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Somalia Cannot be Ignored

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    Shifting Policy or a Face-saving Gimmick, Somalia Cannot be Ignored By Abukar Arman http://usa.mediamonitors.net/content/view/full/47901 By all standards, the
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 3, 2007
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      Shifting Policy or a Face-saving Gimmick, Somalia Cannot be Ignored
      By Abukar Arman

      By all standards, the situation unfolding in Somalia is horrifically
      grim. According to the UN, it is the worst crisis in Africa; worse
      than the crisis in Darfur that outraged the world's conscience in an
      unprecedented way. However, unlike Darfur, Washington has a role in
      the creation of this massive humanitarian crisis and therefore must
      have a role in rectifying it.

      As Washington was claiming to care about winning the "hearts and minds
      of the Muslim world" in order to curb the ubiquitous Anti-Americanism
      around the world, it was stubbornly pursuing that same ill-tempered
      foreign policy that considers all "Islamists"-- euphemistically
      understood as all Muslims who believe that their religion is a
      comprehensive way of life-- potential enemies; that same policy which
      has proven to be a miserable failure everywhere it has been implemented.

      As a result, creepily emerging in the past few months was the
      nightmare scenario that many analysts warned against as John Bolton,
      the US Ambassador to the UN, in his last days, aggressively pushed for
      resolutions that would ultimately pave the way for Ethiopia to invade
      its neighboring Somalia under the pretext of a preemptive war to
      protect its national security and contain "the spread of terrorism."

      And as the mainstream media can no longer disregard the magnitude of
      the human suffering in that part of the world, graphic pictures of the
      grisly effects of a callously ignored preventable violence and
      starvation are making their way to the living rooms of millions of
      household- an ominous reminiscence of the early 1990s.

      Civilians fleeing Mogadishu's brutal violence have reached one million
      in number- half of the city's population. These civilians are mainly
      women and children. And because they cannot cross over to neighboring
      countries for safe haven, since the boarders have been closed for
      almost a year, they became IDPs (Internally Displaced People). These
      separate IDPs are deprived of food as almost all aid agencies have
      pulled out when they found the continuous harassment by the Transition
      Federal Government (TFG) and the Ethiopian occupation forces
      unbearable. As a result, "malnutrition rates (is) now reaching 20%
      among the under 5, way over the UN emergency thresholds."

      Pope Benedict XVI urged global intervention to help end the violence
      and starvation. "I am anxiously following developments and I call on
      those who have political responsibilities on the local and
      international levels to seek peaceful solutions that can bring relief
      to these people," said the Pontiff. A week earlier, the European Union
      passed a resolution that "strongly condemns the serious violations of
      human rights committed by all parties to the conflict," and called for
      "an independent panel to investigate war crimes and human rights

      Accordingly, these turn of events have compelled Washington to dash
      for public relations damage control.

      The State Department issued a written statement urging all parties in
      the Somali conflict to "ensure unfettered delivery of humanitarian aid
      to those affected," and added that the United States will "remain
      committed to resolving the ongoing political and humanitarian crisis
      in Somalia," something that Washington has given adequate lip-service
      in the past as it stayed on course, following the same foreign policy

      However, in an interview with Voice of America, Assistant Secretary of
      State for African Affairs, Jendayi Frazer, stunned Washington's
      critics by asserting that "the surge in violence in Mogadishu is
      shared by political extremists as well as forces of the country's
      transitional government and the Ethiopian troops…" She also added that
      "…it is time for Somali moderates to come forward and work to end
      chronic violence."

      Is this a declaration of policy change? Or perhaps another preemptive
      strike aimed to create the impression of positive change that would in
      turn create a media echo effect that would shape a favorable public

      Unfortunately, the statement, while it may have raised curiosity in
      certain circles, rings a bit hollow to those who have been following
      closely Washington's deadly enterprise in Somalia.

      If the statement, especially the phrase "Somali moderates," is a
      euphemism for those who would blindly embark on Washington's haphazard
      engagement in Somalia (by proxy or otherwise), disenchantment will
      inevitably ensue. Why? You guessed it: Washington's
      credibility-deficient foreign policy with its unenviable track record,
      especially in the Islamic world.

      However, if Dr. Frazer's statement, which was unique in tone and
      aspiration, was a genuine attempt to indicate Washington's paradigm
      shift; that it finally came to the realization that the US long-term
      strategic interest in the region, and that of Ethiopia, are running in
      a collision course, then the State Department ought to recognize that
      it needs to do some plowing before it can harvest any thing.

      Washington's image has been steadily eroding since the spring of 2006,
      when `Operation Dung beetle,' a CIA covert operation that financed
      some of the most brutal warlords to hound after the Islamic courts
      became public news. This subsequently led to the June 2006 popular
      uprising that firmly established the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) and
      chased the despised warlords out of Mogadishu.

      The courts ruled for six months, described as the most peaceful period
      that war-torn Somalia has known since the civil war erupted in 1991.
      Washington viewed this as a threat, and ill-advisedly opted to support
      the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia which, in due course, led to the
      humanitarian and political mayhem at hand.

      There are various reports indicating that the courts had a radical
      element, but this element was at the fringes of the decision-making
      process. It was the much broader moderate base within the ICU that had
      the popular support. And it was clearly this latter group that made
      `reaching out to the international community with an olive branch' its
      first priority, and agreed to hold face-to-face talks with the TFG
      until the provocatively expanding Ethiopian military presence
      disrupted the process; causing the political rhetoric to heat up, and
      thus setting the stage for the radical element to step to the front
      and aggressively make its first deadly move.

      Despite that ill-starred backdrop, Washington still has a chance to
      rectify its wrongs and play a constructive role in helping to stop the
      brutal bloodletting in Somalia, by pulling the plug on the Ethiopian
      occupation and initiating through the UN Security Council a resolution
      that would replace them with UN forces instead of the mirage of
      African Union forces. Similar points were argued by Sadia Ali Aden,
      president of the Somali Diaspora Network (a group that this author is
      associated with), in an on-line debate hosted by the Council on
      Foreign Relations a few months ago.

      "By no means is Washington's record immaculate. However, the two
      nations direly need each other to save one another" said Ms. Aden.

      Abukar Arman is a freelance writer who lives in Ohio.


      Red-herring in the Horn: Somalia 's latest drama
      Abukar Arman

      November 5, 2007 -- For almost two decades, the Somali political
      theatre was inundated with random episodes of tragic comedies that
      frustrated the average observer and fatigued donor countries that
      funded numerous failed projects to solve the Somali conundrum.

      The drama generated by these episodes routinely blurred the vision of
      the average Somali activist (especially in the Diaspora), analysts
      around the world, and indeed stakeholders from seeing with clarity and
      dealing with the real issues.

      Recently the entertaining drama has been the sensationalized demise of
      a man who in ten short months left a legacy of infamy and earned his
      unenviable place in Somali history-- The Transitional Federal
      Government (TFG) Prime Minister, Ali Mohamed Gedi.

      This sensationalized drama became a bigger story than the relentless
      brutality of the Ethiopian occupation, the systematic
      ethnic-cleansing, the targeted assassination of vocal media figures,
      the rampant piracy, the senseless violence and strategically
      self-destructive insurgent tactics, and the horrific humanitarian
      crises causing starvation and displacement of hundreds of thousands of
      civilians, mainly children and women.

      So how did a Prime Minister who perfected the marketable image of the
      GWT age (Global War on Terrorism) get pulled off his horse any way?
      After all, Gedi had all the necessary credentials to keep himself in
      his post: the lack of vision, the Pelican throat for greed and
      corruption, the shallow mind and the quixotic view of world politics,
      the right frown, the right lingo that labeled all his oppositions with
      the dreaded T-word, and, of course, the lapel pin to shield him with
      artificial air of patriotism.

      More importantly, how can an action of this magnitude --sacking the
      ideal figure at the most critical hour-- be credited to a cardboard
      president who reportedly cannot even call a private meeting in his own
      presidential palace without first getting clearance from
      representatives of the Ethiopian occupation forces?

      Of course, there was a rift between President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed
      and his former Prime Minister over the usual business: who stole the
      most out of the donation dollars, and who was hoarding essential posts
      for his closest of kin and clan; but, that is hardly the force that
      kicked Gedi out. And any one who simply focuses on connecting the dots
      will conclude that this latest drama was settling an issue much bigger
      than Abdullahi and Gedi's myopic political claptrap.

      While in pursuit of their respective "strategic interests," the most
      battle-tested army in Africa and the sole superpower of the world have
      partnered almost a year ago to dismantle the Islamic Courts Union -- a
      defunct entity that brought six months of peace and order in Mogadishu
      that many now lament -- and establish the TFG in Mogadishu.

      Both Abullahi and Gedi were handpicked by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi
      of Ethiopia who micromanaged the Somali political affairs for over a
      decade, they also had Washington 's blessings.

      But, Gedi's fortunes would dramatically change once he publicly
      criticized the secret contract deal his president signed with China
      exposed by the Financial Times of London.

      He felt left out of the deal and aired his frustration publicly.
      Oblivious to how his declared position would put Meles, who had his
      own deal with China to protect, on the spotlight, Gedi threatened to
      pronounce the contract null and void. Over night he became politically
      radioactive, so to speak.

      And once Gedi sensed he was being ganged on, he pulled his clan card,
      and did what many thought was unthinkable: he reached out to the same
      clan leaders that he once labeled with the T-word. He urged them to
      continue their struggle to free Somalia from the Ethiopian
      occupation…something that proved to be the final straw that broke the
      camel's back.

      With Gedi gone, so is any opportunity for the salivating American oil
      companies to win contracts in either Somalia or Ethiopia. And Meles is
      mindful that he cannot be seen as the man who conned the US out of its
      economic and hegemonic interest in the region, because this will be
      the beginning of an end for the US/Ethiopian partnership in the Horn.
      But, before continuing this line of argument, let us take a necessary
      detour for a moment.

      Most of us know what Red Herring is. It is smoked fish used by
      fugitives to lure bloodhounds off the scent track. And in the
      metaphorical sense, it is anything used to divert attention from the
      real issue.

      Meles is determined to compete with his neighboring Sudan, even at the
      expense of his relations with Washington. Because, as a result of its
      high profit margin China oil deals, Sudan 's economy has been growing
      at an incredible rate; and as such, is fast emerging as the Horn's
      undisputed economic giant.

      And having learnt the ABCs of influencing the American political
      apparatus, Meles has built a strong lobby led by former high-ranking
      Congressman Dick Armey of Texas.

      In early October, even as HR 2003, the Ethiopia Democracy and
      Accountability Act of 2007 (a bill that, among other things, called
      for accountability regarding Meles' brutal human rights abuses in
      dealing with the people of Ogadenia, Oromia, and the Amhara) passed
      the House with bipartisan support, the Ethiopian Ambassador in
      Washington had enough confidence to publicly rebuke those members who
      supported the bill.

      In the meantime, the Senate is considering imposing some measure of
      economic sanctions on the Meles' regime for its dealings with China.
      This, of course, is a long departure from that cozy relationship and
      joint operations that led to the Iraqization of Somalia. And as the
      end of Bush's second term approaches, the political pressure to avoid
      another failed enterprise increases.

      From Washington 's perspective: the Bush Doctrine cannot face history
      with three failed regime-change initiatives (Afghanistan, Iraq, and
      Somalia). In other words: diversionary tactics aside, Bush will either
      have Somalia as one success story to highlight in his exit speech or
      the US and Ethiopian interests will collide head-on.


      Forgotten crisis … a Somali woman feeds her baby at a centre for the
      severely malnourished in north-eastern Kenya.
      Photo: Reuters

      Somalia descends into fresh hell
      November 24, 2007

      Hundreds of thousands of people have fled a capital racked again by
      fierce fighting, writes Steve Bloomfield.

      The bullet pierced Fartun Ali's right eye and lodged itself in her
      brain behind the left eye. The 16-year-old schoolgirl had dreamed of
      becoming a teacher. Now she is merely left with the hope of one day
      being able to see again.

      Standing amid a collection of shelters fashioned from twigs, rusting
      corrugated iron and scraps of plastic in Afgoye, about 20 kilometres
      west of Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, Fartun's mother, Fatuma,
      surveyed the camp they now call home. "Maybe she should not see how we
      live right now," Fatuma said.

      Less than a month ago, Fatuma and Fartun were living in Mogadishu.
      Now, after some of the worst fighting the battle-scarred city has
      experienced in 16 years, they are living under a tree on the side of a

      In just three weeks this 15-kilometre stretch of road - a potholed,
      cactus-lined dirt track that leads west out of Mogadishu - has become
      home to the largest concentration of displaced people in the world.

      Almost 200,000 people who have fled the violence in Mogadishu now live
      in 70 makeshift camps that have sprung up along the side of the road.

      Senior United Nations officials in the region consider Somalia to be
      the worst humanitarian crisis in Africa, surpassing even Darfur in its
      horror and hopelessness.

      The rate of severely malnourished children is higher, the daily
      fighting between government and insurgent forces is fiercer and the
      amount of support and interest from the rest of the world is far lower.

      "If this happened in Darfur there would be a major outcry," said Eric
      Laroche, the UN's humanitarian co-ordinator for Somalia. "Since it is
      in Somalia, no one cares. Somalia is a forgotten emergency."

      It is an emergency both natural and man-made. In the past 12 months
      droughts, floods, even a plague of locusts have battered this country
      of 10 million people perched on the easternmost tip of the Horn of Africa.

      But it is arguably Somalia's role in America's "war on terror" that
      has led to this crisis. With the tacit approval of the US, Ethiopia
      invaded Somalia on Christmas Day last year. The Union of Islamic
      Courts, a loose coalition of Islamists, had seized control of
      Mogadishu and large swaths of the south and central districts.

      The US believed the Union of Islamic Courts was sheltering terrorism
      suspects and accused the organisation of being run by an East African
      cell of al-Qaeda.

      Ethiopia feared the rise of an Islamist authority on its doorstep:
      some hardline members of the Union of Islamic Courts had called for a
      jihad against its Christian-dominated neighbour.

      The war lasted a matter of days as one of Africa's strongest armies
      overran the militias of the Union of Islamic Courts.

      But within weeks, the union's hardline military wing, known as Al
      Shabaab, had re-emerged, launching an Iraq-style insurgency. In the
      past two months Ethiopia has almost doubled the number of troops it
      has in Somalia as it struggles to pacify the insurgency. The result
      has been the worst period of fighting in Somalia's bloody history.

      More than 5000 civilians have been admitted to Mogadishu's two
      hospitals so far this year with war-related injuries. But while
      Darfur's displaced can rely on the largest humanitarian operation in
      the world, those lining the road to Afgoye can only sit and wait.

      Lack of security has made Somalia one of the most difficult places in
      the world in which to deliver aid. Roadblocks established by clan
      militias charge up to $400 a truck. Aid workers have been targeted by
      government and insurgent forces.

      Few international aid agencies are prepared to send foreigners to
      Somalia: the UN employs just 65 non-Somalis in the south and central

      Somalia's fragile transitional Government has been criticised for its
      attitude towards its own civilians. The President, Abdullahi Yusuf,
      last week used an old proverb to describe the plight of Mogadishu's
      residents. "When two elephants fight it is the grass that suffers," he

      Mogadishu's mayor, Mohammed Dheere, has accused aid workers of
      "feeding terrorists" by providing support to those who have fled.
      "Someone who is severely malnourished is not a terrorist," said the
      UN's Mr Laroche. "Accusing the humanitarian community of feeding the
      terrorists is an outrage."


      Somalia: "We Want the Islamists Back"
      Friday, November 23, 2007

      The US-led multinational empire's Plan A is to establish a state
      friendly to Washington's vision of capitalism. But what is its Plan B
      when no objective conditions exist for Plan A or Washington has a
      geopolitical desire that trumps its usual economic goal?

      Somalia illustrates Plan B. After a long civil war and foreign
      interventions, the Islamic Courts Union managed to establish a
      government. Washington immediately enlisted Ethiopia and overthrew it
      in a proxy war. Chaos has returned to Somalia, and, combined with
      natural disasters, the result is a humanitarian nightmare far worse
      than Darfur: the malnutrition rate in the worst areas of Somalia is
      now 19%, exceeding 13% in Darfur, according to Jeffrey Gettleman of
      the New York Times ("As Somali Crisis Swells, Experts See a Void in
      Aid," 20 November 2007). In short, Plan B is this: if you can't have
      what you want, at the very least make sure that no one else can have
      it either.1

      Gettleman reports in the same article that even United Nations
      officials admit that the short-lived Islamist government was superior
      to the Hobbesian state of anarchy imposed on Somalia by Washington:

      Pirates lurking off the coast of Somalia have attacked more than 20
      ships this year, including two carrying United Nations food. The
      militias that rule the streets -- typically teenage gunmen in
      wraparound sunglasses and flip-flops -- have jacked up roadblock taxes
      to $400 per truck. The transitional government last month jailed a
      senior official of the United Nations food program in Somalia,
      accusing him of helping terrorists, though he was eventually released.

      United Nations officials now concede that the country was in better
      shape during the brief reign of Somalia's Islamist movement last year.
      "It was more peaceful, and much easier for us to work," Mr. [Eric]
      Laroche [the head of United Nations humanitarian operations in
      Somalia] said. "The Islamists didn't cause us any problems."

      Mr. [Ahmedou] Ould-Abdallah [the top United Nations official for
      Somalia] called those six months, which were essentially the only
      epoch of peace most Somalis have tasted for years, Somalia's "golden era."

      . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

      "We want the Islamists back," said Mohammed Ahmed, a shriveled
      80-year-old retired taxi driver.

      Mr. Mohammed said he was not especially religious. "But," he said, "at
      least we had food." ("As Somali Crisis Swells, Experts See a Void in
      Aid," 20 November 2007)

      Ideologues make the empire out to be a progressive force for modernity
      and pass off all its adversaries as a reactionary force against it.
      The reality is the opposite. The effect of imperialism delays the
      development of modernity at best and at worst destroys the minimum
      necessary condition for its establishment: a national government.

      1 While the logic of an individual capitalist may be quarterly
      cost-benefit cal culations, the logic of the capitalist mode of
      production, whose guardian is the empire, isn't. As Joseph Conrad
      suggests in Nostromo, the logic of imperialism is a dream logic rather
      than the reality principle: "Those Englishmen live on illusions which
      somehow or other help them to get a firm hold of the substance" (Part
      2 "The Isabels," Chapter 7). What is a firm hold at one point,
      however, may later become a quicksand, for imperialists don't have all
      the cards necessary to win once and for all. When threatened with
      defeat, imperialists prefer an assertion of power to profit. In
      Nostromo, if the alternative is allowing the populist rebels to take
      over the silver mine that he inherited from his father, Charles Gould
      would rather blow up the mine and half the country with it:

      "I have enough dynamite stored up at the mountain to send it down
      crashing into the valley" -- his [Charles's] voice rose a little --
      "to send half Sulaco into the air if I liked." . . . "Why, yes,"
      Charles pronounced, slowly. "The Gould Concession has struck such deep
      roots in this country, in this province, in that gorge of the
      mountains, that nothing but dynamite shall be allowed to dislodge it
      from there. It's my choice. It's my last card to play." (Nostromo,
      Part 2 "The Isabels," Chapter 5)



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