A closed source on the ground in south-central Somalia reports on the financial dimension and motivation of the current conflict in Somalia's far sourthern Jubba regions between Harakat al-Shabaab Mujihideen (H.S.M.) and Hizbul Islam (H.I.), the two major armed Islamist opposition groups to the internationally recognized and ineffective Transitional Federal Government (T.F.G.) that control and have set up administrations in those regions. The source centers the conflict in a dispute over revenues from the port of Kismayo, south-central Somalia's second largest city and the economic and political hub of the deep southern regions. The source says that revenues are currently running at US$1 million per month, of which H.S.M. has been taking ninety percent, driving H.I. to try to force H.S.M. to alter the proportions. The source goes on to say that the antagonists are currently playing a waiting game to find out "who gets money in first." H.I., says the source, now has a faction that is ready to join the T.F.G. if the latter receives sufficient infusions of foreign aid. Meanwhile, the source reports, H.S.M. has been leading in the contest for donations from Somali businessmen in Nairobi. Significance The significance of the intelligence resides in its diagnosing the conflict as a case of economic motivation. Independent monitoring confirms that neither H.S.M. nor H.I. has raised any ideological or strategic issues in the conflict. There has been no controversy over H.S.M.'s transnational Islamism and H.I.'s Islamist nationalism, and H.S.M.'s severe interpretation of Shari'a law and H.I.'s presumably less punitive take on Shari'a. There has been no controversy about contrasting strategies for achieving the Islamic emirate/state that they both claim is their goal. Instead, the conflict has been over control of the administration of Kismayo pure and simple - who gets what - and has been increasingly fought on a sub-clan basdis. The conflict began last August when H.S.M. refused to honor an agreeement with H.I. that it would turn the administration over to the latter, according to a schedule of rotation among the coalition partners. By late September, H.S.M. had succeeded in ousting H.I. from Kismayo and announced that it was forming an administration of its own, excluding all other factions, and was linking that administration to the wider H.S.M. administration of the Jubba regions. Since then, H.S.M. and H.I. have fought a series of indecisive skirmishes in towns around Kismayo, with H.I. maintaining its stronghold in Afmadow. With H.S.M. holding Kismayo, fissures have surfaced in H.I. As the conflict over Kismayo has proceeded, its clan dimension has become conspicuous. Vulnerability to sub-clan rivalries was built into H.I., which is an amalgam of Islamist resistance groups that is represented in the Jubba regions by Harakat Ras Kamboni (H.R.K.) and Anole, both of which are rooted in southern sub-clans of the ***** clan family. H.S.M., which proclaims itself to be trans-clan was forced to rely on other ***** sub-clans when H.I. challenged it. On October 8, Sh. Hassan al-Turki, the leader of R.K.B., said that the conflict had "become tribal." Local media were quick to see parallels between the current conflict and the naked southern ***** sub-clan struggle over Kismayo between warlords Barre Hirale of the ******* and Gen Morgan leading the others that occurred before the 2006 Islamic Courts revolution. At present, by relying on the *******, H.S.M is playing Hirale's role and H.I. Gen. Morgan's. Hirale himself is reportedly mobilizing his militias in Kenya, with the aim of restoring his pre-Courts Jubba Valley Alliance. Clan-Based Islamist Warlordism Putting together the source's report that the conflict in the Jubba regions is primarily financially motivated, the absence in the conflict of appeals to ideology and strategy, and the sub-clan character of the conflict, a picture emerges of an incipient clan-based Islamist warlordism. Warlordism is familiar to Somalia observers as the dominant form of political organization in the south-central regions after the fall of Siad Barre in the early 1990s. As it developed in Somalia, warlordism became a practice of economic predation carried out by a strongman with local and sometimes regional ambitions whose base of support was sub-clan militieas and their members' dependents, and intimidated or favored businessmen. This conventional warlordism was particularistic (based on clan and personalistic identification rather than commitment to program or principle) and played out as a struggle over spoils and extortion or protection rackets. Its administrations were self-dealing and its justice, if one could call it that, was arbitrary and biassed; it was gangsterism in the name of sub-clan protection - the last social refuge in a disintegrated political community. Always a balance between public function and private interest, politics - in the form of warlordism - tips the balance overwhelmingly in favor of the latter. Where warlordism is pervasive, the population is beholden to it, because the dynamics of fear and mistrust have cut so deeply that they are nearly impossible to overcome - social entropy ensues. The conventional warlordism of the post-Barre period was broken by the 2006 Islamic Courts revolution, which proposed to unify Somalia according to a political formula based on the creation of an Islamic national state based on the practice of Shari'a law and governed by clerics. When the Courts were dispersed by the Ethiopian invasion and occupation of south-central Somalia at the end of 2006, Islamist resistance to the occupation, which dislodged the Ethiopians two years later, differentiated into the armed opposition groups to the T.F.G. that are present today and that held uneasily to tactical cooperation until that was shattered by the Kismayo conflict, which appears to be ushering in a new Islamist warlordism. Like conventional warlordism, the Islamist variety is clan-based, local and oriented toward economic gain. It adds, however, an Islamist ideology or at least identity to the conventional type, as an overlay. The Courts revolution had the formula of Islam+clan; the new warlordism has the formula Clan+Islam. This is not to say that the Islamist overlay is merely rhetorical or simply an after-thought; when Shari'a courts are operative, as they are throughout the regions controlled by the Islamists, they provide at least a semblance of legal order, whereas that cannot be said for conventional warlords. Clan-based Islamist warlordism presents the prospect of localized power centers dominated by military leaders with clerical claims who preside over Shari'a courts in the name of sub-clan identification. The conflict in Kismayo, regardless of the eventual balance of power that results from it, portends that outcome. The same tendency has appeared in most of the other south-central regions without the same level of violent conflict, perhaps because the prize is not as great elsewhere. It is plausible to judge that the energy of an Islamist political formula for Somalia has been spent, and that the entropy of defensive sub-clan identity has set in. Conclusion Expanding on the source's report to produce a picture of an incipient clan-based Islamist warlordism helps to explain why the extreme scenarios presented in the media and by domestic political actors have not materialized. On one side, fueled by statements to that effect from H.I., there were predictions of all-out war between H.S.M. and H.I. On the other, fueled by the hopes of the T.F.G. and its ally of convenience, the armed Sufi Ahlu Sunna Wal-Jama'a (A.S.W.J.) movement, there were predictions that the Islamists would self-destruct, leaving the path open to the T.F.G. to exert control over the south-central regions. Neither scenario has eventuated; instead, the Kismayo conflict has remained localized, as have the conflicts in the central and southwestern regions, indicating an assimilation of Islamism into sub-clan - neither explosion nor implosion, but a form of social grafting. Indeed, the Islamic Courts originated within sub-clans and for a brief period seemed to transcend them. Should the current pattern persist, clan-based and personalistic factional splits are likely to continue to occur within armed opposition groups. There have been reports that officials of H.S.M. from the ****** clan family have distanced themselves from or quit the group because they do not want to be part of an intra-***** fight. There is greater evidence that H.I. has split into factions supporting Sh. Adan Madobe's militant stance on taking Kismayo by force and factions seeking conciliation or, as the source reports, ready to go over to the T.F.G. if the deal is sweet enough. Another reported split in H.I. is between its chair, Sh. Hasan Dahir Aweys, and its former chair, Dr. Omar Iman, whom Aweys has supposedly accused of leaning too far toward H.S.M. and who is reportedly trying to mediate between H.S.M. and H.I. On October 14, Sh. Abdirahman Odawa, H.I.'s military commander in Elasha Biyaha - Aweys' base in the Lower Shabelle region just south of Mogadishu - defected to the T.F.G. with some of his fighters because he was dissatisfied with H.I.'s investigation of the assassination of his brother Ahmad Talibani. None of these tensions, of course, spells self-destruction, but only fragmentation and realignment along the lines of calculations of positional advantage by the myriad actors. One must remember that the T.F.G. is also seriously split, as it has been from its beginning in 2004, by factions allied with its president, now Sh. Sharif Sh. Ahmad from the ******, and its prime minister, now Omar Abdirahman Ali Sharmarke from the *****, who are currently contesting the composition of a new cabinet that Sharmarke is expected to name under pressure from donor powers. In the Jubba regions, the waiting game to see who gets the money if it comes, when they get it, how much they get and with whom they are ready to share it remains in play. That is what one would expect from warlords. Sub-clan loyalties are hard to break when conflict feeds on itself.
Report Drafted By: Dr. Michael A. Weinstein, Professor of Political Science, Purdue University firstname.lastname@example.org©2009 All rights reserved.