conference to succeed to rally Arab League support behind himself a time when the tiniest state in the Horn of African is at loggerheads with Paris, its defender and provider.

The animus between the two sides was sparked by an on-going inquiry in Paris on the mysterious death of a French judge who allegedly committed suicide in Djibouti in Oct. 1995. However, recently evidence suggest that Mr. Gelleh might have been responsible for the circumstance which led to the demise of the man.

Consequently, Djibouti, where government employees are not paid their salaries for periods as long as six months, needs the bounty of the oil-rich Arab states and the Egyptian military might to be on its side at this trying days.

Surely, these countries are not bad candidates for flirtatious relationship with Mr. Gelleh’s beleaguered regime. After all, the Arab League giants always saw the Red Sea as an "Arab Lake." Therefore, the penetration of the area by a force deemed hostile is seen as a calculated risk. The end of the cold war following the demise of the USSR has not totally allayed these fears.

On the contrary, with the emergence of a new powerful brand of Islamist movements like those led by Hassan al-Tourabi and Osama bin Laden, the leaders in the conservative Arab World attach great geopolitical importance to Somalia. As a result, they would like to get a solution on their own terms for the Somali problem.

Hedging his bets on the this dynamics, President Gelleh is trying to get a pliable jinnee out of the bottle. But he may well end up in opening Pandora’s box, as his late uncle - who groomed him for power - did in 1991 when his attempt to crown "Emperor Ali Mahdi I of Somalia" threw Mogadishu into turmoil that costed thousands of innocent lives.



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