Posts Tagged ‘Horn von Afrika’

Libyen: Die Hetzjagd geht weiter

Mittwoch, Juni 20th, 2012

Libya: Hounding of migrants continues – Preliminary findings of an investigation mission

Last Update 20 June 2012

An investigation led by FIDH, Migreurop and JWBM in Libya (7-15 June 2012) paints an alarming picture of the treatment inflicted on the migrant population, in the confusion that currently reigns in the country.


With rich oil reserves and a small population, Gaddafi’s Libya relied heavily on migrant labour to serve the economy. During the conflict hundreds of thousands of migrants fled to Tunisia, Egypt and neighbouring countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, fearing for their lives. More than six months since the conflict’s end, migrants and refugees in Libya continue to be victims of grave violations of their human rights.

The situation in the country has not yet stabilised and there is no central power capable of governing of the whole territory. So armed militia groups and individuals have taken it upon themselves to decide on the treatment of migrants, outside of any legal framework. Throughout the country, armed militias control, arrest and detain migrants in improvised retention/ detention camps. Invoking security concerns to justify the “clean-up of illegals”, they hunt migrants down, with Sub-Saharan Africans as their prime targets.

The mission delegation visited 5 camps in Tripoli, Gharyan (in the Nafousa mountain area) and Benghazi. The investigation found that migrants are commonly captured as they pass through checkpoints or arrested in their homes. Those considered to be “illegal” are transported to camps run by militia brigades (Katiba), beyond all control of government authorities. Living conditions are deplorable. The mission heard numerous accounts of degrading treatment, physical violence and humiliation. Women, young children, unaccompanied minors and persons in need of medical treatment are among those detained. Migrants and refugees live in fear without any prospect of legal redress and no access to national or international bodies. Some are deported and returned to their countries of origin on charter flights organised by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM); some are offered work by camp directors with employers outside the camps and find themselves in conditions of forced labour; some are able to buy their way out by paying camp guards; while others are simply set free when camps become too crowded.

Burashada Camp in Gharyan (June 2012)

Migrants leaving the camp to work for a local farmer, with the agreement of the guards. Supposedly, migrants are paid 10 dinars a day.

 
 
 

The mission delegation heard numerous reports of the existence of complex networks of traffickers, armed militia groups and unscrupulous employers, who profit from the vulnerability of migrants by extorting money ($700-$1000) and exploiting them on their journeys.

Under the guise of combating “illegal” migration, Libyan coast guards collaborate in EU policy aimed at externalising border controls, by intercepting migrants off the Libyan coast. The new authorities have continued implementation of agreements concluded under the Gaddafi regime and have called on the EU and member states, and in particular Italy, to renew financial, material and technical assistance, invoking the threat of invasion by migrants transiting through Libya. The mission collected testimonies from refugees suggesting that the practice of refoulement of migrants to Libya is continuing in violation of international obligations (which were affirmed in a recent judgement of the European Court of Human Rights, Hirsi v. Italy, 23 February 2012).

FIDH, Migreurop and JWBM express deep concern about the general climate of xenophobia and the particular expressions of racism against black Africans. Accused during the conflict of being mercenaries fighting for Gaddafi, they continue to be victims of prejudice, accused of bringing disease, drugs and crime into the country.

The delegation found that Eritrean, Somalian and Ethiopian refugees lack any protection and survive in the most vulnerable legal and social conditions, without residency or work permits. Refugees fleeing countries in the Horn of Africa have no more chance of being granted international protection in neighbouring countries than in Libya itself. So they turn towards Europe for the protection and assistance to which they are legally entitled. But European policies on border control prevent any possibility of legal entry into EU territory and oblige these men, women and sometimes children, to risk their lives on boats, attempting to avoid detection by the Libyan coast guards.

Tens of thousands of internally displaced Libyans from the town of Tawargha also live in conditions of extreme insecurity. Collectively accused of conspiring with the Gaddafi regime and of crimes against the population of Misrata, the inhabitants of Tawargha fled to seek refuge, mainly in Tripoli and Benghazi, where they currently live in camps, hardly daring to go outside because of fear of persecution, assassinations and other violence committed by armed militias from Misrata seeking revenge.

The current absence of any judicial system with the capacity to investigate crimes and prosecute those responsible undermines any possibility of reconciliation in the short term and leaves the door open to individual acts of vengeance.

FIDH, Migreurop and JWBM make the following recommendations:

  • To the Libyan authorities: to put an immediate end to arbitrary and repressive practices against migrants by militias and to establish migration policy based on human rights and the rule of law.

  • To the international community, and in particular to European states: to cease reliance on Libya for the implementation of their migration policies; and to accept refugees from Libya, so that these persons are no longer obliged to risk their lives travelling across Libya and attempting to cross the Mediterranean sea.

  • To EU member states, and in particular Malta and Italy, to renounce all practice of interception at sea and refoulement of migrants to Libya.

  • To foreign companies resuming investments in Libya and employing migrant labour : to ensure that all contracts require strict respect of the rights of migrant workers, including concerning wages, social protection and living conditions.”
 

(Quelle: FIDH.)

BRD: Bundeswehr – hier geblieben!

Samstag, Mai 12th, 2012

“Piraten an Land: Hilfswerke gegen Ausweitung der Atalanta-Mission

Brot für die Welt und Evangelischer Entwicklungsdienst warnen vor Gewalteskalation

“Die Ausdehnung der Mission auf das Land wird die Bevölkerung in Somalia als gegen sich gerichtete Gewalteskalation wahrnehmen”, fürchtet EED-Vorstand Claudia Warning. Das ließe sich leicht für den somalischen Macht- und Gewaltkonflikt instrumentalisieren. “Wir teilen die Einschätzung der Allafrikanischen Kirchenkonferenz (AACC) und der Partner in Somalia, dass von der Mandatserweiterung die fundamentalistischen Fraktionen der Al-Shabab-Milizen politisch profitieren werden”, sagt Cornelia Füllkrug-Weitzel, Direktorin von “Brot für die Welt”. Die beiden Hilfswerke seien besorgt, dass dies die Sicherheit der wenigen humanitären Helferinnen und Helfer und die humanitäre Notlage der Menschen im Land weiter verschlechtere. Zudem erhöhe ein Eingreifen an Land die Gefahr, dass die asymmetrische Kriegführung der somalischen Milizen sich auf die Nachbarländer ausweite.

“Die Ausweitung des Mandats wird die Sicherheit in der Region nicht erhöhen”, betont Claudia Warning. In den vergangenen vier Jahren hätten die Piraten auf jede militärische Strategie der EU sehr schnell eine wirksame Gegenstrategie entwickelt. “Der Kern der Sache ist doch: Die Piraterie vor Somalia beruht auf einer anhaltenden sozialen und ökonomischen Krise im Land. Sie zwingt Menschen dazu, unter Einsatz ihres Lebens ein Einkommen für sich und ihre Familienverbände zu erwirtschaften, auch mit illegalen Mitteln”, erklärt die EED-Verantwortliche. Die Not der Menschen werde zudem durch kriminelle und international vernetzte Unternehmer ausgenutzt. Diese versorgten die Piraten mit Waffen und kauften Beutestücke auf.

“Es ist Zeit, endlich die alternativen Vorschläge, wie der Piraterie begegnet werden kann, in Betracht zu ziehen”, meint Cornelia Füllkrug-Weitzel. Renommierte Institute und Nichtregierungsorganisationen hätten in den letzten Jahren Wege dazu aufgezeigt, einen Niederschlag in der politischen Debatte hätten sie bislang nicht gefunden. “Wir wünschen uns von den Abgeordneten im Bundestag eine klare Absage, weil diese Ausweitung das Piraterieproblem nicht löst und Öl in den brennenden Konfliktherd Horn von Afrika gießt.” Diesem Wunsch hat der Bundestag mit seiner Entscheidung für die Ausdehnung nun aber nicht entsprochen.

Seit Ende 2008 läuft bereits die EU-Mission “Atalanta”, die nach einer Jägerin der griechischen Sagenwelt benannt ist. Zu ihrer wichtigsten Aufgabe zählt es, Lebensmittellieferungen des Welternährungsprogramms nach Somalia vor Piratenüberfällen zu schützen. Kommerzielle Frachter, die das gefährliche Seegebiet am Horn von Afrika durchqueren müssen, können “Atalanta” bei einem Angriff aber ebenfalls zu Hilfe rufen.

Quelle: Brot für die Welt Newsletter vom 10.05.2012″

 

(Quelle: Plattform Zivile Konfliktbearbeitung)

USA: … und jetzt nach Afrika!

Samstag, Januar 28th, 2012

“East Africa Is the New Epicenter of America’s Shadow War

By Spencer Ackerman January 26, 2012 | 6:30 am |

When Adm. Eric Olson, the former leader of U.S. Special Operations Command, wanted to explain where his forces were going, he would show audiences a photo that NASA took, titled “The World at Night.” The lit areas showed the governed, stable, orderly parts of the planet. The areas without lights were the danger zones — the impoverished, the power vacuums, the places overrun with militants that prompted the attention of elite U.S. troops. And few places were darker, in Olson’s eyes, than East Africa.

Quietly, and especially over the last two to three years, special operations forces have focused on that very shadowy spot on NASA’s map (see below). The successful Tuesday night raid to free two humanitarian aid workers from captivity in Somalia is only the most recent and high-profile example. More and more elite forces have transited through a mega-base in Djibouti that’s a staging ground for strikes on al-Qaida allies in the Horn of Africa, especially in Somalia.

It’s not quite the new Pakistan, or even the new Yemen, but it’s close — especially as new bases for the U.S.’s Shadow Wars pop up and expand. The U.S. military sometimes seemed like it was casting about for a reason to set up shop in Africa. Counterterrorism has given it one.

Fighting Somalia’s pirates might get most of the media attention. But the U.S. is much more concerned about al-Shabab. The al-Qaida aligned movement seeks to depose the Somali government, recruits from radicalized American Muslims and may have sought to bring terrorism back to U.S. shores. Just across a very narrow Gulf of Aden is Yemen, the home of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which has repeatedly tried to attack America.

In 2009, the top U.S. intelligence official pointed to Yemen and “parts of Africa” where al-Qaida’s leadership might “relocate” if it lost its Pakistani safe haven, to “exploit a weak central government and close proximity to established recruitment, fundraising, and facilitation networks.” His successor told Congress in 2011 that al-Shabab would “probably grow stronger… absent more effective and sustained activities to disrupt them.”

That’s where the forces Olson used to run came in.

Located northwest of Somalia is a former French Foreign Legion base in Djibouti called Camp Lemonnier. The U.S. military has been there for a decade. It’s a resupply point for U.S. ships passing by, as well as the home of a multinational, American-led counterterrorism team called the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.

Recently, more and more special operations forces have called it a temporary home. Camp Lemonnier was where the commando team took hostages Jessica Buchanan and Poul Thisted for medical care after freeing them. But the camp is much more than just a big medical facility: it’s also a staging ground for the growing Shadow War in Somalia — and particularly a drone war over it.

Much of the day-to-day fight against al-Shabab is outsourced to African peacekeepers. But the raids and strikes that U.S. commandos have launched against specific Shabab targets are becoming more frequent. Cruise missiles and even, apparently, U.S. helicopter strikes have also hit the group. Special operators even launch raids at sea: this spring, they captured captured one Shabab affiliate, Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, offshore in the Gulf of Aden before detaining him for weeks aboard the U.S.S. Boxer.

Then comes the drone war. Lemonnier isn’t the only U.S. base near the Horn. Throughout the last decade, the military ran a smaller special-operations base in Kenya and another in Ethiopia. Now an Ethiopian outpost will become a launchpad for U.S. drones, as will a facility nearby in the Seychelles, all to launch strikes against al-Qaida allies in East Africa. The most recent of them struck Sunday outside Mogadishu, killing a British-born militant.

Nor is the military the only U.S. organization at work in east Africa. Somalia has attracted the CIA as well, which runs a secret prison attached to the Mogadishu airport. During earlier iterations of the CIA’s post-9/11 involvement in Somalia, it blustered that its operations were protected by drones that actually weren’t overhead — all while it assembled a coalition of friendly warlords to help fight al-Qaida. Nor has the FBI been left out of the action: it worked with the special operations forces to free Buchanan and Thisted on Tuesday night, although Navy Capt. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said no FBI personnel accompanied the raiding team.

Another dramatic expansion of U.S. power in Africa, however, may have been hiding in plain sight.

When President George W. Bush created the U.S. Africa Command in 2007, it wasn’t really clear what the organization was. Humanitarian aid dispensary? Laboratory for African troops to train with their U.S. counterparts? Vehicle for Americanization of Africa’s wars?

The question hasn’t totally been settled. But Africa Command has had a very busy year. In March, it led the initial phase of the U.S./NATO war on Moammar Gadhafi, launching a fusillade of Tomahawk missiles, flew jamming jets and operated conventional ships, subs and fighter jets before handing the war off to a Canadian general. In October, it sent a small advisory force to central Africa to help combat the brutal Lord’s Resistance Army.

Its leader, Army Gen. Carter Ham, hasn’t been in charge for a full year yet, but his busy schedule thus far was capped by last night’s Somalia raid — for which he was the senior-most officer in command, according to the Pentagon. The raid is a sign that Africa Command places great emphasis on its relationship with the U.S.’ elite forces, who, tacitly, help entrench the command’s relevance.

That’s going to remain the case as long as a decimated al-Qaida relies on proxies like al-Shabab to retain its own relevance. And it’s going to remain the case as long as Obama leans on special operators and the CIA to prosecute his Shadow Wars, which pursue terrorists indefinitely even while Obama draws down the large land wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. When looking at where counterterrorism goes next, it helps to squint at the obscured places on Olson’s map.

Photos: David Axe, NASA”

 

(Quelle: Wired.com)

USA: Auf dem Weg zum globalen Drohnenkrieg?

Donnerstag, September 22nd, 2011

“U.S. assembling secret drone bases in Africa, Arabian Peninsula, officials say

By Craig Whitlock and Greg Miller

The Obama administration is assembling a constellation of secret drone bases for counterterrorism operations in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula as part of a newly aggressive campaign to attack al-Qaeda affiliates in Somalia and Yemen, U.S. officials said.

One of the installations is being established in Ethi­o­pia, a U.S. ally in the fight against al-Shabab, the Somali militant group that controls much of that country. Another base is in the Seychelles, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, where a small fleet of “hunter-killer” drones resumed operations this month after an experimental mission demonstrated that the unmanned aircraft could effectively patrol Somalia from there.

The U.S. military also has flown drones over Somalia and Yemen from bases in Djibouti, a tiny African nation at the junction of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. In addition, the CIA is building a secret airstrip in the Arabian Peninsula so it can deploy armed drones over Yemen.

The rapid expansion of the undeclared drone wars is a reflection of the growing alarm with which U.S. officials view the activities of al-Qaeda affiliates in Yemen and Somalia, even as al-Qaeda’s core leadership in Pakistan has been weakened by U.S. counterterrorism operations.

The U.S. government is known to have used drones to carry out lethal attacks in at least six countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. The negotiations that preceded the establishment of the base in the Republic of Seychelles illustrate the efforts the United States is making to broaden the range of its drone weapons.

The island nation of 85,000 people has hosted a small fleet of MQ-9 Reaper drones operated by the U.S. Navy and Air Force since September 2009. U.S. and Seychellois officials have previously acknowledged the drones’ presence but have said that their primary mission was to track pirates in regional waters. But classified U.S. diplomatic cables show that the unmanned aircraft have also conducted counterterrorism missions over Somalia, about 800 miles to the northwest.

The cables, obtained by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, reveal that U.S. officials asked leaders in the Seychelles to keep the counterterrorism missions secret. The Reapers are described by the military as “hunter-killer” drones because they can be equipped with Hellfire missiles and satellite-guided bombs.

To allay concerns among islanders, U.S. officials said they had no plans to arm the Reapers when the mission was announced two years ago. The cables show, however, that U.S. officials were thinking about weaponizing the drones.

During a meeting with Seychelles President James Michel on Sept. 18, 2009, American diplomats said the U.S. government “would seek discrete [sic], specific discussions . . . to gain approval” to arm the Reapers “should the desire to do so ever arise,” according to a cable summarizing the meeting. Michel concurred, but asked U.S. officials to approach him exclusively for permission “and not anyone else” in his government, the cable reported.

Michel’s chief deputy told a U.S. diplomat on a separate occasion that the Seychelles president “was not philosophically against” arming the drones, according to another cable. But the deputy urged the Americans “to be extremely careful in raising the issue with anyone in the Government outside of the President. Such a request would be ‘politically extremely sensitive’ and would have to be handled with ‘the utmost discreet care.’ ”

A U.S. military spokesman declined to say whether the Reapers in the Seychelles have ever been armed.

“Because of operational security concerns, I can’t get into specifics,” said Lt. Cmdr. James D. Stockman, a public affairs officer for the U.S. Africa Command, which oversees the base in the Seychelles. He noted, however, that the MQ-9 Reapers “can be configured for both surveillance and strike.”

A spokeswoman for Michel said the president was unavailable for comment.

Jean-Paul Adam, who was Michel’s chief deputy in 2009 and now serves as minister of foreign affairs, said U.S. officials had not asked for permission to equip the drones with missiles or bombs.

“The operation of the drones in Seychelles for the purposes of ­counter-piracy surveillance and other related activities has always been unarmed, and the U.S. government has never asked us for them to be armed,” Adam said in an e-mail. “This was agreed between the two governments at the first deployment and the situation has not changed.”

The State Department cables show that U.S. officials were sensitive to perceptions that the drones might be armed, noting that they “do have equipment that could appear to the public as being weapons.”

To dispel potential concerns, they held a “media day” for about 30 journalists and Seychellois officials at the small, one-runway airport in Victoria, the capital, in November 2009. One of the Reapers was parked on the tarmac.

“The government of Seychelles invited us here to fight against piracy, and that is its mission,” Craig White, a U.S. diplomat, said during the event. “However, these aircraft have a great deal of capabilities and could be used for other missions.”

In fact, U.S. officials had already outlined other purposes for the drones in a classified mission review with Michel and Adam. Saying that the U.S. government “desires to be completely transparent,” the American diplomats informed the Seychellois leaders that the Reapers would also fly over Somalia “to support ongoing counter-terrorism efforts,” though not “direct attacks,” according to a cable summarizing the meeting.

U.S. officials “stressed the sensitive nature of this counter-terrorism mission and that this not be released outside of the highest . . . channels,” the cable stated. “The President wholeheartedly concurred with that request, noting that such issues could be politically sensitive for him as well.”

The Seychelles drone operation has a relatively small footprint. Based in a hangar located about a quarter-mile from the main passenger terminal at the airport, it includes between three and four Reapers and about 100 U.S. military personnel and contractors, according to the cables.

The military operated the flights on a continuous basis until April, when it paused the operations. They resumed this month, said Stockman, the Africa Command spokesman.

The aim in assembling a constellation of bases in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula is to create overlapping circles of surveillance in a region where al-Qaeda offshoots could emerge for years to come, U.S. officials said.

The locations “are based on potential target sets,” said a senior U.S. military official. “If you look at it geographically, it makes sense — you get out a ruler and draw the distances [drones] can fly and where they take off from.”

One U.S. official said that there had been discussions about putting a drone base in Ethiopia for as long as four years, but that plan was delayed because “the Ethiopians were not all that jazzed.” Other officials said Ethiopia has become a valued counterterrorism partner because of threats posed by al-Shabab.

“We have a lot of interesting cooperation and arrangements with the Ethiopians when it comes to intelligence collection and linguistic capabilities,” said a former senior U.S. military official familiar with special operations missions in the region.

An Ethio­pian Embassy spokesman in Washington could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

The former official said the United States relies on Ethiopian linguists to translate signals intercepts gathered by U.S. agencies monitoring calls and e-mails of al-Shabab members. The CIA and other agencies also employ Ethiopian informants who gather information from across the border.

Overall, officials said, the cluster of bases reflects an effort to have wider geographic coverage, greater leverage with countries in the region and backup facilities if individual airstrips are forced to close.

“It’s a conscious recognition that those are the hot spots developing right now,” said the former senior U.S. military official.”

 

(Quelle: The Washington Post.)

Horn von Afrika: Millionen droht Hungertod – Westen schaut weg

Dienstag, Mai 24th, 2011

“HORN OF AFRICA: Food insecurity grips region

The number of people requiring humanitarian assistance in the Horn of Africa could increase sharply in coming months due to below-average rainfall and high food and fuel prices, say aid workers.

Moreover, funding shortfalls, drought and conflict could further increase the number of people needing humanitarian aid in the region from an estimated 8.75 million people.

Peter Smerdon, spokesman for the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in Kenya, told IRIN on 18 May: “The total number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in the Horn is 8.75 million; some of them get food aid from governments and other aid organizations. At least six million people need food assistance from WFP but this number could increase if the current rains are poor or below average.”

According to Smerdon, by early May, about halfway through the rainy season, rainfall was well below average in most of the Horn, ranging from 5 to 50 percent of normal rates, and well below forecasts.

Funding shortfalls

Of particular concern, he said, were areas of southern and southeastern Ethiopia.

“Amid growing concern about the impact of drought in the southern and southeastern pastoralist areas, many of WFP’s food assistance activities in Ethiopia face significant funding shortfalls,” Smerdon said.

The agency said it was assisting 4.3 million people in Ethiopia.

In Somalia, WFP faces a 70 percent shortfall from May through October and urgently needs contributions of US$53 million to feed one million people in accessible areas for the next six months.

In Kenya, Smerdon said, WFP has a 50 percent funding shortfall of $47 million needed to provide food aid for the next six months to 1.7 million people.

In an April food security report Kenya’s Agriculture Ministry said the national stock of maize – the country’s staple – is expected to be about 5.9 million 90kg bags by the end of July, adequately covering only 1.7 months beginning in August.

The April–September 2011 Food Security Outlook by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS Net) forecast that most households in the hard-hit pastoral areas would become extremely food insecure and many more livestock would die.

According to WFP, the Horn of Africa drought, which began with the failure of the short rains in December 2010, is the first since a two-year regional drought in 2007-2009 that saw the number of people needing humanitarian assistance in the region rise to more than 20 million.

Conflict could further increase the number of people requiring help. In early May, dozens of people were killed and others displaced when violence broke out on the Ethiopia-Kenya border between two communities over rising food prices.

The fighting between the Turkana community of Kenya and the Merille of Ethiopia, local media reported, reflected a broader pattern of inter-ethnic conflict resulting from food scarcity and persistent drought.

On 15 May, international NGO CARE called for more attention to severe food insecurity in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, saying almost eight million people in these countries needed emergency aid.

“Chronic vulnerability, poverty, social injustice and climate change are all responsible for recurring food insecurity in the Horn of Africa,” Mohamed Khaled, CARE’s regional emergency coordinator for East Africa, said in a statement. “On top of that, a significant increase in food and fuel prices has worsened the current situation.

“In Kenya, for example, the price of maize, a staple food, has increased over 27 percent during the last three months. Sufficient attention is needed now to prevent further loss of lives and livelihoods. At the same time, the underlying reasons need to be tackled to break the recurring cycles that have persisted in recent years.”

Djibouti and Somalia have declared the drought situation a national disaster while the Ethiopian government revised its humanitarian requirements document in April 2011 to reflect the growing needs and mobilize a scale-up of humanitarian response.

Khaled said: “While governments of the affected countries have already started interventions, short- and long-term international assistance is needed to help address critical needs but also underlying structural causes and chronic vulnerabilities. What is needed is a set of interventions which strengthens people’s own resilience capacity and coping mechanisms to survive such severe conditions while at the same time responding to their current humanitarian needs and protecting their livelihoods. It is crucial that people can feed themselves through their own means instead of being dependent on food distributions.”

Somalia

Somalia’s situation is dire as conflict continues. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s Food Security, Nutrition and Analysis Unit (FSNAU), some 2.4 million Somalis are in food crisis, representing 32 percent of the population.

The effects of the ongoing drought, deteriorating purchasing power, rampant conflict and limited humanitarian space continue to aggravate the situation in most parts of the country, FSNAU said in an April update.

js-ah/mw”

 

(Quelle: IRIN Africa.)

Somalia: Hintergründe eines komplizierten Konflikts

Samstag, Juli 24th, 2010

Somalia: Al-Shabab, extremism and US allies

By Yohannes Woldemariam



cc S W

The rise of Al-Shabab in Somalia must be seen in the context of decades of mismanagement, dictatorship and abuse, writes Yohannes Woldemariam. Following Ethiopia’s US-backed intervention in 2006, the ascendancy of Somalia’s moderate UIC (Union of Islamic Courts) was blocked and some 300,000 people were displaced, in the wake of which ‘the Al-Shabab extremists triumphed as a hegemonic force’ from within the UIC. And as the dust settles on last week’s Kampala bombing, Woldemariam contends, the governments of US allies Ethiopia and Uganda are once again seeking to capitalise on the tragedy for their own ends, ‘with Obama playing right into it’.

The emergence of Al-Shabab in Somalia is not an accident. It stems from many decades of mismanagement, dictatorship, regional and international abuse. Superficially, one expects Somalia to be a unified entity because all Somalis speak a common language and are not plagued by ethnic differences as in many parts of the post-colonial world. Yet Somalia was always beset by deep clan cleavages even as Somali elites fantasised about the notion of a ‘Greater Somalia’ and made it their mission to unite all Somali-speaking peoples. This included Somalis in neighbouring states: the Ogaden region in Ethiopia, the Issas in Djibouti and the Somalis who inhabit the area known as the Northern Frontier District of Kenya. The Horn of Africa was of course faced with the same arbitrariness of borders inherited from colonial rule, where there were cultural links with people across borders.



Notion of 'Greater Somalia' marked in yellow on map

But the project of an ethnically homogenous state by embracing neighbouring Somali minorities was a non-starter and contrary to the African charter of respecting colonial boundaries. Hence, Somali irredentism pitted it against Kenya and Ethiopia, worsening in particular its historic enmity with Ethiopia. The tension between the two countries provided one of the openings for the Soviet Union and the United States to use these nations as proxies in the geopolitical games of the Cold War. The Horn of Africa of which Somalia is a part became much like Afghanistan, Vietnam and other hot spots of that era.

Ethiopia and Somalia waged two major wars, including one that involved Cuban troops in 1977–78. A combined force of Ethiopians, 15,000 Cubans, 1,500 Soviet advisors and weaponry broke the back of the Somali army. This defeat was the beginning of the end of a functioning Somali state. It was followed by a protracted civil war in the 1980s, culminating in the disintegration of the country. Clumsy US and UN involvement in the 1990s made an already bad situation worse. Clan-based warlordism replaced the centralised dictatorship of Mohammed Said Barre, who ruled Somalia from 1969 to 1991. After the fall of Barre, Somaliland and Puntland became two separate, relatively stable but unrecognised entities. In fact, in late June 2010, Somaliland held the only election in the region which met international standards. Opposition candidate Ahmed M. Maha Silanyo won the election, defeating incumbent President Dahir Riyale Kahin. In contrast, anarchy had reigned in southern Somalia and the Mogadishu area for at least the last two decades.

For the most part, the US disengaged after the death of 18 of its marines and the downing of two Black Hawk helicopters in 1993. The gruesome scene in October 1993 – with pictures of a dead American soldier being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu and dubbed the ‘CNN effect’ – is a fixture in the memory of many Americans. It influenced the Clinton administration’s decision to withdraw US troops from the country. Somalia became of renewed interest only after 9/11 out of concern that it would be a breeding ground for global jihad and a hide out for Al-Qaida elements.

There were 14 unsuccessful top-down attempts for a centralised government in Somalia between 1991 and 2010. The current Transitional Federal Government (TFG) led by Sharif Sheikh Ahmed is the latest mutation of these trials. Most Somalis view Sharif Ahmed as an Ethiopian puppet, but Hillary Clinton had called him the ‘best hope’ for his country. He barely controls two blocks in Mogadishu and only because of the protection of approximately 3,000 Ugandan and 2,000 Burundian troops representing the ill-conceived AU Mission In Somalia (AMISOM). The Ugandan, Burundian and Ethiopian intervention is deeply resented by Somalis of various political persuasions. The justification for their presence is ostensibly to keep peace, but there is no peace to keep in Somalia. Uganda and Ethiopia really need peace within their own borders before pretending to bring peace to other lands. Among several insurgencies within Ethiopia is the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), which is waging a perennial struggle for self-determination for the four million or so ethnic Somalis. It has claimed thousands of lives and is being called ‘the other Darfur’ by some observers. Since the 1980s, Uganda’s northern region has also been ravaged by a murderous group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

The primary reason for Ethiopian intervention is its vested interest in a weak and disintegrated Somalia. It also benefits from American financial, military and political support by positioning itself as an ally in the ‘war on terror’. Ethiopia receives the largest amount of American aid of any country in sub-Saharan Africa. Similarly, Uganda and Burundi are intervening to garner support from the United States when they don’t even share a common border with Somalia.

In return, the US keeps mum when these leaders rig elections or change constitutional clauses to enable them to extend presidential terms. It is a Machiavellian game all around.

If one were genuine about peace, Ethiopia would be among the last countries in the world to be encouraged to send troops to Somalia. Yet in 2006, it intervened in Somalia with American support and pre-empted the ascendancy of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), who were relatively moderate Muslims and had managed to establish a modicum of order for the very first time in 15 years. From the ranks of UIC, the Al-Shabab extremists triumphed as a hegemonic force. Ethiopia officially withdrew in 2009, but only after experiencing a quagmire which plunged Somalia into deeper chaos, displacing 300,000 Somalis and causing disarray for a grassroots movement that had seemed promising before it was nipped by Ethiopian intervention. And this official withdrawal notwithstanding, Ethiopian troops still make periodic incursions into Somalia at will.

Given the predatory nature of the governments of Burundi, Ethiopia and Uganda – which are essentially military dictatorships or de facto one-party control – little faith can be placed in them for enhancing regional stability in the Horn region. Current Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki is also believed to have stolen the presidential election from Raila Odinga (who happens to hail from the same ethnic group as Barack Obama's father), who is now prime minister in a shaky power-sharing government. Yet the country is an ally in security matters in the region and therefore immune from any serious US scrutiny.

In 2006, the Bush administration provided intelligence to Ethiopia in support of the invasion. It also used military facilities in Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya to launch air raids and missile strikes against Al-Qaida suspects at several sites in Somalia in 2007 and 2008. The air attacks killed several dozen Somali civilians and injured hundreds more, and they made US backing for the invasion highly visible. These periodic airstrikes are continuing under the Obama administration. The killing of Somali civilians only serves to drive Somalis into desperation and extremism. AMISOM is not any better. There are credible reports that it is responsible for civilian deaths and other excesses.

In the aftermath of the Kampala bombings, Obama said that Al-Qaida is racist and doesn’t care about African lives. No sane person would dispute that. However, the real question is whether Obama cares about African lives. If he truly does, why would he meddle and prop up dictators like Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, dictators who wilfully sacrifice their soldiers and the lives of innocents for some foreign exchange dollars? Not surprisingly, both Zenawi and Museveni are already positioning themselves to argue for expanded intervention and to milk the Kampala tragedy, with Obama playing right into it. Ironically, Al-Shabab will also welcome the escalation and regionalisation of the conflict in the hope of bolstering its waning domestic support base as ordinary Somalis become weary of the heavy-handed repression by the movement.

Relying on Ethiopia, Uganda and Burundi for keeping peace in Somalia is like sending Indian soldiers to occupy and pacify the Pakistani tribal areas. It is an oxymoron. It undermines the moderates and helps the extremists. The willingness of the United States to endorse interventions is rarely matched by a commitment to a comprehensive effort of securing peace. With the quagmire in Afghanistan and Iraq, there is hardly any political will in the US to effectively deal with the complexities of the issues in Somalia. Somalia does not need intervention and further militarisation by self-serving neighbours. A possible starting point for rebuilding Somalia could be to use the money that is being wasted on AMISOM to assist the Somali people and the nascent democratic experiment in Somaliland in light of the severe democratic drought in the region.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

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(Quelle: Pambazuka News.)