Somalis demonstrating against the US-backed Ethiopian invasion of their nation. Resistance forces have stepped-up attacks in recent weeks.
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire File Photos.
Friday April 13, 2007 11:46 AM
By ANTHONY MITCHELL
Associated Press Writer
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) - Somali, Ethiopian and Eritrean officials traded accusations on Friday about their roles in Somalia's conflict, highlighting other officials' warning that the current situation in Somalia could destabilize the Horn of Africa region and beyond.
The African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia has not received the expected financial and logistical support needed to make it more effective, officials said, adding that the two-year delay in deploying the force had led to a costly war and hundreds of civilians killed.
Ministers of the seven-nation Intergovernmental Authority on Development are holding a one-day meeting in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi to review the situation in Somalia. Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda are members of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development.
Officials of Somalia and Ethiopia - whose forces are fighting an insurgency in the Somali capital, Mogadishu - accused Eritrea of undermining Somalia's transitional government and being involved in terrorism in the region. An Eritrean official denied the allegations.
``The government of Eritrea is openly involved in undermining, including through the use of force, the legitimately recognized transitional federal government of Somalia,'' Somalia's Foreign Minister Ishmael Hurreh told his fellow ministers.
Ethiopia's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Tekeda Alemu said that ``Eritrea is not simply supporting terrorism, it is actively involved in terrorism in Ethiopia and our sub-region.''
An Eritrean official, however, blamed Ethiopia.
``With the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia, the situation in that country has entered a new and very dangerous phase neither advancing peace and stability nor democracy,'' said Amdeab Ghebremeskel, director of African Affairs in Eritrea's Foreign Affairs ministry.
Earlier in the meeting, Said Djinnit, the African Union's Peace and Security Commissioner, appealed to donors who made pledges toward the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia to release those funds urgently.
``We still face a serious financial shortfall and lack of logistical support,'' Djinnit told the meeting.
The delay in deploying a peacekeeping force that regional leaders had first recommended in January 2005, ``not only complicated the political situation and help internationalize the conflict in Somalia but led to a costly war affecting the security of the entire region,'' said Attalla Bashir, executive secretary of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development.
The U.N. Security Council did not authorize the peacekeeping mission until December when it eased an arms embargo on Somalia to allow the troops to take arms to the Horn of Africa nation.
So far only the vanguard of the African Union peacekeeping force has been deployed in Somalia, made up of about 1,400 Ugandan troops who went to Somalia in March this year. Burundi is the only other country that has agreed to contribute troops to the mission that the African Union says needs to be 8,000-strong. It is not clear what has delayed Burundi's deployment of troops.
Since the Ugandan peacekeepers went to Mogadishu, the city has experienced the worst fighting in 15 years there with a local human rights group reporting hundreds of civilians killed in four days of bloodshed that began in late March.
The African Union peacekeepers have come under attack themselves from insurgents linked to the Council of Islamic Courts, which was driven out of the capital and southern Somalia strongholds in December by Somali and Ethiopian soldiers, accompanied by U.S. special forces.
One peacekeeper has been killed so far and missiles have been fired at two of the force's cargo planes, one crashing and killing all 11 crew on board.
Somalia has been mired in chaos since 1991, when warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned against each other. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development mediated talks that formed a transitional government was formed in 2004, but has failed to assert any real control.
Battles intensify in Somali capital
By Mahad Elmi - McClatchy Newspapers
Friday, April 13, 2007
Mogadishu, Somalia — Ethiopian forces and Somali government troops fought an intense daylong battle against insurgents Thursday in the Somali capital, leaving at least 15 civilians dead and 30 wounded over the past 48 hours and threatening the safety of U.S.-backed Ugandan peacekeeping troops.
In some of the worst fighting in the past 15 years, Ethiopian forces at the presidential palace and at a military base in the south of Mogadishu fired artillery and mortars at insurgents around the area of the Ramadan hotel, which had been the headquarters of an Islamist government that ruled briefly until Ethiopia overthrew it in December.
The transitional Somali government, which had announced the urban offensive, provided ground forces as well as truck-mounted anti-aircraft and grenade launchers. But it wasn’t clear whether they’d captured more territory from the Hawiye clan, which dominates Mogadishu and had close links with the overthrown Council of Islamic Courts government.
Ethiopian officers met clan leaders Thursday during the fighting in a bid to revive a cease-fire that was reached earlier this month, but the meeting broke up over an Ethiopian demand that all militia commanders take part in the talks, a spokesman for the Hawiye elders said.
The Bush administration had provided military and political support for Ethiopia’s overthrow of the Islamic Courts movement, charging that the Islamists had given sanctuary to al-Qaida fugitives.
The sound of artillery bombardments and machine-gun fire could be heard throughout the capital from 8 a.m. till 5 p.m. The two sides were little more than a mile apart and at times fought house to house.
Swedish teenager held in Ethiopia says she was detained in U.S.-led operation
STOCKHOLM, Sweden -- A Swedish teenager who was imprisoned for weeks with alleged terror suspects in Ethiopia said in a newspaper interview that Americans in military uniform directed the Kenyan soldiers who took her into custody on the Somali-Kenyan border.
The statements by 17-year-old Safia Benaouda were the first to describe a broader U.S. role in the detentions. Other detainees have said they were taken into custody by Kenyans and transferred to Ethiopia, a U.S. counterterrorism ally.
Benaouda said three men in U.S. uniforms led the Kenyan troops who detained her and other women and children fleeing Somalia on Jan. 18.
"After the American soldiers had detained us they kept in the background, but it was very clear that they were the ones in charge," Benaouda, who was freed from an Ethiopian prison March 27, was quoted as saying in an article published Thursday in the Stockholm daily Svenska Dagbladet.
Benaouda did not answer calls from The Associated Press on Thursday. But her mother, Helena Benaouda, told the AP her daughter believed they were U.S. soldiers because of insignia on their uniforms.
"They were American soldiers," said Helena Benaouda, who heads the Swedish Muslim Council.
Ethiopian officials initially denied any suspects were in custody, but the government later confirmed an AP report that dozens of foreigners were detained as part of an effort to stem terrorism.
U.S. officials, who agreed to discuss the detentions only if not quoted by name because of the sensitivity of the issue, have said Ethiopia had allowed access to U.S. agencies, including the CIA and FBI, but the agencies played no role in arrests, transport or deportation. Ethiopian and Somali officials acknowledge cooperating.
U.S. special operations troops regularly train Kenyan security officers at Kenya's Manda Bay Naval Station near the Somali border, officials from the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa have said. In a statement Thursday, a task force spokesman directed queries about Kenyan border activities to the Kenyan government. Kenyan officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
American, Kenyan and Ethiopian forces have long been allies in a U.S. counterterrorism effort in the region, whose lawlessness security experts fear al-Qaida and other groups could exploit to create a base. The cooperation appears to have been stepped up in the wake of the collapse of an Islamist regime in Somalia, amid fears al-Qaida suspects linked to the group would flee into Kenya.
In January, the U.S. launched an airstrike on Somalia's Ras Kamboni, a region near Kenya the U.S. has long suspected was the site of a training camp used by a Somali Islamic group linked to al-Qaida.
Benaouda said she had traveled to Somalia with her fiance, Munir Awad, a Swedish citizen of Lebanese descent. The couple was separated when they tried to leave the country after the Ethiopian military intervention in December.
Benaouda said she was captured along with a group of women and children as they tried to cross into Kenya. The soldiers shot a woman in the group, she told the paper, but didn't give details.
They were brought to Nairobi and then returned to Somalia, blindfolded and handcuffed, before being transferred to a prison in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, she said. There, she said, she saw her fiance for the first time in weeks.
Awad was among eight terror suspects shown on Ethiopia's state-run television Tuesday as the country came under mounting pressure over the detention program. Awad and the others said they were being treated humanely.
But Benaouda said she saw her fiance and two other Swedish citizens confined in what looked like "poultry cages with metal roofs" in Ethiopia, and that she was beaten by a prison guard with a stick at one point during her detention. In March, the guards started treating her better and on March 23, she said, she met an official from the Swedish Embassy. Four days later, Benaouda, who is pregnant, was put on a plane home.
The Ethiopian Foreign Affairs Ministry said 29 of the 41 suspects have been ordered released by the Ethiopian government, and that five have been freed. The ministry said only 12 foreign detainees would remain in custody after the next round of releases.
Human rights groups say the detentions are illegal; Ethiopia has denied that.
U.S.–Made Mess in Somalia
April 12, 2007
The media often report overseas developments, but don’t always explore their underlying causes, which, in many cases, conveniently lets the U.S. government off the hook. The recent internecine violence in Somalia provides a classic example.
The U.S. media have focused to date almost exclusively on the rising Islamist movement in Somalia and U.S. “covert” assistance to the Ethiopian invasion that supported Somalia’s transitional government against the stronger Islamists. The media should be focusing on one of the major causes of the Somali mess: U.S. government meddling.
After 9/11, the Bush administration feared that the absence of a strong government in the “failed state” of Somalia could turn the small east–African country—slightly smaller than Texas—into a haven for terrorists. The administration ignored the fact that other states with weak governments have not become sanctuaries for terrorists. Even if Somalia had become a terrorist enclave, the terrorists, absent some U.S. provocation, probably would not have attacked the faraway United States.
As a result of the administration’s unfounded fear, the United States began supporting unpopular warlords in the strife-torn nation. That’s when the real trouble began.
The radical Islamists in Somalia never had much following until the Somali people became aware that an outside power was supporting the corrupt and thuggish military chieftains. The popularity of the Islamist movement then surged, allowing the Islamists to take over much of the country. In sum, where no problem with radical Islamists previously existed, the U.S. government helped create one.
In many respects, the Somali episode is a replay of other horribly counterproductive past U.S. interventions. In the 1980s, for example, the U.S. government supported the radical Islamist Mujahadeen—then fighting the non–Muslim Soviet occupiers in Muslim Afghanistan—that metamorphosed into al Qaeda, which is now attacking the United States for its non–Muslim military presence in the Persian Gulf.
History followed a similar pattern in Iraq. The Bush administration justified the U.S. invasion of Iraq in part by al Qaeda’s alleged link to Saddam Hussein—a thug, to be sure, but one who had been wise enough, in reality, to support groups who didn’t focus their attacks on the United States. Now, in Iraq, where there were no anti–U.S. Islamic terrorists before, we have plenty to fight.
Somalia is the third example of the United States creating a potentially anti–U.S. Islamist threat where none previously existed. The U.S.–supported Ethiopian invasion weakened the Somali Islamists, but they are still fighting fiercely for control of Mogadishu, the capital. Like those in Iraq, all the Somali Islamists have to do is hang on until the foreign occupier gets exhausted and leaves. When that happens, the Islamists could very well become the dominant political force in the country, capitalizing on their “patriotic” resistance to the hated Ethiopian occupiers and their U.S. benefactors.
The U.S.–backed Ethiopians, already unpopular, have become even more despised as a result of their alleged indiscriminate shelling of Mogadishu’s civilian areas, which human rights groups are calling a war crime. Unlike the period when the Islamists controlled Mogadishu, the transitional government has been unable to keep order, undermining both its credibility and public support. As a result, many in Somalia see the period of Islamic rule as good days, and now long for its return.
And that’s probably what will happen. Like the resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan, whose recent good fortunes were brought about by continued foreign occupation of that country, we will likely see the Somali Islamists make a comeback.
U.S. experiences in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia should teach foreign policy experts and the American public that U.S. meddling abroad is often counterproductive and dangerous. Yet the U.S. media help the U.S. government disguise these policy failures by failing to expose the underlying causes of violence, enabling the U.S. government to make the same mistakes over and over again.
Eritrea Denies Involvement in Somali Crisis
NAIROBI, April 13 (Xinhua) -- Eritrea on Friday denied accusations by Somalia and the United States that it is supporting insurgents in Somalia in order to fight a proxy war against its archrival, Ethiopia.
Addressing a regional meeting of ministers in Nairobi, Andeab Gebremeskel, the director of Africa, Asia and Pacific in Eritrea's foreign ministry, said his country has no interest in fuelling crisis in Somalia where Ethiopian troops is fighting pitched battles against insurgents in Mogadishu.
"Eritrea does not wish to engage in fruitless discourse of acrimony, but it should be emphasized that Eritrea firmly rejects all groundless accusations peddled against it in the past few months," Gebremeskel told the Council of Ministers from the seven-member regional bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
"I would like to reassure you ... that Eritrea has never seen Somalia as a proxy battlefield to settle scores with Ethiopia. Grave as it may be, the border conflict with Ethiopia is a problem between the two countries that cannot be played out in Somalia," he said.
Eritrea and Ethiopia fought a border war between 1998 and 2000. The two countries have remained hostile ever since.
Gebremeskel was referring to comments U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer made last weekend in Nairobi, hours after returning from a surprise visit to Baidoa. Frazer had said Eritrea remained the country of most concern for the United States because Asmara, along with the al-Qaida terrorist network, is giving support to radicals inside Somalia's Supreme Council of Islamic Courts (SCIC).
Frazer's comments were repeated on Friday by Somali Foreign Minister Ismail Mohamud Hurreh who accused Asmara of working with ousted Islamist elements to destabilize the Horn of African nation.