BY M.M. Afrah©
of my Talking Point columns have been very generous in
their remarks. Many write that they have been reading
me for years and, although we have never met, consider
me a friend and patriot. This is a charitable compliment,
and I much appreciate it.
many of you, I am concerned about the serious problems
facing Somalia. Hence, I took up the routine to address
them, even after General Barre took over the reign of
the country in a military coup in October 1969. It has
been said: "If you keep going to hell you will eventually
get there." I was convinced that we were well on
our way to that destination from day one, and judging
by the emails that arrive in my inbox, it is a philosophy
that many of the readers share.
Somalia's current turmoil and anarchy is not the fault
of the clan gunmen and their godfathers. It dates back
during the Italian colonialists who were made up of fools
whose main interests was to use slave labours to grow
bananas and grapefruit for the Italian market. And, the
first thing they did was to build the biggest Roman Catholic
cathedral in Africa in the 1920s, again using slave labours,
instead of opening public schools and colleges, and it
gives me particular pleasure to take a poke here at them.
achievements record during Italian Trusteeship in Somalia
in the 1950s was virtually blank, and there was nothing
to be conceited. Crucial institutions, such as medical
or engineering schools did not exist during their administration-1950-1960.
Roads became impassable during the rainy season and motorists
were forced to drive across farms and bushes, avoiding
the flooded roads. Old bridges and canals were falling
to pieces for lack of spare parts, and whenever the rivers
broke their banks, the riverine people were force to evacuate.
Italy has been recovering from the ravages of World War
II and depended on the American Marshall Plan, but unlike
the Germans, who took advantage of the Plan and rebuilt
their devastated country, the Italians on the other hand
were beleaguered by successive corrupt regimes which they
did not recover to this day. The slogan Mani Pulito (clean
hands) adopted by some potential candidates in order to
win votes failed to materialize in Italy of yesterday
and today. Wide scale corruption and lottizzazione (sharing
out of the spoils) became the order of the day.
I came across an article by a colleague of mine about
the Italian contingent in Somalia during Operation Restore
Hope spearheaded by the United States. I am reprinting
this article with permission from my colleague, Gerard
Prunier. The reader is the judge, the jury, the witness
and the persecutor.
JUMPING ON THE BANDWAGON
By Gerard Prunier
Dispatch from Mogadishu
The Italians had jumped on the intervention
bandwagon from the very beginning. Their troops were assembled
and ready to go as early as December 11. Here also was
the reason of domestic political concern. As a former
colonial master of Somalia Italiano (1885-1941) and then
UN- mandated ruler of the same territory (1946-1960),
Italy had had a special relationship with the country
where intervention was taking place. But, the main point
was that Italy had not stopped dealing with Somalia when
it officially left in 1960. Quite contrary, it had become
involved not only with the democratic regime (1960-1969)
even more with the Siyad Barre dictatorship after 1969.
And the involvement had not been a benign nature. Italy
had delivered weapons to the dictator, its important economic
aid had been a source of patronage to political friends
both in Rome and in Mogadishu, the Mafia and the notorious
P2 network had been involved, and manipulation of aid
money had been used for financing the Italian Socialist
Party, and for enriching some of its members. Former Prime
Minister Bettino Craxi and his brother-in-law Paolo Pilletieri,
the deputy mayor of Milan, had taken part in the dubious
transactions, all of which made Somalia a major (and still
contemporary) skeleton in the Italian cupboard.
operation got off to a very bad start when U.S. presidential
envoy, Robert Oakley declared on December 9 that it might
be better if the Italians waited a little bit before coming
"because they had left a pretty bad image."
Thus, from the very beginning, Italy-a country that had
been smarting from real or supposed humiliation since
1918 because of a feeling that, although a major power,
it was not being taken seriously by the other members
of the great powers club-started its participation in
Operation Restore Hope with a chip on its shoulder.
feeling was going to persist throughout and cause major
problems of political and military coordination-Gerard
Prunier in Mogadishu, 1993.
PASSAGES FROM MY BOOK
THE SOMALI TRAGEDY, THE GANG RAPE OF A NATION
dispute between the Italian contingent and the UNOSOM/USA
was brought to the open by the Italians, who felt they
were being sidelined in Somalia, their former colony.
The then UN Under-Secretary, now Secretary General Kofi
Annan, at a news briefing, to explain UN operations in
Somalia, said Italy's commander, Bruno Loi would be sent
home and his 2,400 men transferred out of Mogadishu for
taking orders from Rome rather than the UN Command in
Rome, Defense Minister, Fabbio Fabri, reacted angrily,
saying: "General Loi has carried out the instructions
from the Italian government. He has never acted on his
own alone," That remark went to the core of the dispute
that the Italian contingent took orders from Rome, which
Mr. Annan said was "unacceptable." He denied
charges that the United States controlled the operation
in Somalia, regardless of UN structures.
Senior American officials said that there had been difficulties
with the Italians awhile. "They have different agenda.
This is not standard operating procedures," the American
UN officials said Italian troops attempted to begin their
own negotiations with General Mohamed Farah Aideed outside
of the UN Command.
another part of the city, seven Nigerian and three Pakistani
UN soldiers were killed. The Nigerians were killed as
they tried to take control of the checkpoint from the
Italians who were withdrawing from Mogadishu amid a row
with Washington over air strikes against Aideed's stronghold
in the South of the city. Local residents said the Italians
paid the militia and elders protection money, while the
Nigerians failed to do so.
Italians denied the accusation they paid Somali gunmen
not to attack them. US helicopter gunships used missiles
to destroy Aideed's stronghold, demolishing a number of
buildings and killing a dozens of Habar-gedir elders who
were meeting to discuss relationship with the United Nations
and the Americans, and how to end the impasse. But, as
in previous attempts, Aideed who was at the meeting, eluded
the US Army Rangers by seconds without warning the elders.
persisted that the Italians were tipping off the fugitive
general about impending attacks on his stronghold, Newsweek
magazine in its international edition reported that the
Italian troops had helped General Aideed to evade capture.
A US-run surveillance network had "more than often"
intercepted members of the Italian contingent in Somalia
warning the fugitive general about operations against
his stronghold, the magazine said in its dispatch from
The story of Italy's involvement in Somalia's affairs
does not end there, even after leaving the country in
a bad shape in 1960, and in the words of Robert Oakley,
former US ambassador in Mogadishu "in a pretty bad
THE ITALIANS ARE BACK AGAIN, 2005!
Juggling with Somali politics
envoy to Somalia, Paolo Rafaelli had admitted that the
Italian government had sided with the Jowhar-based Transitional
Federal Government, and said at a meeting with Mogadishu-based
faction leaders and attended by European Union delegates,
that his government will henceforth adopt neutral stand
in Somali politics. He was reacting to accusations that
the Italian government was supporting the Jowhar-based
wing of the Transitional Federal Government led by President
Abdullahi Yusuf against the Mogadishu-based wing led by
Sheriff Hassan, the Speaker of Parliament.
the Italian government, in an earlier statement bitterly
denied allegations by some members of the Transitional
Federal Government of Somalia based in Mogadishu, and
it termed as "baseless and unfounded." The report
from the Italian Foreign Affairs Ministry said: "The
grant sent by the Italian government to the federal government
of Somalia is meant for the Somali people and not for
an individual." Now their envoy retracts his own
government's earlier statement of denial.
The Mogadishu wing dubbed as Group 101 have arranged for
demonstration on July 4th in protest against the Italian
government, but was promptly cancelled without explanations.
the question of the grant to one side only is the core
issue. Members of Group 101 say: "If the Italian
government is honest broker it should have given similar
grant to us as well," but that was not to be. One
of the civic leaders in Mogadishu told me over the telephone
the other day that it is not about the money; it is about
the preferential treatment deliberately played by the
is no wonder Italy is involved in the complex Somali politics
again to make matters for worse to worst.
is back to square one!