Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Pages From History: The American Invasion and Occupation of Somalia (1992-94): A Case in Point for Re-colonization

PANW Editor's Note: The following article was published in the aftermath of the United States and United Nations military occupation of Somalia between 1992-1994. This effort was a monumental disaster for the people of Somalia and ultimately led to the defeat of US imperialism in the region with severe clashes during 1993 resulting in the deaths of American and United Nations forces. Since the withdrawal of UN/US forces from Somalia in 1994, the American ruling class has wanted to exact revenge against the Somali people. The current Ethiopian invasion of Somalia is being carried out at the aegis of the Bush administration utilizing the pro-western government in Addis Ababa. This effort too will eventually fail with the Somali people rising up in resistance against this act of western imperialist hegemony.

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 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 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."

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Pan-African News Wire said...

Pressure mounts on Ethiopia to withdraw troops from Somalia

ABC News Online
Thursday, December 28, 2006 10:40am (AEDT)

Pressure mounts on Ethiopia to withdraw troops from Somalia
The Arab League and the African Union have called for Ethiopian troops to be withdrawn from Somalia immediately.

Ethiopian troops are said to be only 30 kilometres north of the capital Mogadishu.

Speaking after a joint consultative meeting the chair of the African Union commission, Alpha Oumar Konare, said the three organisations wanted to see Ethiopia's troops withdrawn from neighbouring Somalia immediately.

Mr Konare told journalists at the African Union headquarters that they wanted all parties to cease hostilities and return to peace talks.

The Somali Ambassador to Ethiopia, Abdikarin Farah, said it was down to the governments in Baidoa and Addis Ababa to decide when the troops would leave.

Somali pro-government forces "will besiege capital"

By Guled Mohamed

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - A joint force of Ethiopian and Somali government troops advanced to just 30 km (18 miles) from Islamist-held Mogadishu on Wednesday, but a representative said they would besiege the Somali capital rather than attack it.

"We are not going to fight for Mogadishu, to avoid civilian casualties. Our troops will surround Mogadishu until they (the Islamists) surrender," Somali Ambassador Abdikarin Farah told reporters in Addis Ababa.

The Islamists urged residents of the increasingly tense city to work with them to ensure security.

"As we know, a lot of blood was shed in returning peace in the capital. We should not allow anyone to disturb peace," Sheikh Sharif Ahmed told a news conference.

Earlier, pro-government forces seized the key southern town of Jowhar before taking Balad, which lies only a short distance north of Mogadishu.

Many residents left their houses to cheer the victors, backed by Ethiopian tanks, who pursued the retreating Islamists as sporadic gunfire echoed in the air.

The rapid offensive came hours after Ethiopia, defending the Somali interim government, said it was halfway to crushing the Islamists, heightening fears its next step would be to use air strikes and ground troops to seize the capital.

In a hastily convened session, the African Union (AU) demanded all foreign players, including Ethiopia, immediately withdraw their forces from Somalia.

"We appeal for urgent support for the transitional government and the withdrawal of all troops and foreign elements," AU chairman Alpha Omar Konare said in a statement.

An AU-led mission would visit Somalia soon, he said.


A week of mortar duels between Islamists and the Ethiopian-backed secular government has spiralled into open war that threatens to engulf the Horn of Africa, possibly attracting foreign jihadists.

Ethiopia's Information Minister Berhan Hailu said Addis Ababa began the offensive at the request of the interim Somali government -- and was also ensuring its own security.

"Ethiopian troops are fighting to protect our sovereignty from international terrorist groups and anti-Ethiopian elements," he told Reuters. "Ethiopia has said time and again its forces will withdraw as soon as they end their mission."

Ethiopia accuses neighbour Eritrea of supporting the Islamists, and says it has taken foreign prisoners of war.

Ethiopia has proved more than a match for the Islamist fighters, who are driven by religious fervour but lack the MiG fighter jets and long experience of one of Africa's most effective armies.

Even so, any Ethiopian-led offensive on Mogadishu, a city of 2 million people that was seized by the Islamists in June, would be likely to be messy.

The retreating Islamists appeared to be heeding a call by their senior leader, Sheikh Sharif, for forces to gather in Mogadishu to prepare for a long war against Ethiopia.

Analysts say a tactical retreat by the Islamists may draw Ethiopian soldiers further into Somalia and trigger a lengthy guerrilla campaign on the Islamists' home turf.

The Somalia Islamic Courts Council (SICC) has depicted the conflict with Christian-led Ethiopia as a holy war against "crusaders", tapping into popular anti-Ethiopian sentiment after decades of rivalry between the two neighbours.


Ethiopia has portrayed it as a war against al Qaeda-linked terrorists, winning tacit support from Washington, which believes Islamic militants are hiding in Somalia.

Washington on Wednesday repeated its signal of support, with Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the White House National Security Council, saying: "Ethiopia has genuine security concerns with regard to developments within Somalia."

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi says his forces have killed up to 1,000 Islamist fighters, but there is no independent verification. The Islamists say they have killed hundreds.

Although the government risks prolonging the war by besieging Mogadishu, the alternative is less attractive.

More than a decade ago, U.S. forces backed by Black Hawk helicopters suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of militiamen attacking from the city's maze of back alleys.

Mindful of the historical precedent, Ethiopia will want to avoid getting embroiled in street-by-street fighting.

More than 800 people have been wounded and thousands are fleeing the combat zone, according to the Red Cross.

The United Nations has warned that the displacement could trigger an aid crisis in a region already struggling with the aftermath of severe flooding.

(Additional reporting by Sahal Abdulle in Mogadishu, Ibrahim Mohamed in Jowhar, Tsegaye Tadesse in Addis Ababa and Katie Nguyen and Nicolo Gnecchi in Nairobi)

Somalia: UN food aid agency suspends air delivery as fighting intensifies

27 December 2006 – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has suspended much of its delivery of aid by air in Somalia due to increased fighting, including its first airdrops in eight years, and withdrawn its last international staff from a country where it has been struggling to feed up to half a million people hit by floods.

The intensified conflict between the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) is also disrupting the dispatch of WFP food by road within Somalia, delaying distribution, and the agency today urged all parties to allow humanitarian workers and aid to move freely and safely to help the most vulnerable.

“WFP hopes to resume all its air operations using airdrops and helicopters and its humanitarian passenger and cargo services in Somalia as soon as possible and is in contact with authorities on the ground in an attempt to achieve this,” it added.

The airdrops on Sunday and Monday by an Antonov-12, flying out of Mombasa in neighbouring Kenya, were the first by WFP in Somalia since 1998 when floods submerged much of the region, and had delivered 28 metric tons before the agency suspended them yesterday due to a TFG ban on using Somali air space.

It also temporarily relocated two MI-8 helicopters and 25 humanitarian workers, including its last eight international staffers, from the Somalia port of Kismayo to Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, at the request of Kismayo authorities because of expected unrest.

There are still more than 100 national staff operating from 15 offices across the country, working to distribute food. “The quantity of food affected by the suspension of airdrops and helicopter operations is small in tonnage terms in comparison to the total amount of food delivered in Somalia by WFP, but it is very significant for those people we are trying to reach because they were cut off from access by land,” the agency said.

WFP also suspended its passenger and cargo flights from Kenya into Somalia but hopes to resume them from Nairobi to northern Somalia and within northern Somalia tomorrow.

Since the beginning of November 8,000 tons of WFP food, transported by water, land and air have been distributed to 383,000 people in flood-affected areas of south and central Somalia, which earlier this year was hit by the worst drought in 10 years.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan yesterday telephoned Ethiopian Prime Minster Meles Zenawi, whose forces are helping the TFG, to try and halt the violence. Mr. Annan’s Special Representative for Somalia, François Lonsény Fall urged the Security Council to call on all sides to immediately stop fighting, warning of possible regional consequences if the conflict escalates. The Council has scheduled consultations on the matter today.

Today, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour expressed deep concern for civilian victims. In response to reports of aerial bombardments by Ethiopian forces, she insisted that the laws of war must be respected at all times, granting safe passage to civilians fleeing the conflict and access for humanitarian organizations.

“It is unacceptable that the people of Somalia are again facing an upsurge in violence, displacement and human rights violations,” she said.