Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Somalia Faces Worsening Humanitarian Crisis Due to War Financed by the U.S.

Somalia Facing Worsening Humanitarian Crisis Due to War Financed by the U.S.

1.5 million displaced while half of the population is in need of assistance

by Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

Since 2007 the east African nation of Somalia has been severely affected as a result of U.S. foreign policy in the region. The U.S.-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) has utilized the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) troops stationed in the capital of Mogadishu, to hold on to power amid the continuing attacks by two organizations, al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam who are seeking to seize power in this Horn of Africa nation.

Recent reports issued by the aid organization Oxfam and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees indicate that as a result of the fighting and the drought that has struck Somalia and the entire East Africa region, growing numbers of people, mainly women and children, are direct need of shelter, food, water and medicines.

With specific reference to Somalia, it is estimated that at least 1.5 million people have been displaced inside the country as well as hundreds of thousands who fled to neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia. The AMISOM forces, numbered at approximately 5,000, only control areas in the capital of Mogadishu. The AMISOM troops are from Uganda and Burundi. Other African states have largely refused to dispatch their soldiers to defend the U.S.-backed TFG. In a recent budget proposal, the Obama administration had pledged $67 million to support the TFG and AMISOM troops in Somalia.

Drought Impacts the Somali Economy

With the lack of rain and the failure of crops, the livestock of the population has been loss in large numbers. Livestock production is the mainstay of the economic life of many people within the central and southern regions of the country.

The Interior Minister of the U.S.-backed TFG, Sheikh Abdulkadir Ali Omar, recently explained to the United Nations Inter-regional Information Network that "I have been in touch with people throughout the regions and the reports we are getting is that the drought is widespread and the situation of the people is very grave, with water shortages the biggest problem for both animals and people," Omar said on 3 September.

“Livestock are dying in their thousands, with families losing everything. On the outskirts of most small towns from Gedo [southwest] to Galkayo [northeast], you will now find nomadic families in flimsy shelters looking for help," the Interior Minister stated. (IRIN, September 7)

Omar told IRIN that the situation was beyond the ability of the TFG to resolve. He said that the government was appealing to the international community for assistance.
“This is bigger than anything we have seen in a long time. I hope our partners will do their utmost to mitigate the suffering of the people.”

In a self-declared state of Galmudug in central Somalia, President Ahmed Ali Hilowle, told IRIN by telephone from Gakkayo that "Even camels are dying. It is a disaster.

Hilowle went to say that "We had two years of dismal rains and the people are on the verge of dying.” This area of Somalia must have barkads (water catchments) for water “and almost all are dry. We are now trucking water sometimes over 100km,” he said that one water tanker, with 200 drums, costs US$200. “Few, if any, can afford that.”

Control of Resources and Waterways at Root of Conflict

The U.S. and other western countries are in and around Somalia in order to both control the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean as well as claim concessions for oil exploration and exploitation. A recent controversy has been generated over a 15-page "Memorandum of Understanding" supposedly written by the United Nations Secretary-General's special representative to Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, which would give drilling rights for oil off the continental shelf of Somalia, extending the rights for 200 miles, to the U.S.-backed government in Kenya.

Gerald Lemelle, executive director of Africa Action in Washington, D.C., spoke to the desire of western countries to maintain their control over resources despite the demise of direct colonialism. "Nations such as Norway had to figure out a way to maintain control over African resources, so they use Security Council resolutions, and African proxies such as Kenya (reportedly Norway paid $200m to Kenya for the MOA),” he said. “At the heart of Western intervention in Somalia, which has been a geo-political football, is the battle for its oil,” Mr. Lemelle said. (Final Call, September 8)

Human rights activists Sadia Aden and Prof. Abdi Ismail Samitar, a Somali advocate at the University of Minnesota, have stated that western states are engaged in the country in order to control its resources. Aden told the Final Call that the navies that patrol the waters off Somalia ostensibly to fight piracy, are only there to exploit the country's oil and natural gas reserves.

“Somalis know that these navies did not come to hunt and prosecute pirates but to divide the Somali seas, and to protect their interests as they hope to divide up our resources—not just in the ocean, but also on land,” Ms. Aden added.

In a Los Angeles Times article published in January 1993, during the U.S. military occupation of Somalia, the potential oil reserves in Somalia were said to be at the root cause of the presence of the troops. "That land, in the opinion of geologists and industry sources, could yield significant amounts of oil and natural gas if the U.S.-led military mission can restore peace to the impoverished East African nation.

"According to documents obtained by The Times, nearly two-thirds of Somalia was allocated to the American oil giants Conoco, Amoco, Chevron and Phillips in the final years before Somalia's pro-U.S. President Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown and the nation plunged into chaos in January, 1991. Industry sources said the companies holding the rights to the most promising concessions are hoping that the Bush Administration's decision to send U.S. troops to safeguard aid shipments to Somalia will also help protect their multimillion-dollar investments there." (Los Angeles Times, January 18, 1993)

If it was true in 1993, it is even more true in 2009. U.S. imperialism and its allies are scrambling for resources in order maintain its dominant economic and political status in the world. This interests in the resources of Somalia and the Horn of Africa however has not translated into any effective assistance program in dealing with the grave humanitarian crisis caused by the fighting and the drought.

Somalis must unite and fight for the genuine independence and sovereignty of their country. People inside the U.S. must not be tricked into believing that the Pentagon and State Department's involvment in Somalia is designed to fight terrorism and bring stability to the country and region.

Anti-imperialists and anti-war forces must support the Somali people in their struggle for genuine liberation and economic development.

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