by Said A. Saryan
July 17, 2008
On June 9, 2008 the long suffering people of Somalia caught a glimpse of a glimmer of hope. A U.N.-sponsored peace talks in Djibouti culminating in the signing of a Peace Agreement between the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the main opposition, the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS). The central and immediate requirement of the Peace Agreement is “the cessation of all armed confrontation.” An important component of this desirable outcome is the restriction of the flow of arms to the warring factions.
In the middle of the euphoria surrounding this historical event and the hope upon hope that finally peace will dawn on Somalia after 20 years of death and destruction, the Security Council’ Sanction Committee on Somalia appointed a Mr. Matt Bryden as a Coordinator of the Monitoring Group (MG) which is mandated to monitor and report on the flow of arms to Somalia.
The recent appointment of Matt Bryden as a Co-ordinator of the UN Security Council's Monitoring Group is a slap on the face to the Somali nation. At a time when the international community is trying their best to reconcile the opposing faction in Somalia, appointing an individual who is loathed for his advocacy and relentless lobbying to dismember the country is, to say the least, misguided and counter-productive. The UN Security Council, the African Union, the Arab League, and the international community at large, confirmed time and again the Sovereignty and Territorial Integrity of the Somali Republic. Matt Bryden’s political stance and activism is in stark contrast to the deep espousal of National Unity, which transcends political differences among Somalis. An exception to this is the secessionist’s project in the Northwest regions (Somaliland) which has been spearheaded by a coalition of war merchants, remnants of Siad Barre’s dreaded National Security Services (NSS) and a handful of die-hards clan chauvinists.
Matt Bryden, a Canadian Citizen, who found his niche in the past two decades as a member of Nairobi-based Somalia’s Lord of Poverty’s consortium, has a close relationship, dating back to 1996, with the Hargeisa-based secessionists. He is a well known among the Somalis as an active advocate and Lobbyist for the recognition of Somaliland as an independent country, separate from the Somali Republic. Along with others he has been lionized by the secessionists as friends whom “Somaliland history will write their names in Gold letters.”
Matt is married to a 'Somalilander' woman and is known to travel overseas with a Canadian passport but when he lands at Hargeisa airport he produces his Somaliland’s ‘passport’, which is not recognized outside the secessionist’s enclave but holders of this symbolic but useless document are exempted from the payment of the airport’s landing fees.
As the Director of the African Program in the Brussel-based International Crisis Group (ICG), Matt Bryden initiated and oversaw in 2006 the preparation and publication of a notorious one-sided sub-standard ICG report (Somaliland: Time for African Union Leadership) promoting the breakup of Somalia and the recognition of Somaliland. In a pointed critique of this report, Omar Ali Haji and Nura K. Ali of Qarshe & Tima-Ade International Center, a Washington-based Think Tank, wrote:
Matt Bryden at Somaliland’s 2005 SOPRI Conference
“It is public knowledge that Mr. Bryden is biased and cannot be relied upon for an objective analysis of the Somali crisis. For example, he regularly attends functions that support the recognition of “Somaliland” such as the conference held by the Somaliland Policy & Reconstruction Institute, SOPRI in Los Angeles in June of 2005.”
Somaliland is featured prominently in the October 2006 UN Monitoring Group (MG) on Somalia Report , which was presented to the Security Council in November 2006 by the then MG Chairman, Mr. Bruno Schiemsky. The main task of the Monitoring Group, as read to the Security Council, was “to observe and report information regarding arms embargo violations and related matters in the context of unfolding events in Somalia.”
On Page 38 of this comprehensive 2006 Report, the MG, as a chronology of their findings during their mandate, states:
“On or about 4 July 2006, a prominent leader, Sheik Ali Warsame – former chairman of Al-Itihaad al-Islamiyya (AIAI) - of the ICU sent $ 250.000 US dollars to a businessman in Mogadishu through a remittance business. The money was later handed-over to the leadership of the ICU in that city. The origin of the funds was a businessman in Saudi Arabia. Initially, the money was sent to a remittance branch in Somaliland and from there re-sent to its final recipient in Mogadishu, all in an effort to conceal the source of the funds.”
It is clear from these MG findings that money was being clandestinely funneled through Somaliland to the Islamic Court Union (ICU), a radical Islamic Movement in opposition to the internationally recognized Transitional Federal Government (TFG). Sheikh Ali Warsame, the middle man between the ICU and their Saudi funders, lives comfortably and openly in Burco, Somaliland. It should be noted that the Sheikh is a Brother-in-Law of Sheik Dahir Aweys, Chair of ICU’s Shaura Council, who is designated by the US State Department as a Terrorist and who now lives in exile in Asmara, Eritrea where he heads the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS), an umbrella political/military coalition opposed to the TFG and their Ethiopian allies.
Also the Monitoring Group reported the clandestine channeling of arms and ammunition to the then Mogadishu-based ICU through Hargeisa, the secessionist enclave’s business hub. According to the MG report, on September 29, 2006, an Ilyushin aircraft (IL-76) containing an arms shipment for the ICU “departed from Assab, Eritrea, indicating a flight plan designating a destination of Hargeisa (Somaliland).”
Based on the above documented facts the nomination of Mr. Matt Bryden as the new Co-ordinator of the Monitoring Group is unwise and smacks of glaring blemishes of Conflict of Interests; and if it prevails, will surely result in limiting the effectiveness of the Monitoring Group and tarnish the credibility of their findings. Any information gathered by the team will be seen as serving the interests of Somaliland, one of the Somali warring factions targeted by the UN for monitoring and investigation. After all Matt Bryden is a ‘Somalilander’ who will be suspected of looking the other way if, for example, arms and funds are flowing to the Somali insurgents in the southern parts of the country, thus re-enforcing Hargeisa’s sadistic Modus Operandi that: continued strife and anarchy in Mogadishu is their ticket to recognition as an independent state.
The Monitoring Group (MG) under Matt Bryden’s co-ordination will also be seen by the internationally-recognized Transitional Government (TFG) as biased and as a tool to hinder their mandate to restore law and order under a united and peaceful national governance (See TFG’s Press Release strongly opposing Mr. Bryden’s appointment), a mandate supported by the United Nations as reaffirmed by the Security Council’s repeated re-affirmation of the “Sovereignty, Unity, and the Territorial Integrity of the Somali Republic.”
Entrusting such a sensitive role as monitoring of arms to a de facto honorary member of one of the opposing groups in Somalia is tantamount to appointing a Serbian nationalist General to monitor and investigate the flow of arms to the Balkans!
Said A. Saryan is a Bahrein-based Somali Writer with special interest in Horn of Africa social and political affairs. You may reach him at: [email protected]