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Menacing Somalia: Unholy Trinity of U.S Global Militarism, Meles’s Ethiopia and Thuggish Warlords

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This article was first published in June 13, 2007 on the raceandhistory.com forum

US AC 130 helicopter gunship
US AC 130 helicopter gunships

By Amina Mire[1]
June 13, 2007
On 26 December, 2006, Ethiopian tanks supported by US AC 130 helicopter gun ships[2] invaded Somalia in order to install a puppet regime of the Transitional Federal Government (T.F.G.) by ousting the Union of Islamic Courts (U.I.C.). Six months earlier, in June 2006, the Somali people allowed the Union of Islamic Courts to take power to help end the anarchy that resulted from a 15-year civil war in the battered country. As a result, the Islamic Union Courts assumed centralised control over many parts in the South, including the capital city, Mogadishu. This move came about partly after it was revealed that the CIA was secretly working with Somali warlords and Ethiopia to invade Somalia. Despite U.S. cash payments to various warlords none was able to assert their authority over the population and bring law and order and security to the Somali people.

During their short lived tenure, the Union of Islamic courts brought peace and security to the areas under its control. However, in the context of post September 11, 2001, political stigmatisation, the Bush Administration had identified the UIC as a terrorist group. The Islamic government denied this. Many Somalis saw such rhetoric as a thinly disguised pretext for the US’s desire to avenge the 1993 defeat of US Forces in Somalia. A recently published report by the U.S. Military Combating Terrorism Centre at West Point concludes that Al Qaida has failed to gain a foothold in Somalia.[3]

Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda has failed for more than a decade to establish an operational base in Somalia due to the country’s austere environment and inhospitable clans, a new U.S. military report says. Fears that Somalia, on the Horn of Africa and accessible by land and sea, is ripe to become an al Qaeda hub have so far failed to materialize. “Al Qaeda found more adversity than success in Somalia,” states the report by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point “In order to project power, al Qaeda needed to be able to promote its ideology, gain an operational safe haven, manipulate underlying conditions to secure popular support and have adequate financing for continued operations. It achieved none of these objectives.[4]

Despite lack of credible evidence linking Union of Islamic Counts to Al Qaida and other terror groups, the Bush administration went ahead to sponsor the invasion of Somalia by Ethiopia in the name of global war on Islamic terror.[5]

US backed Ethiopian forces  
Ethiopian forces  

“US backed Ethiopian forces Kill Civilians in Somalia”[6]

Ethiopian helicopter gunships pounded what the Somali government says are rebel positions in the capital Mogadishu, killing more than 11 civilians.[7]

In addition to sponsoring Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia, the U.S. military carried out aerial bombardments in the mass slaughter of Somali fighters and civilians fleeing advancing Ethiopian tanks. In this way, Somalis were attacked from air and sea by the joint forces of the US, Ethiopia and Somalia warlords and hunted inside their own country by foreign forces as ‘alien fugitives’ and ‘terrorists.’[8] Upon the Ethiopian/US invasion of Somalia, the lawlessness, rape, looting and general insecurity quickly returned.[9] The federal transitional government comprises, primarily, the same group of warlords who terrorized the citizenry for the previous 15 years.[10]

Nonetheless, the US was determined to restore chaos and lawlessness to Somalia rather than deal with peaceful Somalia ruled under Islamic law.

US backed Ethiopian forces  
Ethiopian military  

Confronted with fierce and widespread local resistance, the Ethiopian military and TFG militiamen have unleashed unmitigated death and destruction on densely populated neighborhoods of the Somali capital city, Mogadishu, using helicopter gun ships, heavy artillery gunners and tanks, killing more than 1,600 people, wounding, 5,000 and making another 400,000 Somalis as refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs).[11] The chief targets of these brutal military aggressions have been women and children. As the two most vulnerable groups making up the bulk of the 400,000 Internally Displaced People in the country, Somali women and children are marked by the crime of aggression and crime against humanity in the contest between various resistant groups and foreigner invaders of United States, Ethiopian army and thuggish Somali warlords.

In addition to mass shelling of heavily populated residential areas of the Somali capital city, reports out of Somalia by reputable journalists and published in mainstream media outlets, also show that the warlords and the Ethiopian occupying forces are using food as a weapon of war by blocking, delaying and delimiting the capacity of international relief workers to deliver urgently needed food and medicine to hundreds of thousands of internally displaced refugees in and around Mogadishu.[12]

Group of Somali youth standing on the rubbles of their of home
Group of Somali youth standing on the rubbles of their of home after it was reduced to bits during fierce fighting between Somali resistant forces and the Ethiopian mercenary army of Meles Zinawi and TFG militiamen.[13]

During a lull in fighting in Mogadishu yesterday, survivors picked their way through the post-apocalyptic landscape of Somalia’s capital, quickly burying bodies. The floors and stairs of the filthy hospitals were crammed with injured civilians and slick with blood. Up to 350,000 refugees from fighting were camped in the bush – easy prey for armed thugs and warlords.[14]

A group of Internally Displaced Somali women preparing food for their families at a makeshift camp.
A group of Internally Displaced Somali women preparing food for their families at a makeshift camp.[15]

 

Thousands, including these orphans, have descended on towns outside the capital
Thousands, including these orphans, have descended on towns outside the capital – fleeing battles between insurgents and Ethiopian-backed troops, looking for shelter and food.[16]

If widespread, intentional, authorised policy of withholding food and medicine from reaching refugees are proven, they constitute as acts of crimes against humanity. At present, there is clear evidence that Ethiopian and Transitional Federal Government warlord authorities have not been assisting the UN and other relief agencies to reach thousands of displaced refugees in a timely manner. There is clear evidence that Somali civilian population are being systemically harassed, intimidated and menaced by the Ethiopian and warlords forces.

There are already signs that the transitional federal government is using aid as a weapon – restricting food aid deliveries to hundreds of thousands of civilians, who are also being charged to shelter under trees on the road out of the capital to Afgoye, 30km away. According to the European Union’s head of humanitarian aid, Louis Michel, Somalis fleeing the fighting have endured ‘systematic looting, extortion and rape perpetrated by uniformed troops’ – only the Ethiopian and the government forces have uniforms. And last week uniformed troops commandeered 12 trucks and helped themselves to tones of sugar and computers from the recently opened Coca-Cola factory in Mogadishu. Only after aggressive intervention from the Americans and EU did the government agree to allow enough food for 32,000, less than a tenth of the number in need, through its roadblocks heading west on Friday.[17]

And yet, the international community does not, as of yet, see the need to intervene on behalf of the vulnerable population of Somalia. It seems odd that while the international community is pushing for punitive measures such as economic embargos, and some are suggesting the need to set up no fly zones in the Darfur region of Sudan in order to protect the people of the Darfur region from being attacked by government of Sudan supported militia, the same international community is deliberately ignoring the death and destruction the TFG and Ethiopia mercenary armies are wreaking against the defenseless civilian population of Somalia. In other words, in the case of Somalia, the international community is backing foreign occupation force and the hated warlords which are killing, maiming and terrorising the civilian population in Somalia.

It is pertinent to ask why the international community is willing to give political legitimacy and financial support to warlords who command neither the respect nor the trust of its own citizens? Put differently, who is the international community supporting: the warlords who are killing and maiming their own people or the hundreds of thousands of Somalis who are now living as destitute and internally displaced people in their own country? According to recent media reports, the EU nations do seem to be concerned with widespread gross human rights violations taking place in Somalia in the hands of Meles Zinawi’s occupying Ethiopia army militia forces loyal to TFG. It seems though that EU concerns are motivated less by compassion for the suffering of Somali women, children and men and more by fear that they might be legally liable in international criminal court since key EU member nations give generous financial support to both the government of Ethiopia an the warlords of TFG in Somalia.[18]

In Ceelasha Biyaha, 20km from Mogadishu, a woman's group distributes aid
In Ceelasha Biyaha, 20km from Mogadishu, a woman’s group distributes aid. This woman, who lost her husband in the violence, is given cash to help look after her five children.[19]

 

This family, 22km from Mogadishu in Lafoole, are living in the open air
This family, 22km from Mogadishu in Lafoole, are living in the open air as they cannot find shelter. There are reports that some families are being charged for shaded areas.[20]

 

Aid agencies are having difficulties delivering food because of insecurity. Aid agencies are having difficulties delivering food because of insecurity. Here, at Elasha camp, a displaced boy and his brother wait for trucks to arrive.[21]

In my view, the US backed Ethiopian invasion of Somalia, and the conspicuous silence of the world community, in the face of the death and destruction by Zinawi’s army and the warlord militia of the TFG are wrecking in Somalia, constitutes the gravest crime against humanity in the modern history.[22]

This is the most lawless war of our generation. All wars of aggression lack legitimacy, but no conflict in recent memory has witnessed such mounting layers of illegality as the current one in Somalia. Violations of the UN charter and of international humanitarian law are regrettably commonplace in our age, and they abound in the carnage that the world is allowing to unfold in Mogadishu; but this war has in addition explicitly violated two UN’s Security Council resolutions. To complete the picture, one of these resolutions contravenes the charter itself.[23]

Somali baby girl seen at a hospital after she lost her family in an Ethiopian attack
(Reuters) Somali baby girl seen at a hospital after she lost her family in an Ethiopian attack.[24]

 

A girl watches as her family prepares to leave Mogadishu
A girl watches as her family prepares to leave Mogadishu. Photo: Mustafa Abdi/AFP/Getty[25]

 

Group of Internally Displaced Somali Children
Group of Internally Displaced Somali Children. According to the UN, displacement in Somalia was worse than in Iraq.[26]

 

More people have been displaced in Somalia in the past two months than anywhere else in the world, the United Nations has said. Return of The Warlords and Brought Death and destruction. Stephanie Bunker, spokeswoman for UN relief coordinator John Holmes, said at least 350,000 people had fled fighting in Mogadishu since February.[27]

As agents whose main objective is to represent the interests of foreign powers in Somalia, the warlords have been brushing off each and every brutal violent action by the Ethiopian and US forces against the Somalia people as ‘justified self-defense.’ Thus, even after it was widely reported in the international media that the US AC130 aerial assault of the village of Rase Kamboni did not kill wanted Al Qaida terrorists, as it was first reported by the Pentagon, but that the victims of this illegal military aggression were innocent nomads at a bonfire celebrating a wedding, the chief of the TGF warlord regime, Abdullahi Yusuf, continues to insist that the U.S had “a right to bombard terrorist suspects who attacked its embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.”[28] Indeed, American war plans have been killing and maiming a lot of Somalis since the December 26, 2006, Ethiopian invasion of Somalia.

America provided Ethiopia with secret satellite images and air support, including AC130 gun ships, during the original invasion over the New Year, hoping to net al-Qaeda agents who had been behind attacks on a Kenyan hotel and an Israeli airliner in 2002.[29]

Most ordinary Somalis see the TFG as an agent of foreign forces.Thus, empty rhetoric about war on Al Qaida terrorists will not secure the consent of ordinary Somalis to accept the legitimacy of the hated warlords of TFG. The warlords are using the rhetoric of war on Islamic terror to deflect attention away from crimes of death and destruction these warlords are committing against the people of Somalia with total impunity. As Martin Fletcher of the Times of London succinctly notes, it is not the Union of Islamic Courts but the warlords which brought death and destruction to the people of Somalia.[30]

In the past month Ethiopian troops supporting Somalia’s deeply unpopular Government have pounded residential areas controlled by insurgents. The civilian death toll has reached four figures. Thousands more have been maimed and injured. An estimated 320,000 inhabitants – nearly a third of Mogadishu’s population – have fled in terror.[31]

Ethiopia's president, Meles Zinawi and the TFG leaders  
Ethiopia’s president, Meles Zinawi and TFG leaders  

Ethiopia’s president, Meles Zinawi, and the TFG leaders, Gedi and Yusuf, openly advocate for a military program designed for the systemic elimination of members of the Ayr sub-clan of the Hawiye clan. This is because of latter’s resistance to the Ethiopian occupation of their country and the rule of the warlords.[32] Accordingly, Ethiopian soldiers have used helicopter gunships, heavy artillery shells and tanks in densely populated areas of the Somali capital city, Mogadishu, in order to purge, in wholesale, members belonging to the Ayr sub-clan. In addition to the killing, maiming and mass displacement of women, children and men by Ethiopian and TGF’s indiscriminate shelling of densely populated neighborhoods in Mogadishu, the deliberate attempt to undercount the number of internally displaced people who left the capital city since the escalation of hostility is designed to coverup their crimes of genocide against humanity in the hands of US sponsored warlords and Zinawi’s Tigre army.[33]

It is also designed to coverup their project of demographic cleansing of the Ayr sub-clan out of Mogadishu. In this way, while the US sponsorship of the invasion of Somalia has been justified as an offensive measure against Islamic terror, for Gedi, Yusuf and Zinawi, the systematic liquidation of the Ayr sub-clan, rather than fighting Al Qaida terrorists, is the primary military objective of Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia. The liquidation of the Ayr sub-clan as the chief military objective of the Ethiopian invasion of, or “invitation” to Somalia, has recently been revealed by the Ethiopian Ambassador to the United Kingdom on the British daily, the Guardian.[34]

Stating that Ethiopia went to Somalia “at the ‘invitation’ of Somalia’s interim national government” implies that the author does not believe the TFG welcomed Ethiopia’s intervention. Ethiopia is cooperating with the TFG at the latter’s invitation, a fact fully recognised by the international community. The UIC declared an open jihad war against Ethiopia last December, to which Ethiopia responded with a proportionate counter-offensive. The UIC had for many months trained and armed insurgents to commit assassinations and destroy schools, clinics and other development infrastructure in Ethiopia. Between December and March, while we were engaged in political dialogue with clans and sub-clans in Mogadishu, the insurgents reorganised themselves to create havoc in Mogadishu. Of 16 zones in the city, they entrenched themselves in two zones where the Ayr sub-clan militia, who do not want to see the fair distribution of property, operate.[35]

Despite the fact that the Union of Islamic Courts was a nonclanistic grassroots organisation, the warlord regime of Gedi and Yusuf sought to mask their own clan-based revenge against the Ary sub-clan by discursively collapsing the Union of Islamic Courts (with Ayr sub-clan) thereby satisfying the American objective of war against Al Qaida terror and their own objective of clan-based violence and a power grab. In this way, warlords, Gedi and Yusuf and their Tigre friend and projector, Meles Zinawi, have been able to use the US AC and Ethiopian tanks and heavy artillery to do their dirty deeds of purging the Ayr sub-clan under the cover of US war against insurgents, Al Qaida terrorists and radical Islamists. Consequently, while to the western media consumers, the Bush administration’s sponsorship of regime change in Somalia has been framed as part of US offensive preemptive measures against Islamic Terror, the Ethiopian authorities have been telling the world media that purging specific Somali clans and sub-clans perceived to be hostile to the new US installed puppet regime of the transitional federal government (TGF) and the Ethiopian occupation was the military objective of Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia.

Thus, it is fair to assume that Zinawi’s Tigre army is openly killing members of the Ayr sub-clans, and those associated with them, in order to achieve its stated military objective: the elimination of the members of the Ayr sub-clan as a political and a demographic constituent in Somali society. The fact that the Ethiopian ambassador to the UK, Berhanu Kebede, had no hesitation to reveal to the world that Ethiopia’s troops were in Somalia for the specific task of killing and purging specifically identified clans and sub-clans perceived to be hostile to the warlords of the TFG and occupying forces, suggests that the US administration of George W. Bush does, tacitly or otherwise, approve the warlords and Zinawi’s crimes of genocide against humanity in Somalia.

However, it now appears that some EU member nations and public officials are getting nervous about Bush’s sponsorship of unmitigated death and destruction in Somalia. However, these EU officials and member nations are concerned more with possible legal implications of their own complicity with the commission of possible war crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity by the TFG and Zinawi’s Tigree army against the Somali people. This is because EU nations give generous financial support to both the Ethiopian and Somali regime of TFG warlords.

Corpses of Somalis killed by the occupying Ethiopian forces in Mogadishu, the capital city of Somalia
Corpses of Somalis killed by the occupying Ethiopian forces in Mogadishu, the capital city of Somalia.[36]

 

Last week, the European Union called for an investigation into the excessive use of force used by Ethiopian troops, with vague talk of possible war crimes charges. However, there has been little progress towards an international probe, because of the complexity of the conflict and the fact that some Western states view the Ethiopian involvement in Somalia as a necessary part of the United States’ “war on terror”, according to an article on Relief Web.[37]

Since the Bush administration has sponsored Ethiopia’s illegal invasion of Somalia, and since we now know that specific clans and sub-clans are being targeted for liquidation, the Bush administration is clearly implicated in the crime of genocide against humanity in Somalia.[38] There are also reports of widespread kidnappings, unlawful imprisonments, torture, interrogations and extraordinary renditions of Somali women, men and children by the Ethiopian and Kenyan authorities in collaboration with the CIA.[39]

Rape: Weapon of War and Crime against Humanity

The US authorization of Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia represents the crudest expression of the banality of evil embodied in the neocolonial imperative of ‘liberal imperialism’. Out of all the horrific crimes committed by the Ethiopia forces in Somalia, the most underreported by the outside media, is the mass rape of Somali women by Tigre soldiers. By financing this illegal and immoral war of aggression the Bush administration and the international community are facilitating widespread rape, tortures, kidnappings and renditions of thousands of Somali refugees and internally displaced persons, mass killing of civilians, looting and generalized anarchy in Somalia under the grip of the unholy trinity of Zinawi’s Tigre army, the warlords of the transitional federal government in Somalia and the US.

Make no mistake. Those who are currently supporting the world regime of Gedi and Abdullahi Yusuf and their mercenary army of Meles Zinawi, financially, politically or both, are supporting the sexual violence against Somali women in the hands of Tigre soldiers, among other hideous crimes against humanity. The current mass rape of Somali women by the Zinawi’s Tigre soldiers is a direct result of Zinawi’s invasion of Somalia. As a result, the mass rape of Somali women is one of the immediate outcomes of George W. Bush’s sponsorship of Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia. As evidenced by the Bush administration’s widespread use of sexual humiliation against Arab male prisoners at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, the current systemic rape of Somali women by Zinawi’s Tigre soldiers is being deployed as a weapon of war designed to demoralize and humiliate the Muslim population of Somalia to break down their will to resist the occupation forces in their land.

The following story is a personal account of 37 year-old Suuban Maalin and mother of eight children, including a six month-old baby whom she was still breastfeeding, when she was raped by two Ethiopian soldiers in way to the market. In March 2007, Suuban Maalin was raped repeatedly and beaten by two Ethiopian soldiers at gunpoint. After they were done with her, they told her to go and never look back and never tell anybody what happened to her. Suuban Maalin went home and told her husband what had happen. Her husband took her to the nearest hospital. The medical authorities there were able to corroborate Subaan Maalin’s personal story. It is pertinent to note that her husband was standing beside here side when she told her horrific experience to the media.

“Last Saturday, as I was driving my donkey-cart loaded with grass near Elirfid settlement, two Ethiopians armed with AK 47 came straight at me suddenly after they come out of a detour. They stopped me under gunpoint and forcibly held me to the ground and then everything went against my willing” said Suuban, while weeping. Suuban said the Ethiopian soldiers did everything to her, including rape and beatings. “After they were done with me, they told me to walk off and not to look back, threatening they will kill me if I do glance back to take a good look at them,” Suuban said. Ahmed Ali Hassan, Husband of Suuban also spoke to the newsmen said, “My wife was raped and tortured by Ethiopian soldiers so that I am calling on everyone who can help to rush to our help”[40]

Shabelle

The use of rape and other forms of sexual violence against women is not limited to the current situation in Somalia. Sexual violence against women works within patriarchal norms in all male-dominated societies. In the current war against terror, Bush administration’s and neocons’s use of rape and other forms of sexual humiliation against Muslim women and men is predicated on the false belief of unique Muslim moral aversion to sexual humiliation. Thus, neocons believe, without evidence, that sexual humiliation could be used to breakdown resistance of Muslims to western domination. This false belief is the basis of the widespread use of sexual torture by the US as interrogation tool on terror suspects at many known and unknown US rendition and terror prisons around the world.

While I cannot speak other Muslim society’s view on sexual humiliation, Somali society, which is the Muslim culture I am most familiar with, while rape is considered a heinous crime, the victims of rape are considered blameless and do not face further humiliations by their society. Thus, no shame will come to Suuban Maalin and other victims raped by occupying Tigre army in Somalia. This is one of the reasons why rape victims are coming out and telling their stories to the media in the current Tigre occupied Somalia. However, unless they are stopped, there are greater potential that more Somali women and young girls may be still sexually violated for there are now over 400,000 internally displaced refugees(IDPS) in Somalia and majority of them are women and young girls.

There is also the potential for spreading sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS to these vulnerable hundreds of thousands of internally displaced population since Ethiopia has the second highest rate of HIV/AIDS infection in Africa, second only to South Africa. Published medical literature shows that the Ethiopia’s police and the members of the armed forces have the highest rate of HIV/AIDS incidents in Ethiopia.

“Ethiopia faces a mixed epidemic among sub-populations and geographic areas, with an estimated overall HIV prevalence rate between 0.9 and 2.5 percent among adults ages 15 to 49.1 While previous estimates were higher, expansion of surveillance data and improved analyses resulted in significantly lower estimates for 2005. Based on antenatal clinic surveillance data, HIV prevalence has declined to about 10.1 percent in urban areas and has stabilized to an estimated 1.8 percent in rural areas. The primary mode of HIV transmission in Ethiopia is heterosexual contact. Young women are more vulnerable to infection than young men; urban women are three times as likely to be infected as urban men, although in rural areas the difference between genders is negligible. Populations at higher risk for HIV infection include people in prostitution, police officers and members of the military.”[41]

Currently, there are over 30,000-50,000 Tigre[ Ethiopian] soldiers in Somalia. They are armed, dangerous and menacing: and the Somali population has very little effective power to defend themselves against them. There are still ongoing armed struggles against the Tigre occupation of Somalia. As a result, the presence of Ethiopia’s troops and concomitant lack of security will continue to expose grave and present danger to ordinary citizenry of Somali women and girls in particular. So far, despite unleashing death and destruction on ordinary Somalis, the Somali people are resisting the foreign armies and the thuggish Somalia warlords.

The warlord regime of the transitional federal government has demonstrated its failure to protect the citizens of Somalia. As a result, majority of Somalis see the TFG as an extension of the Ethiopian occupation forces. Somali women have also been the victims of kidnapping, extraordinary renditions and torture in the hands of the Ethiopian regime, agents of the government of Kenyan in collaboration with CIA agents operating inside the Horn of Africa.

“Internationalizing” Ethiopia’s Occupation of Somalia by Blurring the Line Between Mercenary Soldiers and Peacekeepers

Fatma Ahmed Chande  
Fatma Ahmed Chande, 25, who spent three months in detention in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia after being caught up in the war on terror. Photograph: Xan Rice.[42]  

The US, EU nations are pushing and are hoping that there will be enough African Union troops willing to serve as peacekeepers in Somalia so that Ethiopian occupation of Somalia may came to an end. However, by backing the US sponsorship of Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia, the African Union (AU) and UN Charters are in clear violation of Security Council resolutions 1724, 1725 and 1744. This is because Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia violates the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of Somalia.[43] As a result, AU defense of Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia, ironically to “protect” Ethiopia’s national sovereignty, AU forces currently in Somalia, as well as those who may arrive at a later date are, by logical extension, part of Ethiopia’s occupation forces in Somalia and will remain to be so even if Ethiopia’s soldiers eventually leave Somalia.

This is one of the reasons why the current US administration prefers a long-term Ethiopian occupation of Somalia.[44] Indeed, from the standpoint of the Bush administration, this has to be the case for the one simple reason: there are not enough African nations willing to send their soldiers to act as a mercenary force to prop up the warlords of the transitional government. However, without the protection of foreign forces, the regime of US puppet warlords cannot last a day.

The numbers simply do not add up for any meaningful AU peacekeeping forces in Somalia which does not include the current Ethiopian troops currently inside Somalia as an occupying army. This is because four months into the Ethiopian occupation of Somalia, only 1,600 soldiers from Uganda have arrived in Somalia. In order to overcome this problem, the Bush administration is currently working a thinly disguised strategy designed at conflating concepts of occupation and peacekeeping in Somalia. In this way, by mix and blend, a much larger contingent of Ethiopian forces currently in Somalia with a few thousand peacekeepers from AU nations, the Bush administration is hoping to turn the current illegal Ethiopia’s occupation of Somalia as legitimate and permanent. The strategy is based purely on the geopolitical interests of the U.S. This policy objective is clear from the Bush administration’s opposition to Ethiopia’s troop withdrawal from Somalia.[45]

However, any hint that AU peacekeeping forces in Somalia are the same occupying Ethiopian troops, will, most certainly, secure the failure of an AU peacekeeping mission in Somalia. In addition, this wrongheaded policy will lead to more violence and more bloodshed. It is plainly clear to many of us that the Bush administration cannot impose on the Somali citizenry the rule of ruthless, thuggish warlords as a US “friendly” puppet regime.

The US and the African Union have warned Ethiopia not to withdraw its troops from Somalia before peacekeepers are deployed to replace them. AU commission chief Alpha Oumar Konare says it would be a “catastrophe” if Ethiopia pulled out too soon. US Africa envoy Jendayi Frazer said it would probably be several months before the full peacekeeping force arrived. Ethiopia’s prime minister says he wants to withdraw all his troops, after they helped oust Islamists. Up to a third of the population fled recent fighting in the capital, Mogadishu, and badly need aid.[46]

It is clear from the current death and destruction taking place in occupied Somalia, it’s the very presence of the Ethiopian forces in Somalia which will continue to fuel resentment and resistance of ordinary Somalis.

Somalia’s recent agonies are a direct consequence of the American-backed invasion by Ethiopia four months ago to topple Mogadishu’s Islamic Courts Union and install the weak and largely secular transitional federal government.[47]

But this is the strategy the Bush administration is planning to adapt toward Somalia with the full support of the international community. On 29 May, 2007, Ethiopia foreign minister, Seum Mesfin, revealed to the Media in occupied Mogadishu that Ethiopian troops will remain in Somalia so that, “Islamic elements will not disturb either the Somali government or the Somalia population.”[48] Indeed, this latest Ethiopian provocation spells both grave and good news for the people of Somalia. Grave news because it suggests there will more bloodshed and more struggle ahead. It is good news because, since the Ethiopian forces will leave sooner or later, the warlords will go with the departing occupying army.

Will Canada and other EU member nations who have pledged financial support for peacekeeping troops to Somalia,[49] allow the Bush administration to direct the future of the Somalia people by actively curtailing the goals and the mandate of the peacekeeping forces in Somalia in ways which meets the U.S strategic objectives?[50] The Bush administration has shown its immense capacity to ignore international law, the UN and EU conventions when these rules conflict with U.S. political or economic objectives. For example, right after Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia, in clear violation of UN arms embargo against Somalia, the Bush administration covertly helped Ethiopia purchase new tanks and other military hardware from North Korea. These tanks and other weapons are being used to kill, maim and terrorize the citizens of Somalia.[51]

Ethiopian tanks in Somalia
“Ethiopian tanks in Somalia. Ethiopia bought much of its military equipment from the former Soviet Union and relies on North Korean parts.” (Michael Kamber: The New York Times)

 

Three months after the United States successfully pressed the United Nations to impose strict sanctions on North Korea because of that country’s nuclear test, officials in the Bush administration allowed Ethiopia to complete a secret arms purchase from Pyongyang in what appears to be a violation of the restrictions, according to senior U.S. officials. The United States allowed the arms delivery to go through in January in part because Ethiopian troops were in the midst of a military offensive against Islamic militias inside Somalia, a campaign that aided the U.S. policy of combating religious extremists in the Horn of Africa.[52]

Currently, the Bush administration is aggressively seeking the support of the UN, AU and EU in his attempt to prop up the hated warlord of TFG in Somalia with the help of Ethiopian forces which are currently wrecking death and destruction in Somalia. On the other hand, the Bush administration wants the UN to authorize a series of measures, including authorizing the invasion of the Sudan, in order to “protect” the civilian population of the Darfur. And, when the security council had recently issued a resolution on the situation on Darfur, which failed to meet the Bush administration’s demand for a strongly worded resolution against the government of Sudan, the Bush administration went ahead and imposed, unilaterally, new economic measures against the government of Sudan.[53] Note that the Bush administration is bullying the same SC, EU and AU bodies to back-up the Ethiopian forces and criminal warlords who are currently menacing the citizens of Mogadishu, and elsewhere in the Southern Somalia.

In this way, the genuine suffering of both the people of Darfur region in the Sudan and the people of Somalia have been used as political capital by the Bush administration for diametrically opposing ends. In the case of Somalia, the killings, maiming, mass displacement and continuing menacing of the civilian population by thuggish warlords and the foreign army of Ethiopia has the full backing of the Bush administration. As a result, the chief perpetrators of these crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity are rewarded with cash payments and political endorsement for a job well done. In contrast, in the Darfur conflict the Bush administration wants the international community to punish Sudan for its repeated and widespread gross human rights violations against the civilian population in Darfur.

In addition, the Bush administration is counting on its newly installed US friendly UN chief, Ban Ki-Moon to put together, what Salime Lone aptly calls, “coalition of the willing,” to make the current occupation of Somalia by forces loyal to the United States legitimate and permanent. The dubious collusion between the UN and the Bush administration on Somalia’s future must be utterly rejected. Salam Lone stressed this point forcibly when he said the following:

A huge campaign must be launched to press western governments to end this slaughter, which is almost entirely the work of those in control of the country. The European Union warned a month ago that war crimes might have been committed in an assault on the capital last month – in which the EU could be complicit because of its large-scale support for those accused of the crimes. Human Rights Watch has documented how Kenya and Ethiopia had turned this region into Africa’s own version of Guantánamo Bay, replete with kidnappings, extraordinary renditions, secret prisons and large numbers of “disappeared”: a project that carries the Made in America label. Allowing free rein to such comprehensive lawlessness is a stain on all those who might have, at a minimum, curtailed it.[54]

Salim Lone also notes the role of Ban Ki-Moon in the current disastrous situation in Somalia, which if not reversed immediately, could lead to an even greater slaughter of the Somali people. He suggests that the UN must demand Ethiopia’s immediate troop withdrawal from Somalia, followed by the sponsorship of a genuine reconciliation process among various Somalia groups without interference from outside forces. But this is not happening! Mr. Moon has been silent about the ruthless Tigre occupation of Somalia.

Work must begin to derail the astounding proposal from the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-Moon, which is to be discussed by the security council in mid-June. He would like to mount a UN-sanctioned “coalition of the willing” to enforce peace and restore order in Somalia – in other words, the UN would help Ethiopia and the United States achieve what their own illegal military interventions have failed to accomplish: the entrenchment of a client regime that lacks any popular support. Such an operation is unlikely to succeed in any event, but it could further threaten the turbulent Horn of Africa, which is already teetering on the brink of chaos. The Somali government is busy crying “al-Qaida” at every turn and offering lucrative deals to oil companies, in a bid to entice greater western support. But this war was lost long ago. In turning to the arch enemy Ethiopia, the transitional government’s fate was sealed: the nation will not abide an Ethiopian-US occupation. Only a political solution will resolve this crisis. Africa must step up to the plate and show spine and leadership in a drive to protect its civilians, and work with Europe and the UN to convince the US to swiftly terminate its latest destabilising adventure.[55]

For the Somalis currently living inside the brute occupation of Zinawi and the warlords, the message is clear. Somalis have been resisting occupation foreign forces and the warlords and have paid with their blood for doing it. However, if the 6 June, 2007, ccommuniqué issued by International Contact Group for Somalia is an indication of what is to become of Somalia…. The country and its people are being effectively handed over to Meles Zinawi and the warlords. For a body not elected by the people of Somalia, the language used by the Contact Group for Somalia partisan is biased in favour of the very occupation forces currently menacing and maiming the people of Somalia. In a gesture suffused with dominating and condescending meanings, the host of the Contact Group for Somalia, the British foreign Minister for Africa, Lord David Triesman, called Somalis currently resisting the occupation of their country, including those of us in the Diaspora, “wreckers and spoilers of Peace.”[56]

US member of the International Contact Group for Somalia, Jendayi Frazer, assistant US secretary of state for African affairs went out of her way to blame the current death and destruction Zinawi and warlords are wrecking in Somalia, on Eritrea. She claimed that Eritrea was, harbouring “extremist elements” linked to violent Islamist groups. In fact, Ms. Frazer seems to want to place the Ethiopian invasion and concomitant death and destruction in Somalia from Zinawi’s Tigre Army as Eritrea’s fault. There is no hint in Ms. Frazer’s accusing tone that it is Meles Zinawi and the warlord regime of Yusuf and Gedi and not Eritrea, which are stalking, maiming, raping, looting and humiliating the people of Somalia on daily basis. Accordingly, despite widespread intimidations, maiming, arrests, closing down of media outlets in areas of Somalia under the control of the Ethiopian army and the warlords, Ms. Frazer portrays Ethiopia as an innocent victim of wreckers and spoilers of peace, and as such Eritrea, and victims themselves were identified as aggressors, wreckers and spoilers of peace. The international media does not have any trouble pointing the finger of who is responsible for Somalia’s current agony. In his recent Newsweek feature report, Disaster in Somalia, Ron Nordland has called the US backed regime in Somalia as comprising “drug addled warlords.”

How bad is it in Somalia? Bad enough that people fleeing the capital have been reduced to renting trees for shelter. It’s the sort of thing that happens when drug-addled warlords roam the countryside, imposing taxes of 50 percent on aid recipients. And the sort of thing to be expected of a government whose prime minister, Ali Mohamad Gedi, has publicly accused the United Nations agency feeding the country of spreading cholera along with food deliveries. And that’s the internationally recognized government, which enjoys U.S. support, although it is widely unpopular in southern Somalia and the capital, Mogadishu. That’s not surprising, since the prime minister is from a clan that’s hostile to the clan that dominates the capital, and the president, Abdulahi Yusuf, is from Puntland, in northern Somalia, a breakaway region that is best known as the homeland of Somalia’s pirates, who once again are on the prowl, bedeviling aid shipments even further. “Is there actually any hope for the future in Somalia?” said the World Food Program’s Somalia country director, Peter Goossens. “I don’t know.”[57]

The Somali warlords are protected by Ethiopia’s leader, Meles Zinawi and the Bush administration. However, Zinawi is a dictator who is hated by the majority of the Ethiopian people. By fighting a war with Somalia, in the name of Ethiopia, he is hoping to prolong his inevitable political demise. Given Zinawi’s record of gross and widespread human rights abuses in Ethiopia, the Bush administration is taking advantage of Zinawi’s capacity for ruthlessness to pacify the Somali population, in his service of the new US puppet regime of transitional federal government. But, with the rate at which Zinawi and the warlords are wrecking unmitigated death and destruction in Somalia and no Al Qaida terror camps, or terrorists in Somalia, the Bush administration is running out of lies to justify the carnage that is Somalia.

NOTES:

  1. Copyright © Amina Mire. No part of this work can be reproduced without receiving permission from the author (back)
  2. Xan Rice. Somalia air strike failed to kill al-Qaida targets, says US. 11January 2007 The Guardian.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,1988300,00.html
    (back)
  3. Combating Terrorism at West Point. Al-Qida’s (mis) Adventures in the Horn of Africa.
    http://www.ctc.usma.edu/aqII.asp
    (back)
  4. Scarborugh, Rowan. Somalia too tough for Al Qaeda. Washington Examiner. 1 May 2007. http://www.examiner.com/a-722180~Somalia_too_tough_for_al_Qaeda_.html (back)
  5. Xan Rice. US military ‘used Ethiopian base’ to attack Somali militants. The Guardian. 23 February 2007.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,2020122,00.html
    (back)
  6. http://www.aljazeera.com/me.asp?service_ID=13022 (back)
  7. Ibid. (back)
  8. Xan Rice. Somalia air strike failed to kill al-Qaida targets, says US. 11January 2007 The Guardian.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,1988300,00.html
    (back)
  9. Sam Kiley. Looting troops prey on Somalia’s refugees: Fugitives are forced to pay to shelter in the shade. Sunday April 29, 2007 The Observer.
    http://observer.guardian.co.uk/world/story/0,,2067951,00.html
    (back)
  10. Xan Rice. Return of warlords as Somali capital is captured. 29 December 2006 (back)
  11. UN urges more help for Somalia. 22 May 2007.
    http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/93422199-9162-4EA3-B514-EE9B1217584C.htm
    (back)
  12. Sam Kiley. Looting troops prey on Somalia’s refugees. 29 April 2007. The Observer.
    http://observer.guardian.co.uk/world/story/0,,2067951,00.html
    (back)
  13. BBC. 26 April 2007.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/6594647.stm
    (back)
  14. Ethiopian tanks pound Mogadishu.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/6587447.stm (back)
  15. Somalia: Economic pressures rises with influx of IDPs. IRIN. 25 May 2007.
    http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=72317
    (back)
  16. In pictures: Somalis adrift. 1 May 2007. BBC.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_pictures/6612673.stm
    (back)
  17. http://observer.guardian.co.uk/world/story/0,,2067951,00.html (back)
  18. Xan Rice in Nairobi. 7 April 2007. EU given war crime warning over Somalia aid. The Guardian.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/eu/story/0,,2052060,00.html
    (back)
  19. In pictures: Somalis adrift. 1 May 2007. BBC.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_pictures/6612673.stm
    (back)
  20. Ibid. (back)
  21. Ibid. (back)
  22. Salim Lone. Inside Africa’s Guantánamo. 28 April 2007. The Guardian.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,2067438,00.html
    (back)
  23. Ibid. (back)
  24. Thousands Flee Mogadishu’s Violence. 2 April 2007.
    http://www.aljazeera.com/me.asp?service_ID=13522
    (back)
  25. Xan Rice in Nairobi. EU given war crime warning over Somalia aid. 7April 2007. (back)
  26. Somalia is ‘worst refugee crisis.’ BBC. 27 April 2007.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/6598361.stm
    (back)
  27. Ibid. (back)
  28. Xan Rice. ‘Many dead’ in US air strikes on Somalia. 9 January 2007 The Guardian.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,1986350,00.html
    (back)
  29. Sam Kiley. Looting troops prey on Somalia’s refugees. 29 April 2007. The Observer.
    http://observer.guardian.co.uk/world/story/0,,2067951,00.html
    (back)
  30. Martin Fletcher. The warlords of death return to steal city’s brief taste of peace. 26 April 2007. Timesonline. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/africa/article1706367.ece (back)
  31. Ibid. (back)
  32. Ethiopian tanks pound Mogadishu. Ethiopian tanks are pounding parts of the Somali capital, stepping up a week-long campaign against insurgents and fighters from the Hawiye clan. 24 April 2007. BBC.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/6587447.stm
    (back)
  33. Mynott, Adam. Somalia’s ‘total nightmare.’ 28 April 2007. BBC.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/
    from_our_own_correspondent/6600027.stm.
    (back)
  34. Berhanu Kebede. Somalia asked us to save them from this brutal sub-clan. May 3, 2007. The Guardian.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,2070944,00.html
    (back)
  35. Ibid. (back)
  36. Philippe Khan. Genocide in Somalia? 19 April 2007.
    http://www.aljazeera.com/cgi-bin/review/article_full_story.asp?service_id=13405
    (back)
  37. Ibid. (back)
  38. Xan Rice. US military ‘used Ethiopian base’ to attack Somali militants. (back)
  39. —Africa’s secret – the men, women and children ‘vanished’ in the war on terror. 23 April 2007. The Guardian.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,2063346,00.html.
    (back)
  40. Aweys Osman Yusuf. Somali Woman accuses Ethiopian soldiers of rape and torture. 13 March 2007. Shabelle net. Media network. http://www.shabelle.net/news/ne2537.htm (back)
  41. http://www.pepfar.gov/about/77699.htm (back)
  42. Ibid. http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,2063346,00.html (back)
  43. Sophia Tesfamariam. Ethiopian Air Strikes in Somalia: Violation of the Geneva Conventions. 10 January 2007. American Chronicle.
    http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/viewArticle.asp?articleID=18949
    (back)
  44. Ethiopia warned on Somali pullout. BBC.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/low/africa/6656753.stm
    (back)
  45. Ethiopia warned on Somali pullout. BBC.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/low/africa/6656753.stm
    (back)
  46. Ethiopia warned on Somali pullout. BBC.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/low/africa/6656753.stm
    (back)
  47. Looting troops prey on Somalia’s refugees. The Observer. 29 April 2007.
    http://observer.guardian.co.uk/world/story/0,,2067951,00.html
    (back)
  48. Aweys Osman Yusuf. Ethiopian foreign minister says troops will stay in Somalia. 29 May 2007.
    http://www.shabelle.net/news/ne3007.htm
    (back)
  49. Italy presses Ethiopia to pull troops from Somalia (AFP). 20 May 2007. The Middle East Times.
    http://www.metimes.com/storyview.php?StoryID=20070520-070601-8870r
    (back)
  50. Ethiopia warned on Somali pullout. 15 May 2007. BBC.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/6656753.stm
    (back)
  51. Michael R. Gordon and Mark Mazzett. Ethiopia bought arms from North Korea with U.S. assent. 8 April 2007. International Herald tribune.
    http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/04/08/news/arms.php
    (back)
  52. Ibid. (back)
  53. Bush toughens sanctions on Sudan. 29 May 2007. BBC.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/6699479.stm
    (back)
  54. Salim Lone. Inside Africa’s Guantánamo. 28 April. The Guardian.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,2067438,00.html
    (back)
  55. Ibid. (back)
  56. Simon Tisdall. The spoilers who threaten Somalia’s peace hopes. 8 June 2007. The Guardian.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Column/0,,2098191,00.html
    (back)
  57. By Rod Nordland. Disaster in Somalia. 18 May 207.
    Newsweek. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18745786/site/newsweek/
    (back)

Amina Mire (Faculty: Department of Sociology and Anthropology of Carleton University), Ottawa, Canada.

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