Sheikh Ibrahim Dheere’s Moral Responsibility to Compensate the Widows of “Wrong” War
By Bashiir Yusuf
Today, three years have passed since Sheikh Ibrahim Dheere’s United Western Somali Liberation Front (UWSLF), better known as Al-Itixaad, signed a peace treaty with the Ethiopian government. The peace deal fully forced that a comatose front to definitively terminate its state of insurgency and vowed to engage themselves in developmental activities. Al-Itixaad made a definitive shift from their former position and turned to abide by the Ethiopian constitution, a move largely understood by many as an unreserved surrender. Almost all fighters of Al-Itixaad regretted what they described as disruption over the peace and security of the region. Sheikh Ibrahim Dheere, Al-Itixaad’s chairman, on the occasion of the peace has said the attained progress opens a new chapter in the Somali region. The question is, however, what progress can be attributed to the mock peace deal that Sheikh Ibrahim Dheere has signed with the Ethiopian government.
Somalis in Ogaden today face the worst rampant human rights abuses. It is a time that mock peace deals are creating confusion. It is a time when the only independent and operational institution in the social order, the Islamic religion, has been intervened and damaged by chauvinistic, puppet and pro-colonial Sheikh impersonates. It is time when a cultural war against Somalis in the Ogaden increased significantly. It is a time when the reputable Sayid Mohammed Abdille Hassan’s historic struggle for freedom is abused and misconstrued to use it to serve colonial interests.
Two decades ago, Al-Itixaad Al-Islam’s war has broken out in the Somaali-Galbeed region, better known as the Ogaden region. Established in 1980s, Al-Itixaad’s original name was the Ogaden Islamic Union, which later changed its name to United Western Somali Liberation Front (UWSLF). Initially, many enthusiastic young men in the region that aimed to liberate the Somalis in the Ogaden from the colonial yoke that engulfed their inalienable rights joined Al-Itixaad’s war. These young men joined Al-Itaxaad not the fact that the movement came in robust strategy which will materialize the dream of the people, but only the historical grievance and liberation pro-mindedness of the mainstream in the region motivated many to join Al-Itaxaad’s war against the colonial power.
Al-Itixaad emerged as a movement active in all parts of the region, particularly in the West and North. However, its support in the region was weakened by its harsh treatment of the very people it vowed to liberate. The ill treatment of the people paralyzed Al-Itixaad’s operations in the region. These bad treatments created a strong sense of suspicion among ‘old and young’, men and women in the region regarding Al-Itixaad’s sincerity to the cause. Thus, Al-Itixaad’s brutal and unjustifiable actions against the very people it claimed to represent undermined the confidence of the Somali people in the region on the Front. Consequently, the people didn’t accept Al-Itixaad as a legitimate political body which can represent their grievances.
The above reasons coupled with internal disagreements and chaos started mid 1990s were among the factual points caused organization’s heavy military defeat by Ethiopian military. This has forced Al-Itixaad to flee across the border to Somalia and the Front has never recovered from this set back.
Full Termination of the Front
Having collapsed as a meaningful political and military front, in March 2010 few remnants of Al-Itixaad under the leadership of Sheikh Ibrahim Dheere and Ahmed Nashad decided to surrender to Ethiopia, the colonial force that they vowed to fight to the bitter end. The same year, these members of the former hard-line front declared the full termination of the front not only an armed group, but also as a political entity. However, the leadership of the front turned into merchants. Nowadays, remnants of the front pretend that they are charities and collect money from Gulf countries.
Sadly, Sheikh Ibrahim Dheere and his acolytes are obsessed with making money in a region where socioeconomic status of the general population is below the poverty line. It is immoral that Sheikh Ibrahim Dheere and his friends live a luxurious life at lavish hotels in Jigjiga and at the five star hotels in the Arab Emirates, while young men and women who had suffered from the inhumane assassinations of the front they led live with horrible memories. It is injustice that Sheikh Ibrahim Dheere enjoys the fruits of impunity and is living big while those affected by his war are still in state of woe. The victims must be reliving a terrible memory of their loved ones when they see him walking on the streets of Jigjiga pretending to be a brave man and peace maker.
I do not wish to go into the detail of how Sheikh Ibrahim Dheere signed a peace deal with Ethiopia or what concessions he got, and then follow up with. As far as I know, he was given amnesty, which means he agrees that the war he fought was “wrong”.
It was clear that the freedom loving community in Jigjiga and elsewhere in the region were not happy to see him sided with the enemy. On examining the situation more closely, the negligence and indigence of the people are well known. It must truthfully be said that neither philosopher nor an expert in the field is needed to discuss with the general effect of the Ethiopian colonialism on the livelihoods of the society. But Sheikh Ibrahim Dheere was told ‘pay no attention to poverty’! He will see: he soon get used to it! And ignore historically known grievances of the people.
Albert Memmi’s book “The Colonizer and the Colonized” states that the man who colonizer accepts, ‘no matter what happens he justifies everything-the system and the officials in it’. He, who colonizer accepts, ‘obstinately pretends to have seen nothing of poverty and injustice which are right under his nose; he is interested only in creating a position for himself, in obtaining his share’. Albert Memmi was a prudent man his great words unquestionable apply to Sheikh Ibraahim Dheere’s greedy behaviour.
Arrived in Jigjiga
On the first week of his arrival Sheikh Ibrahim Dheere spoke to the Somali service of BBC to talk about the mock peace deal he signed with Ethiopian colonialism and what he saw in the region. In that interview, he openly confessed that he was wrong to be involved in any fight against Ethiopian colonialism and to fight for inalienable rights of the people in the Ogaden. Furthermore, he candidly said that he was not aware of the situation on the ground that puppet regional government and poor institutions are already in place since 1990s. Interestingly, a prominent former Western Somali Liberation Front (WSLF) fighter namely Ali Abdille Hirsi better known in the region as Ali Shocaac asked more suitable question to be asked, by saying “people in the Ogaden are highly thrust of freedom which they have paid for their best price, a human soul, do you have now that freedom at hand?”.
Sheikh Ibrahim Dheere’s answer to the question ended up by admitting that Ogaden people’s fate could mean achieving a higher budget from the Ethiopian regime, a budget that neither Puntland State of Somalia, nor Djibouti and self-declared independent Somaliland had ever is already in place in the Ogaden. Without any taste, Sheikh Ibrahim Dheere has fully swallowed and digested the colonial doctrine more rapidly, by justifying the colonial system in the region. What an awful to hear from a man who claimed to be freedom fighter to say that ‘I thought-like-this not’. Too late, you should have thought about this well before you planned the war. But I must understand that it is hard for a sentient person to speculate in-depth what is ahead.
Frantz Fanon argues that there are neither good nor bad colonists, but there are colonialists. Among these, some reject their objective reality. However, as customary the colonizer who accepts his role tries in vain to adjust his life to his ideology. Nonetheless, the facts of colonial life are not simply ideas, but the general effect of actual conditions. To refuse colonialism means either withdrawing physically from those conditions or remaining to fight and change them no matter how long the fight may take.
This is clear indications which show that Sheikh Ibrahim Dheere’s political view point was an immature stage yet. By making his position explicit, Sheikh Ibrahim Dheere seeks to legitimize colonization in the Ogaden. As painful as it is for me to have to say: For all, Sheikh Ibrahim Dheere’s actions and words changed nothing, but only contributed to the maintenance of oppression.
Time for Compensation
On 16 February, 2012 after long journey of legal struggle, nine widows from the Indonesian village of ‘Rawagede’ have each been awarded 20,000 Euros compensation by the Dutch government for war crimes committed in 1947. Similarly, victims of LRA in Rwanda are looking to push forward their cases at International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague to be compensated. I argue same compensation applies to Sheikh Ibrahim Dheere’s “wrong” war victims in the Ogaden though compensation and damages owing to victims is a tricky subject. Hence, from Mohamoud Dari’s assassination in 1999 at Awaare, to Kamas Dabar’s assassination in 2010 in Ifo, to recent Abdirazak Tibaa’s murder in Dadab Ifo refugee camp in 2011, to Ilyas Sheikh Cali Siyaad’s assassination in Kismaayo, like Indonesian widows who eventually won the legal battle for compensation, relative of those victims could sue Sheikh Ibrahim Dheere either in The Hague or vicinity countries, but they must not relinquish their rights to be compensated.
There is no doubt that Sheikh Ibrahim Dheere played pivotal role in fading away from hopes of liberation for many by implementing fully the colonial agenda in the region. Sheikh Ibrahim Dheere inevitable become a colonial agent in which the colonialist wants to profit every day from his choice. It is a bad sign to decide remain the rest of your life under colonialism while you claim to be as a respected Sheikh, just as it is a negative indication to marry without a dowry.
Anyone who puts his personal safety and comfort before the interests of his people have lost all moral authority to speak about national issues. Anyone who waged a ‘wrong’ war must live with the consequence of his crimes. As such, Sheikh Ibrahim Dheere must pay compensation to the victims of his “wrong” war.
By Bashir Yusuf
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