Thursday, March 08, 2007

Somalia Update: US Contracts Neo-Colonial Rule Amid Attacks On AU 'Peacekeepers'

U.S. hires contractor to back Somalis

By CHRIS TOMLINSON -- Associated Press Writer

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) The State Department has hired a major military contractor to help equip and provide logistical support to international peacekeepers in Somalia, giving the United States a significant role in the critical mission without assigning combat forces.

DynCorp International, which also has U.S. contracts in Iraq, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq, will be paid $10 million to help the first peacekeeping mission in Somalia in more than 10 years.

It's a potentially dangerous assignment. When the first 1,500 Ugandans peacekeepers arrived in Somalia's capital Tuesday, they were greeted with a mortar attack and a major firefight. And on Wednesday, attackers ambushed the peacekeepers in Mogadishu, setting off another gunfight.

The support for the Ugandans is part of a larger goal to improve African forces across the continent and promote peace and stability in a region that's often lawless and a haven for terrorists, including some tied to al-Qaida. The U.S. has also begun to depend more on African nations for oil and minerals, and wants to expand its influence.

The State Department has committed $14 million for the African Union peacekeeping mission to Somalia and has asked Congress for $40 million more. DynCorp's work force includes many former U.S. troops who frequently work in hostile areas.

The Virginia-based firm had been contracted until April to help with the "moving of supplies and people" engaged in the Somalia mission, including supplying tents, vehicles and generators, said DynCorp spokesman Greg Lagana.

"We have an overall contract for African peacekeeping, this is a specific task order for Somalia," he said. "But we are also present in Liberia and southern Sudan."

The Somalia contract allocates $8 million for equipment and $2 million for transportation, according to a the State Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized as a media spokesman.

DynCorp, whose services range from equipment maintenance to paramilitary security forces to training police, provided logistics for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Somalia from 1992-95. It was not immediately clear if DynCorp employees would work inside Somalia under the new contract, signed three weeks ago.

Other company operations in Africa include a program to disarm and rehabilitate former soldiers in Liberia, while advising the government on the reconstitution of the army. The company also supports peacekeepers in southern Sudan, and is working with the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia to help the African Union create a standby military force to respond to emergencies, according to the company Web site.

DynCorp, with annual revenues of over $2 billion, has held an umbrella State Department contract since 2004 for
"peacekeeping, capacity enhancement and surveillance efforts" in Africa. The contract is valued at between $20 million $100 million, depending on the number of assignments.

The company is on standby to provide services anywhere on the continent to include "support of peacekeeping missions by training specific countries' armed services to enhance their ability to deploy through air and sea, provide logistics supports to mission and work with regional organization to prevent and resolve conflict," according to bid documents.

Dyncorp is not the only U.S. security company working in Africa. Northrop Grumman Corp. has a similar contract, worth up to $75 million, to support the African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance program, which aims to train 40,000 African peacekeepers over five years.

KBR Inc., a subsidiary of Halliburton Co., provides services to at least three bases in Djibouti, Kenya and Ethiopia used by the U.S. Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.

The contracts come at a time when the Pentagon wants to develop closer relationships and provide greater military assistance to Africa.

A small number of U.S. Special Forces troops fought alongside Ethiopian troops in Somalia in December when they drove out a Somali extremist group that the U.S. has linked to al-Qaida, according to a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the mission.

In January, U.S. Special Operations aircraft staged two airstrikes against suspected al-Qaida forces hiding inside Somalia, the official added.

The United States is not the only country seeking to provide private military services in Africa.

In 2005 the Somali government signed a $50 million contract with New York-based TopCat Marine Security to help create a coast guard to protect its coast and shipping from pirates. The State Department blocked TopCat from deploying because of a U.N. arms embargo, Hassan Abshir Farah, Somalia's marine resources minister said.

Farah said his government was now discussing a deal with the Chinese government and Chinese marine security firms.

Posted on 03/07/07 10:44:05

African force ambushed in Somalia

Newly arrived African Union (AU) peacekeepers have come under attack in the Somali capital Mogadishu for the second day running.

Around 400 Ugandans arrived on Tuesday, and the same again the next day. They have not yet gone on patrol but have come under fire at their airport base.

At least three civilians were said to have been wounded in the fire fight that erupted after Wednesday's ambush.

The troops have been sent to back up Somalia's transitional government.

The AU force is taking over from Ethiopian troops who intervened to help the government oust the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), which had held power for six months and restored some order to the anarchic country.

But violence has escalated in the past two months, with dozens of people being killed by insurgents, and now the AU being targeted.

"Convoys of Ugandan troops were ambushed as they were passing the main junction in Mogadishu, and they exchanged heavy gunfire with the insurgents," said Shino Abdukadir, an eyewitness.

He said he saw three civilians wounded in the crossfire.

Call to attack

The AU said the deployment would continue, despite the threat.
Uganda: 1,700
Nigeria: 850
Burundi: 1,700
Ghana: unconfirmed
"The AU has promised to deploy in Somalia and in Mogadishu. The attacks and threats do not set back the deployment," said the AU's Assane Ba.

However a Mogadishu radio station broadcast a call by a UIC commander, Aden Hashi Ayro, for attacks on the peacekeepers.

"It is time for the Somali youth to fight the occupation by Ethiopia and others," he said.

"The Muslims shall not surrender to non-believers," he added.

The BBC's Karen Allen in Uganda says the fear is that, just as happened in Sudan's Darfur region, the AU force might not have the numbers or resources to cope with the threat.

So far, the AU has managed to raise only about half of the 8,000 troops required. Burundi, Nigeria and Ghana are also expected to contribute.

The targeting of Ugandan troops by insurgents in Somalia could give other troop-contributing nations cold feet, derailing the mission, our correspondent adds.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/03/07 22:21:15 GMT

SOMALIA: African Union troops arrive in Mogadishu as exodus continues


NAIROBI, Kenya (IRIN) - The first African Union (AU) peacekeepers arrived on Tuesday in Mogadishu, Somalia's capital, even as more people continue to leave the city for security reasons, local sources said.

"The first four cargo planes carrying the first contingent of Ugandan troops have landed and we are expecting more," Salad Ali Jeele, the deputy Defence Minister of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia, told IRIN on Tuesday.

Jeele, who was at Mogadishu International Airport to meet the troops, said a ceremony would be held to welcome the Ugandans.

"The government and people of Somalia are happy that they have arrived," he said. "I hope the rest of the AU troops will follow soon."

He said the full deployment of AU troops "would be followed by the withdrawal of Ethiopian forces". Ethiopian troops helped the TFG to oust the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) from Mogadishu and much of southern Somalia in late December 2006.

"Today is the deployment of our mission in Somalia," Said Djinnit, AU commissioner for peace and security, told journalists at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa on Tuesday morning. "We are expected to deploy a first contingent of three battalions."

Djinnit said: "Our mission isn't there to fight the Somalis but of course if there are spoilers attacking the mission or people under the protection of the mission, definitely the response of our troops will be to defend themselves and defend the people they are expected to defend."

The AU troops will be deployed for a limited period, said Djinnit. "It could be five, six or seven months, and it would be followed by a larger United Nations operation."

Meanwhile, people continue to leave the city as the fragile security situation deteriorates, with targeted assassinations taking place almost daily.

On Monday, a senior police officer, Muhammad Aden Bo'orey, and a friend, Muhammad Haji Ali, were killed in broad daylight by unknown gunmen, according to Hassan Ade, a local journalist. "Last night [Monday], a group of men attacked the home of a prominent businessman, Haji Muhammad Hareed, and killed him.

"This [the assassinations] is becoming a regular thing and has created a great deal of fear among the population," said Ade.

There is also an increase in the people moving out of the city, said a civil society source. "There are no exact figures but our rough estimate is that since January, between 3,000 and 5,000 families [18,000 to 30,000 people] have left Mogadishu," he said.

He said many were escaping from the daily mortar and artillery exchanges between Ethiopian-backed government forces and unknown gunmen. "We are getting reports of people who have never left Mogadishu in the last 16 years who are leaving."

He attributed this to the uncertainty created by rumours that the government was bringing in more and more troops and that they would forcibly disarm everyone. "The feeling is that the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better and people want to get out of the way."

He said people who fled the city have "gone as far as Hargeisa [in Somaliland]. It is as if they are saying anywhere but Mogadishu."

The Muslim News

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