Abayomi Azikiwe as director of the Pan-African Research & Documentation Center in Detroit
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire File Photos.
Somalia: A Case in Point For Re-colonization
Originally Published in the Winter of 1996
Excerpted From Pambana Journal, Number 17
Article Written by Abayomi Azikiwe,
The Editor of the Pan-African News Wire
There have been efforts made to distinguish the nature and character of the US intervention in Somalia in 1992-93 with the other American military adventures of recent times in Lebanon, Grenada, Central America, Libya, Panama, the Persian Gulf and Haiti. An elaborate media campaign designed to condition the American populace to accept and welcome the military invasion of Somalia on December 9, 1992, was well underway three months prior to the intervention. Under the guise of an United Nations humanitarian mission, the Security Council voted on December 3, 1992 to authorize the use of force ostensibly to open feeding centers for the disbursement of food and relief supplies.
In a letter to the Security Council on November 24, 1992, the Secretary-General of the United Nations at the time, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, provided the United Nations/United States rationale for a Somalian operation:
"In the absence of a government or governing authority capable of maintaining law and order, Somali authorities at all levels of society compete for anything of value in the country. Armed threats and killings often decide the outcome. Looting and banditry are rife.... Unless the problems relating to security and protection of relief are effectively addressed, United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) will not be able to provide the relief assistance urgently in the amounts needed now in Somalia."
In the aftermath of this letter to the Security Council, the elite body of the United Nations General Assembly passed UN Resolution 794, which formally authorized the use of military force in Somalia. Excerpts from this resolution states that:
"Recognizing the unique character of the present situation in Somalia and mindful of its deteriorating, complex and extraordinary nature, requiring an immediate and exceptional response. Determining that the magnitude of human tragedy caused by the conflict in Somalia, further exacerbated by the obstacles being created to the distribution of humanitarian assistance, constitutes a threat to international peace and security...
Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, authorizes the Secretary-General and member states...to use all necessary means to establish as soon as possible a secure environment for humanitarian relief operations in Somalia...
Requests the Secretary-General, as appropriate, the states concerned to report to the Council on a regular basis...so as to enable the Council to make the necessary decision for a prompt transition to continued peace-keeping operations."
Such an American engineered political maneuver utilizing the United Nations Security Council was replayed once again two years after the Persian Gulf War, that was also authorized by the same elite body within this community of nation-states. Yet these statements and resolutions do not speak to the historical legacy of American politico-military involvement in Somalia since the late 1970s. It was the Carter, Reagan and Bush administrations that provided military and political assistance to the military dictatorship of Mohammed Siad Barree after the Soviet Union had broken relations with the regime and began supporting the Ethiopian military government under Mengistu Haile Mariam. It would seem to most honest observers that the United States government has a certain degree of culpability in the events which led to the total collapse of the state and civil society in Somalia.
Also in relation to the question of famine and starvation in the Horn of Africa, this endless cycle of human tragedy has been almost continuous since the 1973-74 period, when over 100,000 people perished in Ethiopia. During this same time, the United States maintained a military base in Ethiopia in alliance with the former monarch, His-Imperial-Majesty, Haile Selassie. Yet no mention of this will be found in any news analyses of the 1992-94 US military involvement in the nation of Somalia. If there could be a monumental societal disaster as occurred in Ethiopia in 1973-74, precipitating a rebellion leading to the collapse of the monarchy beginning in February of 1974, while US military forces maintained an active presence in the country, then it becomes quite obvious that the proclaimed "restoration of hope" for the Somali people through the distribution of food by western-based "humanitarian
relief agencies", could not serve as the actual basis for military intervention.
Certain organizations and special interest groups which purport to oppose the interventionist policies of the United States government in the developing regions of the world, but who believe in the fundamental virtues of the American capitalist system of bourgeois democracy, have exposed their flawed misconceptions on the nature of American military involvement in the so-called Third World. It is the contention of this essay that the US military-industrial-complex would not invest so much political capital in a large intervention in Africa if there were no long term strategic interests for the American government and ruling class.
Those who state that they are in favor of an independent, sovereign and viable Africa and who are naive enough to believe that the US would dispatch 22,000 troops solely for humanitarian reasons in an African nation, cannot provide the necessary leadership and direction to the solidarity movement with Africa in the United States. Unfortunately, it is the subjective weaknesses and contradictions within the contemporary political landscape of Africa that would leave the continent open and ripe for American and other imperialist intervention. Therefore, it must be re-emphasized that the solutions to the problems of the crisis within the post-colonial African states will come from within the societies so effected; not excluding their engagement and interaction with outside forces, but the onus of the solution to Africa's problems will surely spring from the internal dynamics of these societies groping for the acquisition of national reconciliation and political stability.
When the US and UN military occupation of Somalia drew the wrath of the masses of people inside the country who revolted against the blatant misuse of military and police powers as well as the murder of Somalian civilians and political leaders by these occupying forces, the entire world responded with protest and began to question the role of the United Nations in the so-called post cold war era. It was not a question of supporting the Somali National Alliance (SNA) of Mohammad Farrah Aided against other political parties in the country, but it became an issue of the independence and sovereignty of an African people in opposition to the military occupation of the country by imperialist forces.
When the United States and later the United Nations withdrew their military forces from the country of Somalia, the political parties were still unable to reach a consensus for the formation of a government of national unity in Somalia. At least three different major factions proclaimed themselves as the legitimate government of the nation, including the breakaway Republic of Somaliland in the north, which has also experienced its own internal problems, resulting in an attempted coup d'etat in 1994. It has also been reported that the northern Somalian secessionists have no intentions of re-integrating into the larger country, which was declared independent in 1960. Such a position that promotes balkanization cannot be justified in the modern era when the current crises in African political economy requires the consolidation of larger states and the integration of economies on a multi-national basis.
The continuing crisis in Somalia poses one of the most profound challenges to the contemporary Pan-African struggle because it represents the persistent problems of political fragmentation and sectarianism which leads to civil war, famine, social dislocation and imperialist military intervention. In the case of its regional neighbor, Rwanda, between 500,000 and 1,000,000 Africans were slaughtered in one of the worst episodes of genocidal conflict that has occured since the end of the apartheid-backed war in Mozambique. Until Africa develops its own collective security system designed to prevent the total breakdown of civil society and government, the continent will continue to suffer as the most underdeveloped region of the world, despite its wealth in natural resources and population.
Abayomi Azikiwe in his capacity as the director of the Pan-African Research & Documentation Center during the 1990s published this article as a section of the Pambana Monograph Series, Number 17. This issue was released in the Winter of 1996 under the title of "Transitions and Transformation."