Smoke rising in Mogadishu after an Ethiopian helicopter was shot down by the Somali resistance on March 30, 2007.
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire File Photos
Bush hits dead-end in Somalia
By Ernest Mpinganjira
Chances are that the United States has run out of options in Somalia after the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Ms Jendayi Fraser conceded last week that Washington’s support for the ouster of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) by Ethiopia might have been a miscalculation.
In an interview with BBC, Fraser conceded that the use of force in Somalia had only aggravated an already atrocious situation.
Asked to comment on the spiralling armed violence, Fraser said: "It is hard to say whether it (Somalia) is better or worse off because I think Ethiopia’s action was an action in the context of other actors’ actions. It is difficult to frankly say so. What is better is that the international community has converged on a set of recommendations for a way ahead."
The statement is perhaps the boldest ever admission by the Bush administration that it had hit a dead-end in its fight against terrorism in East Africa, with Somalia regarded as the gateway for terrorist groups and organisations opposed to Washington’s hegemonic presence in the region. Fraser spoke two days before UN refugee agency, UNHCR, reported on Thursday that more than 3,500 people had fled the capital Mogadishu this month following an escalation in violence in urban areas.
The UNHCR report added that some 123,000 of an estimated 401,000 civilians who fled heavy fighting in Mogadishu between February and May had returned to the capital to find their shelters either shelled by insurgents or demolished by the government.
Reconciliation talks failed
The UNHCR update on the worsening humanitarian situation in Somalia, although familiar, came just two weeks after US-sponsored political reconciliation talks failed to kick off on Somali soil as the insurgents intensified their onslaught on the transitional government.
Against this backdrop of utter gloom and despair, Fraser, who was in East Africa when the Ethiopia-backed transitional federal government forces drove ICU out of Mogadishu in February, conceded that the invasion had inadvertently subverted peace-building process in the war-weary Horn of Africa nation.
The US top diplomat on African affairs’ remarks were prompted by the collapse of all-inclusive reconciliation talks in Mogadishu after Hawiye clan militia leaders declined to take part in the conference.
The Hawiye elders have refused to recognise President Abdullahi Yusuf, who hails from the Darood clan. The latest developments confirmed, not for the first time, that Washington has been a serial blunderer in the war against international terrorism.
Having hit another dead-end in Somalia, any action by the West would leave East Africa in the eye of a storm that is gathering pace in Iraq and the wider Middle East.
The imbroglio in the nation ravaged by 16 years ethnic-cum-political turmoil leaves East Africa on the precipice of a major humanitarian and political crisis as the nest for international terrorists expands along the Somali, Kenyan and Tanzanian coastlines, believed to be safe havens for international criminals. The Ethiopian invasion last December, necessary as it was at that time, looks to have outlived its importance.
Observers noted that delayed deployment of international peacekeepers — blamed on the US and European Union’s failure to honour their pledges to underwrite African Union force mission of 8,000 troops in Somalia — had worsened the situation. Only 1,700 Ugandan troops are in Mogadishu and are overwhelmed.
Amid the chaos, the US said Mogadishu can still find peace based on UN and International Contact Group on Somalia recommendations. Fraser said the recommendations include "emphasis on political dialogue and national reconciliation, working together to try to end an insurgency and extremist terrorist attacks that are taking place in Mogadishu today and continued support of the people of Somalia through humanitarian assistance." Through the International Contact Group on Somalia, she said, "I think we have a constructive path forward, but a difficult one because there are those committed spoilers who are trying to undermine any form of new governance, that is, the transitional federal government from taking hold in Somalia." Fraser added, "Somalia has been in prolonged conflict and a stateless country for more than 16 years. There have been warlords and various factions in Mogadishu throughout this period.
It is a mistake to equate Somalia with Iraq. Somalia has its own internal dynamics; its own history." In spite of growing evidence of recourse to suicide bombings, Washington remotely hopes Somalia will not slide into Iraqlike mayhem. Evidence on the ground shows, however, that Somalia is no different from Iraq. "It (Somalia) has the history of a failed state in Africa – the uniquely only failed state, quite frankly, in Africa. It is enough to say that there has been an escalation of violence and in particular terrorist-type violence. That comes from the support these remnants of ICU, particularly the al-Shabbah militia, are receiving and their training on explosive devices, which we haven’t seen in Somalia before." The latest exodus of displaced people was triggered by an The latest developments in Somalia confirmed, not for the first time, that Washington has been a serial blunderer in the war against international terrorism, writes Ernest Mpinganjira escalation in suicide bombs by groups believed to be sympathisers of Islamic militants ousted from power early in the year. Transitional Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Gedi survived a suicide bomb attack mid last month in which seven other people died.
Fraser denied that the US had lost the bid to save Somalia. She said: "The US is committed to continuing to assist the Somali people to find political reconciliation and power-sharing a formula that might help them. The Nairobi process took quite a long time and it is the result of it that we have a charter that establishes a way forward for the people of Somalia."
"We are committed to giving and helping them realise the vision for 2009, which is an elected government. It seems remote at this time but all we can do is work towards it," she said in defence of the accusations of procrastination in providing financial support for AU peacekeepers for Somalia.
BY CLAUDE SALHANI
30 June 2007
EGYPTIAN President Hosni Mubarak hosted an all important summit at the Red Sea resort of Sharma el-Sheikh last week to try and find a solution to the dangerous impasse that Gaza now finds itself in after Hamas routed out supporters of Fatah.
President Mubarak's guests included the two principle stakeholders in the conflict, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel. King Abdullah of Jordan also attended.
While the summit was described as cordial, and with "a good atmosphere," it lacked however one very important actor — actually, more than an actor, more along the lines of a director — someone who has the power to convince, coerce, sweet talk, threaten, encourage or perhaps do all of these at the same time if and when the need arises.
For Abu Mazen, as Abbas is also known, this was probably the most important summit of his career as president of the PA. Having broken off all negotiations with Hamas, the Palestinian leader was laying his political career on the line. Going back to Ramallah without gaining some concession from Israel would have been tantamount to political suicide.
In light of what had just transpired in Gaza Abbas was walking on very thin ice. He needed to return with something to show back in Ramallah. And he could have used all the help he could get. Certainly, Egypt and Jordan were on his side, lobbying Israel on his behalf. However their power of persuasion with Israel is nowhere near that of the United States Out of some 11,000 prisoners, Israel said it would look into releasing 250. And that is why Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice absense was so noticeable.
So where in the world was Condoleezza Rice while one of the most important mini Arab summit was underway? Rice was in Paris, though she probably would have rather been in the heat of the Sinai than the heat she faced in Paris.
Secretary Rice found herself under fire for her track record as chief diplomat of the United States. And she also took fire for President George W Bush's policies.
Looking obviously irritated by the assaults from journalists during a Press conference she held with the new French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, Rice said the United States had "determined enemies who try and strangle" attempts to install democracy in the Middle East. She said that this did not in the least surprise her and she singled out Syria and Iran as two countries where Washington and countries allied to the United States faced difficulties from.
Defending the US military intervention in Iraq — a far higher controversial issue in the rest of the world than it is in the United States — Rice said: "It would be wrong to say that with the overthrow of [late Iraqi president] Saddam Hussein, one of the most brutal murderers of the 20th century, the Iraqi people have gained nothing."
On the Palestinian issue Secretary Rice said, "it would be wrong to say that in the Palestinian territories, despite the difficulties there, the rise of a man who believes in a proper road to peace in which the Palestinians and the Israelis can live side by side, in peace and security, means nothing to the Palestinian people," she went on to say, referring to President Mahmoud Abbas, who has now won the support of the West.
But her words of support would have had far greater impact had they been spoken in Sharm El-Sheikh rather than at a Paris Press conference.
Rice rejected the argument that the Middle East had been more stable before the US invasion of Iraq.
"People say, well, the Middle East was stable. What stability? The stability in which Saddam Hussein put 300,000 people in mass graves? That was stability? The stability in which the Syrian forces were embedded in Lebanon? That was stability? The stability in which Yasser Arafat turned down an opportunity for the Palestinians to have their own state? That was stability?" she asked, in reference to the 2000 Camp David peace talks that former president Bill Clinton tried to get going just days before the end of his presidency.
She went on:
"The stability that produced Al-Qaeda to, on one September day, cause 3,000 deaths? The stability in which we never spoke about democracy in the Middle East, allowing unhealthy extremist forces to be the only politically organised forces in the Middle East?"
Rice defended US policies in the Middle East, saying that spreading the ideals of democracy was still the best defense against extremism. Perhaps had she stood next to the Palestinian president her words would have had greater impact.
Claude Salhani is International Editor and a political analyst with United Press International in Washington, DC. Comments may be sent to Claude@upi.com