Africa, Headlines

SOMALIA-POLITICS: Aideed’s Death Unlikely To Bring Peace

Moyiga Nduru

NAIROBI, Aug 2 1996 (IPS) - The death of Somalia’s leading warlord, General Mohamed Farah Aideed, threatens to plunge a country that has seen no peace since 1991 into further violence.

“We shall continue to fight until we defeat the forces of international conspiracy … to uphold the ideals that Aideed stood for,” said Ahmed Mohamed Damad, an Aideed aide, who on Friday broke the news of his boss’ death.

‘The Voice of the Masses of the Republic of Somalia’, the radio station of Aideed’s faction, confirmed that the Somali leader had died of a heart attack on Thursday at 16:00 Mogadishu time. He was 61.

The radio, which was monitored here on Friday, did not elaborate, but according to Damad, Aideed’s senior spokesperson, the heart attack was related to an injury which the old Somali warrior sustained, following an “assassination attempt” on him on Jul. 27.

“He developed a heart attack when he was being operated on,” he said.

Rumours about the general’s health had been simmering for sometime now. Ten days ago, a rival faction announced that the general had been shot and severely wounded. Others said he had been flown to neighbouring Kenya for treatment and there were also claims that he had died.

On Jul. 28, Aideed went on air, denying he had been wounded in the fighting in Medina, a Mogadishu surburb. “The enemy’s wishes can neither kill nor wound me,” he said. “I will only die when my time runs out and when Allah wishes.”

Four days later, the general’s luck seemed to have run out.

There have fears that after Aideed’s burial on Friday at Waharad, a Mogadishu surburb controlled by his forces, Somalia could be poised for more violence.

Damad blamed the death on a group of unnamed Somalis. “They were on the services of international conspiracy. They came, haboured themselves and fired on him,” he claimed. “They are forces who are against Aideed and his ideals. They are the forces which killed 14,000 Somalis in 1993, under the cover of United Nations.”

The U.S./UN sent an intervention force to the Horn of Africa country following the death in 1991-1992 of some 300,000 Somalis due to starvation, famine-related diseases and civil strife.

Aideed’s enemies multiplied in 1993 when Aideed found himself at loggerheads with the international community. The general survived a US-led attempt to capture him dead or alive, despite the 25,000-U.S.-dollar bounty Washington put on his head.

The United States withdrew its troops in 1994 after Aideed supporters killed around 60 U.S. soldiers. In March 1995, the United Nations also pulled out, leaving Somalia at the mercy of its warlords.

Born in 1925, Aideed belonged to the Hawiye Habre Gedir clan whose fanatical support he commanded. A few years after graduating from primary school, he joined the Italian colonial police in Somalia.

In 1954, he was selected with 13 others, including future president Mohamed Siad Barre, to go to Italy for cadet training. Upon his return to Italian Somaliland in 1956, he was made a police officer. Three years later, he was drafted into the army, along with Barre.

Aideed served in the military for 10 years during which period he went for further military training in the former Soviet Union, then Somalia’s Cold War patron.

In 1969, a group of socialist-oriented army officers, led by Barre, seized power in Somalia, but Aideed was not named to the new Supreme Revolutionary Council, composed mainly of the Italian- trained group. Unsubstantiated reports say he was excluded because he had been planning a coup of his own but was upstaged by Barre.

Aideed, a nickname given by his mother which means ‘one with no weakness’, did not hide his feelings and that led, in 1970, to his arrest and detention by Barre.

He was to spend the next six years in Mandeer prison, before he was released and appointed managing director of a parastatal, ASPIMA, the sole importer and distributor of drugs in the then socialist Somalia.

Having gained Barre’s favour, he was reinstated in the army in 1977 with the rank of colonel and sent to fight in the Ogaden, an Ethiopian region inhabited by ethnic Somalis which Barre wanted to annex to Somalia.

After the Ogaden war, Aideed, now Barre’s aide-de-camp, was appointed Somalia’s ambassador to India. Approached by his clan, he abandoned his post and proceeded to neighbouring Ethiopia to join the opposition against Barre.

After Barre fell in 1991, the battle for the control of Somalia developed into a bloody war between Aideed’s forces and those of his arch-foe, Ali Mahdi. The fighting was centred around the capital Mogadishu.

By 1992, Aideed insisted the capital was firmly under his control but, in fact, his faction has never been able to gain full control of Mogadishu.

In June of last year, he declared himself president of Somalia, but no nation has ever recognised his government.

Aideed had been on the defensive since April, when a split with his former financier Osman Hassan Ali “Atto”, turned into warfare.

Atto, a leading Somali businessman, had teamed up with Ali Mahdi and other warlords — under the umbrella ‘Forces for Peace’ — to fight Aideed’s forces.

Damad has, however, rejected the rumours that Ali Mahdi was involved in the assassination attempt on Aideed’s life. “No. Ali Mahdi has nothing to do with Aideed’s death,” he said.

 
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SOMALIA-POLITICS: Aideed’s Death Unlikely To Bring Peace

Moyiga Nduru

NAIROBI, Aug 2 1996 (IPS) - The death of Somalia’s leading warlord, General Mohamed Farah Aideed, threatens to plunge a country that has seen no peace since 1991 into further violence.
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