Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan was elected in 2004 as Speaker of the Somali Parliament and was allegedly removed from his post as speaker in early 2007, due to a conflict between Sharif Hassan and Somalia’s President over whether or not Ethiopian troops should intervene. Sharif Hassan still considers himself Speaker of the Parliament. Recently, Michael Shank, government relations officer at George Mason University’s Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, talked with Sharif Hassan about the Ethiopian presence in Somalia.
Shank: In thinking about the various leaders over the past few years that have attempted to control Somalia-CIA backed warlords, the Transitional Federal Government, the Islamic Courts and now the Ethiopian forces-which of these leaderships, in your opinion, found the most favor with the Somali people and why?
Sharif Hassan: You’re right in saying that the warlords were backed by the CIA, but the CIA-backed warlords were defeated by the Somali people. The Somali people were annoyed by the trickery the warlords had been using for the last 15 or 16 years. The TFG couldn’t do anything because they’re very weak. In its weakness, it couldn’t control Somalia. But the Islamic Courts have achieved this and they have done something tangible for the people of Somalia.
The Ethiopian forces, what they have done, are absolutely the worst thing ever to happen to Somalia and it will never be acceptable to Somalia. Anyone who believes that what the Ethiopian forces are doing to Somalia is receiving popular support, it’s quite contrary.
Again, the TFG is very weak, they called the Ethiopian forces for help in order to control by force the Somali people. The Somali people are not interested in what the TFG is doing in the country. Somali people have their own wish: let the people choose their own way of ruling. The Somali people must have ownership over how their leadership is chosen.
The TFG, as long as they remain close to the Ethiopian forces, will never get any support from the Somali people. The Somali people do not see the TFG as a Somali government; it is a puppet government working for another government.
What do you think are the consequences of a prolonged Ethiopian military presence in Mogadishu?
There are enormous consequences from a prolonged Ethiopian presence in Mogadishu. What’s happening now in Mogadishu is very bad. The worst that has ever happened in Somalia is now taking place in Mogadishu. [The Ethiopian forces] are shelling different places with no discrimination at all. They shell Mogadishu and they don’t care who is dying. This will have great consequences not only for Somalia but for the international community. They will be witnessing this and they will be responsible for what is happening in Mogadishu today.
What is happening today has never been seen before. [The Ethiopian forces] are killing children, they’re killing women, they’re killing elderly people, and they’re killing very weak people who cannot flee from this mess. People are dying from this shelling in the capital of Mogadishu. This is unacceptable and inhuman.
Peace-loving people should interfere immediately and take action regarding what’s happening today in Mogadishu. At the very least, what is needed is humanitarian help for Somalia, in particular in Mogadishu. What is happening today is absolutely unacceptable, people are suffering. Humanitarian help is our request of the international community. Emergency, emergency!
The shelling and killings and this brutality taking place in Mogadishu puts in danger this so-called reconciliation conference which the government has announced this month. They don’t care about what is happening in Somalia. They want to ask money from the international community for this reconciliation conference. But I ask the international community politely if they would please divert whatever they want to give to the reconciliation conference to instead give funds for humanitarian needs, to help the victims of the shelling. Millions of Somalis are fleeing from their houses, with nowhere to go, no shelter, no food, and no water. There are no hospitals available, the hospitals are overwhelmed.
What will happen if the TFG, Ethiopia and the US government fail to take seriously, in any political or reconciliation process, the Islamic movement that is emerging yet again in Somalia?
The most important thing is that every single person, who is a stakeholder in the reconciliation process, has to participate; in particular, the Islamic movement. It is in the interest of the Somali people. If the [Islamic leadership] is not included, nothing will happen in Somalia, nothing tangible will happen. The TFG have already told to the world that they are not including the Islamic courts or the Islamic leadership in this so-called reconciliation conference which they are intending to hold.
The way to achieve proper reconciliation is to include every stakeholder, including the Islamic courts. That’s why we have been trying our best to bring together the ICU and the TFG.
We are saying that this is very important, very essential. And our request to the international community is that that [the Islamic courts] are included, they cannot be denied. They cannot be ignored. They are a very important group which has popular support among the Somali people. It is very important for them to be included. Without them, we will have the same problems that we’ve been having.
Do you think the TFG can ever be effective as a governing body? And if so, what needs to happen to ensure that it is effective?
The TFG will never be an effective government because they rejected everyone who wanted to make it effective. And I don’t actually know any way that it can be made effective as it is now because it will never get the popularity of the country, the popularity of the people. The wish of the people is the removal of the TFG; that would be the best for the Somali people now.
The only way that I think it can become effective as a government is to go back to the original federal charter, to admit its mistakes, because they brought to the country what’s happening today-and to remove the emergency laws which they brought to the country. If they asked all international forces who are in the country now, to go back to where they came from and ask the people’s forgiveness and say “yes, we made a mistake and this is our mistake and we admit it , I think it can bring back its efficacy.
They have to ask for the full withdrawal of the Ethiopian troops, which they brought to the country, full withdrawal. As long as there is one single Ethiopian soldier in the soil of Somalia, Somali people will never ever consider the TFG as their own government. So this is the best way they can understand the Somali mentality, the Somali mind. This is what I believe could bring back the morale and the happiness of the Somali people.
The Somali people are not rejecting the four-point route that has been approved by the Somali Transitional Federal parliament during its session in Baidoa. But what the Somali people are rejecting is that they don’t want to see any foreign troops as long as there are Ethiopian troops in the country. Because [the foreign troops] are seen as a cover up, any foreign troops, African Union or anyone else, are being seen by Somali people as a cover up, covering the Ethiopian presence in Somalia.
Therefore, what we suggest is that the Ethiopian forces withdraw completely from Somalia soil. Then, according to what has been agreed upon in the parliament, let the African Union forces come to the country based upon the wishes of the Somali people and based on what has been agreed to by the Somali parliament.
Even now we have Ugandan forces from the African Union who are present in Mogadishu. They are not a part of the problem we are having now in Mogadishu and we don’t want them to be seen as forces which are supporting Ethiopian occupation. Somali people wish that the Ugandan Republic would n
ot support the Ethiopian occupation and we want [Museveni], since he is a very good friend of the Somali people, to talk to his own forces and tell them to not support the Ethiopian presence in Somalia. What we are wishing is that any foreign forces under the umbrella of the African Union and the United Nations not to be present in Somalia while the Ethiopian forces are on Somali soil.
Why were you removed as the Speaker of the Parliament?
I was not removed from the Speaker of the Parliament by constitutional means. If I am to be removed from the Parliament, they must use constitutional means and the law and the regulations of the Parliament, to do so. They should use the ballot box-the box by which I was elected in a transparent vote. A parliamentarian can only be removed through the constitution.
They removed me because I did not want Ethiopian forces to come to my country. That’s why they removed me from the Parliament. I was always against the Ethiopian forces coming to Somalia.
The Ethiopians were trying to prevent me from being elected as the Speaker of the Parliament in the first place. They were lobbying to prevent this.
What they were lobbying for has ultimately been fulfilled, i.e. their forces have been brought to Somalia. They destroyed the constitution of the country, enforcing martial law. Still I consider myself Speaker of the Parliament, the parliament of the Somali people. That’s what the constitution says.
What role can the US play in helping bring peace to Somalia?
I ask that the US not help the Ethiopian government and that the US tell Ethiopia to withdrawal from our country. We would like if [the US] have concerns to tell us and contact the Somali people rather than going through Ethiopia. Let them give us their genuine advice and we will fulfill it accordingly. But we don’t want them to use Ethiopia to do what’s happening today in Somalia. We want the United States of America and its authorities to actually help the Somali people.
I would like the US to use UN Security Council 1725, which they helped draft, to ask the Ethiopian forces to withdraw from the country fully, one-hundred percent. Then, according to the resolution, bring the African Union and anyone else to help the Somali people, for Somalia. We will respect that resolution, which the United States itself has proposed and agreed to in the Security Council. And the Somali people will welcome that initiative.