Somaliland: Demobilizing Most of the SNM Military Forces and Transferring the Rest of SNM Military Forces to Our Government Somaliland Cyberspace

Demobilizing Most of the SNM Military Forces and Transferring the Rest of SNM Military Forces to Our Government

Abdulkarim Ahmed Guleid
31 July 1991

1 Background

At the peak of the fighting during the civil war, the SNM had approximately 25,000 armed men in a loosely organized all-volunteer army consisting of nearly all young men who were available. None of these men were paid any salaries and therefore they had to survive from donations by the nomads and other citizens. Now that they have won their war of liberation, the nomads and other citizens no longer see a need to feed and cloth all of these soldiers.

Many of these volunteers were established businessmen, farmers, and professionals who have already left this volunteer army and returned to their former professions, since they are no longer needed in this army. Many of the remainder are young men who grew up during the civil war, without an opportunity to obtain an education and to learn a profession. In the chaos left by the massive damage of the civil war, this process of demobilization has been occurring spontaneously and it has contributed to a loss of organizational control and discipline over the remaining armed military personnel. We do not even know how many armed soldiers are still trying to survive as armed soldiers. As a very rough estimate, there may be approximately 15,000 such armed soldiers in our Republic today. None of them have uniforms and most of them do not even have shoes. Therefore, we can not distinguish between armed soldiers and other armed civilians.

This is a potentially dangerous and unstable situation. If these armed young men have no practical alternatives to continue carrying their weapons, with no legal source of income or organizational control over them, they will be tempted to drift into illegal plundering in order to survive. Fortunately, this has not yet occurred on a large scale within the Republic of Somaliland, as it has occurred from the beginning of the liberation of Mogadishu in the South. Nevertheless, we must place a high priority upon quickly defusing this potentially dangerous situation with positive actions, before it does deteriorate and endanger our local civil order.

2 Our Goal

Our goal at the moment is to convert the remnants of this disorganized SNM army into an official army of our Republic and to disarm all of the rest of within reasonable limits. In particular, we want to prevent military personnel from carrying weapons into cities and villages, except under specific orders of their superiors and in well-disciplined groups. We also want to prevent civilians from carrying weapons in the cities and villages. We will allow our citizens to own and use weapons, as they have traditionally done, but these weapons should not be used for criminal purposes.

At the moment, we feel that a new army of 8,000 men is adequate for the needs of our Republic. Therefore, we want to select about 8,000 men from the remaining remnants of the SNM army and convert them into a well-disciplined 8,000-man official army. We then want to demobilize the rest of the SNM soldiers, by disarming them and assisting them in adjusting to civilian life. We also would like to establish some kind of record-keeping, both to be able to remobilize reserves of experienced men should any need arise as well as to be able to recognize the valuable contributions and sacrifices that these men have made for their country.

This project should be seen within a larger political concept of the systematic dismantling of the SNM as a liberation movement and the replacement of the SNM with a larger representative government, that represents the whole population in the territory of our Republic. As the first step in this process, the SNM has already negotiated fair terms of peace with the clans in this region who remained loyal to the dictatorship of General Barre and fought against the SNM during the civil war. At the political level, this important process of internal reconciliation is already complete. We now need to continue this process by replacing the army of the SNM, with its narrower base in the population, with a professional army of the Republic, with a broader base in the population.

3 The Role of Our New Army

We have very bad memories of the way that the former socialist dictatorship of General Barre:
- mixed the roles of the military and police forces,
- controlled both forces centrally from Mogadishu, and
- misused both forces for political and economic oppression of the people, where the people were the victims with no control over their military and police forces.

Therefore, we want to clearly define the roles of both the military and police forces within our new Republic of Somaliland, in such a way that
- the roles of military and police forces are kept completely separate,
- the role of the military forces is to protect the Republic from external aggression,
- the role of the police forces is to protect the population by providing local law and order,
- the military forces are responsible to the central Government of the Republic, and
- the police forces are responsible to the local political organizations at the community level.

This structure will be codified in the new constitution that we are already working on as well as the laws that our future Parliament will pass.

For the main goal of our military forces, to protect our Republic from external aggression, we do not see any immediate need to maintain a large standing army. The recent precedent of our ability to quickly mobilize our whole population, if necessary in order to repulse oppression, should be a sufficient deterrent to any potential external aggressors. Maintaining a large standing army could provoke unnecessary fear among our neighbors that we ourselves have evil intentions towards them. For the short term, the economic aspects of demobilizing the SNM military forces are more important for us than protection from external aggression.

For the standing army that we do retain, of approximately 8,000 men planned at the moment, we would like to train them for the dual roles of military defense and a role similar to that of the US Army Corps of Engineers. We would then use our new professional army to assist in the immense task of reconstruction, such as by clearing rubble from destroyed villages with bulldozers and constructing temporary or permanent bridges. If we can quickly obtain special training and equipment for them, they could intensify the work that they are already doing to remove and deactivate the many anti-personnel and anti-tank mines around our cities and villages as well as on our roads.

The local communities have already been very successful in establishing local police forces that are effectively maintaining civil law and order within all of our cities and villages today. Due to the democratic nature of the local administrations of these cities and villages, these new local police forces are being held responsible to the local populations, which can quickly remove any of them if they are corrupt. This structure will also be codified in our new constitution and the laws of our new Parliament. The central Government of our Republic will limit its role in managing local police forces to:

- providing training and national standards as appropriate and requested by local officials,
- providing national laws for enforcement by local officials, and
- serving as a guarantor that local authorities will not abuse their local power to oppress minority groups living in their communities.

4 Implementation

4.1 Creation of a New 8,000-Man Army

Although most of the members in the new 8,000-man army of the Republic will come from the remnants of the SNM army, the doors should be open to qualified men from other clans who did not cooperate with the SNM during the civil war. It will also be necessary to maintain a sound mixture between simple soldiers and officers at different levels of experience, training, and rank.

We already have more than enough military equipment to equip a much larger army than with just 8,000 men. Therefore, we do not have a requirement for obtaining additional military equipment and supplies at this time. (One of the early tasks of our new army will be to collect, catalog, store, and maintain this large inventory of military equipment and supplies.)

However, we do need to equip this new army professionally with suitable uniforms, both to be able to recognize them when disarming unofficial soldiers, and to encourage them to accept their new official roles. Therefore, we have a very urgent requirement for about 8,000 simple military uniforms, including shoes (since most of these men are barefoot at this time and they desperately want and need shoes).

We may also need some limited assistance from foreign experts for training this 8,000-man army, primarily training for becoming a well-disciplined organization, rather than military training for using military equipment. Later, we may also need some training for maintaining the military equipment and supplies that we already have.

Another urgent requirement is to be able to provide this new 8,000-man army with sufficient income that they can survive upon their official income, without need to use other means to survive economically. Initially, this income for this army can be mixed as food and cash for these men and their families. Later, this will need to include shelter or sufficient cash to allow them to build, buy, or rent adequate shelter for themselves and their families.

4.2 Demobilizing the Rest of the SNM Army

The rest of the SNM army will be demobilized and disarmed. We need to do this in an honorable way, that recognizes their valuable contributions in the past and gives them realistic opportunities to survive economically in the immediate future.

As recognition of the valuable contributions in the past, we would like to be able to record the names of these men in official records and give each of them an official ID card that acknowledges their prior service. This information can also provide the basis for any future mobilization that may be necessary as well as to give them any appropriate benefits that may be due to them in the future, such as preferential selection for positions with our Government.

More urgent at the moment, we need to give them opportunities to survive economically with dignity immediately. This could start with a simple set of civilian clothing, including shoes, when we officially demobilize them (thereby voluntarily trading clothing for weapons). There is plenty of work to be done for the reconstruction of our infrastructure, but we lack the organization and financing to start this work. Some of this work can be started immediately, requires little capital investment, and requires little prior training or skills. As only one example, a larger number of simple repairs are needed for our highways, that could be done by unskilled workers with simple tools such as shovels and pick axes.

For this category of work, which we can start quickly with little capital investment, the only major expense is that of rewarding the people who do this work sufficiently so that they and their families can survive with dignity while they are doing this work. The compensation for this work can be a combination of food and cash at the beginning. Until now, we have only had food available for paying such people, and on such a small scale that we could not launch significant programs. However, it will be important to also provide cash, in order to give these people buying power that will assist us in our larger goals of reflating our free-market economy.

5 The Next Steps

The most-urgent next step is the necessary planning for implementing this urgent project. However, it is difficult to justify the effort of doing detailed planning, if there are no concrete prospects of being able to obtain the limited financing that will be necessary for implementing any such plans. Therefore, our urgent request at this time is for your Government to offer to assist our Government, with a commitment to assist us in the necessary planning immediately and a general commitment to assist us financially with the implementation of this project as soon as our planning allows us to begin. For timing, we would like to be able to develop a preliminary plan within two weeks time of receiving your general offer of assistance, that would be sufficient to immediately request:

- shipment of uniforms, shoes, blank ID cards, etc. for about 8,000 men and
- a combination of food and cash to pay the first month of salaries for these men.

I can coordinate the development of this preliminary plan from here, by telefax communications to Djibouti and Ethiopia and couriers to Hargeisa (since there are no telecommunications with our Republic at this time).

Within six weeks after receiving your general offer of assistance, we would like to have a more detailed plan, that would be sufficient as a basis for you to provide continued resources of food and cash to continue paying these men for some reasonable agreed-upon length of time.

Later, we can explore the possibilities for providing other assistance, such as organizational training and maintenance training.

[Editor's Note: This paper led to Davies Consulting GmbH writing a more-detailed paper on this subject that was later included in the first Budget of the Republic of Somaliland in 1992 under the title of "Sub-Project 3: Demobilization and Domestic Tranquility".]