Prof Jagdish P. Sharma
Friday, June 01, 2007
Somalia has caught the attention of the international community as more than 70 innocent nomadic herdsmen were killed when a US gunship hunting Al-Qaeda suspects 'mistakenly' attacked a village in Southern Somalia. The US found, no "wanted" Al-Qaeda terrorists, dead or alive in the village though the attack was in line with the speculation that after Afghanistan and Iraq, it would be Somalia's turn to face the US fury. For the last few years, Washington's Somalia policy has hinged on the hunt for Al-Qaeda terrorists, and particularly the men wanted for killing 225 people in the 1998 attacks on US embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam and the 2002 attack on Israelis in Mombasa. The US January 2007 air strikes on Somalia were specifically aimed at three men - Fazul Abdallah Mohamed, Abu Taha al-Sudani, Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan.5
Before we proceed o examine the latest crisis situation in Somalia it would be better to understand the historical background of the developments that had led to the American and Ethiopian military attack on Somalia and its occupation by Ethiopians recently. A Republic in the Horn of Africa, Somali Democratic Republic was formed by the British Somaliland on July I, 1960. It is essentially a pastoral country, with 80% of the people dependent on livestock. Half of its population is nomadic.
In 1963, Somalia severed diplomatic relations with Britain, when it failed to induce Britain to grant separate independence to the largely Somali populated Northern Frontier district of Kenya. In 1964 hostilities broke out with Ethiopia over migration of nomadic Somali's into that country, but a ceasefire was arranged. As a 100 percent Muslim population in the East African Continent, Somalia under President Aden Abdullah Osman was chosen as a venue for the Sixth World Muslim Conference. In 1967, Dr. Abdi Rashid Ali Simarke was elected the President. Nine years of democracy in Somalia came to an end when President
Rashid was assassinated by one of his bodyguards on October 15, 1969. Six days later (October 21, 1969) Major General Mohamed Siad Barre took over power. He immediately suspended the constitution and declared Somalia as Somalia Democratic Republic. The country witnessed a bloody counter coup in 1991.
The year 1992 saw one of the worst famines in Somalia's history. Ravaged by civil war, the country was in a state of anarchy. Starvation threatened the majority of the population. More than 800,000 people moved into Kenya and other neighbouring countries. Relief efforts by the international organizations were hampered by battles between rival clan factions. Neighbouring Djibouti tried to end the uncertainty but failed. A new coalition government under the General Muhammed Farah Aidid, however, agreed to UN military presence to back up relief efforts to help famine victims.
On December 2, 1992, the US launched "Operation Restore Hope" landing thousands of US marines on the Mogadishu beaches. In May 1993, the operation was taken over by the United Nations and renamed the Mission as UNOSOM. In May 1993, Americans wanted to arrest General Farah Aidid but failed to do so. In the military operation a Black Hawk helicopter was shot down and 18 American soldiers were killed. It signalled the withdrawal of American forces from Somalia.
After that for fifteen years Somalia had to remain without a central government. The warlords fought among themselves. A sense of despair and hopelessness led to the emergence of the Islamic Courts with some help from local businessmen. These courts managed to establish some sense of law and order.
Ten years after the collapse of the military government, a Transitional National government was formed in August 2000. Neither the US nor the EU tried to strengthen its position. At the end of its three year term, a new Transitional Federal Government was established in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi in October 2004 with full support from everyone including the US.
Somalia's current phase of chaos is not simply the latest episode in a civil conflict that had dragged on since 1991. It is also the direct result of a rogue CIA operation that went wrong. After September 11, 2001 (9/11), Washington did a policy u-turn by recruiting as bounty-hunters the very warlords its forces had fought during the 1993 "Black Hawk Down" battle. In return for suitcases of cash, the warlords handed over a number of religious radical suspects, who were ferried on rendition flights to the new US base at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti.
A Christian led country with a substantial Muslim population, Ethiopia has a deep fear of Islamic radicalism in the Horn of Africa. Just before Christmas 2006 Washington gave Ethiopia green signal to invade Somalia. The offensive led to the fall of the 'Islamic Court' government. The American neocons gloated over what they saw as a victory for the good guys in the war on terror. Ethiopia's invasion and the US strikes have made heroes of the Somali radicals across the world and had thus further internationalized the conflict in the Horn.
The Los Angeles Times wrote, "US intervention in Somalia could have been prompted in part by the determination to protect the interests of US firms". A special report in Oil and Gas Journal (2nd April, 1993) said, "Geologists have been speculating about the possibility of oil in Somalia since the last century, but it took the US military "Operation Restore Hope" to bring the possibility to popular attention. The widespread notion is that US troops were sent to Somalia to protect the interests of US Oil Companies, and their supposed huge oil finds".
The recent American decision to create a new pentagon command covering Africa, known as Africom has a military logic. Like Roman emperor's of old, Washington's Caesars arbitrarily divide much of the world into Middle Eastern, European and Pacific domains. Now it is Africa's turn with Gulf of Guinea countries including Nigeria and Angola projected to provide a quarter of US oil imports within a decade; with Islamic radicalist worries in Somalia and Horn of Africa, and with China prowling for resources and markets, the US plainly feels a second wind of change is blowing, calling for increased leverage in Africa. Africom's advent follows a pattern of extraordinary military expansion under President George W. Bush including the Horn of Africa.
President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa sums up the situation aptly thus: "Today Somalia ceases to exist as a viable state. This has led to the eventuality that, as the year 2007 began; Somalia put itself firmly at the top of the African agenda. Whereas in 1974 independent Africa counted on Somali support to achieve the goals of the African revolution, in 2007 Somalia needs the support of the rest of the African Continent, to achieve the goals of the African revolution."
Undeniably, Somalia needs a government not made for them but by them. If the international community is sincere about helping Somalians, it should let them take initiatives to regain their statehood and national sovereignty. In short decide their own destiny freely, fearlessly and independently.
Prof Jagdish P. Sharma, Syndicate Features