CIA World Fact Book on Somalia
Imperialist drive for economic domination fuels continental instability
The following is taken from a talk delivered at a Workers World meeting on African affairs in Detroit on Dec. 13.
When the U.S. corporate media report on the contemporary affairs on the African continent, the stories’ contents and direction never highlight the role of the multinational corporations and the military-industrial complex in initiating underdevelopment and fostering political instability. The claim that the United States was not involved in the colonization of the African continent is misleading and false.
In fact it was the involvement of the European ruling classes on the North American continent in the Atlantic slave trade that dramatically altered the global balance of political and economic forces. The British, French and Spanish all had colonies inside the area which became known as the U.S. The expansion of the nation-state after the European settler class achieved independence created the conditions for the country to become dominant among other colonial and imperialist rivals.
African slavery reaped tremendous profits for both the planters and the burgeoning industrialists in the U.S. The contradictions between the two competing economic systems of slavery and industrial capitalism lead to the Civil War between 1861 and 1865. After 1865, industrialization grew rapidly, particularly in the north and the northeast of the country.
The economic and political status of the U.S. grew with the rapid industrialization after the mid-19th century. At the conclusion of the so-called Spanish-American war at the end of the 19th century, the ruling class was able to effectively challenge any attempt by other western European states to gain a base in the Western Hemisphere or the Philippines.
With the advent of the automotive and steel industries, the growth in individual wealth reached levels never previously achieved. Then came World War I, when millions died in the scramble for the colonial territories where the mining industries would further impoverish the oppressed nations.
During the 1920s there was widespread immigration to and migration inside the U.S. Industrial development and banking became even stronger than in the period of the early 20th century. However, the great crash of 1929 brought the system to a screeching halt.
The New Deal, which is often being referred to during the current period of economic downturn, did not bring the U.S. out of the Great Depression. It was only the beginning of war production after 1940—and the draft—that created full employment. After the war, with Europe and Asia devastated by conventional combat, the U.S. became the most dominant and influential nation in the world.
Nonetheless, the Soviet Union, the anti-fascist forces and the anti-colonial movements served as the real challenge to U.S. hegemony. A wasteful “Cold War” continued from 1945 to 1990, with military expenditures growing by leaps and bounds. It was the imperialist countries in their continued quest for world domination that drove the struggle between world capitalism on the one hand, and socialism and the anti-imperialist and anti-colonial movements on the other.
The imperialists undermine Congo independence
After the victory of the independence forces in the Congo in June 1960, the former colonial power of Belgium and other imperialist states, with a leading role being played by the U.S., set out to undermine the country’s sovereignty.
Independence leader Patrice Lumumba was placed under house arrest by the United Nations forces in August 1960. Eventually he fled Leopoldville and traveled to the east of the country where his support was strong. The pro-Lumumbaist forces had established a base in Orientale Province at the capital of Stanleyville, where the prime minister and his family were heading when they were intercepted by the Congolese National Army (ANC) soldiers who were loyal to Mobutu Sese Seko.
The Congolese military had split along similar lines as the political class within the country during the post-independence crisis. The base of operations in Orientale Province held out until it was forcefully suppressed in 1964, with the widespread assistance of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency under President Lyndon B. Johnson and the racist governments of Rhodesia, South Africa, Portugal, France, Britain and Belgium.
Even though the secession of Katanga was eventually reversed by the U.N. in late 1961, the damage caused by the coup d’etat against the MNC [Congolese National Movement]-Lumumba and its allies was to have deep repercussions for the nation’s future.
Mobutu’s coup in 1965 against Kasabuvu and the then-recently displaced Moise Tshombe, who had been appointed prime minister of Congo in 1964 in a bid to create a supposed “unity government,” continued the process of the exploitation of the national wealth of the country by foreign imperialist interests.
After the changing of the country’s name to Zaire in 1971, Mobutu maintained the large-scale presence of mining conglomerates inside the country whose activities never benefited the workers and peasants of Congo.
Several attempts were made during the late 1970s and mid-1980s to initiate a broad-based guerrilla insurgency aimed at toppling the regime of Mobutu. During 1977-78, the Zairian regime was supported by the active military units of France and European mercenary groups to put down a revolt in the mineral-rich Shaba province.
Although these guerrilla campaigns during the 1970s and 1980s only gained limited results and were eventually halted, they illustrated the degree of discontent still prevalent within the country.
Active political groups such as the Front for the Liberation of Congo, the MNC-Lumumba and the Movement of Workers and Peasants continued to organize underground for the overthrow of the Western-backed Mobutu regime. The government had continued its alliance with settler colonialism in southern Africa and supported counterrevolutionary pseudo-liberation movements such as UNITA, FLNA and FLEC in Angola during the 1970s, the 1980s and the 1990s.
With the overthrow of the South African apartheid system in 1994, the UNITA organization continued to rely on Mobutu in its campaign aimed at the destabilization of Angola. Prior to this period, UNITA was heavily financed and politically assisted by the apartheid regime in South Africa and the U.S. government.
The Rwandan factor
In Rwanda, the former military regime of Juvenal Habyarimana, which suppressed democracy and national political pluralism, enjoyed firm support from the Mobutu government. Consequently, when President Habyarimana was killed in a plane crash on April 6, 1994, the subsequent Rwandan Hutu-based leadership and its 1.5 million supporters—who had carried out the genocidal murders of 500,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu civilians—were given asylum in Zaire, creating one of the largest refugee crises in the history of post-colonial Africa.
Ironically it was the political fallout associated with the presence of the Hutu refugee camps in eastern Congo that precipitated the widespread uprising against the Mobutu regime. Having become alienated within Africa and the international community, Mobutu enjoyed very limited support when violence erupted in the eastern provinces during the latter portion of 1996.
The ADFL revolt and Africa’s World War
In October of 1996, world attention became focused on the situation in eastern Congo when there was an outbreak of fighting between the Banyamulenge Tutsi and Zairian soldiers around Uvira. Clashes also erupted between the Interhamwe Hutu militia elements from the Rwandan refugee camps and the Banyamulenge, who are indigenous to Congo and are related to the Tutsi nationalities in Rwanda and Burundi.
As a result of the renewed fighting, some 250,000 refugees abandoned their camps in Uvira and headed towards Bakavu. By the time of their arrival at Bakavu, the situation in the area was complicated by the escalation of oppression against the Tutsi nationality by the Zairian regime. Africans of this nationality origin were unjustly stripped of their citizenship rights and ordered to leave the country for Rwanda.
However, the Zairian military and the Interhamwe militias proved to be no match for the Banyamulenge guerrilla fighters, who eventually seized control of Nyangezi, south of Bakavu, on Oct. 24, 1996. The following day, the rebels’ leadership announced that the goal of their movement was to topple the Mobutu regime and establish a new government in the country.
At the same time they named Laurent Kabila as their leader and declared themselves the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (ADFL). In subsequent days, the political and military momentum of the uprising accelerated when the Alliance took control of Bakavu on Oct. 28.
As a result of these advances of guerrilla forces who took control over eastern Congo, 250,000 refugees from Rwanda left their camps at Bakavu and headed towards Goma. In the midst of the intensive military offensives launched by the ADFL, the Zairian military rapidly crumbled, fleeing and hiding from the battle lines determined by the guerrilla forces.
International involvement in the guerrilla offensive launched by the ADFL had been widely reported in the corporate media. In addition to logistical and political support from Rwanda, the Ugandan military was accused of intervening and temporarily seizing control of the Congolese towns of Masabwa, Kasindi, Manda and Mutanga, in order to weaken the Zairian military and to retaliate against a purported cross-border violation of Ugandan territory.
Also the Republic of Angola began to provide air support and transportation to the ADFL forces. In contrast, the counterrevolutionary UNITA organization of Angola sent several units of its military to fight alongside Mobutu, a longtime patron of this apartheid- and U.S.-backed group headed by Jonas Savimbi.
During the concluding phase of the war, it was reported that the most formidable Zairian resistance to the capturing of the town of Kenge, near the capital of Kinshasa, was actually carried out by the UNITA forces fighting against the advances of the ADFL.
When Kabila’s ADFL soldiers marched into Kinshasa largely unopposed on May 17, 1997, it represented a culmination of political struggle against neocolonialism in Africa spanning a thirty-seven-year period.
Nonetheless, the alliance that brought about the second liberation of Congo was soon burst asunder. The Rwandan and Ugandan governments, at the behest of the U.S. administration of Bill Clinton, sought to dictate the political policies of the renamed Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). When Kabila ordered the removal of Rwandan and Ugandan military forces from the eastern region of the country, both of these U.S.-backed regimes declared war on Kinshasa and sought to replace Kabila.
The Congolese Democratic Rally was formed as a front for Uganda and Rwanda. However, the progressive governments of Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia, under the auspices of the Southern African Development Community, came to the defense of the DRC government and beat back the intervention. This war lasted between 1998 and 2003 and resulted in the deaths of millions of Congolese.
When a negotiated settlement was reached, a government of national unity was formed. This agreement broke down after elections were held in 2006. Laurent Kabila was assassinated in 2001, leaving the reigns of government to his son Joseph. Joseph Kabila won the elections of 2006.
Unfortunately, two other guerrilla groups were formed in the north and in the east. Laurent Nkunda’s CNDP [National Congress for the Defense of the People] has launched attacks against civilian areas in North Kivu since August of 2008. This new situation has set the stage for the intervention of the European Union, which is still contemplating a military invasion and occupation of the mineral rich eastern region of the DRC.
The U.S. role in the background to the Somalian crisis
The problems that have occurred since the formation of the Republic of Somalia in 1960 must be viewed within the context of the overall post-colonial crisis of the nation-state in Africa. The degree and character of political stability and economic stagnation cannot merely be analyzed in a case-by-case fashion, but must be approached from the standpoint of regional and continental patterns of development.
In looking at the situations of three countries neighboring Somalia—Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya—we can see that the similarities of agricultural deficits, micro-nationality and border conflicts, foreign debts and the exigencies of political democratization have created internal tensions and dislocations which require a historical-materialist model of analysis.
This model of analysis acknowledges the particular characteristics of development within the various Africans states. However, it recognizes that the history of the impact of slavery, colonialism, imperialism and neocolonialism has created a broad spectrum of structural problems that are present and recurrent within all African countries in the contemporary neocolonial period.
In viewing modern-day Somalia, the legacy of colonial rule that was imposed in the 19th century must be considered in any evaluation of the country’s performance as a post-independence state since 1960. The fact that the Somali people, composed of a myriad of clans and sub-clans, were divided by four colonial states and one feudal state, illustrates the total disregard by the imperialists of the national character of Indigenous peoples.
Complicating the Somali question is also the role of feudal Ethiopia, which continued to expand its influence in the region along with the European powers during the latter 19th century. Being encircled by European imperialism eventually led to an Italian fascist invasion of Ethiopia in 1936 under Mussolini.
During the colonial period, even after the defeat of fascist Italy in 1941, the U.N. designated Somalia a protectorate of this former dictatorial regime. By the 1950s, the entire East African coast from Somalia to Mozambique was the center of intense oil exploration.
In the northern part of Somalia, which was colonized by the British, the Standard-Vacuum Oil and Conorado companies were involved in this extended search for oil. In the Italian controlled section of Somalia, the companies engaged in the exploration during the pre-independence period of the 1950s were Conorado and Sinclair, each of which controlled an equal share of a 57-million-acre concession.
As a result of the independence struggle against the colonialism of Britain and the U.N.-imposed protectorate status under Italy during the 1950s, the country gained its independence in 1960, uniting the Italian and British-controlled sections of the Somali territory.
The leading organization in the independence movement during the post-World War II period was the Somali Youth League, which was based in the southern region of the country then under the Italian protectorate regime. When the SYL won the overwhelming majority of seats in the March 1959 elections for the legislative assembly, they worked toward the formation of a coalition government with the British-controlled region of the north. With the establishment of the independent Somali Republic on July 1, 1960, the British and Italian colonies were merged under the leadership of Prime Minister Dr. Abdirashid Ali Shirmake.
After the national elections of 1964, serious splits developed within the ranks of the SYL and its allies in the coalition government. After the removal of the first Prime Minister, Dr. Shirmake, by Abdirazak Haji Hussein in 1964, Shirmake ran again in 1967 and was elected president, forming a new government with Mohammed Haji Ibrahim Egal, a northern-based politician from the Isaq clan, as prime minister.
By 1969, the divisiveness of the political class became quite intense and led to a splintering of forces in that year’s elections. However, Egal maintained his position after the elections amid allegations of manipulating the voting and selection process. Later in October, Shirmarke was assassinated in a factional dispute, leading to the military coup d’etat under the leadership of Mohammed Siad Barre.
Declaring itself the Somali Democratic Republic, the regime of Barre moved to institute its own brand of scientific socialism. Large-scale nationalization of industries took place along with diplomatic overtures to the Soviet Union and other socialist-oriented states.
The former British military bases at Berbera in the north were the scene of intense training of Somali military forces by Soviet technicians. However, this era of friendship and cooperation with the USSR did not last long, particularly after the Ethiopian Revolution of 1974 and the subsequent events leading to the consolidation of power by military officer Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1977.
Having never given up on the idea of a “Greater Somalia,” encompassing not only the present borders of the country but including the population groups of this nationality that were scattered throughout Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti, the regime of Siad Barre backed a military secessionist movement in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia in 1977-78.
Later on, with the withdrawal of the U.S. military presence in Ethiopia, the USSR moved swiftly to fill the vacuum left by the U.S. expulsion. When the Soviets were asked to vacate their 6,000 technicians from Somalia, full-scale war erupted in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia, prompting the evacuation of Ethiopian military forces from the area.
However, with the assistance of the Soviet Union’s military advisors and direct Cuban troops’ involvement in the fighting, the Western Somali Liberation Front (WSLF) insurgents were quickly defeated and forced to retreat into Somalia proper. This conflict largely resulted from the strategic miscalculations of Siad Barre, who believed the U.S promises of military assistance for the Ogaden war in order to counter Soviet and Cuban influence in the Horn of Africa.
What Barre did not understand was the phenomena of the post-Vietnam syndrome in the U.S. political psyche after 1975. Jimmy Carter’s presidency was not willing to risk direct U.S. military involvement in Ethiopia where U.S. combat troops would be deployed and possibly face large-scale casualties.
The conflict in the Ogaden region marked the beginning of increased instability in Somalia. Famine became widespread during the early 1980s, which prompted relief efforts and an increased U.S. media focus on the enormous problems created by the dislocation of civilians resulting from political unrest and monumental food deficits. At the same time, the level of U.S. military assistance to the country increased, bringing about the material basis for a highly regimented and repressive state.
By the late 1980s, various regions of the country became highly disaffected from the central government. The intensification of military activities in the north by the Somali National Movement (SNM) against the Barre regime between 1988 and 1991 created a serious crisis for the government.
In 1990, the three major opposition groups—the SNM, the United Somali Congress (USC) and the Somali Patriotic Movement—announced they would coordinate their activities designed to overthrow the Barre government. In January of 1991, Barre fled the country in the face of military advances by the USC and others in the capital Mogadishu as well as other regions of the country.
The challenge of national unity in Somalia
Even after the overthrow of Siad Barre in 1991, the question of national reconciliation and unity in Somalia has remained elusive. The total collapse of the state under Barre and the failure to stabilize a coalition government in Mogadishu during 1991-1992, led to widespread factional fighting in various regions of the country.
This internecine conflict created the conditions for famine in the country, which provided the U.S. with a rationale for a large-scale military invasion in December 1992, under the guise of a U.N.-sponsored relief effort.
This “relief effort,” called Operation Restore Hope, which was initially greeted with some degree of acceptance by various political organizations in Somalia, soon degenerated into a large-scale occupation reminiscent of the colonial period in the nation’s history. Somali youth were randomly beaten and murdered by U.S., Italian, Pakistani and Canadian military forces.
Under the leadership of the Somali National Alliance, headed by Mohammed Farrah Aided, the people resisted the U.S.-U.N. occupation vigorously, resulting in thousands of casualties on the Somali side and several hundred among the occupying forces.
A major clash on Oct. 3, 1993, resulted in the officially-reported deaths of eighteen U.S. soldiers and the capturing of a U.S. helicopter pilot. This led to mass opposition to the Clinton policy of continued occupation. In response to increasing protest activity around the U.S. and the world, Clinton announced an impending withdrawal from Somalia, which occurred in 1994.
However, despite the defeat of U.S. aims in the region in 1993, and the withdrawal of the U.N. troops in 1994-95, the country has failed to overcome the factionalism of political parties and the secession of the northern area, which was formerly colonized by the United Kingdom. At least three different factions have declared themselves as legitimate governments in Somalia, including Somaliland and Puntland, despite the fact that no entity in the international community has officially recognized any of these self-proclaimed regimes.
Even though the U.S. was defeated in Somalia during the early 1990s, in the aftermath of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the atmosphere created by the Bush administration and the corporate media attempted to justify covert operations against the country. During 2006, the Union of Islamic Courts began to consolidate its base of power in various regions of Somalia. Because these efforts took place independent of U.S. influence and direction, the Bush administration sought to undermine the UIC.
Initially, the U.S. imperialists attempted to coordinate various political and social elements in the country to attack the UIC. When this did not prove effective, the Bush administration encouraged, financed and coordinated an Ethiopian military invasion and occupation of the country beginning in December 2006.
This U.S.-backed occupation was met with fierce resistance. Two years later, by the end of 2008, the Ethiopians had already withdrawn 10,000 out of its 12,000 troops. Al-Shabab, the youth wing of the UIC, had launched systematic attacks against the occupationists in various regions of the country. This was coupled with the continued hijacking of commercial vessels in the Gulf of Aden by Somalis.
Reviewing aspects of the historical development of both the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia provides concrete examples of how imperialism has prevented African states from achieving genuine independence. During the colonial era, the U.S. was never a champion of the legitimate national liberation movements on the continent.
As anti-imperialists it is necessary to provide political support to all social and political forces struggling against U.S. and other Western efforts aimed at the continued exploitation and oppression of the peoples of Africa. In both the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia, the U.S. administration is very much involved in campaigns to control the political developments inside these countries and to preserve the economic interests of the ruling class.
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Since 2007 U.S. foreign policy has deeply injured Somalia. The U.S.-backed Transitional Federal Government has utilized the African Union Mission to Somalia troops stationed in the capital, Mogadishu, to hold onto power amid the continuing attempts by two popular organizations, al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam, to seize power in this nation in the Horn of Africa.
Recent reports issued by the aid organization Oxfam and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees indicate that as a result of the fighting and the drought that has struck Somalia and the entire East Africa region, growing numbers of people, mainly women and children, are in direct need of shelter, food, water and medicines.
With specific reference to Somalia, it is estimated that at least 1.5 million people have been displaced inside the country. Other hundreds of thousands have fled to neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia.
The AMISOM forces, from Uganda and Burundi, are approximately 5,000 strong and control only areas in Mogadishu. Other African states have refused to dispatch their soldiers to defend the U.S.-backed TFG. In a recent budget proposal, the Obama administration pledged $67 million to support the TFG and AMISOM troops in Somalia.
Drought impacts the Somali economy
Lack of rain and crop failure have caused the loss of a large number of the population’s livestock. Livestock production is the mainstay of the economic life of many people within the central and southern regions of the country.
The interior minister of the TFG, Sheikh Abdulkadir Ali Omar, recently explained to the U.N. Inter-regional Information Network on Sept. 3 that, “I have been in touch with people throughout the regions and the reports we are getting are that the drought is widespread and the situation of the people is very grave, with water shortages the biggest problem for both animals and people.
“Livestock are dying in their thousands, with families losing everything. On the outskirts of most small towns from Gedo [southwest] to Galkayo [northeast], you will now find nomadic families in flimsy shelters looking for help,” the interior minister stated. (IRIN, Sept. 7)
Omar told IRIN that the situation was beyond the TFG’s ability to resolve. He said that the government was appealing to the international community for assistance. “This is bigger than anything we have seen in a long time. I hope our partners will do their utmost to mitigate the suffering of the people.”
In the self-declared state of Galmudug in central Somalia, President Ahmed Ali Hilowle told IRIN by telephone from Gakkayo: “Even camels are dying. It is a disaster.”
Hilowle went on to say: “We had two years of dismal rains and the people are on the verge of dying.” This area of Somalia must have barkads (water catchments) for water “and almost all are dry. We are now trucking water sometimes over 100 kilometers.” He said that one water tanker, with 200 drums, costs $200 and that few people can afford this, or any amount.
Control of resources at root of conflict
The U.S. and other Western countries intervene in and around Somalia both to control the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean as well as to claim concessions for oil exploration and exploitation. A recent controversy has been generated over a 15-page “Memorandum of Understanding,” supposedly written by the U.N. secretary general’s special representative to Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, which would give drilling rights for oil off the continental shelf of Somalia, extending the rights for 200 miles, to the Kenyan government, another U.S. client.
Gerald Lemelle, executive director of Africa Action in Washington, D.C., spoke of the Western countries’ aims following the demise of direct colonialism. “Nations such as Norway had to figure out a way to maintain control over African resources, so they use Security Council resolutions, and African proxies such as Kenya (Norway reportedly paid $200 million to Kenya for the agreement),” he said. “At the heart of Western intervention in Somalia, which has been a geopolitical football, is the battle for its oil,” Mr. Lemelle said. (Final Call, Sept. 8)
Human rights activists Sadia Aden and professor Abdi Ismail Samitar, a Somali advocate at the University of Minnesota, agree. Aden told the Final Call that the navies that patrol the waters off Somalia ostensibly to fight piracy are only there to exploit the country’s oil and natural gas reserves.
“Somalis know that these navies did not come to hunt and prosecute pirates but to divide the Somali seas, and to protect their interests as they hope to divide up our resources—not just in the ocean, but also on land,” Aden added.
A Los Angeles Times article published in January 1993, during the U.S. military occupation of Somalia, raised similar issues. “That land, in the opinion of geologists and industry sources, could yield significant amounts of oil and natural gas if the U.S.-led military mission can restore peace to the impoverished East African nation.
“According to documents obtained by The Times, nearly two-thirds of Somalia was allocated to the American oil giants Conoco, Amoco, Chevron and Phillips in the final years before Somalia’s pro-U.S. president, Mohamed Siad Barre, was overthrown and the nation plunged into chaos in January 1991. Industry sources said the companies holding the rights to the most promising concessions are hoping that the [George H. W.] Bush administration’s decision to send U.S. troops to safeguard aid shipments to Somalia will also help protect their multimillion-dollar investments there.” (Los Angeles Times, Jan. 18, 1993)
What was true in 1993 is truer in 2009. U.S. imperialism and its allies are scrambling for resources to maintain their dominant economic and political status in the world. But this interest in Somalia’s resources has not led to any effective assistance program to confront the grave humanitarian crisis caused by the fighting and the drought.
Somalis must unite and fight for the genuine independence and sovereignty of their country. People inside the U.S. must not be tricked into believing that the Pentagon and State Department’s involvement in Somalia is designed to fight terrorism and bring stability to the country and region.
Anti-imperialists and anti-war forces must support the Somali people in their struggle for genuine liberation and economic development.
For more Pan-African news and analysis, go to panafricannews.blogspot.com.
Articles copyright 1995-2011 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.
A recent statement issued by the Obama administration indicates that it is planning to carry out aerial bombardments in the Horn of Africa nation of Somalia. The announcement comes amid intense fighting in the capital of Mogadishu between the two Islamic resistance movements, Al Shabaab and Hizbul Islam, and the U.S.-backed Transitional Federal Government that is ruling the country.
It is broadly acknowledged that the TFG only controls a small section of the capital, having conceded other areas in Mogadishu and throughout the south and central regions to both resistance organizations. The U.S. is financing the presence of an African Union peacekeeping force known as AMISOM, which consists of approximately 5,000 troops from the pro-Western regimes of Uganda and Burundi.
Complicating matters further, there has been growing hostility between Hizbul Islam and Al Shabaab, resulting in clashes over control of the southern port city of Kismayo. Hizbul Islam has stated its willingness to engage in dialogue with Al Shabaab but has refused to hold negotiations with the TFG headed by Sheikh Shariff Sheikh Ahmed.
Sheikh Ibrahim Bare Mohammed, the Hizbul Islam Deputy Commander in the Bandir region, pledged to retain control of the areas occupied by his organization. “We are controlling many parts of Mogadishu and we will defend these areas because we are already here.” (Garowe Online, March 8)
The Hizbul Islam official continued: ‘”We cannot accept our enemy controlling this region and we are not afraid of the American government. We will defeat any attack from the Somali government.”
The same article reported that U.S. officials have said, “What you are likely to see is air strikes and Special Ops moving in, hitting and getting out.” The Obama administration has continued the same policy against Somalia as that of the previous regime of George W. Bush.
Gen. Mohamed Gelle Kahiya, the recently appointed commander of the TFG military, confirmed that the U.S. would be involved in the offensive. The Obama administration, just like its predecessors, views Somalia as strategic to imperialist interests.
According to the March 5 New York Times, “The United States is increasingly concerned about the link between Somalia and Yemen, a growing extremist hot spot, with fighters going back and forth across the Red Sea in what one Somali watcher described as an ‘Al Qaeda exchange program.’”
To minimize U.S. casualties and exact maximum damage to the Somali people, U.S. Special Forces are training and coordinating the TFG to stage ground operations while the U.S. forces handle bombings from the air and offshore. “This is not an American offensive,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson told the Times. “The U.S. military is not on the ground in Somalia. Full stop.”
The Times continues: “The Americans have provided covert training to Somali intelligence officers, logistical support to the peacekeepers, fuel for the maneuvers, surveillance information about insurgent positions and money for the bullets and guns. ... Washington is also using its heft as the biggest supplier of humanitarian aid to Somalia to encourage private aid agencies to move quickly into ‘new liberated areas’ and deliver services like food and medicine to the beleaguered Somali people in an effort to make the government more popular.”
The Obama administration has increased U.S. military assistance to Somalia over the last several months. The New York Times admits that during 2009, when the TFG was on the verge of collapse, the U.S. sent in millions of dollars in weapons.
In addition to the Obama administration’s commitment to launch military strikes against Somalia, the activity of various European imperialist states and Canada is designed to increase pressure on the resistance forces in the country.
On March 5, European Union Naval spokesperson Commander John Harbour revealed that his forces have anticipated a spike in so-called “piracy” attacks off the coast of Somalia in the Gulf of Aden. “We know they’re coming,” said Harbour. “We’re taking the fight to the pirates.” (Associated Press)
On the same day the French frigate Nivose reported seizing 35 “pirates” in three days off the coast of Somalia. In four operations in early March, eleven people were reported taken into French custody, with the assistance of a Spanish maritime airplane that was engaged in a European Union military mission in the region.
The EU initiated what it calls the “Atalanta Anti-Piracy Mission” in December 2008 in a concerted plan with the U.S., NATO and other countries to guarantee undisturbed passage for vessels traveling through the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, the world’s busiest shipping lane.
This massive build-up over the last 15 months failed to eliminate attacks on ships by Somalis seeking compensation from firms for use of the waterways. In April 2009, the U.S. Navy killed three Somali teenagers who had held a U.S. boat in the Gulf of Aden. One 16-year-old was taken into custody, and is awaiting trial in New York City charged with crimes under U.S. law.
Somalia and the ‘war on terrorism’
In preparation for the upcoming offensive against Al Shabaab and Hizbul Islam in Somalia, the Canadian, British and U.S. governments have taken measures against Somali expatriates living in these imperialist states. Canada authorities agreed to list Al Shabaab as a “terrorist group” purportedly to prevent the organization from raising funds inside the country. They also announced that anyone convicted of aiding the Somali resistance organization will be guilty of a criminal offense.
The British government is taking similar action against Al Shabaab, claiming that the Somali group is connected to Al Qaeda.
U.S. authorities recently brought a man to New York City to face charges of assisting a foreign “terrorist” organization. The indictment unsealed on March 8 claims that Mohamed Ibrahim Ahmed had traveled to Somalia in April 2009 and was trained at an Al Shabaab camp. Al Shabaab has been designated a “terrorist” organization by the U.S.
In 1992, the George H.W. Bush administration sent thousands of U.S. Marines into Somalia under the banner of United Nations Mission “Restore Hope.” Over the next 18 months, Somali resistance forces fought the U.S. military, which engaged in brutal acts of occupation and aggression against the people.
U.S. military losses forced the Clinton administration to withdraw. After 2001 Somalia became a central focus of the so-called “war on terrorism,” which is really designed to establish U.S. imperialist control over the Horn of Africa region and the surrounding waterways.
In 2006 Washington financed and coordinated a military invasion by the pro-Western government in neighboring Ethiopia. Most Ethiopian soldiers withdrew in January 2009 but have periodically entered the border regions to carry out operations against the resistance forces of Al Shabaab.
Articles copyright 1995-2011 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.