- November 20, 2008
Ikhwanweb Interview With Dr. Ali Basha Omar, Head of the “Reform Movement” in Somalia
The Horn of Africa is considered one of the world”s hottest spots witnessing political instability and insecurity since the 80s.
Since the American invasion on Somalia in the early 90s, the Somali people have been living in civil wars and under the line of poverty. Moreover, the situation is getting worse day after another despite the several attempts made to end it.
A few days ago Dr. Ali Basha Omar was elected as the new Chairman of the “Reform Movement” (MB) in Somalia. Ikhwanweb held an interview with Dr. Omar to get acquainted with the movement”s latest developments and his vision of the future in the light of present conditions in Somalia.
A Short Biography of Dr. Ali Basha:
He was born in 1952. After memorizing the Quran, he completed his preparatory and secondary levels in the Egyptian mission schools. He then entered Medical school in the Somali National University specializing in ophthalmology until he became an Assistant and later a Professor in the field. He was the founder and first President of the Somali Doctors Syndicate. He was also elected MP in the Somali Parliament twice in a row.
Ikhwanweb: The movement has just finished holding its internal elections. What mechanism was used for the election process? If there was any percentage of change in the elections how much was it exactly? Is there any female representation in the movement”s institutions and what is your position on this issue?
Ali Basha Omar: In the name of Allah, praise is to Allah and may His peace and blessings be upon the Prophet Muhammad, his family, and companions.
First of all, I would like to thank those working in Ikhwanweb for their concern with the issues of the Islamic nation, particularly the Somali people who are a part of this nation that is suffering several crises, one after another. The movement has entered its fourth decade now, so by now it has gained self-experience in internal elections and has its detailed codes and laws for running elections at different levels. This year”s elections went smoothly as expected despite the difficult conditions surrounding us in the country. A Shura council has been elected including its top officials. Regarding the percentage of change, new members account for one third of the Shura council. As for the women, they play an effective role in the Somali society in general through their active participation in the propagation of Islam and in the movement in particular through their active participation in the movement”s activities and councils at the different levels. Not to mention their active participation in the recent internal elections.
Ikhwanweb: For a while, the media has been talking about the presence of splits within the movement. How true is that, and are there still internal differences within the movement?
Ali Basha Omar: As you know, the MB movement has been tried throughout its 80 year long journey with a few people who loved to see quick victory and results. But the days proved this a mistake and the firmness of the MB methodology and vision. Because the “Reform Movement” is based on shura (consultation), it accepts different points of view and ideas that enrich our assemblies. However, conforming to MB methodology, codes, and adopted plans is an obligation every member should be held accountable for. As for what has been published by some sites about the MB, it is an artificial uproar stirred by some individuals who had left the MB and joined other organizations that adopt violent means for achieving political goals as opposed to the moderate approach of the MB.
It is also worthy to be mentioned that the movement is not suffering any internal problems. In fact, it is in its strongest stages in terms of firmness, commitment, and sacrifice.
Ikhwanweb: What are your vision and top priorities for the next 5 years?
Ali Basha Omar: After the elections ended, the new administration determined the movement”s upcoming strategy, the usual 5-year plan divided into yearly plans with specified goals and means. The upcoming strategy is based on the following pivots:
1. Education and mobilization: to educate the movement”s members on MB methodology.
2. General propagation of Islam: to spread the correct and moderate understanding of Islam and reform the individual, family, and society.
3. Community service in the fields of education, charity work, and urgent relief work through specialized institutions.
4. Politics and conciliation: to make every possible effort to restore the Somali state, its sovereignty, and regional and international role. Also to complete the process of national conciliation, restore security and stability, and spread the culture of peace.
Ikhwanweb: There appears to be an absence of the movement”s role in the current Somali crisis. What is your remark on that? And if so, why?
Ali Basha Omar: The movement has never been a side in any armed conflicts between fellow citizens. In fact, the movement believes that the Somali society is rather in need of drawing closer the different points of view and reactivating the conciliation process between the different sides. Therefore the options we see available for playing an effective role are two:
1. Either we take part in the destructive civil war under one of the raised flags and seek the support of a foreign power.
2. Or avoid the war, and choose the path of peace, conciliation, community service, putting out the fires set ablaze by the lovers of war and destruction.
The movement chose the second path, although it is longer, because experiences have shown that this is the only way to solve the Somali problem. The movement has also bore the duty of spreading the culture of peace and restoring the state”s entity.
Therefore, I see that your observation is invalid. The movement is a part of the solution, not the problem. It is experiencing the misfortunes of the Somali society and going through the same pains and agonies, and offering the necessary services that it can for the sake of alleviating the grief of the Somali people that has resulted from the cumulating crises. We are helping our society to reach their beautiful dream and rebuild their state once again so that they can live as all the other people are living. This can only be achieved through conciliation, accord, and tolerating one another, abandoning violence, and seeking decisions through dialogue and consultation.
Ikhwanweb: Is there any coordination between the movement and other political forces? What is your position regarding the killing going on in Mogadishu?
Ali Basha Omar: We believe that Somalia is open to all constructive efforts. And we see any party contributing to reform and the restoration of security, stability, and the Somali state”s entity an effective element. Our relations with others in the arena, regardless of their names, are that of cooperation, or at least we”re not clashing. No clashes or confrontations have occurred between us and the others throughout the past four decades of our work. We also believe in cooperation based on seeking the similarities between us and excusing and tolerating our differences.
Ikhwanweb: How do you view and assess the Islamic courts” positions and performance?
Ali Basha Omar: The movement has never been a party in the Islamic courts, neither during peace or war. The Islamic courts have formed an “Alliance for the Liberation of Somalia” based in Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, where it manages its operations. This alliance later split into two wings when its leader adopted the dialogue and conciliation approach with the transitional government. We in the movement support this peaceful approach.
Ikhwanweb: What is the movement”s vision for a way out of this crisis?
Ali Basha Omar: The movement sees Somalia as a collapsed state since 1991 and that there is no way out of its current crisis other than restoring the state”s entity and different institutions and ending the internal fighting and cutting off foreign support of any type, form, or name. Therefore, we may summarize our solution to the Somali problem in the following steps:
1. Continue in the national conciliation efforts at the social and political levels and end all killing operations to eliminate any justifications for foreign intervention.
2. Ethiopian forces should leave the country and be replaced with national forces that will help in restoring peace and stability.
3. Then a national unity government must be formed that will restore sovereignty to the country and dignity to the Somali people. We must also combat any “state refusal,” i.e. fight any state residing in the country for all the excuses it has given throughout the years of the crisis.
Ikhwanweb: What is the position of the movement regarding the last Djibouti agreement between the Alliance for the Liberation of Somalia and the interim government?
Ali Basha Omar: The movement believes that dialogue, negotiations and ending the internal fighting are the only solutions to the Somali problem. Therefore we see that the negotiations and dialogues between the interim government and Alliance, and the approval of consecutive agreements in Djibouti are a positive step in the right direction; a step that requires several other steps to ultimately achieve national accord and social harmony. In fact, the movement had issued a statement on September 15, 2008 in which it emphasized the importance of this agreement and called on the Somali people to support it pointing out that many obstacles will face the execution of this agreement which will require patience, continuous efforts, and responsible behaviour towards the Somali people.
Ikhwanweb: The Horn of Africa has been a tensioned region for several centuries and the collapse of the Somali state has triggered civil wars that in the end led to regional and international interventions into the internal affairs of the area. Do you think there will be an end to this crisis? Can peace possibly be restored to the Horn of Africa?
Ali Basha Omar: Since the last century, Somalia has not enjoyed peace and security. In fact, it has witnessed continuous tension, and regional, international, and local wars triggered by Western colonialism. This tension increased through the cold war and was re-ignited by the weakness and collapse of the Somali state.
The Somali people have failed to rebuild their country for two decades because the civil wars had exhausted the society”s strengths, energies, and abilities and the international society did not offer a clear policy that the different international parties could agree upon since the collapse of the Somali state until today, not to mention the regional and international interventions which aggravated the situation and added more fuel to the fire. Despite all that, there is still hope, but it requires extraordinary and unconventional efforts.
First, respecting Somalia and its sovereignty and the unity of its lands on the part of the regional and international forces is a major condition which represents the first step to a peaceful, secure, and developing Horn of Africa.
Second, the presence of an international desire for restoring the Somali state and refusal of the current political vacuum represents the second step and are positive signs and an important message for all the regional intervening parties on one side, and the different Somali factions on the other. Here is where the role of our fellow Arabs and the Arab league come in: to create this international desire and push it forward in the right direction.
Thirdly, Somali people should turn to the approach of understanding, conciliation, and mutual respect if they want to convince the world that they really want a solution to their problems, to see peace and stability in their country, and are serious about rescuing their children from the disasters of war.
Only then can we talk about a peaceful and secure Horn of Africa that gives its people their full rights and a respectable life free of destructive wars which have led the region to experience the worst qualities of life in the world.