Talk:Somali Civil War

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Start date/removal of content critical of TFG etc[edit]

The standard date for the start of the civil war is 1991. The 1988-1990 date that Menkhaus gives is not literally the start; it's just when the military began to intensify operations against rebels. He thus notes elsewhere that 1991 marked "the onset of state collapse and civil war" [1]. Also, the SNM was not the first of the rebel groups; that would be the SSDF. The USC was formed after both of them. Middayexpress (talk) 22:04, 13 February 2014 (UTC)

Thankyou for beginning to engage on the talkpage instead of repeated edit warring, Middayexpress. Claim about 'standard start dates' will have to be exactly cited. 'Civil war' may be throuwn around generally without much exactitute, but you will see if you look closely at the 2007 Fragile States and Insecure People chapter that Menkhaus specifically cites that the civil war began in 1988-90 : it's about the third page in. It's ridiculous to claim otherwise, because at the moment we have the civil war starting on the date the first phase - the removal of the dictator - actually finished, January 26, 1991. He was ousted from his capital in Mogadishu by military means - that's the definition of a war. So the war must have started some time before January 26, 1991 !!
Additionally, I remain extremely concerned about your apologism for the TFG, which while may have been an attempt at a central government, committed atrocities by its security forces against its own people repeatedly. I note your removal of text in that direction, and I would encourage you to stop watering down the brutal nature of the civil war and the extent of the transitional authority. Now, we can either accept that scholarly sources note the weakness of the TFG and the brutalities of the war, and thus you stop edit-warring to water it down, or I can go to more formal measures. Please restate the relevant sections. Buckshot06 (talk) 23:34, 13 February 2014 (UTC)
It's quite misleading to suggest that only the TFG forces and their Ethiopian allies were responsible for civilian casualties when HRW itself notes that all parties including the insurgents were. The reality is, most of the people who had fought against the allied forces were ICG supporters and belonged to the same clan. They were worried about a change in the power struture and reprisals. As for the standard actual start date of the war, it's 1991. Menkhaus notes this in the link above and the CIA does as well in its factbook [2]. If this is still a problem, I can always try and reach him by email. He's a professor and I'm sure he'd be quite interested in this discussion and sharing insight. Regards, Middayexpress (talk) 00:50, 14 February 2014 (UTC)
Well, before I respond to your thoughts, something I should have added earlier: you cannot keep on distorting the facts and sources. The 1991 conference in the northwest is not just 'facilitating reconciliation' etc; it's a severe misrepresentation to say that without mentioning that it resulted in the declaration of independence of Somaliland!! Stick to the facts !! Buckshot06 (talk) 05:21, 14 February 2014 (UTC)
Interpeace states that "the most successful and sustained of these processes took place in the secessionist Somaliland state, following the SNM's declaration of independence from Somalia in May 1991 (see volume V)[...] The Burao conference, at which independence was announced, was one of numerous inter-clan conferences in Somaliland between 1991 and 1997 that promoted reconciliation, facilitated disarmament, and established political and administrative structures in the former northern regions" [3]. This is already indicated in the wiki-text ("In the northwest, at the Burao conference of April-May 1991, SNM secessionists proclaimed independence for the region under the name Somaliland"). What was actually missing was the "secessionist" part, which I added. Middayexpress (talk) 16:02, 14 February 2014 (UTC)
I'm not worried about having more material added to the article - since I got started we've raised the size from 30kB to 42kB. By all means, go ahead and add sourced material about Al-Shabaab atrocities. But my main concern about your POV is that you consistently distort material about the central Somali institutions - so far I've observed, mostly since 1990. Whether it's removing the role of the UN, or removing sourced detail about the TFG forces' misbehaviour, you seem to want to play up the behaviour of a central government that has gained very few friends in the last twenty years. Menkhaus says that the 'genuine desire on the part of Somali communities for improved security, rule of law, and basic services cannot be conflated with a desire to see a revived central government. It is possible to actively pursue the former and actively hinder the later.' (FSIP, 80) Stop removing material that doesn't agree with your views!! While you served one version of a Somali state, this one does not (yet?) deserve loyalty!! It's committed too many crimes for that!!
As for the war start date, as I said, see Menkhaus in FSIP, 73: 'The civil war in Somalia began in the northern part of the country in 1988-90', against the SNM. The CIA and other non-specialist American institutions will of course be vulnerable to a once-over-lightly clean date regarding Siad Barre. But it's not logical, as I emphasise above. We should go with something that makes sense!!
As you've had the chance to comment regarding the TFG atrocities section, and have not addressed the core of my argument, I'm going to reinsert that section. Please feel free to add more on Al-Shabaab actions, and those of the ICU. This article will of course suffer from a systemic bias in that respect, because it's hard(er) to research their actions. Should say that my research is focused on the Somali state, rather than Al-Shabaab; I've a friend who would be much better on that subject. Regards Buckshot06 (talk) 05:21, 14 February 2014 (UTC)
Actually, I did not remove the role of the UN. What I did was correct your statement that "in 1993 and 1994, UNOSOM and Somalis negotiating themselves had some success in reconciliation and establishment of public authority initiatives." Interpeace does not indicate this. It instead writes that "more significantly, while the foreign military and diplomatic interventions in the first half of the 1990s failed to end Somalia's political crisis, Somalis themselves made progress in reconciliation and establishing public authorities". It is thus Somalis themselves that Interpeace generally credits for these local peace initiatives. Interpeace then goes on to explain which exact initiatives the UN did actually support/mediate, and how (viz. by "providing good offices and mediation" [4]). I correspondingly noted each of those actual UN-mediated initiatives in the wiki-text.
Regarding the civilian casualties during the Mogadishu insurgency, HRW indicates that all the involved parties were responsible ("Ethiopian, Somali and insurgent forces are all responsible for rampant violations of the laws of war in Mogadishu, causing massive suffering for the civilian population"). The civilians were "caught in the crossfire", as the ISA notes [5]. I've thus adjusted the wiki-phrase to reflect this balanced perspective. Also, it is inaccurate to assert that the "Mogadishu residents belonging to the same clan as the ousted ICU resented the TFG[...] they also felt threatened by the TFG, perceived to be dominated by a different clan" since what the link actually states is that "whereas the Courts drew their support predominantly from the Hawiye clan, the TFG is widely perceived as dominated by Darod clan interests[...] many Mogadishu residents resent the Courts' defeat, feel threatened by the TFG and are dismayed by the presence of Ethiopian troops in the capital" [6]. It's therefore the actual change in power structure that these particular ICU-supporting residents resent. This is why the ISA writes that "the conflict in Somalia is in reality about local clan-based rivalries and a struggle for regional predominance, particularly between Ethiopia and Eritrea" [7].
That said, your assertion above that I "served one version of a Somali state" is rather odd since you of course don't know anything about me, and admitted as much too when you previously invited me for a personal chat. It's interesting, though, that you say above that the TFG is "a central government that has gained very few friends in the last twenty years." This is in direct contrast with AMISOM's assertion that "the TFG and the TFIs gained broad acceptance and recognition by Somalis and made considerable progress in the areas of political institutionalization, especially the establishment and approval of the National Reconciliation Council, NSSP, as well as establishment of the Supreme Court, and regional and district councils" [8]. You also suggest that the TFG "does not (yet?) deserve loyalty". This is a very strange assertion considering the fact that it is not actually a Wikipedian's role to decide which political entities do or do not deserve loyalty/friendship. Instead of engaging in WP:ADVOCACY, editors must instead strive to remain neutral. This, among other things, means that when the SIPRI indicates that "the TFG was formed in 2004 and became the internationally recognized government of Somalia" [9] (which it indeed was), one does not remove that assertion simply because one for whatever reason personally opposes the TFG. Middayexpress (talk) 16:02, 14 February 2014 (UTC)
I'll deal with your points in order; the role of the UN, civilian casualties, loyalties to a Somali state, and assertions about how much support the TFG gained in the few years immediately after its formation in 2004.
While you quote accurately the lead sentence of the last paragraph of p.13 of the Interpeace report, you may have missed the statement in the middle of the paragraph above that 'UNOSOM also supported a number of local peace initiatives, providing good offices and mediation, some of which had a positive impact,' going on to mention Kismayo, and the 1994 Bardhere conference, as well as saying there was another entire Interpeace volune (III) which covered those initiatives. This was why I cited both UNOSOM II and Somali efforts. In addition, multiple sources indicate that some of the regional and district councils created by UNOSOM survived into the post-March 1995 period, and there are indications that some of them carried out useful functions. UNOSOM's role was extremely important in 1992-94, and should be reflected here in line with WP:BALANCE.
Now indeed, all sides have committed atrocities during the war, and in my previous message I invited you to add further details where you thought they were lacking. But I am trying to explain in more detail why events happened. The Ethiopians drove the ICU from Mogadishu and thus made it possible for the TFG to relocate there. As you quote from the East African however, the TFG was perceived as being dominated by the Darod, and in any case was not broadbased enough to attract and retain support from enough of Mogadishu's residents. Systemic corruption and misappropriation probably had something to do with that, but Menkhaus' RUSI article clearly indicates the main factor: that the uncontrolled TFG security forces became the principal source of insecurity. When you water the actual events down to 'resentment', 'dismay' and 'feelings of being threatened', this does not accurately indicate the intense dislike caused by the atrocities the TFG militias created. Thus the local populace got angry enough that an insurgency started. One has to indicate reasons why, and 'resentment' and 'dismay' didn't foment the attacks, a much more serious wave of kidnapping, assaults, rapes, etc, did!! You cannot water that down to 'caught in the crossfire' of fighting, with its implications that such things took place accidentally!!
However I was encouraged by your willingness above to move a little forward and start naming names of clans. We won't manage to explain this war by trying to whitewash all clan involvement out. Thus I've quoted further from the East African article you found, and clan affiliations will be continuingly important as we expand this article.
Regarding service to a Somali state, I had the distinct impression that one of the people I was chatting to on the SAF talkpage said they were former Somali armed forces officers. I thought that was you, though maybe I'm mistaken. But your obvious expertise on military affairs and continuing additions to the civil war article made me think so too. Did you serve in the armed forces there? Be very very interested to hear more.
Regarding AMISOM's claims, they are not unfortunately Wikipedia:Third-party sources, unlike scholars like Menkhaus. If I was looking for accurate statements about the TFG's support, integrity, reliability, and provision of services to the people, I'd go to things like HRW and the International Crisis Group. I don't need to tell you that AMISOM have a vested interest in portraying their mission as a success, and that includes/means describing the TFG as a success. What experts have told me and the ICG etc reports I have read indicate to me that saying the TFG and TFIs 'gained broad acceptance and recognition by Somalis' is only applicable to a limited extent. The TFG faced an insurgency in Mogadishu, caused by the actions I've repeatedly emphasised, still does not control Somaliland, Puntland, Galmadug, had to accept ASWJ and Ras Kamboni controlling large areas without consulting them on major decisions, was widely and substantively accused of large-scale corruption, committed war crimes, etc etc etc. That's not 'broad' in my terms. We have to use sources that aren't portraying vested interests, not self-interested ones!
Better still, to quote Laura Hammond, writing in the Journal of Eastern African Studies in January last year [10] 'Somalia has been without a legitimate central government since the collapse of the Siad Barre regime in 1991.' 'For much of its tenure, the Transitional Federal Government, .. seemed incapable of patching together anything like a transition; its leaders were widely accused of emptying the coffers as quickly as they were filled. Personal rivalries between politicians have prevented leadership based on cooperation, and the parliamentarians were better known for beating each other with chairs than solving

problems through consensus.' This is the consistent tone of everything I've read.

Now, I should say that most of my comments, and the people I've talked to, refer to the 2004-up to 2011 period. Obviously things have greatly improved since 2011, but really I haven't started to systemically add material on that yet.
No, the TFG didn't deserve loyalty, in my view, but as I said during our earlier discussion on the SAF talkpage, I keep my opinions for the talkpages. I stick to referenced facts on the article pages. I have urged you and I will urge you again to add material regarding other actions by other parties that would further balance the description, and present a more nuanced viewpoint. Buckshot06 (talk) 18:54, 14 February 2014 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── UNOSOM's involvement in the 1993-1995 local peace initiatives should be noted but not overstated. What Interpeace indicates is that UNOSOM facilitated specific conferences by providing office space and mediation. This is now indicated for each of these initiatives. You are also mixing up the order of retaliation in the Mogadishu insurgency. The allied fores captured Mogadishu, then the ICU splintered into Al-Shabaab and the like, then these militants launched a wave of attacks against TFG and Ethiopian forces, who then retaliated heavy-handedly. ISA explains all of this, and HRW summarizes each of the parties' respective roles in the civilian casualties. It also indicates there that the TFG played a secondary role to the Ethiopian troops [11]. I've noted this, as it's not neutral to simply highlight the alleged indiscretions of only one of the warring parties. Further, Menkhaus is obviously not more of an authority on the war in Somalia than AMISOM, nor do I think even he would claim to be. He is, though, relatively more neutral than certain other writers. On the other hand, the ICG has long been regarded as biased and politically-driven when it comes to Somali affairs (e.g. [12]). Laura Hammond is also mistaken about the extent of territory that Al-Shabaab controlled. Per the former UN Special Representative for Somalia Augustine Mahiga, around 85 percent of the disputed territory was actually under government control by November 2012 [13]. I've noted that official figure in its place. I want to believe that you indeed keep your opinions to the talk page, but it's difficult to do that when you also use them as editing rationales. Lastly, I don't divulge personal information to Wikipedians, whether they're aggressive or friendly; it's nothing personal. Middayexpress (talk) 00:08, 15 February 2014 (UTC)

You miss the point - part of the reason Al-Shabaab gained so much support and the insurgency arose was that the TFG's security forces behaved so badly. Menkhaus writes that the Ethiopians overcame the ICU within days, then made the 'fateful decision' to occupy the city, then the TFG security forces' started robbing, assaulting etc. That's the order indicated. Menkhaus is a WP:Third Party source, and is more of a reliable source than AMISOM. AMISOM *has* to present a reasonably positive picture if it wants to retain support. The 85% figure is as of Nov 2012 and also comes from not-a-third party source. In any case, the point is the rural area control, not the percentage of territory. Menkhaus indicates that since Nov 2008 'Al-Shabaab has controlled much of the Somali countryside' (the RUSI article, 12), Hammond indicates the same thing in January 2013, and my independent research with people on the ground last month confirms it. If you wish, I'll flip you my notes of that conversation.
Now, you are getting close to insinuating that I am guilty of POV. If you wish to do so, call a spade a spade. I am more concerned about your edit-warring record, for which you have been blocked three times, and the clear record of emphasising the central government's reach and power, and reducing its bad record, you have. The most recent fix I've had to make is *yet* another example. This edit of 5 January 2012 was reporting a source that said AMISOM was understaffed, and the sentence didn't mention the TFG. You changed the key word to 'underequipped,' and changed the whole meaning by emphasising that AMISOM were assisting the TFG. You seem to do this again and again and again; the TFG simply haven't been as important a military factor as you make them out to be!!! To recite just one example, the Ethiopians took Mogadishu in December 2006, not the TFG. The continued disorganisation, factionalism, and lack of support for the TFG's disparate troops don't allow them to be that capable on the battlefield. Addend: didn't allow them c.2006; things may start changing since large numbers are being trained by EUTM.Buckshot06 (talk) 02:02, 15 February 2014 (UTC)
That statement on the chain of events in the Mogadishu insurgency is not actually from Menkhaus himself, but originates from another source. That's why he has a footnote after it. This doesn't change the fact that the actual chain of events is as the ISA describes above. HRW also explicitly states that the "Somali transitional government forces played a secondary role to the Ethiopian military" (which at the time wasn't part of AMISOM; AMISOM didn't exist yet then), and summarizes their indiscretions accordingly [14]. AMISOM is obviously a much more reliable source on the war than the average journalist or scholar since it has had a presence on the ground and in the battlefield throughout its mandate. Until recently, most foreign journalists didn't let alone academics. Similarly, the official 85% territorial control figure is from the former UN representative in Somalia. Further, those blocks were from three to four year ago, back in my salad days when I was still learning the ropes. A look at the history page now, though, shows that you've reverted exponentially more times than I have; so take it for what it's worth. As for personal comments, I try to keep things on the actual content, even if my interlocutor does not or perhaps cannot. Lastly, per the Security Council resolutions that empowered it, AMISOM's very mandate was indeed to assist the TFG. Somali leaders themselves approached the African Union about the possibility of authorizing such a deployment. By the way, the TFG hasn't been in power since 2012, so there's no sense in referring to it as though its term hasn't ended. Middayexpress (talk) 19:55, 15 February 2014 (UTC)
I'm surprised at you, Middayexpress. You appear to have not noticed the specific dates the HRW report of Aug 2007 refers to. The quote from Menkhaus I've reinserted specifically talks about events immediately after the capture of Mogadishu by the Ethiopians & TFG in December 2006. Also, it's his words and his judgment, though he says, 'for details, see' the two HRW reports. At that point, in Dec 2006-Jan 2007, he judges that the actions of TFG security forces became the principal source of insecurity for the local population. This partially fomented the insurgency. Now the 'secondary role' quote comes from an HRW report which specifically says it's about the fighting three months later in March-April 2007. By the time the insurgency had gained strength, and both the Ethiopians and the TFG were using force against it. The Ethiopians, says HRW, were primary; the TFG forces secondary. But three to four months earlier it was the TFG security forces' actions that Menkhaus describes. Buckshot06 (talk) 20:25, 15 February 2014 (UTC)
I'm really not seeing the logic in removing a statement from an academic journal on the grounds that it contradicts something a UN spokesman said a few months before it was published: WP:NPOV requires that we cover all views, and the sourcing here obviously isn't problematic. If the author was able to update the article up to the date of publishing it's also a more recent source. Nick-D (talk) 03:28, 16 February 2014 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Buckshot06: The chain of events in 2007 was Ethiopian occupation => violent insurgency by ICU splinter elements => heavy-handed counter-insurgency by the allied forces. Menkhaus explained this in his own words during a hearing before the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations ("The impact of the 2007-2008 Ethiopian military occupation of southern Somalia has created still more challenges for effective strategy[...] That occupation, and the destructive insurgency and counter-insurgency violence it triggered, helped to fuel an unprecedented level of radicalism in Somali society" [15]). Regarding Operation Linda Nchi, Somali and Kenyan military officials held a meeting the weekend before in Dhobley to organize the operation [16]. The cables also assert that Kenyan officials had provided military intelligence-based justifications for launching OLN back in 2010 to US officials, and these turned out to be fabrications [17]. Middayexpress (talk) 16:20, 16 February 2014 (UTC)

Middayexpress, you still appear not to have noticed the additional step that Menkhaus includes in the RUSI article. Immediately after he mentions the Ethiopian occupation, he says the TFG security forces became the principal source of the local populations' insecurity. This helped cause the insurgency that then arose (and then led to the heavy hand reaction in which the TFG played a secondary role). You are continuing to take out a key point in the causal chain of events, and I don't fully understand why. Buckshot06 (talk) 19:56, 16 February 2014 (UTC)
That is an allusion to the TFG's heavy-handed counter-insurgency, which was actually a response to the insurgency. It's attributed in the RUSI article to the HRW. The latter, like Menkhaus in the USCFR hearing, explains the chain of events in 2007 as Ethiopian/TFG arrival => violent insurgency by ICU splinter elements => heavy-handed counter-insurgency by the allied forces. HRW also indicates that the insurgency actually began within days of the allied forces' arrival ("Within a week of the TFG and Ethiopian army's arrival in Mogadishu the first insurgent attacks began. Ethiopian and TFG forces responded by sealing off areas around the attack sites and conducting house-to-house searches."). It also explains that the TFG, Ethiopian and insurgent forces' respective alleged indiscretions were limited to what the ISA paper reports. HRW indicates that the other reported incidents against civilians were actually the work of criminal elements ("witnesses blamed bandits and other criminal elements for the attacks, not TFG or Ethiopian forces or the insurgency") [18]. Also, the new U.S. Mogadishu Coordinating Cell was established because the Somali authorities and AMISOM specifically asked for it [19]. Middayexpress (talk) 17:52, 17 February 2014 (UTC)
Please also see Phil Leggiere's analysis, which summarizes Menkhaus' work on the ICU/TFG/Ethiopian conflict. It similarly notes that the TFG and Ethiopian forces' heavy-handed clampdown was actually part of the counter-insurgency ("Since early 2007," he writes, "attacks on the TFG and the Ethiopian military have been daily, involving mortars, roadside bombs, ambushes, and even suicide bombings. The Ethiopian and TFG response has been extremely heavy-handed, involving attacks on whole neighborhoods, indiscriminate violence targeting civilians, and widespread arrest and detention."" [20]). Middayexpress (talk) 15:13, 18 February 2014 (UTC)