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Somalia: Creating Another Iraq?

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Jan 16, 2007 (070116)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

While U.S. congressional debate focuses on the best way to withdraw from a failed war in Iraq, and President Bush plans for a surge in troops, U.S. policymakers seem determined to replicate the Iraq experience in Somalia. If that outcome is averted, it will be due not to better U.S. planning or strategy, but to the Somali desire for peace and to diplomatic efforts that U.S. action has made more difficult.

Somalia is not Iraq, of course. For one thing, Somalia is smaller in population. The U.S. military is relying on Ethiopia, which has taken the lead for its own reasons, sending in ground troops and tanks and joining in the bombing. Somalia's internal divisions are also profoundly different from those in Iraq. But the similarity is nevertheless substantial. The United States and Ethiopia are bypassing efforts at reconciliation, relying on hyped-up information, and disregarding Somali and African opinion in an effort to target and kill alleged terrorists. They are building up long-term problems even while chalking up military "victories."

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains reports from the U.S. Air Force and from Oxfam on the January 8 U.S. attack in southern Somalia, and commentary on the U.S. and Ethiopian intervention by two African commentators: Salim Lone, a Kenyan journalist and former UN official, and Issa Shivji, a Tanzanian scholar and retired law professor.

See also commentary, "Don't Replay Iraq in Horn of Africa," by AfricaFocus Bulletin editor William Minter, published in the Providence Journal, January 31, 2007.

For earlier AfricaFocus Bulletins and links on Somalia, see

For additional commentary on the most recent developments, see (Pambazuka News) and (Foreign Policy in Focus).

Another AfricaFocus Bulletin sent out today contains background analysis and commentary on U.S. military involvement in other regions of Africa.

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++

Aircraft attack al Qaeda haven in Somalia

by Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Air Force Link

1/9/2007 - Washington (AFNEWS) -- Air Force AC-130 gunships struck al Qaeda targets in Somalia Jan. 8, news sources reported last night.

The operation allegedly hit al Qaeda concentrations in the southern part of the country, but Pentagon officials did not comment.

The Navy 5th Fleet moved the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower into the waters off Somalia in an effort to capture al Qaeda terrorists attempting to flee the country, a 5th Fleet spokesman said.

Officials of the United Nations-recognized Somali government said the strikes were aimed at al Qaeda terrorists who planned the attacks against the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

The Ethiopian military entered Somalia Dec. 24 with the mission of neutralizing the Council of Islamic Courts, a Muslim extremist group that took power in the Somali capital of Mogadishu. The Ethiopian forces took the capital in 10 days and terrorists and their sympathizers allegedly moved south toward the border with Kenya to escape.
More U.S. ships are moving into the waters off Somalia to reinforce the maritime interdiction effort there, said U.S. 5th Fleet officials.

"Due to rapidly developing events in Somalia, U.S. Central Command has tasked USS Dwight D. Eisenhower to join USS Bunker Hill, USS Ramage, USS Anzio and USS Ashland to support ongoing maritime security operations off the coast of Somalia," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Charlie Brown, a spokesman for 5th Fleet in Bahrain.

The ships will stop vessels and search them for al Qaeda terrorists attempting to escape from Somalia, officials said.

Press reports said the AC-130 attacks hit an area called Ras Kamboni, a heavily forested area near the Kenyan border. The area is allegedly a terror training base. Press reports said there were casualties in the area, and Somali officials said they had captured 28 suspected al Qaeda terrorists.

Organizations Report of Bombings Targeting Innocent Civilians

Oxfam International

Press Release

January 13, 2007


Oxfam is receiving reports from its partner organizations in Somalia that nomadic herdsmen have been hit in recent bombing raids.

According to the reports from local organizations in Afmadow district, bombs have hit vital water sources as well as large groups of nomads and their animals who had gathered around large fires at night to ward off mosquitoes.

Further reports have also confirmed that bombings have claimed the lives of at least 70 people in the district.

"These reports must be taken seriously. Under international law, there is a duty to distinguish between military and civilian targets. We are deeply concerned that this principle is not being adhered to, and that innocent people in Somalia are paying the price. These communities are already struggling to survive after a severe drought last year was followed by widespread flooding," said Paul Smith-Lomas, Oxfam's Regional Director for Horn, East and Central Africa.

Today, Oxfam and its partners warned that the recent escalation in violence is making it extremely difficult for aid agencies to reach people in need.

Since late December, violence in Somalia has forced an estimated 70,000 people from their homes, and has exacerbated an already dire humanitarian situation. Last year, Somalia was hit first by severe drought and then the worst flooding in 50 years, leaving some 400,000 people homeless.

Oxfam partner organizations in the region have been providing communities with emergency medical supplies, essential household items, and water chlorination services, as well as distributing food in areas where food is not locally available.

Oxfam is calling on all parties to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law.

Destabilising the Horn

by Salim Lone

Daily Times, Pakistan

January 7, 2007

[Salim Lone, a Kenyan whose last assignment in his UN career was as spokesman for the UN mission in Iraq immediately after the 2003 war, is a columnist for the Daily Nation in Nairobi.]

The best antidote to terrorism in Somalia is stability. Instead of engaging with the Islamists to secure peace, the United States has plunged a poor country into greater misery

The stability that emerged in southern Somalia after sixteen years of utter lawlessness is gone, the defeat of the ruling Islamic Courts Union now ushering in looting, martial law and the prospect of another major anti-Western insurgency. Clan warlords, who terrorised Somalia until they were driven out by the Islamists, and who were put back in power by the US-backed and -trained Ethiopian army, have begun carving up the country once again.

With these developments, the Bush Administration, undeterred by the horrors and setbacks in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon, has opened another battlefront in this volatile quarter of the Muslim world. As with Iraq, it casts this illegal war as a way to curtail terrorism, but its real goal appears to be to obtain a direct foothold in a highly strategic area of the world through a client regime. The results could destabilise the whole region.

The Horn of Africa, at whose core Somalia lies, is newly oil-rich. It is also just miles across the Red Sea from Saudi Arabia and Yemen, overlooking the daily passage of large numbers of oil tankers and warships through that waterway. The United States has a huge military base in neighbouring Djibouti that is being enlarged substantially and will become the headquarters of a new US military command being created specifically for Africa. As evidence of the area's importance, Gen. John Abizaid, the military commander of the region, visited Ethiopia recently to discuss Somalia, while Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Horn countries a few months ago in search of oil and trade agreements.

The current series of events began with the rise of the Islamic Courts more than a year ago. The Islamists avoided large-scale violence in defeating the warlords, who had held sway in Somalia ever since they drove out UN peacekeepers by killing eighteen American soldiers in 1993, by rallying people to their side through establishing law and order. Washington was wary, fearing their possible support for terrorists. While they have denied any such intentions, some Islamists do have terrorist ties, but these have been vastly overstated in the West.

Washington, however, chose to view the situation only through the prism of its 'war on terror'. The Bush Administration supported the warlords - in violation of a UN arms embargo it helped impose on Somalia many years ago - indirectly funnelling them arms and suitcases filled with dollars.

Many of these warlords were part of the Western-supported transitional 'government' that had been organised in Kenya in 2004. But the 'government' was so devoid of internal support that even after two years it was unable to move beyond the small western town of Baidoa, where it had settled. In the end, it was forced to turn to Somalia's archenemy Ethiopia for assistance in holding on even to Baidoa. Again in violation of the UN arms embargo, Ethiopia sent 15,000 troops to Somalia. Their arrival eroded whatever domestic credibility the government might have had.

The United States, whose troops have been sighted by Kenyan journalists in the region bordering Somalia, next turned to the UN Security Council. In another craven act resembling its post-facto legalisation of the US occupation of Iraq, the Council bowed to US pressure and authorised a regional peacekeeping force to enter Somalia to protect the government and "restore peace and stability". This despite the fact that the UN has no right under its charter to intervene on behalf of one of the parties struggling for political supremacy, and that peace and stability had already been restored by the Islamists.

The war came soon after the UN resolution, its outcome a foregone conclusion thanks to the highly trained and war-seasoned Ethiopian army. The African Union called for the Ethiopians to end the invasion, but the UN Security Council made no such call. Ban Ki-moon, the incoming Secretary General, is being urged to treat the enormously complex situation in Darfur as his political challenge, but Somalia, while less complex, is more immediate. He has an opportunity to establish his credentials as an unbiased upholder of the UN Charter by seeking Ethiopia's withdrawal.

The Ethiopian military presence in Somalia is inflammatory and will destabilise this region and threaten Kenya, a US ally and the only island of stability in this corner of Africa. Ethiopia is at even greater risk, as a dictatorship with little popular support and beset by two large internal revolts by Ogadenis and Oromos. It is also mired in a military stalemate with Eritrea, which has denied it secure access to seaports. It now seeks such access in Somalia.

The best antidote to terrorism in Somalia is stability. Instead of engaging with the Islamists to secure peace, the United States has plunged a poor country into greater misery in its misguided determination to dominate the world.

Somalia - the Next Afghanistan + Iraq?

January 11, 2007

Pambazuka News

By Issa Shivji

[Issa Shivji is a retired law professor].

On 9th January 2007, while we were basking in the limelight of Dr Migiro's appointment, BBC reported that an American Air-Force AC-130 jet had bombed a site in Somalia near the Kenyan border. The excuse was the usual one - to destroy alleged Al-Qaida agents who, the Americans have constantly propagandized, are part of the Union of Islamic Courts. The planes flew from an American air base in another African country, Djibouti.

This is a very, very ominous turn of events. Africans have constantly warned of the American military design on the Eastern seaboard. Yet, our "leaders" have thoughtlessly been currying favour with this vicious military power. In the horn, the heavily militarized Ethiopia has become their 'on the scene agent', doing the dirty work of the American warmonger.

First, the Americans pushed through a Security Council resolution to send an African peace-keeping force to Somalia. This was only a cover; anyone could have seen it. The most important part of that resolution was not so much the peace-keeping force but the lifting of the United Nations (UN) embargo on arms sales to Somalia. The resolution provided some legitimacy - albeit fig-leaf - to the Ethiopian military presence in that war-torn country. Unilaterally, with of course the green light from the US, Ethiopia invaded Somalia ostensibly in support of the so-called Transitional Federal Government (TFG).

The TFG is a cruel joke. It is made up of former warlords who have kept the murderous killings alive in Somalia for the past 15 years. These warlords are supported by the US and the Ethiopians. It has simply no base in Somalia. No government in Somalia with even little roots could have ever allied with Ethiopia, which is essentially an occupying force.

Regrettably, Tanzania co-sponsored the Security Council Resolution. Worse, Tanzania is the only African country which is a member of the American sponsored International Contact Group. The other members are the US, UK, Norway, Sweden, Italy and the EU. The AU, Arab League and Kenya attend as observers. The contact group ploy was clearly meant to by-pass ??what is IGAD (IGAD). No wonder Kenya was angered when Tanzania, without proper prior consultations with Kenya, agreed to be part of the Contact Group.

Ethiopia broke ranks with IGAD when it invaded Somalia. The US broke ranks with the Contact Group when it struck Somalia. So much for regional and international collective peace-keeping!

Who authorized the US to strike deep into Africa's heartland? Let us not be taken in by the so-called Al-Qaida presence. This is not the first time the Americans are telling a blatant lie. They did it in August 1998 when Clinton ordered his cruise missiles to attack the al-Shifa Pharmaceutical plant in Sudan. The Americans said it was producing VX gas. In reality, it was producing medicine. Clinton knew it, but human lives, except American, matter little to US presidents. Again, Bush told a lie that Saddam was hiding weapons of mass destruction. He told another lie that Saddam was connected with terrorists. We have seen the results.

If we keep quiet about American military planes flying over African skies, they will paint our lands red with blood. Within less than a decade, the Americans have razed two countries to the ground, allegedly in search of terrorists. This air-strike is a curtain raiser to expand the Middle East War theatre to Africa. We forget this only at our peril. The US 'war on terror' is worse than the proxy-hot wars that the US instigated on the continent during the Cold War era. Now, it is fomenting and instigating civil wars in which Africans will fight Africans, not only across borders but within borders - Muslims against Christians, moderates against extremists, radicals against liberals. It does not matter to them. During the Iran-Iraq war Kissinger quipped: "Let both houses burn"! And when asked about the death of half a million Iraqi children due to sanctions, Madeline Albright shamelessly intoned: "It is worth the price".

The US has just announced the formation of an African command within its military forces to "train African troops" to hunt down terrorists (meaning our own people). The truth is, and the American spokesmen and women say it openly - that the command has been set up to protect oil resources as 25 per cent of US oil needs come from Africa.

Somalia today has all the ingredients of becoming the next Afghanistan or Iraq. God forbid! The people of Africa must rise up to condemn the American strike without reservations. The youth of Africa must understand that the MacDonaldisation of the world is accompanied by MacDonnelisation [MacDonnel Douglas is an American firm supplying defense needs.]. Don't be mesmerized by globalization.

Globalization is the most militarized phase of imperialism, just as it is the beastly face of capitalism.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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