Somalia: A Deadly Mismanagement of Politics by the TFG

Human Rights Watch released a new report Wednesday entitled “Somalia: Pro-Government Militias Executing Civilians.” The report points to key problems in the Transitional Federal Government (TFG)’s campaign to reclaim areas held by the rebel movement al Shabab: brutality, sloppiness, and administrative ambiguity.

The TFG is assisted by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and coordinates in many ways with the forces of Kenya and Ethiopia, both present in Somalia. These groups have pushed al Shabab out of a great deal of territory in southern Somalia since last August, when al Shabab partly withdrew from the capital Mogadishu, and particularly since last October, when Kenya invaded. Yet the TFG’s chronic problem – establishing political control and goodwill in areas it controls – has surfaced in these newly reconquered areas as well.

Pro-government militias in Somalia have committed summary executions and torture in the towns of Beletweyne and Baidoa since occupying them with Ethiopian forces earlier in 2012, Human Rights Watch said today. The authorities should take immediate steps to stop the abuses and hold those responsible to account, Human Rights Watch said.

On December 31, 2011, the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) and two Somali militia groups – Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a (ASWJ) and Shabelle Valley State (SVS) – ousted the militant Islamist group al-Shabaab from Beletweyne, the capital of the Hiraan region, which borders Ethiopia. Ethiopian troops and militias allied with the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia took over Baidoa, the capital of the Bay region, on February 22, 2012.

Civilians told Human Rights Watch that since the transition, security has become worse in both towns due to abusive security operations by allied forces and, in the case of Beletweyne, rising tensions between militias vying for control. Although al-Shabaab no longer controls either town, its forces continue to attack the Ethiopian and other forces and target civilians perceived to support them.

One could say that these are pro-government militias and outside fighters, and not the government itself. One could also say that al Shabab is notorious for abuses against civilians. Both points would be true. But a would-be government hoping to establish rule in new turf can ill afford to have its allies alienating civilian populations. The actions of those who act in the name of the TFG reflect on the TFG.

Flashing back to 2008, when Ethiopia was occupying Somalia, we see the same kinds of problems. Ethiopia invaded in 2006 to topple the Union of Islamic Courts, which held Mogadishu, and they left in 2009 with the TFG nominally in control. But Ethiopia’s brutality, the rallying cry provided by the presence of foreign troops on Somali soil, and the fragmentation of the Courts Union helped spur the rise of al Shabab, formerly the youth wing of the Courts but now a self-standing group, one with ambitions to act as Al Qaeda’s chapter in Somalia.

I do not believe there is a one-to-one equation in which brutality by the Somali government and its allies drives people straight into the arms of al Shabab. But I do believe that such violence has serious political repercussions: namely the violence seems to ensure that many people will have little or no faith in the TFG and will, indeed, fear it just as much as they fear other groups. Somalia looks ahead now to an uncertain transition in August, when the TFG’s mandate technically expires. Core political questions – who controls what, and how – remain not only unresolved, but also grimly contested. And as happens so often, civilians find themselves tossed about between Sylla and Charybdis.


4 thoughts on “Somalia: A Deadly Mismanagement of Politics by the TFG

  1. Considering that in many places the Somali government barely exists (if at all) anything that the ASWJ and the rest do is probably going to reflect badly on it.

  2. In my opinion, most of the atrocities are being committed by the Shabaab and the militias sponsored by the Ethiopians ( kind of proxy). 

    The first President of the TFG, as one who knew him wrote, had the foresight to solve that as soon as he was elected in 2004. He requested from the AU/UN to send 20,000 troops IMMEDIATELY. he requested help in reconstituting the Somali National Army ASAP.The international community, regrettably , didn’t heed his advise in time and are feverishly trying to implement NOW what he clearly saw then, long before Shabab became strong or provoked the Ethiopian incursion and its aftermath.

    The late President was buried in his home town Galkayo in Puntland after receiving the best official State funeral in Mogadishu. And later in Puntland. ALL the TFG as well past and present Puntland leaders and traditional Chiefs were present. Every single Somali leader, at home or in exile, past or present gave him posthumous farewell. Every single city in the Diaspora openly expressed their genuine condolences at major gatherings openly televised and posted widely. Never in the history of Somalia have we seen such open expression of sadness. I doubt if we ever will see it. 

    After his official State burial, the Somali leaders met in Galkayo and within hours reached unanimously some major points, like how to endorse the draft constitution and select the coming constituent assembly members. Usually, such exercises, when held outside in posh 5-star hotels, take a tremendous toll.

     What happened at Galkayo during and after the State burial of a fallen hero, left me with great hope ( and I’m usually great pessimist when it comes to Somali politics), that Somalis, if left alone, are more than capable to solve their problems their way as long as the international community doesn’t interfere and just bloody hell give them the requested wherewithal and not double guess them all the time and analyze them to death. Or, please leave us do it our way.

    If only we listened to the advise of our fallen and now posthumously honored HERO, the President Abdullahi Yussuf Ahmed. R.I.P. Don’t miss to read his 428-page memoir he wrote three months ago when the english translation comes out.

  3. A government and its allies are inevitably held to a higher standard than an insurgency, so these types of incidents are amplified by perceptions (especially with ASWJ involved). They won’t drive up al-Shabaab’s recruitment or significantly weaken perceiptions of the TFG, but any distance between the gov. and population benefits the militants. Nor does the TFG have the capacity to organise and police llocal militias. All sources of Clausewitzian friction.

    April 20th’s “deadline” to draft a new constitution is the next immediate test for the TFG. Security gains aside, I’m still skeptical on a workable transition come August.

  4. One has to feel s Sorry for the Somali people, between Hyenas, Wolfs and Snakes.
    Even the Warlord era was better for the redisents of South Somalia, than this corrupt TFG and the Ethiopian and Kenyan forces.
    The words used by the Kenyan Government and other Amisom countries is PACIFICATION, my god this is the words used by Hitlers Nazi arm 70 years ago in Poland and France, this means mord and humiliation of Somalis.
    I believe that is is better for Somalis to unite and free themselfs from the neighboring colony as well as the TFG.
    The so called International Community and al-shabaab are not bringing solution for the people either.
    The only solution for Somalis is unity against the black colony. Africa has won and thrown out the white colony, but now the black colony spearheaded by Ethiopia, Kenya and Ugandha is trying to eliminate Somalia. I am sure they will not succceed.

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