Somalis Struggle Against Occupation
By Thomas Davies
The calendars say that it has been two months since the US backed Ethiopian invasion of Somalia. The current events scream of a country thrust backwards by foreign troops, but also of a people thrust forward by their fight against foreign occupation, and their attempt to restore the stability and progress they had been nursing before the invasion.
Somalis Call Them “Warlords” For a Reason
Somalia’s “internationally legitimate” transitional government came to the capital of Mogadishu onboard Ethiopian military helicopters and guarded by Ethiopian troops. The Financial Times summarized their situation well in a January 4th article, “The transitional government by itself lacks all credibility. It was created in Nairobi [Kenya] and confined until last month’s invasion, to Baidoa, close to Ethiopia’s border. It never asserted its authority; its Prime Minster, Ali Mohammed Gedi, does not even command the support of his sub-clan.”
This coalition of warlords has wasted no time in demonstrating why they have never had support from Somali people. They began by declaring 3 months of military law and applauding US bombings that killed hundreds of Somalis. Now their recent highlights include:
Perhaps if the Ethiopian troops stopped occupying and killing people, it would be a more reasonable way to stop the panic, instead of just trying to hide the atrocities? The use of “extremist” as a cover-all for every person opposing the occupation is also very familiar to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, who have faced the worst mass killings of the 21st Century by their occupiers.
- Since mid-February they have enforced a ban on wearing the Hijab, or veil, worn by some women in the predominantly Muslim country. To this end, they have stationed police around the capital, forcibly removing them.
- Deputy Defense Minster Salad Ali Jelle announced they would use an, “iron fist” against “extremists”.
- The country’s three independent radio stations, “Shabelle”, “Horn Afrik” and “Banadir” have been censored from covering anything related to Somali/Ethiopian military operations in Mogadishu. “We simply do not want them to create panic among the population,” reasoned General Nur Muhammad Mahamud, deputy chief of the Somali national security agency.
The New York Times February 21st article on Somalia titled, “The New Somalia: A Grimly Familiar Rerun” admitted that since the invasion, “gun prices are soaring” and that, “Somalia is actually becoming a more violent and chaotic place.” Thousands of residents have fled Mogadishu since invasion, as fighting rages between the Ethiopian soldiers and armed Somalis.
The transitional government has blamed any violence on a supposed remaining “3,500 Islamists” but denies any responsibility for the fighting, which started when they violently took power. Given the widespread increase in misery for all Somalis under occupation, it would also make no sense that only 3,500 Somalis out of a country of 10 million would fight them.
Somalia Boiling Over
Since invasion and occupation of the Mogadishu, Ethiopian troops have been attacked both at the Mogadishu airport where they are based, as well as another of their bases in the former Somali defence ministry. This is only drops in the bucket of what al-Jazeera News Service modestly calls, “near daily” fighting between Somalis and the Ethiopian forces.
Somali opposition action runs much deeper than attacks, as protesters brave military suppression by taking to the streets to oppose the current occupation, as well as the attempted deployment of another 8,000 troops under the African Union (AU).
Since early February, protests have seen the burning of flags of the United States, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria and Malawi - countries who have expressed possible willingness to provide logistical or military support for the AU force. One protester summarized the sentiments of the demonstrators, “The burnt flags are a message for you before you arrive. You still have an opportunity to avoid coming.”
Mohamed Farah Nur, one of the protest organizers, reiterated the position, “We are against any kind of foreign military invasion and we are ready to fight them.”
African Heads of State met in Ethiopia for the 8th African Union Summit at the end of January, with the creation of a military force for Somalia taking up much of the agenda. In the end, despite a determined US and EU push coupled with a promise of funds ($20Million from the EU and $40Million from the US) they were unable to create the proposed 9 battalions or 7,600 member troop force.
Uganda has so far been the only country to confirm the actual deployment of troops, verifying it will send 1,500 troops in the near future. Countries like Malawi, Nigeria, and Ghana have said they might offer troops, but continue to offer no concrete deployment date. Even if these troops do materialize, it would still be only about half of what the AU is proposing. No word yet either on how the AU will pay the additional $100Million needed according to AU planners, for the first six months of the operation.
For a more detailed history of Somalia’s long and proud history of anti-colonial and anti-imperialists movements and victories, read Fire This Time Volume 4 Issue 1. However, it’s not hard to see that the African governments understand that history, as well as the present failures of Western initiated wars and occupations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Haiti. Richard Cromwell, a senior analyst at the Institute for Security Studies in the South African capital Tshwane, summarized this reluctance,
"There is no peace plan, and no political or diplomatic framework on which to hang a mission. If one looks at the context of the AU summit, it's nice to say you are going to send troops, but it's another thing to actually send them. Why would you devote rare African troops to a quagmire when you might need them for future conflicts?"
It’s important to note that the word “quagmire”- which likens the military occupation to being stuck in quicksand - had until then been reserved for American disasters in Vietnam and Iraq. The situation remains the same, even now that the UN Security Council has unanimously authorized and supported the mission, and that the Somali transitional government predictably officially welcomed the UN decision.
Why would the US go through such obvious trouble to occupy Somalia? Is it the fact that Somalia has Africa’s longest coastline at 3,025 kilometres, and links the Suez Canal, Red Sea, and the African Ocean? Is it its mostly unexploited reserves of iron ore, tin, gypsum, bauxite, copper, salt, and natural gas? Perhaps it is that a World Bank study in 1992 found that Somalia and Sudan were the most promising areas in the region for oil development?
It is all of those things. The CIA does not hide that it calls Somalia a “strategic area” in the Horn of Africa. However, the US found it necessary to invade at this time because of the emergence last year of an increasingly stable, unified, and most importantly, independent Somalia under the rule of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC).
Under the UIC the armed checkpoints, which extorted millions of dollars from Somalis, were becoming a thing of the past. This past July, the UIC organized the first garbage removal in over a decade in Mogadishu. In the same month, the first commercial flight left Mogadishu airport in over a decade, and in August the first ship docked in Mogadishu harbour since 1991. Gun sellers lamented that AK-47’s they used to sell for $550 were barely going for $350.
Over a century of foreign intervention and distortion, which at one point had divided the country into five separate areas, was being overcome. The racist myth that Somalis and Africans were unable to govern themselves was being overcome, in a very public way. So what did the US do? It invoked the “War on Terror” and anti-Muslim justifications and tried, literally, to blow up the progress and precedents.
The Stakes Have Never Been Higher
As Mogadishu is surrounded in fighting and flames, George W. Bush has announced the creation of a New African Command ("ARFIRCOM"), a centralized military command to be up and running by the end of September 2008. The race for countries like the US, France, Canada and the UK to secure strategic areas and resources has now spilled over like the blood of millions of Iraqis and Afghans, from the Middle East and onto Africa.
Instead of fighting to improve their country, Somalis are now forced instead to fight against a cruel occupier and its puppet administration. However, the opening of this new imperialist “Scramble for Africa” is being met with their determined opposition. Somalis, alongside their brothers and sisters from the Middle East to Latin America, are creating an increasingly powerful force which has begun to meet imperialists at every turn. We must support them all in this fight.
ALL FOREIGN TROOPS OUT OF SOMALIA!
NO TO AU INVASION!
HANDS OFF AFRICA!
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