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Talking to Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys……

In the spirit of the independence days, can Somalis forgive and talk to each other?

by Muuse Yuusuf
Sunday, June 30, 2013

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The surrender of Sheikh Hassan Dahir to the Somali government and its position to welcome him has caused political uproar among Somalis every where.

Before embarking on this sensitive issue, I must declare that I am not a fan of Al-Shabaab and its leaders, including Hassan Dahir Aweys, the fugitive militant leader who is now in Mogadishu, having run for his life from vicious internal feud within the movement. Indeed, anyone who reads my articles published on Hiiraan.com knows that I am a diehard critic of the spread of the perverted Islamist movements in Somalia, as I am a tireless campaigner for secularism for Somalia. Also, I must say I am not associated with the leader genealogically, politically or philosophically as our world views are apart as heavens and earth.

In this new political debate, to those who oppose any talks with Al-Shabaab ands its leaders smell the rotten cadaver of typical Somali clan justice in which criminals might get away with murder by seeking protections from their lineages. To them, Hassan Dahir Aweys, the man who has caused the death of many innocent people, is being warmly welcomed by his willing clansmen, spearheaded by Hawiye-dominated government in Mogadishu. Rather than face trial in local or international criminal tribunals for alleged war crimes, he is now among his Hawiye folks in Mogadishu, sipping tea, fresh papaya, mango, and banana juice. To them, no real justice in tribal lands, only rough justice in which mothers have to accept that killers of their sons can go free unpunished. Evidence of crime every where, but eyes and ears are shut because tribal rules say so!

On the other hand, to those who support talking to the leader, accept that restorative justice in civil war situations is always a difficult task as each part in the conflict claims innocence, and the Somali case is not so different.  To them, from the early civil wars in 1980s to current mayhem in Somalia, different actors perpetuated abuses against human rights, committed war crimes and genocide. List of violators and perpetrators are endless and include government sponsored violence against particular clans, such as Isaaqs, Majeerteens and Hawiyes in 1980s by the central government. The 1990s intra and inter-clan violence instigated by warlords from Mogadishu to Hargeisa to Baidoa in which “clan cleansing” against particular clans, such as Daaroods and other non-Hawiye clans in Mogadishu and other minority groups was a classical example of the ugly face of the conflict.

And they insist not to forget atrocities committed by foreign forces in Somalia from UNOSOM to Ethiopian invasion and AMISOM in which war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed, as documented by human rights organisations. They can’t understand why foreign generals (e.g. Ethiopians), having overseen some of the worse atrocities committed by their forces, were allowed to leave Somalia unpunished?!

To them, due to the seemingly non-ending nature of the conflict, and because of lack of a strong central government or international will to persecute violators, it might be unrealistic to bring all perpetuators to justice. Therefore, Somalis could adopt or follow suit of a restorative justice process that is similar to the South African Truth and Reconciliation process so that violators are made to face and accept their criminal acts and then seek forgiveness from the victims or their relatives.

In the Somali context, settling civil disputes or criminal offences through conflict resolution is a well recognised Somali tradition under the Xeer (Heer) legal system in which disputing parties either offer or accept financial compensation for murder, or other means of redress, such as accepting forgiveness. As well as learning from other conflict resolutions, Somalis could use the Xeer system to redress injustice; indeed some conflicts in some regions, such as Somaliland and Puntland had been resolved through this indigenous legal system. 

In conclusion, in the spirit of the independence days, I reluctantly endorse talking to the enemy for the sake of reconciliation and peace-building process in the hope that this may encourages other disgruntled Al-Shabaab leaders accept peace. Indeed, what is wrong with talking to the enemy if the African National Congress (ANC) had the courage and dignity to end the brutal apartheid system successfully through negotiations with its historical enemy and as Western powers have realised that talking to the Taliban movement is not a bad idea.

In an ideal world, I would have liked to see all perpetrators of war crimes and crime against humanity tried in courts of laws in order to respond to their role of what has happened from 1980 to the present day.

Muuse Yuusuf
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