Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, is a frequent guest commentator on various media outlets throughout the world. Azikiwe is also a broadcast journalist and hosts the Pan-African Journal blogtalk radio program., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Imperialist War Escalates in Somalia
More US drone attacks and French air support worsens humanitarian crisis
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
United States and French military involvement in Africa is taking a deadly toll in the country of Somalia where despite Washington’s denials the people of this nation are suffering under the impact of yet another imperialist-driven war. Kenyan army units crossed over into southern Somalia in October in what was called “Operation Linda Nchi” aimed at eliminating the bases of the Al-Shabaab Islamic resistance movement that controls large sections of this Horn of Africa nation.
The conflict has the distinctive mark of the ongoing campaigns of the Pentagon and NATO to secure large sections of Africa that have strategic value to the world capitalist system which is directed from the US and Western Europe. The White House has labeled Al-Shabaab a “terrorist organization” that is affiliated with Al-Qaeda and two administrations have armed and financed the so-called African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) which has 9,000 troops in Mogadishu to protect a Washington-backed regime.
Reports of daily drone attacks in Somalia have resulted in hundreds of deaths of civilians in the last few weeks. On November 11 a French military helicopter crashed near the southern port city of Kismayo resulting in the deaths of nine people.
The crash of the French helicopter in southern Somalia follows a similar pattern where airstrikes were carried out by naval vessels dispatched in the region by Paris during the first days of the Kenyan land invasion. The military chopper went down while patrolling areas between the town of Kuda and the port city of Kismayo in order to provide cover for Kenyan military units that are attacking Al-Shabaab bases in the vicinity.
French military spokesman Colonel Thierry Burkhard confirmed recently that Paris was flying in airborne equipment to reinforce Kenyan soldiers. France in recent months has been involved in the overthrow of the government in Ivory Coast, the regime-change operation against the Libyan government as well as the recent supplying of assistance to ostensibly curb “piracy” in the Gulf of Guinea off the coast of West Africa.
US Drones Massacre Somali Civilians Amid Increasing Tensions
According to reports from Press TV on November 11, “Seventy-nine more people have been killed in US assassination drone attacks in southern Somalia, bringing the death to 146 over the past two days. The US military launched terror drone attacks on Bilis Qooqaani town, which is located 278 miles southwest of the Somali capital Mogadishu.” (Press TV, November 11)
These increased airstrikes in Somalia are related to the deployment of personnel and weapons in the Horn of Africa, North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. There are at least five other countries where drones are being launched in these respective regions.
US Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby said recently that “The US has unarmed and unmanned aircraft at a facility there (Ethiopia) to be used only for surveillance as part of a broad, sustained integrated campaign to counter terrorism.” This statement came after the Washington Post had also reported that the Pentagon flies drones from an airfield located in the southern Ethiopian city of Arba Minch. (Press TV, November 11)
Despite the massacres carried out by Washington in Somalia, the Al-Shabaab fighters have continued to launch operations against the Kenyan military forces. On November 11, the Islamic resistance movement said that it had killed 30 Kenyan troops in an ambush of a military convoy.
The attacks on the Kenyan units began during the evening of November 10 when Al-Shabaab fired upon these soldiers in Tabda and Bilis Qooqaani. Al-Shabaab also announced that their fighters had destroyed six Kenyan military trucks in the course of the battles.
In addition to US and French military intervention in Somalia, it was revealed that the State of Israel has pledged support to the war against Al-Shabaab. A November 14 Press TV report noted that “Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga has requested Tel Aviv’s assistance in carrying out intensified offensives inside neighboring Somalia. “ (Press TV)
Fighting has also taken place in the Gedo region of southern Somalia where clashes on November 12 by the Kenyan Defense Forces along with the military units of the Transitional Federal Government--the US-backed regime based in the capital--fought an Al-Shabaab battalion resulting in nine deaths among the resistance movement’s forces. Other Al-Shabaab fighters were reported killed after they hit a land mine in the Bula Burde district in Hiran.
This further militarization of the south of Somalia is coinciding with the spread of cholera in the areas of Jilib Town and Hoomboy where 81 people have died from the waterborne disease. Somalian physicians reported that within a 24-hour period on November 12-13, 670 children entered medical centers in Mareerey northeast of Jilib.
These areas have been severely impacted by flooding as well where doctors are confirming that river waters have rushed into more districts near Jilib destroying hundreds of homes. This factor is attributing to the increased cases of Malaria in south Somalia in the aftermath of the Juba and Shabelle rivers overflowing into many districts as well.
Inside the capital of Mogadishu the AMISOM forces composed of 9,000 troops from the US-backed regimes of Uganda and Burundi are working to prop-up the TFG government and their military and police forces. On November 12, a grenade hit patrolling pro-TFG soldiers in the Dharkenley district of Mogadishu killing at least six of them.
Also in the North Mogadishu district of Huriwa, Al-Shabaab was reported to have killed 20 soldiers from the TFG units in an exchange of mortar fire with the resistance movement. In other fighting in the Dayniile district at least 14 civilians died after the shelling of a residential area from an unknown source.
Regional Implications of Imperialist Military Intervention
As the war escalates in Somalia, the AMISOM forces are quickly running short of funding to wage the US-backed war for the control of the Horn of Africa. The Associated Press said in a November 12 article that AMISOM “Senior commanders say the lack of cash is hampering recent advances against the Islamists, discouraging countries from sending troops and may have cost lives.” (AP, November 12)
AMISOM had a budget of $472 million during 2010, however, most of the funds have been utilized to pay wages to the soldiers and to transport them for operational missions. Although the funds are supposed to be allocated to AMISOM through the United Nations, no money has been paid since March.
Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda, the spokesman for the AMISOM forces, says that “Sometimes the coffers are dry and other times bureaucracy delays the process. We’ve been having 2,000 Ugandan troops ready to deploy but there is no equipment for them.” (AP, November 12)
Akunda also noted that “Several other countries would have deployed forces if the international community gave assurances on sufficient logistical and equipment support as well as reimbursement.” Uganda has refrained from sending four military helicopters to Somalia because they claim there is no cash to maintain them.
Meanwhile in neighboring Ethiopia a regional meeting of the AMISOM countries that have forces deployed in Somalia as well as other interested states, convened a meeting on November 14. Spokeswoman Lulit Kebede said that defense ministers from Uganda and Burundi, which have soldiers stationed in Somalia, along with representatives from Djibouti, Kenya and Ethiopia attended the meeting.
A statement issued from Addis Ababa related to the gathering said that “The meeting should address the matters relating to the political, security and military operations in Somalia and to AMISOM… and the way forward on the situation in Somalia.” (Middle East Online, November 14)