Rivista italiana
Agenzia Informazioni
e Sicurezza Interna





Italiano Tutte le lingue Cerca i titoli o i testi con
GNOSIS 1/2010
From ‘Al Ittihaad’ to ‘Al Shabaab’

A new role for Italy in the Somali risk

Michele Lanna

After a long period of “inattention” towards Somalia, recent events and consequent new scenarios pose, for Italy, the question of a major presence and judicious action in the arena of the Horn of Africa. In the face of the developments and expansionism of the “Al Shabaab” Movement, it becomes urgent to understand correctly what is happening and to realize adequate strategies of intervention, before assisting at the birth of a new Somali “rogue state”, with direct implications on the stability of the entire area. But with a modern and advanced cultural approach that takes into account the type of Somali society and the organizations derived from it, why, as Professor Michele Lanna points out, has the term ‘Terrorism’ become so inflated today, to make the contours of the concept itself increasingly blurred and imprecise, to the point of rendering the term practically without sense? A view corroborated by the development of the movements active in Somalia, from “Al Ittihaad, passing through the Islamic Courts to today’s “Al Shabaab”.
(Foto da

With the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers of the 11th September 2001, The United States changed their strategy towards the rest of the world.
This event underlined how the major dangers do not originate only from the aggressive or rogue States, but also from those weak and failed States, territories of easy control for the terrorist organizations (1) .
Once again, the peace process in Somalia, promoted by the International community, is at a halt. The violent conflict between the Transitional Federal Government and the Islamic opposition, represented by Harakah al-Shabaab and Hisbul Islam, is newly exacerbated. The killing of 4 ministers of the T.F.G, in December 2009, was followed last February, by a mortar bomb attack on the Presidential Palace.
The situation is becoming more dramatic and intricate each day and the nomination of the Islamic moderate, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, to Prime Minister, seems more than useless. It would appear, by now, that fundamental terrorism is definitively part of the Somali chaos.
In February, 2008, the American Department of State, through the Public Notice 6137, had already officially included al-Shabaab among the terrorist organizations. Actually, this move showed to be ineffective, insofar as on the one side, it produced a violent reaction from the organization, on the other, it furnished, if only indirectly, a kind of criminal-political legitimatization. Certain simplifications which lead to the overlapping, tout court, of al-Shabaab and al-Qaida are also counter-productive.
The risk is that of creating prophecies which are self-fulfilled and to transform al-Qaida into a sort of “franchising” of international terrorism, able to give criminal-political legitimatization to any terrorist groups of the Islamist matrix, operating in any part of the world, regardless of characteristics, of the dimensions and of the real offensive potentiality.
In Algeria, for example, the G.S.P.C. (Salafi Group for Preaching and Combat), reduced to an absolutely marginal organization and unable to involve the civilian population, adopted the name of “Aqmi” and acquired consistency and criminal “political” relevance at an international level, following the “benediction” received from Ayman al-Zawahiri, in 2006, in this way, obtaining the possibility of bearing the name of al-Qaida.
To this can be added that the use of the term “Terrorism” (2) has become so inflated today, that even the contours of the concept itself have become increasingly blurred and imprecise, to the point of rendering it practically without meaning.
We no longer fight the terrorist “organizations” – those bodies able to conduct offensive actions – but we wage war against “Terrorism”, considered as a real and proper protagonist.
Then the strong semantic and communicative implications are added, represented by the fact that in terrorism “the victim is the message” (3) .
This brief reflection intends to deepen our under standing of the roots and characteristics of the terrorism in Somalia, in a social-anthropological perspective, indispensable to interpret correctly what is happening, and to carry out adequate strategies of intervention.
In fact, it seems indispensable to first investigate the motivations for which certain organizations take root in some Countries, in a perspective which is capable of widening the scope, so as to add to the mere analysis of the “military” and “criminal” aspects, also a careful review of the social, cultural and economic aspects that nourish them.

Historical-geopolitical reconnaissance

More and more frequently, the foreign policy of many Western Countries, the United States of America at the head of the list, read the existing dynamics in many realities of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, with the same lenses, underestimating history and traditions (4) .
Somalia, in particular, cannot be described as a backward Country, with atavistic structures, intrinsically violent, illiberal and anti-democratic. Even though some aspects of this description are true.
Such a perspective is the result of superficial and hasty analysis, and runs the risk of being merely instrumental in imperialist policies.
The Somali society, from a structural point of view, is articulated in clans that represent the point of reference of a group of families descendent from a single lineage. Over the course of time, the clans have developed sub-clans which, in their turn, have originated “solidarity groups” to which adhere the members of families who are tied through bonds of affection.
The Somali clan structure, therefore, connotes a strong patriarchal character, where the male figure exercises a power of direction over all components of the group. This does not mean, however, an absolute power attributed to the pater familias, being a democratic mechanism very much developed at all levels.
The peculiar and, in some respects archaic, Somali social system has been the object of study for some time and is known in Europe under the definition of “pastoral democracy”. Although this traditional model is incompatible (and incomparable) with the Western idea of the Modern State, it possesses more positive aspects which tend to be underestimated (5) .
Furthermore, even the most recent history has shown how, notwithstanding the lack of public structures, the clan has been able to live its own life, feeding commerce and breeding and showing themselves substantially immune, first to the warlords, and second to religious radicalism.
In addition to the strong social ties and the deep sense of solidarity among all the members of the clan, the Somali society is characterized by being secular and substantially indifferent to the Sharia.
In fact, apart from rare exception, the religious fundamentalism has never taken root and, the same assertion, first by the Islamic Courts, and then by al-Shabaab, is not ascribable to religious motivations, but rather, is tied to their desire and capacity to guarantee order, respect for minimum rules and a kind of “welfare”.
Therefore, to have tried to reduce a similar structure to fundamentalist Islamism appears unrealistic, myopic, and in some respects, dangerous.
The same phenomenon of the war lords, furthermore, was amplified by foolish Western policies. Each warlord, with the, more or less, open support of the foreign powers, were able to enjoy militias and the possibility of exploitation of determinate areas, without disputes of any kind, opening up the territory to any type of illegal commerce (from toxic waste disposal, drugs and arms) and enrolment of the very young from the poorest families.
One of the worst errors, first by colonialism, and then by the Italian Trusteeship, was that of not having taken into consideration the social and organizational structure of the Country, which resulted even in implanting “foreign” institutions in the social fabric and local culture.
The central characteristic which has to be considered is that the idea of “State”, as an over- clan authority, is a fundamentally foreign category to the Somali culture (6) .
This peculiarity has never been faced directly, insofar as it was first “circumvented”by the chaos of the 60’s, then suppressed after 1969 by the Dictator, Siad Barre and, finally, denied by the raids of the warlords.
The Italian Trusteeship in Somalia (A.F.I.S.), instituted in 1949 by the General Assembly of the United Nations, provided a plan that assigned to Italy, its former colonial domains, and was finalized to the subsequent granting of independence (7) .
This structure led to the transplantation of external political, economic and social institutions and their progressive “Somaliarization” (8) .
Italy, although it had been the former colonial power, made an absolute underestimation of the fact that Somalia was indifferent to the idea of State and attempted a clumsy and improbable transfer of its own institutional structure (9) .
This was what happened in a social context where a sense of belonging “traditionally depended on blood ties and the clan or cabila institution” (10) . Such admixture determined a reciprocal and doubly damaging effect between clanism and politics.
In fact, in the political ambit, clanism eroded and altered the political-institutional rules, thereby impeding the consolidation of the ‘sense of belonging to the Nation.
Politics, in its turn, perverted the nature of “the clan loyalty” compared to what it represented in the traditional world. Whereas the clan system was, in fact, “finalized to the good of the community and to maintain the balance of its component, its transposition into modernity bound the traditional logics eminently to partisan interests...(11) .
According to J. L. Amselle, the result of this reciprocal influence, was a “cross-breeding in which the fundamental feature was the persistence of traditional and clan practices, but in function of modern, political objectives(12) .

The inter-clan conflict

The chronic Somali conflict – resistant to any attempt at resolution – is, in our judgment, the product of the laceration of the Somali society, violated by brutal and repeated external interventions.
Among the internal conflicts which can be defined the Somali type, are characterized from the point of view of “functioning”, and for being, very often, low intensity conflicts. That is, they possess a strong tendency to protract in time and are, often, resilient to the peace agreements, which are signed with a certain frequency. The origin of the conflict goes back to 1991, when the Dictator, Siyad Barre was ousted and Mogadishu became the battleground between two principal contenders, Ali Mahdi and General Aidid. From this moment on, Somalia came under the control of dozens of warlords who with their militias were able to control a determinate territory.
The absence of a Central Government and the consequent impunity, furthermore, enables the warlords to finance their militias through, more or less, legal activities (13) .
From the socio-economic viewpoint, the phenomenon of the warlords is found in well-defined social and economic conditions: rooted in an impoverished society, both from the economic and social points of view, where the lack of prospects for large sections of the population, particularly, for the young, gives rise to phenomena of exclusion and violence.
Although in fact, Somalia (unlike West Africa or the East Congo) registers the almost total absence of ethnic violence. What the young Somalis have in common is the fact of constituting a kind of “class without rights” of feeling excluded, who decide to take up arms.
The functioning of this “war economy”, which navigates in the deregulation of the global market and which can be substituted only with the use of violence, is based, therefore, on this “workforce”.
The paradox is that the Somali “economic system”, through these conditions, is able to guarantee the carrying out of operations and International transactions for millions of euros, which involve financial economic lobbies, industries having as their object, the disposal of toxic waste and arms trafficking.
Whereas, the war economies of the traditional kind, however, are sustained on the assumption that the State submits the market economy to very widespread regulations; in Somalia the phenomenon is inverted, inasmuch as the economy of war relies on the absence of the State.
As mentioned before, although Somalia can boast a privileged situation in Africa, having an ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious unity in the Country, until the moment of colonization, there had never existed a unified State. The State, instead of a moment of synthesis, has always been seen as something to be possessed and its assets and goods shared among families and clans.
The complexity of the Somali clan structure is, therefore, a central element of every analysis of Somali conflict, and any strategy intended to overcome this complexity must take this into account. As confirmation of this, the numerous peace conferences have resulted inadequate and often, detached from the reality of the Country. The limitation in all these peace efforts consists in having failed to understand, or disregarded, that the real conflicts take place between the clans (and, at times, within the clans themselves), which are degraded to “political parties” and designed to secure a place in the “peace process”.
The described clan conflicts (14) are not to be found in the clan composition , tout court, but rather in the process of degeneration that the clans have suffered over the years, first from the colonial power and then from the influence of foreign Countries.
Also Islam, for the most part moderate and tolerant, to which almost the total Somali population belongs, was not able to overcome the clan logic, becoming hostage of fundamentalist groups, sometimes prone to terrorism.
These groups, applying the Sharia, have suppressed all those liberties which, in part, the Somalis already enjoyed, plus that respect of human rights to which the new generations have constantly aspired, especially those of the cities.
The International community (15) contributes to exacerbate the inter-clan rivalry, often supporting one clan against the other and favouring the one to the detriment of the others. Also the bordering States play their part in the game, continuing to shuffle the cards between the various Somali factions, convinced by the idea that a people continually divided and in conflict is preferable to a people united.
Ultimately, if it is true that clanism was indifferent to the idea of State in the modern sense, it was not the clans that produced chaos and violence, but rather the modern State that manipulated and distorted the clans.

The birth of “Al-Ittihaad” and the development of fundamentalism in recent years

After the facts of September 2001, the United States, with the objective of annihilating the Islamic terrorism, promoted an initiative of garrison and surveillance over Somalia, together with English, German, French and Spanish military units established in Gibuti and Kenya. For unknown reasons, the Italians are not part of the mission.
The participating forces are of considerable entity, air patrols fly over Somali territory, day and night, and numerous naval units garrison the coasts of Somalia from the Gulf of Aden to the Indian Ocean.
The United States, however, do not seem able to formulate a policy for Somalia, due to the scarce information in their possession: the American policies necessitate important integrations and updates in order to avoid strategies destined to failure as already happened at the beginning of the 90’s.
In the first place, the Somali Islamic Movement, al-Ittihaad, which is principally made up traders and former army officials, is not a synonym for al-Qaida and these insinuations of American mass media are highly erroneous or tendentious.
Al-Ittihaad is a small and relatively weak organization with a purely National objective. Certain single members of the organization have had ties with al-Qaida, which merit a thorough examination, but the group, as a whole, does not appear, absolutely, to be associated with this terrorist organization.
In the second place, at the present time, Somalia does not actively protect terrorist camps and bases.
The attempt of al-Ittihaad to create a theocratic State, taking advantage of the power void consequent to the fall of Siyad Barre, definitively failed, and presently the organization is engaged in social, educational and commercial activities.
Although al-Ittihaad has been included, by the United States, among the subjects whose property is blocked and transactions prohibited, inasmuch as suspected of possible connivance with the fundamentalist terrorism networks, no direct involvement has yet emerged.

The fear, furthermore, about the possible transit of financing to terrorist groups has led to the closure of a banking institution, the al-Baraqat, which transacted on a trust basis, without formal transcripts, an overall amount of 500 million dollars.
The full understanding of the Somalia reality lies in the already mentioned social and traditional disruptions, but the problems of terrorism lies in the presence of Islamic fundamentalism in the social life and in the education.
In the Horn of Africa, the Moslem population is divided between two different ideologies: the Wahhabismo, a rigid ideology of a puritan stamp of Saudi Arabia provenance: and Sufism, which is predominant in the region and is of a moderate, tolerant and peaceful nature (16) .
the confirmation lies in the fact that in the political stable regions, like Somaliland, fundamentalism has never found space to take root and grow.
A mysterious network of private and public organizations, which support the Islamic institutions of beneficence, finances al-Ittihaad and a great part of the money comes from the rich and elite families dominant in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.
Many of the leading representatives of al-Ittihaad are graduates from Islamic Universities in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Al-Ittihaad has progressively reinforced its position in Somalia, consolidating ties with businessmen and creating their own activities, above all, in the banking sector, telecommunications, import-export and religious schools.

As far as possible links between al-Ittihaad and al-Qaida are concerned, it is reasonable to suppose that between the two organizations, dialogue, contact and consultations still take place, nevertheless, no concrete operative links have yet been ascertained.

The assertion of the Islamic Courts Union

The Islamic Courts Union regrouped the various “neighbourhood” courts, which operated in Mogadishu and had the function of settling local disputes and maintaining public order.
After the attack by the warlords in 2006, the local courts became federated as the U.C.I (Union of Islamic Courts) and obtained the support of the population, which was tired of the bullying of the warlords.
Following the taking of Mogadishu by the U.C.I, the situation of the city improved noticeably, to the point where it was possible to re-open the port and the airport, which had been closed since 1991. In this way, a natural widening of their area of influence was verified, including part of the South of the Country although without ever reaching Baidoa, the seat of the Central Government of Transition.
From an organizational point of view, the U.C.I. were supported and financed by Somali businessmen who, previously, had supported the warlords and who assumed the major part of the expenses for the maintenance of the Islamic militias. Although the U.C.I. had tried to introduce the Sharia, the connotation of the Country – typically secular and tribal – impeded such an attempt and the Courts had to limit themselves to political control, renouncing control of the religion.
In December 2006, the Provisional Government, militarily supported by Ethiopia, nevertheless, decided to oust the Islamic Courts from Mogadishu and, in a period of a few weeks of war, with the subsequent military intervention of the United States, was able to retake control of the Capital
The fate of the U.C.I. is ascribable to a new strategy for Somalia (17) essentially characterized by three actors: a) a very professional military technique which included nocturnal excursions and attacks before dawn (18) ; b) a very strong motivation of the militias derived by the common religious ideology (19) .
c) a weak point for the organization seemed to be, once again, the traditional tribal structure of the Somali population.
Today, the U.C.I. (20) seems almost to have disappeared from Somalia, even though it enjoyed a great following by the civilian population, both for the work of pacification which it was able to guarantee, and for the social assistance it supplied to the people.

The birth of Al-Shabaab and the fundamentalist terrorism

The Islamic organization “al-Shabaab”, in Arab, it means “the Youth”, and also known as Ash-Shabaab, Hizbul Shabaab (the Party of the Youth) and the Popular Resistance Movement in the Land of the Two Migrations (MRP).
It is an Islamic insurrectional movement which developed following the defeat of the U.C.I. by the Federal Government of Transition (GFT) and of its supporters, in the first place, Ethiopia (21) . As it was predictable, the occupation by Ethiopia – historical enemy of the Somalis – produced, at the same time, the proliferation of different armed groups and, in some cases, their unification.
The anti-Ethiopic resistance “al-Muqaawama”, in fact, was a very heterogeneous nucleus, composed also of groups that were foreign to the leadership of the Courts, as was, al-Shabaab.
During the biennium of the Ethiopian occupation, “The Youth” had acquired a considerable “political” clout and a strong popular consensus and today represents one of the most organized groups operating in Somalia and able to act throughout the whole of the central-south territory of the Country.
The elements of major force of the Shabaab lie in having a horizontal type clan structure, which allows them a military functioning of a “cellular” kind, and an ideology able to associate a formidable anti-clan rhetoric to “nationalist” claims.
Thanks to twenty or so personages, the organization was created towards the end of 2004, in the small Somali town of el-Buur (22) . Its consolidation came about later within the U.C.I. through the figure of Adan Hashi Ayro (23) ,who, however, due to his young age and scarce religious credentials, never assumed a position of leadership within the U.C.I.
From an organizational viewpoint, there are four Shabaab governing bodies.
The first is constituted by the “Shura”: a kind of parliament composed of about fifty members and chaired by the Emir, Sheikh Mohamed Mukhtar Abdirahman “Abu Zubeyr”.
The second body is the “al-Da’wa”, in Somali “preaching”, with propaganda functions and enrollment of new militiamen.
The third is represented by “al-Hesbah”, a kind of religious police which monitors the observance of Islamic customs and behavioural laws.
The last governing body is constituted by “al-Usra”, which represents the military wing of the group (24) .
The central aspect for analysis is that which regards the modality with which Shabaab has been able to impose their local administrations.
In Southern Somalia, past administrations have always constituted an instrument of domination and subjection and have caused great suffering to the civilian population. Shabaab, on the contrary, have succeeded in occupying territories with guerilla actions, installing themselves within the local hierarchies and, above all, without harming the civilian population. In this way, for example, with the taking of Merca in 2008, the organization was able to enter the city two days before the official occupation, taking advantage of the ties its leaders had with certain families of the zone. Such action “gave encouragement” to make attacks on the Yusuf militias, allowing the organization to get rid of the most important military hierarchies. The occupation of the city came about in this way, without damaging the civilian population and following an agreement with the traditional local authorities interested in eliminating Yusuf.
The same method was experimented by the Shabaab at Baidoa, in January, 2009, after the withdrawal of the Ethiopian contingent, when “The Youth” negotiated their entrance with part of the local authorities.
The strong pragmatic character of the organization, therefore, is able to modulate its radical attitude in order to install itself in the local power systems.
To attribute the successes of Shabaab exclusively to its pragmatism and its capacity to modulate itself according to the specific local features, or to its distinctly populist propaganda would be, however, extremely simplistic.
The causes of its success are ascribable, more precisely, to a considerable political clout and a clear “national” agenda, which credits it as the only over-clan movement of a strong nationalist imprint.

Present situation

In recent weeks, the Government of Sheikh Sharif, known by the International community, is gathering militias and is deploying them in the Capital to launch the great offensive, announced a number of months ago.
With regard to the offensive capabilities, al-Shabaab can count on between three to four thousand soldiers in the Capital, but has neither tanks nor heavy artillery, but has only mortars, Kalashnikovs and machine guns positioned on armed pick-up trucks.
The general situation today, is still characterized by a series of violent conflicts which see, on one side, the Transitional Government and Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a (former Sufi) with the support of the African military contingent (Burundi and Uganda), and on the other, an alliance between al-Shabaab and Islam Hisbul (former al-Ittihaad), located on the territory as specified below.
Mogadishu is fired upon and many bloody attacks are carried out, like that of February the 15th, against the Somali Secretary of State for Defence, Yussuf Mohamed Siad. The city, at the moment, is 80% under the control of al-Shabaab and Islam Hisbul, while the Government, with the protection of the African military contingent, is barricaded at the port, the airport and the residence of the President.
The tactic of the Islamic militias is inspired by the military style of nocturnal incursions; while the reaction of the Government and the African contingent generally damage the civilian population, by continually using heavy artillery and mortar bombs. The consequent material damage and the many helpless victims of the population, however, hardly ever neutralize or cause important losses or casualties in the ranks of the fundamentalists.
The vast majority of parliamentary members and many of the ministers, including the Prime Minister, are forced, for security reasons to live abroad, principally, in Kenya.
Al-Shabaab and Hisbul Islam have thus been able to take control of almost two thirds of the Somali territory, where they have installed local administrations (25) .
However, notwithstanding, the entire Country, with the exception of Somaliland and Puntland, continues to suffer enormous tensions and the effects of open conflict.
The only peaceful areas of the Country are represented, as mentioned, by Puntland and Somaliland.
Since 1991, Somaliland has been a self-proclaimed independent Republic and has developed an administrative apparatus which allows the Government to ensure a satisfactory political and social stability. Although it has not obtained international recognition, it maintains relations with Great Britain, the United States, France, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Finland, South Africa and Ethiopia, while diplomatic relations with Italy is absent.
Puntland, instead, since 1998, is constituted as local administration in the ambit of the Somali Republic and it has developed in the footsteps of the Somaliland system. Not claiming, however, any secessionist ambitions.
Here, recently, the fundamentalists have begun a series – not yet interrupted – of murders of former officials of the army, the police, of intellectuals and parliamentary members.
On the 29th October, 2008, two suicide attacks struck, simultaneously, both Hargeisa and Bosaso, the Capitals of Somaliland and Puntland, causing, at least, 60 deaths and so, also this relatively stable part of Somalia enters the expansionist sights of Islamic fundamentalism.

Project of the fundamentalist strategy

At Mogadishu, between the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2010, information leaked out that the summit members of the al-Shabaab had had a secret meeting to start up a kind of alliance with Al Qaida in Yemen, with the objective of taking control of the Gulf of Aden. A great difficulty in the realization of such an objective is constituted by the fact that in Somaliland and Puntland, the present administrations exercise a more pervasive control of the territory.
According to Somaliland sources, the terrorists could put into play two different solutions to obtain control of the Gulf of Aden: destabilize the regions of Puntland and Somaliland, transferring into the area al-Shabaab militiamen originally from those territories (including the al-Shabaab leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane) who, having a deep knowledge of the social, political, cultural and economic aspects of those areas, could intervene with targeted and effective terrorist attacks.
The other option, on the contrary, could be that of constituting an alliance, through an “enrollment” of pirates, with the purpose of utilizing their knowledge of the territorial waters and piracy techniques to facilitate the entrance of arms into the Country, by means of the natural ports situated along the coasts of Somaliland and Puntland.
Thus, it seems that the Shabaab former Italian Somalia, even with very few internal problems, will be the next to prevail definitively in the war against the G.F.T.
The February declarations of the summit members of Harakah al-Shabaab al-Muja’eddin, seem to confirm the definitive alignment of the organization to al-Qaida. But the contents of the communiqué, reported by the official spokesman of the movement, Sheikh Ali Dhere, reveal also other elements of interest within the front of the armed opposition to the Federal Government, such as the fusion of the Islamist group with the Ras Kambooni Brigade. However, the fusion between al-Shabaab and the Ras Kambooni Brigade has given rise to heavy criticism from Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, leader of Hizbul Islam, the second Islamic movement committed in the war against the Transitional Federal Government (G.F.T.).
Other news of interest, according to Somali sources, is that al-Shabaab is losing consensus among the civilian population.
On the basis of the above considerations, the necessity of facing the fundamentalist terrorist problem in Somalia appears more than evident, without limiting the counteraction solely to military actions against the war apparatus of the terrorist organizations.
Besides the strategy and the military type interventions – although indispensable – there should also be a deeper and more complex short-term work. It would be desirable to start talks with the administrations immediately, especially Somaliland and, subsequently, Puntland, to share information, above all, that on terrorism.
Furthermore, in the medium term, it is necessary to realize a global strategy which aims at the resolution of the Somalia conflict and the reconstitution of a State administration.
In fact, in our opinion, the greatest danger represented by the Shabaab lies in the risk that it could constitutes a State of Somalia, modelled on the lines of Hamas in Palestine or Hezbollah in Lebanon (26) .
The similarities of Shabaab with the Middle East organizations concern essential elements. In fact, it administers territories and supplies services to the community, enjoys ample consensus among the citizens and originated as a national liberation movement, against the hated neighbour, Ethiopia and against the G.F.T. Furthermore, it can benefit from weak or even non-existent state structures; it is the carrier of an ideological-religious type cause, able to form an ample international consensus and gain considerable financing.
Therefore, the most feared scenario and also the most probable, in the near future, could be that of a Somalia administered entirely by the Shabaab, which enjoys the support of the civilian population, to whom they ensure peace, stability and social services.
One can glimpse the signs of such a possible transformation in the relative ease with which, in a hyper-pragmatic and not very “fundamentalist” way, Shabaab succeeds in presenting itself as an “over-clan synthesis” and to administer territories, where all the reconciliation conferences in recent years, have failed. When all this is verified, we shall find ourselves facing an organization which is no longer terrorist, but a “rogue” State with which we shall have to deal also on a political diplomatic level.

A possible strategy of intervention

Today, the Italian influence in the entire Horn of Africa is considerably resized and in Somalia itself, the influence exercised by Italian diplomacy is enormously diminished. The method usually adopted by Italy has been characterized by privileging only the dominant group or groups in the Mogadishu capital and in the immediately surrounding territories and neglecting, de facto, relations with the well organized peripheral realities like Puntland, Alto Giuba and Somaliland.
Furthermore, Italy has never been promoter of its own initiatives and has, more or less, limited itself to participate, with evident reduction of its own role, promoting those of the third Countries. The present Government seems willing to relaunch the role of Italy in Somalia, as evidenced by the decision to resume diplomatic relations (27) .
From the political-diplomatic point of view, it would be desirable, on the one side, a more cautious role with regard to the Middle East States, and on the other, a contemporary greater presence in the Horn of Africa Region.
In fact, the present conditions would allow Italy to undertake and/or guide new and effective initiatives finalized to the solution of the Somali problem, on the basis of its original political design, not in contrast, but appropriately diversified with respect to the policy hitherto pursued by the U.S.A.

Under the short-term operative profile, Italy could: 1) recognize Somaliland as “authority” and resume official diplomatic relations with it, with the purpose of launching a clear signal to the civilian community of the other areas of Somalia, on the advantages of a participatory polity; 2) favour the consolidation of the Somali administrative reality formed independently on a substantially representative basis; 3) operate in mediation terms to reconcile the present political split in Puntland and in Alto Giuba (Baidoa), and contribute to the consolidation of their political and administrative structure; 4) maintain on-going relations with such administrations until establishing diplomatic relations with them, when the objective conditions permit it; 5) mediate between Somaliland and the Southern Somali Federation to renegotiate the Act of Union between the two States; 6) stimulate and support the remaining regions of the former Italian Somalia in their transformation into independent administrations, on the model presently realized in Somaliland; 7) aim at the creation of a “over-regional” entity of the federal kind, composed of three administrative realities mentioned above, to which the dignity of a State is recognized, and which is designed to become the one interlocutor with the international community for all interventions in Somalia; 8) progressively allow the “mature” administrative reality the “entrance into the “over-regional” entity, until becoming a federal type of State covering the entire territory of Somalia.
Putting these three administrative entities in a position to dialogue and receive help from the entire International community, would achieve an effect of the first order; of temporarily excluding the warlords from International political dialogue; of weakening them on the internal political level and tempting them to dialogue with the healthy forces of Somalia.
Through such a process it would also be possible to reach a National structure of the federal kind, respectful of the needs and of the local and tribal traditions, realized also with the support of the international community, but directly by the work and will of the Somalis themselves, through the physiological reunification and not through a traumatic political-administrative reality.
The methodological setting of a possible Italian proposal for the stabilization of Somalia, is based on the consideration that since 1991 until today, a good 13 initiatives for the reconciliation of the Country have taken place, all remaining without results, and another identical sort of meeting, presumably for the nth peace attempt, is in course at the present moment.
This shows that the decisions taken at the negotiating table, by subjects from the outside – scarcely representative, naturally – have not been sufficient to reach a recomposition of the Country, and that to achieve the objective, it is necessary to work from the inside of Somalia, not from the outside.
To achieve the described objectives, Italy, in the initial phases, should promote in-depth consultations with the interested parties, to define problems, solutions, programmes and roles.
In stable conditions, the consultations should begin with the representatives of the Country, but in this case, the absence of a significant central government in Somalia and the presence of numerous power groups within Somalia, renders it necessary to reach an ample agreement outside of Somalia.
The International consultations should start with the United States, and proceed with Great Britain and the EU, to then open to other Countries which could be eventually interested.
In the event that a maximum agreement on the Italian proposal was successfully reached, it would be necessary decide the role of the United Nations in the ambit of the project and involve the Office of Political Affairs at the United Nations of New York.
In the subsequent phase, dialogue should be made with the key Countries of the region, Ethiopia, Gibuti, Kenya and Egypt, as well as the interested Arab Countries, like Libya and Saudi Arabia.
An indispensable instrument for the success of the “Italian proposal” is represented by the communication. It would be appropriate, starting from now, to activate a radiophonic system in the Somali language, which supplies, all day and everyday, ample and correct information on the local situations and on the on-going initiatives in Somalia and abroad, at a much more detailed level than the present service of the BBC.

(1) The Report of the United States “National Security Strategy” of September, 2002, shows “how the weak States, like Afghanistan, can become dangerous for the interests of the U.S.A, and for other great States. Poverty does not transform the poor into terrorists and assassins. Nevertheless, poverty, weak institutions and corruption can render the weak States very vulnerable to the terrorist networks and the drug cartels”. (in “Somalia after the defeat of the Islamic Courts” XV Legislature, N° 65. February, 2007.
(2) This term, which derives from the Latin “terror” originated in the Europe of the XVIII Century (where the most extreme fringe of the French revolutionary movement, headed by Robespierre, established a regime based on the systematic elimination of adversaries, and from here, it was exported all over the world. It is after the Second World War that it becomes established in the perspective: that of “internal terrorism” to designate actions that aims at destabilizing the established order, and that of “external terrorism” to indicate strategies “of terror” which aim at conditioning the foreign policy of sovereign States.
(3 )Jacque Derrida supplies an evocative explanation of the phenomenon. «We must think differently of the timing of the trauma if we want to understand the11th September. Because the “terror” keeps the wound open in the future, not just in the past. The trauma is produced by the future, by the threat of the worst “to come” rather than an aggression “finished and done with”».
(4) As Yves LaCoste observes, «All the geopolitical opinions which one faces or compare, when referring to power rivalry, official or unofficial, actual or potential, on territories or on the men who live there, they are representations loaded with value, more or less partial and more or less consciously biased, relative to real situation, the objective characteristics of which are difficult to define».
(5) From a socio-anthropological point of view, as I.M. Lewis observes «The traditional Somali institutions are characterized by a strong segmental character … organized in clan form …without chiefs and with extremely flexible structure, bound by a principle of patrilineal (agnatic)descent, and are devoted prevalently to nomadic livestock production».
(6) M. Lanna, G. Palermo, M. Abdi Cabose. “Somalia. From Pastoral Democracy to Inter-clan Conflict.” Labrys Edition, 2008.
(7) The winning powers were not disposed to support definitive solutions, in the sense of an independence of territories. A fact which was held to be dangerous for the entire colonial order at world level, and so a compromise solution was created, that of the International Mandate or of the Trusteeship.
(8) Ref: Guadagni M. “Transplant and rejection of Legal Models. Reflections for an interdisciplinary and anthropological vision of the study areas”. Elizabetta Grande (Ed) “Transplant Innovation and Legal Tradition in the Horn of Africa”. L’Harmattan, Italy (Turin), 1995.
(9) In particular, observe Morone. “The Italian Administration proceeded to the creation of a series of peripheral and central government bodies; national, district and municipal assemblies, which after a first phase of experimentation, were progressively made elective”. Specifically, the institutional model of the Italian politico-administrative tradition was exported, based on administrative centralism, on the bureaucratization of the State apparatus, on an educative system based on the Italian language, and above all, unbalanced towards the theoretical side, rather than the practical.
(10) Lewis I.M. work already cited.
(11) Lewis I.M. work already cited.
(12) Amselle J.L. “Logical Mestizo. Anthropology of the identity between Africa and elsewhere”. Bollati Boringhieri, Turin, 1999.
(13) As well as the assistance from foreign Countries (Arab Countries and Ethiopia first), to the remedy of the Somali Diaspora and to the commercial activities and intermediation, it is the looting, kidnappings, the black market, arms trafficking and drugs (kaat) that represent the major revenue of the warlords.
(14) The elements that could exercise positive effects on the transformation of the Somali conflict and could break the deadlock of the inter-clan conflict can come from the inside or the outside of the Country. Concerning the internal factors first, one considers how the Somali tradition is founded on the same culture, the same language and the same religion, other than an element of division, it contributes to make the Somali feel as belonging to different clans, but “brothers all”. The religious brotherhoods, besides, already in the past, had created “villages” in which different clans have lived together. Concerning external factors which could contribute to overcoming the inter-clan conflicts, a central role could be played by the International Community, which could supply its contribution in various ways. First of all, by blocking the illegal traffic (which, instead, is often tolerated) and correctly delivering humanitarian aid, with a method that tends to favour peace and unity and which supports those Somali who work for reconstruction and peace.
(15) There are many Countries which, for different reasons, are interested in Somalia. The first group is constituted by the “Front Line” Countries, Eritrea, Gibuti, Kenya and Ethiopia. Eritrea, traditionally hostile to Ethiopia, has always supported Somali armed movements, also furnishing arms to some factions. Gibuti, whose population is largely of Somali origin, has all interests in having a stable neighbour. Kenya, on the one side, has suffered, due to the Somali anarchy, serious repercussions in its northern Regions (especially from trespassing militias, with the consequent destabilizing effects) and on the other, has been economically advantaged, both because the international aid directed to Somalia passes through the Mombasa , and because the international organizations working in Somalia are based in Nairobi. Finally, Ethiopia, traditionally hostile to Somalia, opposes a strong and united Somalia that could counteract its primacy in the Horn of Africa and advance claims on Ogaden. A second group is constituted by the Arab Countries like Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia and other minor Countries of the Region. While the third group is composed of Western Countries like the United States, England, France, Germany and Italy. Aside from any judgment on results achieved, since W.W.II ended, Italy has been the most present of the Western Countries, in Somalia: in political and economic terms, with its diplomacy, State financing and industrial enterprises. Since 1991, however, after the looting of the Italian Embassy in Mogadishu, and the non-arrival of the Diplomatic Delegation of the Under -Secretary Borruso, Italy has closed its Embassy and no longer promotes initiatives, limiting itself to participation in initiatives promoted by third Countries. And, today, even though it is one of the most important donors of humanitarian aid, it has lost its traditionally primacy to other Countries like Great Britain, France, Germany, Sweden, Norway and Finland. Therefore, of particular relevance is the recent decision of our Country to re-open its Embassy in Mogadishu and, within a year, promote an international conference.
(16) Until the end of the 80’s, both Mengistu in Ethiopia and Barre in Somalia have kept the religious phenomena under strict control. In 1975, Barre had 11 religious members shot. They had expressed themselves against the equality between men and women sanctioned by the Koran and, therefore, introduced into the Somali Legislation.
(17) Such strategy met with the support of the civilian population which , exhausted by 15 years of war, of violence and harassment perpetrated by the warlords, it aligned with the overwhelming majority in favour of the Islamic militias.
(18) To the contrary of the criminal tactics of the warlords with scarcely trained militias which caused heavy damage to the population.
(19) The religious ideology, contrary to motivations of the mercenary, produced in the fighters the strength and commitment which led them to success.
(20) After the defeat of the U.C.I., the various warlords, leaders of the various factions, reacted differently. Some, like Mohamed Qanyare (former Minister of the T.F.G. Government with Yusuf) delivered their arms to their clans. Others, like Muse Sudi (another former Minister of the T.F.G. Government) and Bashir Raghe (a powerful businessman) found protection within their own tribes.
(21) It is calculated that circa 3 to 4 thousand members of the U.C.I were merged into this group.
(22) Among these we remember Sheikh Mohamed Mukhtar Abdurrahman “Abu Zubeyr”, today, Emir of the movement, Abu Mansur “Robow”, Adan Hashi Ayro, Hawiye, Ibrahim al-Afghani, Sheikh Hassan Abdullah Hersi al-Turki, still at the head of a group, principally, present in the southern Regions and known as the “Rass Kambooni Brigade”.
(23) Commander Ayro would have, however, a very short career because he was to die in 2008, following a United States air incursion.
(24) On this point, one can observe the “innovative capacity” of the Bashaab military wing, which imported into Somalia, the martyr figure, which was foreign to the cultural dynamics of the Country.
(25) Administrations have been established in Baidoa, Merca, Jowhar, Kisimayo, Beled Weyn, Dusamareb, and close to Galcayo, even though a weak resistance is met in Beled Weyn and Dusamareb, on the part of Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a, armed and supported by the Ethiopian Government.
(26) The favour that these organizations enjoy from the civilian population is tied to the fact that they manage also ample social programmes which provide for health assistance, systems of education, libraries, economic support to the poorer segments, and other services, representing a kind of welfare State in deprived and unstable areas.
(27) The Somali Embassy in Rome was re-opened in September, 2009, and shortly, our diplomatic representation in Mogadishu, should be re-opened.