Bush hits dead-end in Somalia – By Ernest Mpinganjira

July 2nd, 2007 Print Print Email Email

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. (more…)

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.

empinganjira@yahoo.com

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