The Somaliland lobby is working hard around the clock! After 20 years of showcasing clanocracy (not “democracy”) to the world, the breakaway region in northern Somalia seems to be directing foreign “experts” to do its dirty work, online and offline. We have a certain gentleman named Dr. J. Peter Pham, who has garnered a reputation for himself on Somali Websites of late, pushing a case against two realities in Somalia in the article entitled “Dangerous Fiction in Somalia”: the transitional federal government (TFG) and Mogadishu’s new rulers, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU). Before we delve into why Dr. Pham is pushing the case against both the internationally recognized government of Somalia (i.e. the TFG) and the populist movement (i.e. the ICU), I would like to first review his grave errors and unfounded accusations about two institutions he has little knowledge of.
First of all, Dr. Pham has proven himself to be an expert at playing into Westerners’ fears. Terms such as “Islamists,” or “local extremists,” or “foreign fighters,” or, the most notorious, “Osama bin Laden,” send shudders down Westerners’ spines because of still-relevant memories of the 9/11 terror attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., or the deadly bombings in the London subway system. In this regard (look at the bold terms), Dr. Pham writes: “…the Associated Press in Nairobi obtained an hour-long recruiting video issued by the Somali extremists which clearly showed Arab radicals fighting alongside the local extremists and invited foreign fighters and contributions for the ‘sacred, holy jihad in Somalia’ and ‘the holy war that began in Somalia’ (the latter a reference to Osama bin Laden’s old claim that al-Qaeda’s first victory against America was won in the Mogadishu street battle chronicled in Black Hawk Down).”
What absurd logic! Because bin Laden – a notorious terrorist – “claimed” that his so-called “al-Qaeda network” achieved victory during Mogadishu’s 1993 Black Hawk Down incident, we’re supposed to accept his words at face-value? Since bin Laden also “claims” that the West is on a “crusade” against Muslim countries worldwide, should we accept this “claim” at face value as well? Look at the evidence: two Muslim nations (Iraq and Afghanistan) that posed no direct military threat to the world are invaded by Western powers (led by America), all the while the “real threat” – that midget in Pyongyang, North Korea – test-fires missiles but gets nothing but lip service from the same Western powers. Every logical mind knows that bin Laden’s “claims” hold no water and the fact that Dr. Pham uses this meaningless “claim” as evidence shows the weakness of his anti-ICU case.
What Dr. Pham doesn’t know (or refuses to acknowledge) is that the 1993 firefight in Mogadishu wasn’t even between all Somali militias and U.S. Rangers – forget the so-called “al-Qaeda network”! The street fight was strictly between Habar Gedir (Hawiye) clan militias led by the late General Mohamed Farah Aideed. Like his anti-colonialist predecessor, Sayyid Mohamed Abdulle Hassan, who refused to bow down to imperial domination, General Aideed fought against American Rangers who sought to install a puppet administration in Mogadishu much like today’s Baghdad and Kabul. Once again, while bin Laden – who seems to exist only on videos – “claims” involvement in the Black Hawk Down incident, General Aideed’s militias were defending long-term Somali freedom and dignity – at great cost to their own lives and their own families. Since General Aideed was on the ground commanding his forces, where was bin Laden? Was he hiding in caves even during those days and continuing his Hollywood tradition of releasing videos? He most certainly was not in Mogadishu, for he would’ve stuck out like a sore thumb!
Secondly, the ICU leadership in Mogadishu has dismissed the AP video. I will not vouch for the authenticity of the video itself, but I personally know for a fact that we Somalis are a mixed-blood people; contrary to popular opinion in foreign countries, not all Somalis are of “dark” skin complexion. If the only evidence of “Arab radicals” in Mogadishu is a video showing masked men of lighter complexion, then I have to admit that I am not convinced.
As far as the “jihad” in Mogadishu, the Islamic Courts have every right to declare “jihad” on warlords and their callous militiamen who have raped our Somali women and killed our civilians for more than 15 years! How would you respond, Dr. Pham, if you lived in Mogadishu under the autocratic rule of heartless warlords who killed members of your own family and forced you to watch? Do you not have the right to self-defense? Do you not have the right to liberate yourself – and your family – from these war criminals? The ICU is a homegrown, populist movement that cannot be compared to the Taliban of Afghanistan, other than the two groups’ insistence on Islamic law to govern their respective countries.
Naturally, Dr. Pham’s intention is to ring alarm bells in the West and to depict the ICU as extremists who are “a threat to international security.” Nothing could be farther from the truth! To date, as all Somali people know, ICU militias only control territory inhabited by Somalia’s Hawiye clan-family. Mogadishu is predominantly home to Hawiye clansmen. Contrary to Dr. Pham’s opinion, I believe the ICU is helping safeguard international security. While the warlord militias attacked vessels on the high seas (piracy!), the ICU movement is working to open Mogadishu’s international seaport – after being shut down for the past 13 years because of warlord rivalry. Let’s see: the ICU is restoring law and order in Mogadishu, clearing roads of extortion checkpoints manned by warlord militias, and removing the invisible “green line” that divided our beloved Capital since the onset of the civil war. Banning the World Cup (if true) is a small price to pay for the defeat of the warlords and the return of law and order.
But Dr. Pham’s unfounded allegations don’t stop there. He calls Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf a “warlord,” when, the fact of the matter is that since being “elected” in October 2004, President Yusuf has not fired a single bullet, sticking to the promise he made during his swearing-in ceremony. Of course, the man [President Yusuf] has a checkered past from his heydays as Puntland (northeast Somalia) president. Yet, his support in Puntland is unwavering and is similar to Mogadishu citizens’ support for the Islamic Courts: he returned law and order to northeastern Somalia, removed illegal extortion checkpoints on the major Galkayo-Bossaso highway, and established a functioning administration. Recent steps taken in Baidoa prove the man is on a similar mission: on June 29, Bay region elected a governor. Baidoa, which, at one point in time, was one of the most anarchic cities in Somalia, is today under TFG control and is relatively peaceful. International delegations and aid organizations regularly fly in and out of Baidoa unharmed. Are you suggesting, Dr. Pham, that Baidoa is not safe? Delegations from the African Union, the European Union and the Arab League were in Baidoa recently and not a single delegate complained about security. What right does Dr. Pham have to complain about security in a city he’s never even been to before?
By far the most bizarre allegation presented by Dr. Pham is this: “…he [President Yusuf] continues to earn a nice return from his stake in Mudan Airlines, which makes twice weekly runs between Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Bosaaso, Somalia, ferrying in, among others, would-be jihadis responding to the promotional video of the Mogadishu Islamists.” Goodness! Using the doctrine of “innocent until proven guilty” common in the “civilized” world, I am inclined to ask Dr. Pham a question: Where is the evidence showing Mudan Airlines is flying so-called “jihadis” into Somalia? Have you, Dr. Pham, personally flown on Mudan Airlines alongside so-called “jihadis” or are you continuing your practice of “educated” guess games?
It is truly sad when foreigners transform into clannists with regard to Somalia affairs. For those who miss the connection, the owner of Mudan Airlines is a clansman of President Yusuf. Those who oppose President Yusuf’s leadership solely for clan loyalties are known to make such unfounded allegations against him. This part of Dr. Pham’s writing was nothing but cheap name-calling at Somalia’s leader (whom even the ICU recognizes); if it wasn’t, I implore Dr. Pham to produce the evidence for such an enormous charge.
Those who follow Dr. Pham’s writings know him well as a “Somaliland” sympathizer. In a May 11, 2006, piece entitled “Facing Reality in Somalia,” Dr. Pham wrote: “Now, however, is the time for the United States to break ranks and let realism triumph over wishful thinking, not only by recognizing, but actively supporting Somaliland…” Is there any question in anyone’s mind that Dr. Pham’s unfounded allegations against both the TFG and the ICU is motivated by his support for Somaliland recognition? His mentality, which is shared by Somaliland politicians, is that, as long as Somalia is chaotic, Somaliland’s chances of international recognition go up a notch (read: “INTERVIEW: Somaliland says Somalia unrest helps statehood bid” for reference). Dr. Pham did not write critical pieces about Mogadishu’s defeated warlords but openly opposes the ICU’s ascendance to power. From this, it can be argued that Dr. Pham opposes the restoration of law and order in Mogadishu (for that weakens the Somaliland case). How hypocritical! But viewed through the lens of a Somaliland sympathizer, it makes perfect sense, does it not?
At the end of the day, all Somali people, regardless of clan or regional affiliation, are overjoyed to see our beloved Capital under the control of a single authority for the first time since 1991: the Islamic Courts. Dr. Pham appointed himself judge and jury when he arrogantly labeled the ICU as “local extremists” and the TFG as a “gang,” without a shred of evidence. In Baidoa, the TFG leadership is welcomed by thousands of cheering Somalis wherever they set foot. In Mogadishu, those boys (ICU) upholding the peace are known as local heroes.
…Oh, yeah, I almost forgot. While “Somaliland” cries to the world about recognition, Sool and Sanaag regions remain part and parcel of Puntland State of Somalia (compare how the Puntland leadership is welcomed into Las Anod city while the so-called “president” of Somaliland was chased out of the city in broad daylight in 2002). That’s called “facing reality,” Dr. Pham, so let the secessionists feed you more rubbish to publish under the pretext of being a “foreign expert” who truly remains “foreign” to Somalia’s complex political affairs. by By Yassin R. Ali