Somalia Cannot be Ignored
- 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
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
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
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
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.
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
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)
WORLD VIEW NEWS SERVICE
To subscribe to this group, send an email to:
NEWS ARCHIVE IS OPEN TO PUBLIC VIEW
Need some good karma? Appreciate the service?
Please consider donating to WVNS today.
Email ummyakoub@... for instructions.
To leave this list, send an email to: