IRIN Interview with Hussein Aideed

IRIN interviewed Hussein Aideed, leader of the Somali National Alliance, at the Ghion Hotel in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Aideed, a member of the Hawiye clan, is co-chairman of the Somali Reconciliation and Restoration Council (SRRC), a grouping opposed to Somalia's Transitional National Government (TNG). He speaks of his opposition to the TNG, reasons for establishing the SRRC, and his relationship with Ethiopia.

QUESTION: Why was the Somali Reconciliation and Restoration Council set up and why do you not support the Transitional National Government (TNG) of Somalia?

ANSWER: We saw the country going downhill so we said we are not fighting any more and joined together in March. All the five [main] clans are represented in the SRRC, that is why we have five co-chairmen. Our main enemy is Islamism, fundamentalism. This is our main enemy. The TNG has some clans who are mixed but they are not political parties who control the country. Basically they are just a new faction, but their platform is al-Ittihad, their platform is Islamism because they are not from the tribes, they are imported from outside and funded from outside. There is fighting in Puntland, there is fighting in Mogadishu, so this group is creating civil war. We have been in power for 11 years and this group came in by airplane. We are completely against the TNG. It is a platform for fundamentalism. They are backed financially by the Arabs and fundamentalist states.

Q: Why should the international community listen to the SRRC when it is the TNG which is in power?

A: They are not in power. We have control of Mogadishu, they don’t have the state houses, and they don’t control the port and airport. They don’t control the land. They want to control Somalia through Islamic rule, not democracy, and we are pro-democracy. The SRRC is in power now...

Q: Will you continue fighting against the TNG as long as they are in government?

A: We will remove them by fighting with them. Where is their 20,000 strong army? It is finished. There is still going to be a year of fighting but we have seen the worst. After I came back to Somalia in 1995 I was branded a warlord – a few weeks earlier I had been living in California. It doesn’t cause offence; it is an inherited word, jargon. But yes we have an army, we have an armed struggle, we are not [just] talking...

Q: What role do you see for yourself in a future Somali government?

A: If I do not get the presidency I will contest the prime minister – not less than that. If I do not get those I will stay out of the government and wait. For me I want unity first and I want a constitution. Once I get the constitution I will get the election because I am young and I have support on the ground, so I have enough people on the ground if one man one vote counts.
If anyone from the five clans became president, I would support them as long as they were of the same platform as the SRRC because we have a power sharing agreement.

Q: What are your hopes for Somalia?

A: My hope for Somalia is to have democracy and equality among the tribes. We will be a pan-African nation very close to Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti. And we want to be very friendly to the West. We want a strong government in Somalia, representative democracy with each tribe to control a region. And then to come together under a federal government. We want regional autonomy, local elections and a federal state. This is the best way because it will give all the tribes equality. We are a society in transition and that means we have to get rid of tribalism, we have to get rid of clans, we have to get rid of one tribe ruling the rest and allow everybody to rule their region.

Q: What is the full extent of your relationship with Ethiopia and why have you been here for the last two to three months?

A: With Ethiopia we have a political alliance. They are not funding us or giving us military help – we have our own people. Ethiopia and I have an African interest together. We want the same things in the long run and have changed our policies of being enemies. We want Ethiopia to be our first political partner, security partner and change the suspicion from both sides to trade. While I have been here we have been holding talks with the Ethiopians and members of the international community, diplomats, and passing on information.

Q: What are your ambitions for the seven million Somalis living in both Ethiopia and Kenya?

A: ... We want to bring back the Ethiopian and Kenyan Somalis otherwise you have a divided population who are in the same family. You will have a situation like East and West Germany, like North and South Korea. It doesn’t matter how much economic development you want, how many political alliances we make with Ethiopia and Kenya - at a certain point we will say seven million are missing. We don’t want to return to the old ways of militarism. But we don’t want these areas to be an independent country to us. I want Zone Five [in Ethiopia] to be part of Somalia but it is how to negotiate that – maybe not in our generation but the next. Ethiopia has a problem keeping Zone Five. But after a long period of trade, and long confidence, Ethiopia might say - like they did with Eritrea - that they want to live with the rest of the original Ethiopian tribes ... But this has to be done through peaceful means.