Tuesday, July 27, 2010

African Union Summit Burdened With U.S. Imperialism's Role in Somalia

African Union Summit Burdened With U.S. Imperialism’s Role in Somalia

Issues involving gender, economic development and healthcare require
greater attention

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

This year’s African Union Summit that was held in the East African
state of Uganda came under tremendous pressure from the United States supported government of President Yoweri Museveni. The head-of-state sought to turn the entire continent’s attention toward implementing Washington’s foreign policy objectives in Somalia.

The Ugandan capital of Kampala was hit by a series of explosions on
July 11 that killed 76 people. The Somali resistance organization
al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the attacks saying that the
operation was carried out in response to the killings of civilians by
the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) peacekeeping forces who are largely composed of troops from Uganda and Burundi.

Even though the theme of the AU Summit was designed to focus on
maternal and child health, Museveni in his opening address to the
gathering said that the primary concern now for African states is to
fight against al-Shabab and other Islamic resistance movements on the
Continent. “Let us work in concert to sweep them out of Africa,”
Museveni said on July 25. (Christian Science Monitor, July 26)

In a separate statement issued prior to the beginning of the AU
Summit, Museveni said in reference to al-Shabab in Somalia that “These reactionary groups have now committed aggression against our country. We shall now go after them.” (Christian Science Monitor, July 26)

Museveni has pledged that Uganda will deploy another 2,000 troops to
Somalia in an attempt to prop-up the weak Transitional Federal
Government (TFG) which is funded and politically supported by the
United States. Also the West African state of Guinea announced that it
will send an 850-member battalion of troops to Somalia as well.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder attended the AU Summit as an envoy of the Obama administration. He told the African leaders that the
administration would maintain the existing support for the AMISOM
forces in Somalia.

Since 2007, under both the Bush and Obama administrations, the United States has supplied over $176 million to AMISOM and there are plans in the works to provide additional “enhanced pre-deployment training” to both Ugandan and Burundian troops operating inside Somalia. The European Union officials attending the Summit said the current allotment of $750 monthly salaries paid to the AMISOM soldiers by them will be maintained and that if there was an increase in troops to Somalia that funds could be found to cover the cost.

Meanwhile in the capital of Somalia, Mogadishu, it was reported that 8
people were killed over the weekend of July 23-25. The Islamic
resistance movement controls most of Mogadishu and has placed the TFG in a very precarious situation.

As a stark illustration of the crisis facing the U.S.-backed TFG,
several members of President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed’s personal
guards defected to al-Shabab just days prior to the opening of the AU
Summit. The Somalia leader met with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State
for African Affairs Johnnie Carson on the sidelines of the gathering
in Kampala on July 26.

Despite calls from Museveni, the Obama administration and the EU to
focus more attention on the situation in Somalia, the Horn of Africa
nation of Eritrea has warned against the escalation of the conflict in
Somalia through the deployment of additional troops. Eritrean Foreign
Minister Osman Saleh emphasized during pre-summit meetings that there needed to be dialogue between the conflicting parties in Somalia
rather than reliance on military measures.

“We believe that military involvement cannot bring a peaceful
solution,” Saleh said. “Priority should be given to a political
solution” that would require talks involving al-Shabab, Hizbul Islam,
the TFG, Puntland and Somaliland.

Saleh also rejected allegations made by the United States Government
that Eritrean was supporting al-Shabab. On July 20 U.S. Congressman Ed Royce sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggesting that Eritrea be placed on the list of states designated as “terrorists.”

The Foreign Minister dismissed the claim by Royce saying that “This is
an allegation that doesn’t have any evidence. We haven’t supported the al-Shabab.”

Even though the United States has created the Africa Command (AFRICOM) and increased military intervention in Africa, the AU Commission Chair Jean Ping conveyed in a speech to the Summit that the security situation on the Continent was still fragile.

“2010 has been declared the ‘Year of Peace and Security in Africa’. On
the ground, we cannot but admit the persistence of certain conflicts,
the eruption of crisis linked to elections and the resurgence of the
scourge of coup d’etat,” Jean Ping said during his opening speech at
the AU Summit.

Gender and Healthcare Need Greater Attention

The focus of the AU Summit was initially designed to address the
pressing needs for increased attention to the role of women within
society and the general public health within member-states. The
overall theme of the gathering was dedicated to “Maternal, Infant and
Child Health and Development in Africa” which reflects the commitments made at the AU Summit held in Maputo, Mozambique in 2006.

Nonetheless, women’s organizations attending the pre-summit meetings in Kampala expressed concern over the slow pace of change related to gender issues and healthcare needs. According to Bineta Diop, the Executive Director and founder of Femmes Africa Solidarite (FAS), a women’s rights organization concerned with the impact of war and human rights violations, “When you look at reality on the ground, a lot still needs to be done.” (VOA News, July 24)

Diop continued stressing that “we are appreciative that they (AU
Summit) are sitting down and saying ‘let’s review and see what didn’t
work. I think that takes political will.”

She urged the Summit participants to take women’s concerns more
seriously “even in issues of peace and security and terrorism, it is
women who bear the brunt and pick up the pieces.” Diop emphasized that women make up half of the Continent’s population and should be fully engaged in developing solutions to national problems.

In October the African Union will launch the “Decade of Women.”
Through the “Decade of Women” (2010-2020) numerous projects will be initiated on the Continent designed to raise the standard of living
and quality of live for women and to further empower them within

In addition, there was a call made for African states to increase
funding to continue the battle against HIV-AIDS. Michel Kazatchkine,
the Executive Director of the Global Fund, said on the sidelines of
the AU Summit that “We expect at least a two-paragraph declaration
calling for the replenishment of funds for the Global Fund to fight
HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis.” (Afriquejet.com, July 26)

Michel Sidibe, who heads the Joint United Nations Programme for
HIV/AIDS expressed concern about a decrease in funding resulting from the impact of the economic crisis in the industrialized countries.

“It is the first time we are experiencing the decline in HIV/AIDS. The
gap is huge, from US$26 billion to US$16 billion mobilized this year.
We need an extra US$10 billion every year to finance the care,” Sidibe
told journalists. (Afriquejet.com, July 26)

Singling out the United States, Jeffrey Sachs, who is a senior adviser
to the United Nations Director on the Millennium Development Goals
(MDGs), said “It strikes me hard to understand that they cannot
increase their funding to HIV/AIDS through the Global Fund when
bankers walk away with US$30 billion bonuses untaxed.”
(Afriquejet.com, July 26)

Sachs continued by making the point that “It is even harder when they
spend US$100 billion to fund the war in Afghanistan, when they say
they find no money for HIV/AIDS funding.”

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