A former Somali ambassador to the UN writes a clear and concise description of the current relationship between the US and Somalia, and its implications for both countries. I have copied his entire piece here, as it is all well worth reading, critical reading for anyone wishing to understand what is going on in Somalia and the US role.
The Somali government the US created in Djibouti, President Sharif’s TFG, the Transitional Federal Government, is neither federal, nor a government. The only true word in that name is the word transitional. The TFG only controls a few blocks in Mogadishu, and none of the rest of the country. It has no functioning institutions of government. As a government, it is a sham and a fraud.
22 Aug 22, 2009 – 8:28:09 PM
By: Amb: Ahmad Abdi Hashi
US –SOMALI relationship, at different periods, have been characterized by an adversarial relationship as in during the Cold War, a forget about Somalia after the Blackhawk Down disaster, the fight against terrorism after 9/11 and some humanitarian support through international NGOs.
It was, however, the Blackhawk Down incident in October 1993 that defined for a long time US policy towards Somalia. President Bill Clinton ordered all US troops out of Somalia and closed the Somali file in Washington. The world took the cue, labelled Somalia as a failed State and relegated Somalia to the backburner.
It was only after 9/11 that the US showed some interest albeit in relation only to the fight against international terrorism. The US saw the vacuum in Somalia as a possible haven for Al-Qaida but failed to support the Transitional National Government formed a year earlier in 2000.
When the Islamic Courts came to power and consolidated their control over most of southern Somalia, in 2005-6, alarm bells rang in Washington. The Bush administration would not accept an Islamist regime in Somalia. Consequently, CIA hired the notorious warlords to fight the Islamic Courts which resulted in the rout of the warlords. It was another Bay of Pigs debacle for the US but in Africa this time.
With the Islamic Courts entrenched, the Bush administration gave the green light to Ethiopia to invade and occupy Somalia 2006-08. The Islamic Courts made a strategic withdrawal, regrouped and forced the Ethiopian to leave the country in defeat.
Naturally, these foreign military adventures and the post 911 policy of the Bush administration in Somalia served neither the strategic interests of the US nor the aspirations of the Somali people to resurrect a strong Somali State. In short, the Bush administration viewed Somalia with unmitigated hostility.
As the new Obama administration came to power, fires of hope were ignited throughout the world. Hope that the injustices of the Bush era would be corrected. The closure of the Guantanamo Detention Center, withdrawal from Iraq, prohibition of torture, rendition and the olive branch to the Moslem world were a welcome change in US foreign policy. These first tentative steps raised high expectations.
We, the Somalis as well, hoped for a change in US policy towards Somalia based on objective analysis of the real situation on the ground; a new paradigm, different in substance from the Bush administration’s ill-conceived and failed policies in Somalia.
Contrary to the expectations of the Somali people, the new Obama administration remains committed to the same failed policies of its predecessor; engagement in Somalia solely through the narrow prism of fighting international terrorism and piracy off the Somali coast as well as reliance on Ethiopia, the erstwhile enemy of Somalia and chief trouble maker in the Horn of Africa, for all matters relating to Somalia.
What Secretary of State Hilary Clinton announced in Nairobi on 7th July, 2009 signalled a continuation of the same arrogant policies of the Bush administration as well as an escalation of US military mischief in Somalia. To the profound disappointment of Somalis, Secretary Clinton declared that the US is sending 40 more tons of military hardware in addition to the 40 tons already shipped. That is a total of 80 tons military materiel and much more is in the pipeline.
The tons of weapons and millions of US taxpayer money as well as political support go to a so-called government in Somalia which has no territory to control, no institutions, does not command the support and respect of the Somali people and whose “ president” hides in a Ugandese APC when travelling to and from Mogadishu Airport.
That is the “government” the US and other western powers support.
By throwing its weight behind a fiction, the US shed the veneer of a backroom player. It has come out of the closet. The aim is to impose upon the Somali people a small group of its choice; former warlords, Islamic turn coats and famously corrupt politicians.
Forcing unpopular politicians on a country does not work. Iraq and Afghanistan are relevant examples. This will not work in Somalia either.
Siding with this insignificant faction makes the US becomes an active participant in the Somali conflict. It remains to be seen whether putting all eggs in this one basket of choice will serve the best interests of the US or the aspirations of the Somali people for durable and sustainable peace. US strategic objectives can only be achieved if it reaches out to the real stakeholders that matter in Somalia. Evidently, the US is again missing the boat.
There are as well other disturbing aspects to this new US military venture in Somalia that defy logic.
In the absence of a responsible government in Somalia, this huge influx of US weapons will make Mogadishu the biggest arms bazaar in Africa south of the Sahara. Illicit trafficking in arms and ammunition will flourish and proliferation of weapons especially in Africa will be out of control. And nobody would know where the weapons end or who has what. Whether a situation like this would contribute to peace and security in Africa and other places remains to be seen.
Another miscalculation is that the US and its allies ignore the easy access to and availability of every type weapons in Somalia. One can even buy a tank and park it in front of the house like a car. There is no weapons scarcity; the result of years of Ethiopian violations of the UN arms embargo on Somalia.
We must not, as well, overlook the devastating effect these military shipments have on Somalia. It is like pumping more gasoline into an already out of control forest fire. Such military fire power will at the end of the day cause heavy damage and destruction, kill, maim thousands of Somalis and add more millions to the already displaced.
A question is relevant in this regard. Whether these US military shipments are in line with the UN arms embargo or not? Security Council Resolution 751 0f 1992 obligated all member Sates of the UN to respect “a general and comprehensive arms embargo on Somalia”. The corollary to this requires all States to refrain from any military venture that jeopardises peace and security in Somalia. US weapons shipments undermine peace in Somalia and are consequently a violation of the arms embargo irrespective of any exemptions.
In further reference to the arms embargo on Somalia, the US sets a double standard with regard to violations of the arms embargo. It has the audacity to scapegoat Eritrea while ignoring its own and those violations of recidivist Ethiopia.
This arrogant behaviour has already encouraged countries like Djibouti as well as the predator States of Ethiopia and Kenya to violate with impunity the arms embargo. Other States will definitely follow suit. Consequently, this will lead to the internationalization of the Somali conflict.
Since the tons of US weapons constitute a violation of the arms embargo and are meant to kill, maim Somalis and destroy their properties, the US must be held responsible. It is the moral obligation of all peace loving nations to do so.
If the US wants to play a constructive role in Somalia, it must accept the urgent need for a structural correction in its policy towards Somalia. And for this to happen, the US and its allies must adjust to certain facts:
FACT I : US support for the fiction created in Djibouti must be exposed for what it is. There is no government in Somalia at the present time. A government that cannot ensure security for its people establish institutions, provide services and which sells, in retail, State patrimony and national assets to the highest bidder is no government worth the name.
This fiction includes warlords who should be facing the music at the Hague. Others were the erstwhile enemy of the US yesterday.
Today, they are the darling of the West and Ethiopia, the same countries they regularly condemned as imperialists, invaders and occupiers. One would wonder how this strange metamorphosis happened overnight and at what price.
FACT II : Attempts to impose a fiction on the Somali people is not right. We the Somalis have, like other nations, the sovereign right to choose our own leadership without foreign interference.
FACT III : Shipments of weapons or any other kind of foreign led military intervention cannot work in Somalia; this will only escalate the conflict. Historically, we the Somalis have an aversion to foreign domination and interference. The US led UN military venture in the early 90s, CIA hiring of the notorious warlords in early2006 as well as the two year occupation of Somalia (2006-8) all failed. History tells that no nation can ever be subdued by any number of troops or weapons. Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan are the most recent examples.
A foreign led military venture of any kind is therefore not an option for Somalia.
FACT IV : Viewing Somalia only from the perspective of piracy and terrorism is a wrong track. This deviates from the real issue which is: the lack of a truly representative central authority. Piracy or any security concerns-perceived or real- can be addressed only when such authority is installed by the Somali people themselves without foreign dictation.
FACT V : The role of the regime in Ethiopia in the Horn of Africa must be re-evaluated and in particular with regard to Somalia. There is an unresolved territorial dispute between us, the Ethiopian occupied Ogaden region. Somalia and Ethiopia fought two wars in 1964 and 1977. The traditional enmity is deep-rooted.
Even Jonnie Carson, the US Deputy under Secretary of State acknowledged this fact in a recent statement when he correctly labelled “Ethiopia as the traditional enemy of Somalia.”
Yet, the US relies and acts on a flow of misinformation provided by this traditional enemy of Somalia. The US and its western allies must understand the long standing animosity between Ethiopia and Somalia and Ethiopia’s interest in a weak unstable Somalia, taking orders from Addis Ababa.
And one more final truth: Somalia belongs to Somalis; we, Somalis are a resilient nation even in times of adversity. Our destiny, leadership and any constitutional arrangements can and must be decided by us, Somalis, without foreign interference.
The models in Somaliland and Puntland were developed by Somalis, under an acacia tree, free from the manipulations of the Ahmedou W. Abdallas of the world. Whether one agrees with their current status is another matter. But, the two areas are peaceful because the process was indigenous and Somali owned. Hopefully at some point and time, these confederate corners will come to the fold of a strong and united Somalia.
We Somalis want peace for our people more than any one else. But we need a genuine lasting peace by the people for the people. The type being offered and supported by the US and Ethiopia is fake. It is manufactured in Washington, New York and Addis Ababa. And there is a growing international consensus that what was created in Djibouti at the beginning of 2009 is a complete failure.
The road to durable and lasting peace in Somalia is evident: a Somali owned process, immediate and full withdrawal of foreign troops, participation of stakeholders on the basis of equality and limiting UN role to logistical support. The result would be a comprehensive peace agreement, with mechanisms for implementation and a truly representative Somali government that can bring peace and stability to its citizens and act as a responsible player at the international arena.
Thus the need for a new paradigm and an unequivocal departure from the failed policies of the Bush administration is imperative. This will serve the best interests of the US and promote the aspirations of the Somali people for peace.
Amb. Ahmed Abdi Hashi( Hashara), Former Somali Amb. to the U.N 2001-2005; Secretary for Foreign Affairs ARS, asharo @ gmail . com
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