Thursday, July 15, 2010

Uganda Bomb Blasts Reflect Struggle Over Political Future of Somalia

U.S.-backed Transitional Federal Government appeals for regional intervention

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

A series of bomb blasts in and around the Ugandan capital of Kampala on July 11 has resulted in the deaths of at least 74 people. The crowds were gathered at a rugby club and an Ethiopian restaurant while they watched the concluding game of the 2010 World Cup between Spain and The Netherlands being held in South Africa.

One of Somalia’s resistance organizations al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attacks in retaliation for the continued occupation of the country by AMISOM [African Union Mission to Somalia] which is comprised largely of military forces from both Uganda and Burundi. A recently held regional conference of the six-nation Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia pledged to dispatch another 2,000 troops to Somalia in order to prevent the total collapse of the U.S.-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG).

At least one U.S. citizen was killed in the attacks. A full accounting of the nationalities of those killed and wounded had yet to be released at the time of this writing.

Reports from inside of Kampala indicated that the hospitals were overwhelmed with dozens of people who were injured in the blasts. In Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama was quoted as describing the bombings as “deplorable and cowardly.” (Al-Jazeera)

In a statement issued by the National Security Council, the spokesperson Mike Hammer, said that the United States was “ready to provide any assistance requested by the Uganda government.”

The United States government has underwritten the AMISOM military operations in Somalia under both the previous Bush administration as well as the current presidency of Barack Obama.

A spokesperson for Al-Shabab, Sheik Ali Mohamud Rage, told journalist in Mogadishu that “al-Shabab was behind the two blast in Uganda. We thank the mujahideens that carried out the attack.” (Al-Jazeera, July 12)

The Islamic resistance group spokesperson also emphasized that “We are sending a message to Uganda and Burundi, if they do not take out their AMISOM troops from Somalia, blasts will continue and it will happen.” In battles last week in the capital of Mogadishu over 40 people were reported killed in heavy artillery fire between al-Shabab and AMISOM troops.

During the week of July 5 another al-Shabab leader urged people to overturn the U.S.-backed TFG regime. Mohamed Abdi Godane condemned the military forces of Uganda and Burundi for what he claimed were the deaths of numerous civilians in Somalia.

Godane called on “the Somali people to unite to fight against the enemy of Allah. We know that the people in Mogadishu were honored with two previous victories. They won the war against the Americans and the Ethiopians, and the fight against AMISOM will be the final victory by God’s will.”

(Sapa-AFP, July 5)

The al-Shabab leader made threats against the AMISOM forces noting that “My message to the people of Uganda and Burundi is that you will be the targets of retaliation for the massacre of women, children and elderly Somalis in Mogadishu by your forces. You will be held responsible for the killings your ignorant leaders and your soldiers
are committing in Somalia.” (Sapa-AFP, July 5)

In a speech delivered to the IGAD conference on July 5, TFG President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed appealed to the organization to send additional military forces to fight both al-Shabab and Hizbul Islam, the other resistance organization. Pressure exerted on the TFG has resulted in factional tensions within the fragile regime prompting a recent reshuffling of the cabinet.

President Ahmed told IGAD that “Somalia is in the hands of al-Qaeda and extremist groups. The whole issue needs urgent treatment.” IGAD met in Addis Ababa for emergency talks to address the current political crisis in Somalia.

Echoing the sentiment of the TFG leader, Western-backed Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi stated that “The recent security situation does not augur well. This coupled with the approaching end of the transitional period, calls for more serious work within the existing time frame.” (Sapa-AFP, July 5)

Prime Minister Meles went on to say that “In this regard, the Somalis, IGAD, the AU and other stakeholders have to play their respective roles in a proactive manner and help reverse the trend that isn’t encouraging.” (Sapa-AFP, July 5) President Sharif also told the conference participants that the various states which had made commitments to provide financial and military support to the TFG should provide additional assistance.

Regional Implications for the Horn of Africa

Not only has the United States provided considerable military and political assistance to the Transitional Federal Government in Somalia, it has, along with the European Union, led a flotilla of warships that are occupying waters off the coast of Somalia in the Gulf of Aden. This naval operation is being conducted under the guise of fighting piracy within one of the most lucrative shipping lanes in the world.

The announced deployment of another 2,000 troops to prop-up the U.S.-backed TFG has been welcomed by the United Nations Special Envoy to Somalia Augustine P. Mahiga. “The U.N. will continue to uphold its partnership with IGAD and the African Union in Somalia in line with the Memorandum of Understanding on Somalia signed by the three organizations on 28 April 2010,” Mahiga said. (United Nations Office for Somalia, July 9)

The United States and other western imperialist states are opposed to any government coming to power in the Horn of Africa that is outside the sphere of their influence. Only the nation of Eritrea within the region has spoken forcefully against further outside intervention.

Eritrean Minister of Information Ali Abdu stated recently that the deployment of military forces by IGAD will not bring peace and stability to Somalia. He demanded that the East African states refrain from plans to dispatch additional troops in a doomed effort to prevent the collapse of a beleaguered regime.

The Eritrean official believed that the government in Ethiopia was pushing for the escalation of the war inside of Somalia. He stated that Ethiopia was only interested in greater military intervention “because it wants a disintegrated and weak Somalia.” (Associated Press, July 9)

Sally Healy, Associate Fellow at the Chatham House Think Tank in Britain, says of the current situation that “There has been no doubt that al-Shabab regards AMISOM as an enemy force. They fight them on a daily basis and have carried out suicide missions against them. It is perceived (accurately) as a largely Ugandan force and acting in the
interest of Ethiopia, the U.S. and the West generally.” (Reuters, July 13)

Another Chatham House associate Alex Vines weighted in on the bombings in Uganda saying that “the recent discovery of oil in Uganda could make the country a significant oil exporter. Chinese and French interests have already negotiated drilling deals with the Ugandan government. “

Anti-Imperialists Must Oppose U.S. Intervention

Inside the United States and the Western imperialist states, anti-war forces must educate the general public about the true role of the Pentagon and other European military institutions in the Horn of Africa. There have been numerous efforts aimed at dominating and influencing events in the region since the 1970s.

In 1977-78, the Carter administration encouraged the-then Somalia government of Mohamed Siad Barre to invade the Ogaden region of Ethiopia during that country’s attempt to build socialism after a revolution that overthrew the U.S.-backed monarchy. The invasion was defeated by Ethiopia with the assistance of Cuban internationalist forces that were stationed in the country at that time.

The policies of the Siad Barre regime resulted in massive social dislocation and food deficits that led to an outbreak of famine in the early 1980s. Political stability would not be achieved for over a decade when the Barre government collapsed in 1991.

In 1992, the U.S. sent thousands of Marines into Somalia in a supposed humanitarian project called “Operation Restore Hope.” The campaign was soon revealed to be counter-insurgency campaign to root out independent political forces opposing western economic and political policies in the region.

The Ethiopian government of Meles Zenawi has acted in conjunction with the foreign policy objectives of successive U.S. administrations since the early 1990s. This is also true for the Ugandan government of President Yoweri Museveni who has been a reliable partner for imperialist aims in the region.

Additional military forces from pro-Western regimes in the region will only aggravate the political situation inside of Somalia. Any attempt at direct U.S. military intervention will result in greater resistance on the part of the people in Somalia and throughout the region.