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SHASNA MediaWatch BOSTON, MA [December 19, 2001] An Open Letter to Nairobi Based Foreign Correspondents and to Richard Dowden, The Guardian and Reuters News Agencies.
We read your Somalia articles on The Guardian, The Economist, Reuters, and AFP and on numerous other news agencies with great interest. However, we are immensely disappointed with the lack of truth and detailed analysis of your news reports and of the current Somali dilemmas.
We appreciate your sincere, albeit always confusing and incomplete messages. But we are willing to educate you, and therefore always ready, to remind you few more realities about the current Somali dilemmas. Let us get started:
Warlords: Your Nairobi based reporters can call the Somali clan leaders - good or bad - whatever name they desire, but these warlords or leaders represent realities on the ground. They are Somalia's clan leaders! Some of them, like the RRA leader Col. Shaatigaduud, are neither warlords nor clan leaders, but regional leaders representing a melting pot of persecuted clans.
TNG: Mr. Abdiqasim Salad Hassan is another warlord and a sub-clan leader who represents his 'Ayr' sub-clan. That sub-clan is led by a war criminal - Abdiqasim Salad Hassan, Said Barre's interior minister who also held every imaginable portfolio in that regime - and in addition to certain Arab interests and their religious zealots, is financed by al-itihad and al-Barakaat who are all members of al-Qaeda subsidiaries.
Al-Barakaat: Contrary to the Nairobi based UN officials, Mr. Randolph Kent and foreign correspondents' perceptions; there are at least four Somali telecommunications companies in Somalia. Al-Barakaat Telecom was always a minor carrier in Northern Somalia (Somaliland and Puntland) and that market is dominated by STG group of companies who control more than 85% of that market share (STC in Hargeysa and Burco; Netco in Boosaaso; PunTel in Garoowe; GalKom in Galkayo; and also M&M Links (mobile and microwave network) covering every inch of territory between Galkayo to Garoowe, Qardho and Las Anod and to Burco and Hargeysa.) STG is also in process of the grand opening of two new locations: one in Las Anod and the other in Erigaabo. In the Mogadishu market, al-Barakaat controlled about 35% of the market and that void has quickly been filled by the existing competition. On the money transfer businesses, which are even more competitive than the telecommunications market, al-Barakaat was another money transfer company. The only problem in this area was that Somali entrepreneurs got little nervous about the constant mention of Hawala companies by the western media. But that also was temporary and all is now back to full speed. Somali entrepreneurs are hungry for additional businesses and they are getting it in droves. And just like Sir David Stephens of the UN political office in Nairobi, al-Barakaat has hardly been missed!
However, the question about al-barakaat is this: where did the funds to start this company come from? Where do the constant and sizable infusions of capital to expand this company come from? We know of who started the company; and he was a mere clerk in a Saudi bank. We also know of most of the shareholders; and most of them were penniless taxi-drivers and other guests from North America and Europe invited to join the organization without buying a single share! We also know of the local shareholders and they too were also more of religious fanatics with no business interests and who actually preached against profit making and profit taking. Yet, all of a sudden these religious fanatics and preachers get to own major shares in a major company, which nobody knew where it came from! That is the real question, and of course, it is not a hidden secret in Somalia of who really owns and finances the al-Barakaat group of companies. About al-Barakaat shareholders and how they went from rags to riches, please see previous SHASNA reports.
The Root Cause of the Somali Civil War: No matter how hard they try, the UN officials in Nairobi can't ignore the realities on the ground; and if they do, then, everything they build will collapse and will face a similar fate as that of their ill-fated and al-itihad supported TNG. Somalia is a simple country and it consists of clans whose grazing fields are spread in certain well known territories. During the civil war, certain clans have displaced certain other clans. They have taken over their farms, homes and grazing fields. With the exception of Mogadishu and two regions in the South, all Somali clans now inhabit in their known territories and regions. The only exception is the 'AYR' sub-clan of Mr. Salad Hassan. Using the same formula as that of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan - create enmities between clans and appropriate certain clan lands to friendly other clans - Osama's allies have tried to use the same formula, and this time a tired and battered UN has even acquiesced in! But Somali clans have yet to! Now the question is: will the al-Qaeda appropriated Somali lands and properties be back to its rightful owners and how soon?
Saudi religious fanatics and the TNG: It is Saudi Arabia and their religious fanatics led by Osma bin Laden that have created Mr. Abdiqasim Salad Hassan's TNG. It is Saudi Arabia and Qatar that is financing the TNG. Because of the Nile River, it is also Egypt that is destabilizing the Horn. It is these Arab nations that have an inherent interest for an unstable Somalia. A stable Somalia with petrodollars, creative citizens and friendly and brotherly relations with Ethiopia is inappropriately conceived by the Middle East ruling classes to be a threat to their survival; and their home grown Arab religious fanatics even see a bigger threat!
Ethiopia: It is a new dawn at the Horn. Ethiopia is not ruled by a Kingdom and the Soviet Union is no longer! The Somali civil war has proved that Ethiopia is Somalia's only true ally in Africa. We are brothers with common bonds and common interests and will remain so; it is in our common interests! With Ethiopia we have more traits, interests and bonds than any other nation on the face of the earth. The European invented and encouraged enmity between Ethiopia and Somalia has reached its tired end, and a new brighter dawn has begun!
UN and foreign correspondents in Nairobi: Somalia is more advanced than some countries in Africa (Djibouti is still struggling to start a mobile phone company while almost every single villages in Somalia is covered) and with more people employed that the past ten years and with better living conditions than certain neighboring countries. We are hurting, but we are also making some serious strides and real achievements forward. These developments are not contributed to by Saudi Arabia (Actually they hinder as they boycott Somali livestock and for a reason) and not by Mr. Randolph Kent's UN. It is earned by Somalis struggling everyday to make themselves and their country better. It also comes from the Somali clan leaders who encourage their lot to be productive and competitive.
Yet, what do we hear from the UN officials and from the ever gullible Nairobi based foreign correspondents?
This is what we hear: "The closure is causing immense suffering to Somalia, already wracked by poverty and drought." We hear gloom and doom from Mr. Kents UNDP and SACB offices. We hear exonerations of Siad Barre war criminals and al-Qaeda cell leaders. We also hear the following: "Somali warlords see US campaign as path to power." What power? Is it a crime to get your farms, properties and grazing fields from invaders from another land? If Afghanistan warlords can be admired for their tenacity to drive al-Qaeda from their territories, how come it is so bad for Somali clan leaders to drive al-Qaeda sympathizers from their villages and farms? Or is this just another lame excuse to make the UN and Mr. Randolph Kent look good and therefore their mistake prone offices look mistake free?
Well, they had their chances, and we hope the remaining UN officials in Nairobi will take the road taken by Mr. David Stephen, the head of the UN political office responsible for this fiasco in Somalia. As for the Nairobi based foreign correspondents that get their news from the UN offices and from the UN's IRIN organization, it is never too late to report the truth. If you don't know the truth, seek it and you shall find it. Check, double check and triple check your sources. Do not depend on one source for your stories, and least of all, the UN officials based in Nairobi. Go and travel to Baydhabo; travel to Kismayo; go and pay a visit to the Recovery Zones when they are not being disrupted and destabilized by the UN-sponsored and Arab financed sub-clan in Mogadishu; see for yourselves the stability and development taking place in northern Somalia. And please tell and REPORT the truth!
Conclusion: We have a good faith in you and in Mr. Richard Dowden; he has done it before in his 1999, Galkayo, Puntland report on The Economist of London: "A failed state that is succeeding in parts," and we are quite convinced that it could be done again.
Mr. Dowden, two years later since your last report on the Economist, a lot has improved in the Recovery Zones and in Galkayo. May be it is time to pay another visit and showcase these shining examples to the rest of the world and to the UN's well-meaning but misguided do-gooders in their luxurious Nairobi compounds.
But we very much doubt that they will pay attention to your suggestions. They have ignored your 1999, warnings that "...the UN would be ill-advised to try to reconstitute Somalia as a centralised state. Instead, it should encourage its dismembered parts to form reasonably democratic administrations and secure nationwide agreements on common issues such as a central bank, roads, schools and health programmes." Dear Mr. Dowden, We call this the bottom-up approach that will form the basis of a federation. It is working in Somaliland, in Puntland and in Bay and Bakool regions. But the Middle East ruling classes and the Nairobi based UN officials won't have any of it.
But Allah willing, sooner or later, we will have our Somali way, and we will succeed against all odds; we hope, you too, will succeed at your jobs and in reporting the truth, nothing but the truth in Somalia.
SHASNA* Editorial Board
*SHASNA is an advocacy group based in Boston, Massachusetts. It stands for the unity and peaceful coexistence of the Somali people. It supports the creation of a federal system of governance to safeguard the emerging free markets of the Recovery Zones. SHASNA encourages corporate and individual investments in the Recovery Zones. It has presences in both Puntland (Boosaaso, Garoowe, Buurtinle, Bacaadweyn and Galkayo) and Somaliland (Hargeysa, Berbera and Burco).