US military expands into Africa
- The American military-industrial complex makes China's business-
oriented People's Liberation Army look like a corner shop.
US military expands into Africa
By Simon Tisdall
February 12, 2007
The American military-industrial complex that so troubled Dwight
Eisenhower in 1961 has morphed into a boom business with truly global
reach. It makes China's business-oriented People's Liberation Army
look like a corner shop. This week's US decision to create a new
Pentagon command covering Africa, known as Africom, has a certain
unlovely military logic. Like Roman emperors of old, Washington's
Caesars arbitrarily divide much of the world into Middle Eastern,
European and Pacific domains. Now it is Africa's turn. Practical more
than imperial considerations dictated the White House move. With Gulf
of Guinea countries including Nigeria and Angola projected to provide
a quarter of US oil imports within a decade, with Islamist terrorism
worries in the Sahel and Horn of Africa, and with China prowling for
resources and markets, the US plainly feels a second wind of change is
blowing, necessitating increased leverage.
Africom's advent also follows a pattern of extraordinary military
expansion under President George Bush, not all of which is explained
by 9/11. The American military-industrial complex that so troubled
Dwight Eisenhower in 1961 has morphed into a boom business with truly
global reach. It makes China's business-oriented People's Liberation
Army look like a corner shop. The Pentagon's total budget requests for
the fiscal year ending September 2008 have swollen to $716.5bn. That
is more than double Clinton-era spending. In contrast, Russia will
spend $31bn on defence this year and China, according to the
International Institute for Strategic Studies, an estimated $87bn.
With Bush as head of the police academy, the US is becoming, de facto,
the self-appointed global policeman it said it never wanted to be. In
Africa as elsewhere, this could have the unintended effect of creating
US-secured regions that are safe for rival countries to do business in
- and exploit. Beijing, for example, has cause to be thankful.
Sino-African trade, boosted by the grand continental progress of
President Hu Jintao this week, has risen from about $3bn in 1995 to
$55.5bn last year, according to the independent Power and Interest
News Report. And Chinese political cooperation is also growing, not
only with "rogue regimes" such as Sudan and Zimbabwe but with more
mainstream governments, potentially undercutting US- promoted
governance and democracy standards.
At the same time, there are arguably too strict limits on what the new
command will actually do. Africom will advance "our common goals of
peace, security, development, health, education, democracy and
economic growth", Mr Bush said. But officials say that will not
involve the stationing of extra combat troops. Nor will it mean US
soldiers reinforcing stretched UN and African Union peacekeeping
forces in Congo, Somalia or Darfur. In practice much of Africom's work
is likely to involve oversight of already extensive, US-funded African
capacity-building programmes, including good governance-related
assistance schemes and training of security forces. In many ways it
may be modelled on the Horn of Africa taskforce set up in Djibouti
Like smaller US military units working in Rwanda, Botswana and
Liberia, the taskforce undertakes humanitarian and infrastructure
projects including, recently, the collation of Somali folk tales. But
like Africom, the Djibouti base's raison d'etre remains American
security and counter-terrorism, as seen in its training of Ethiopian
troops and its air and sea support for the recent Ethiopian
intervention in Somalia against Islamist militants. By coordinating
and expanding similar operations, such as US special forces in Algeria
and the 10-country Trans-Saharan Counter-Terrorism Partnership,
Africom marks the official arrival of America's "global war on terror"
on the African continent. It is a wonder it took so long.
Somalian government troops fire into crowd, at least five killed:
Nasteex Dahir Farah, Associated Press
Sunday, February 11, 2007
KISMAYO, Somalia A march that drew thousands in support of
peacekeepers ended in violence Sunday when an explosion went off as
the army chief prepared to address the rally and government troops
fired into the crowd in response. At least five people were killed.
Thousands had marched through Kismayo, 400 kilometres southwest of the
capital, Mogadishu, to support a proposed peacekeeping mission for
Somalia. "Somali people need the help of Africans," they chanted.
"Somalia's stability needs to be restored."
It was not immediately clear what caused the explosion, which happened
as the army chief, Gen. Abdi Mahdi, was to address the rally at the
city's Freedom Park.
Somali government soldiers patrol the streets of Mogadishu, Monday,
Feb. 5, 2007. Somalia's capital has seen spiraling violence since
government forces and their Ethiopian backers took it over from an
ousted Islamic movement.
Mohamed Sheikh Nor/AP Photo
Government troops fired into the crowd and then opened fire on the
streets of Kismayo, but it was not clear just who they were targeting.
Ethiopian and Somali government troops sealed off the park after the
An Associated Press reporter saw two dead at Freedom Park, but it was
not clear whether they died in the explosion or from gunfire. An
Associated Press reporter counted at least 22 wounded at Kismayo's
Col. Abdirazaq Af Gudud, a senior army official who did not take part
in the rally, said three soldiers died in the explosion.
The army chief was among the wounded, said Gudud. Five other officials
also were injured, including the commander of the Somali national
army's 3rd Battalion and the police chief for southwestern Somalia.
Kismayo, Somalia's third-largest city, was the last major city held by
the radical Islamic movement that took over much of the country's
south last year before being forced out by Somali government troops
and Ethiopian forces in December and January.
The African Union has proposed a peacekeeping mission to help
Somalia's struggling transitional government stabilize Somalia,
particularly after Ethiopia withdraws its forces.
The Islamic movement, which still has support in Mogadishu, has vowed
to wage an Iraq-style insurgency, and attacks in the capital have
occurred almost daily over the last month.
Late Saturday, troops fought gunmen at a key government building in
Mogadishu, said Mohamed Iyow Gedi, a witness to the fighting. Five
people were wounded, staff at Medina Hospital said.
Hours after the gunbattle at Villa Baidoa, government soldiers sealed
off the area around the building and went house to house Sunday
searching for suspects, witnesses said.
Earlier Saturday, two areas of Mogadishu were hit by mortar attacks
that killed at least five people and wounded 10, witnesses said.
Deputy Defence Minister Salad Ali Jelle said the attacks was the work
of remnants of the Islamic movement.
During a pro-Islamist rally Friday, a masked man who gave his name
only as Abdirisaq said his group, the Popular Resistance Movement in
the Land of the Two Migrations, was responsible for attacks on
government buildings and Ethiopian troops.
Somalia has not had an effective national government since 1991, when
warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on one
another, throwing the country into anarchy.
The transitional government was formed with UN help in 2004 amid the
general chaos, but had been largely ignored by all sides until the
western-backed Ethiopian invasion brought its leaders to power.
Mogadishu residents flee city:
Mustafa Haji Abdinur
Mon, 12 Feb 2007
Hundreds of people fled the Somali capital Mogadishu on Monday after
two people were killed in the latest barrage of rebel rocket attacks
and guerrilla-style raids.
There was heavy shelling near the Villa Somalia residence of President
Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed in southern Mogadishu, where artillery fire lit
up the night sky.
At least two people were killed in the attacks that demolished
People fled the southern Mogadishu suburbs that came under attack with
many leaving the capital altogether.
"We have been expecting peace and prosperity after the past 16 years
but not flames of gunfire and fresh bloodshed," said southern
Mogadishu resident, Abdullahi Sheikh Hassan.
"We have to look for safety for ourselves and for our children," he added.
Other battle-weary residents echoed similar views after the shelling.
"A family was sleeping when a house was blown up by a heavy shell, I
cannot tell what kind of weapon it was but it destroyed the house,
killing a father and his son," said Jeri Hassan, a neighbour of one of
the houses attacked.
Witnesses said gunmen also fired grenades into Madina police station
in the capital, triggering a gun battle.
Attacks have steadily intensified since joint Somali-Ethiopian forces
ousted an Islamist movement from the capital last month.
The new assault came hours after a bomb exploded in the southern port
of Kismayo on Sunday, about 500 kilometres south of Mogadishu, killing
four people and injuring several others.
Among the injured was the recently appointed Somali military chief
General Adbi Mohamed, who was addressing scores of residents.
Country threatening to slide back to war
With Somalia dangerously teetering between a slide back to war or
limping forward towards efforts to build a functioning state after
more than a decade of chaos, the international community is struggling
to raise funds and troops for a peacekeeping force.
The African Union has managed to raise half of the required 8000
peacekeepers expected to be deployed to bolster the Yusuf's feeble
The AU Commission met in Addis Ababa on Monday to discuss the "speedy"
deployment of the badly needed force.
The Somali government is based in the backwater town of Baidoa, about
250 kilometres (155 miles) north of Mogadishu.
Yusuf, a former warlord, and Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi have
failed to make good their pledge of relocating to the capital, one of
the most dangerous cities in the world.
The defeated Islamists have vowed to attack and kill peacekeepers, a
spectre that dampens hopes of an international deployment, which has
been delayed since 2005 for fear of further confrontation and
Patchwork of fiefdoms
A previous 1993-1995 peace mission ended disastrously after UN and US
troops fled the country, paving the way for the rise of warlords who
sub-divided the nation into a patchwork of fiefdoms.
Though the warlords were defeated by the Islamists in June, they have
been regrouping in the capital while maintaining a low profile.
In addition, the surging violence calls into question Yusuf's pledge
to convene a national reconciliation conference in a bid to end the
Somalia, home to 10 million people, has had no effective central
authority since the 1991 ousting of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.
Since then, more than 14 internationally-backed attempts to restore a
functional government have failed, compounding the misery caused by
numerous natural disasters.
Somalia: Food shortages in the south as insecurity increases :
NAIROBI, 12 February 2007 (IRIN) - Families in Somalia's Middle Juba
region in the south are consuming seeds meant for planting because of
food shortages, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Somalia reports.
A recent trip to the region by a team from the International Committee
of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported a "highly alarming humanitarian and
livelihood situation", said OCHA Somalia. The report estimated that
"20,000 families need urgent assistance" in the districts of Jamaame,
Lower Juba region, and in Jilib, Middle Juba.
Many "families reported that due to lack of food they had eaten seeds
distributed for post-flood recessional planting There is evidence to
suggest that the region, including Buale and Jilib [Middle Juba] to
Jamaame [Lower Juba], is in a similar humanitarian and livelihood
situation," the agency said. An inter-agency response, it added, was
In Badhade District in Lower Juba, an estimated 2,000 households have
been reported to need aid urgently. "The families were affected by the
recent conflict in the region, and have either been displaced or have
become more vulnerable as a result," said OCHA.
Badhade is close to the area where fighting continues between Union of
Islamic Courts (UIC) remnants and Ethiopian-supported government
soldiers, who have been pursuing them since the UIC was forced out of
the capital, Mogadishu, and much of southern Somalia in late December
2006. It is also close to an area that has been bombed by American jets.
An estimated 1.1 million people are already facing a humanitarian
crisis in southern Somalia, which has recently been ravaged by
drought, floods and conflict.
Meanwhile, in Mogadishu, a father and his six-year-old son were killed
when an artillery shell hit their house on Sunday in the Huriwa
district, a local resident said. A civil society source told IRIN that
"the security situation is so bad many neighbourhoods in the city have
begun to set up their own security".
In the southern port city of Kismayo, five people were killed and at
least 21 wounded when a bomb was thrown into a pro-government rally.
"Most of the dead were civilians but at least six senior government
officials, including the deputy chief of the army, Gen Abdi Mahad, and
Gen Ahmed Mahamud, the chief of police for southern Somalia, were
injured," said a local resident, who was at the rally.
He said the attack had "heightened tensions in Kismayo", which had
been peaceful and so far escaped the increasingly frequent attacks in
Isma'il Muhammad Qalinle, a Kismayo businessman, told IRIN that
government forces were arresting scores of people, "but they are
arresting innocent people. They know who did this. They know the clan
that was behind it and it should be named, instead of going after
innocent people," he added.
Qalinle said Kismayo was in the grip of inter-clan tension "that has
been building up since the government started to allocate positions,
which some clans have seen as unfair", he added.
However, Salad Ali Jeele, the Somali Deputy Minister of Defence, told
IRIN the government was investigating the incident in Kismayo, "and
anyone found to have been involved would be brought to justice, no
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