Thursday, January 11, 2007
The USA's war against all the peoples of the Horn of Africa.
I must admit to knowing very little about the Horn of Africa. While my instincts are that as the US is involved in the invasion of Somalia, then it must be bad, nevertheless I don’t get a warm fluffy feeling about any government describing itself using the words “Islamic” and “Courts”.
It is quite possible for there to be conflicts, even those involving super-powers, where the appropriate response is a “plague on both their houses”. In this context, the emotional noise from Lenin’s Tomb complaining about civilian deaths in Somalia is unhelpful. The fact of civilians, even children, being killed does not decide the question of right or wrong. Wars are inherently violent, and both sides trade atrocity stories to stifle rational assessment.
I was very pleased therefore to be sent a seemingly authoritive analysis of the conflict by Mohamed Hassan, a former Ethiopean diplomat, and following the 1974 revolution a Marxist city councillor in Addis Ababa. The full text is here.
Hassan’s analysis is very useful. Before looking at it in detail, let us leap to his conclusion: “Since the Bush-government cannot control the whole world, they prefer a policy of deliberately destabilizing the whole region for many years, rather than letting it become a wealthy region that can play a key-role in the increasing trade relations between Africa and the new emerging economies of Asia. ”
He demonstrates the essentially racist nature of the Ethiopian regime of Zenawi Meles, which grew out of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF). “The population of Tigray is only 6% of the Ethiopian population (76 million) and Tigray is a poor region, situated at 800 km from the capital Addis Ababa. But it is Tigray-people who control 99% of public services and 98% of trade.”
The government is incredibly weak (they are seen as having no legitimacy - securing only 45% of the votes in the 1995 election, but this was boosted to 60% by clever recounting) and relies upon the USA for survival. Specifically, Ethiopia lost the two year war with Eritrea at the cost of 135000 dead Ethiopian soldiers. The subsequent Algiers Agreement ruled that there would be three phases of investogative commissions – the first two phases have already found in favour of Eritrea – the crucial third phase will decide reparations, and is being blocked by the USA: making the survival of the Ethiopian government dependent upon the good will of Washington.
As Hassan concludes: “The extremely fragile position of the Meles-regime can explain its offensive to attack Somalia last December. Indeed, by attacking Somalia under pretext of attacking "the allies and even members of Al Qaeda" Zenawi wants to position himself as a friend of the U.S. and Bush's strong man in the Horn of Africa in the US global war against Islamic terror. But this is a very risky operation.”
He describes the risks as follows:
i) Ethiopia and Somalia have had a long history of animosity and wars. For the Somalis the Ethiopian invasion is an aggression of an archenemy. It could be compared to a military intervention by Germany in Belgium or France. Somalis are one people, have one language and one religion. The only factor that is dividing them is the clans. Confronted with a foreign occupation force, however, they can unite and deal heavy blows.
ii) the Somali people are tired of the chaos and destruction of 16 years of a warlord regime. However it is just the same warlords who have been protected and brought to power again in Mogadishu by the Ethiopian army
iii) The overwhelming majority of Somalis saw the Islamic Courts as a stabilizing factor.
iv) They will never forget nor forgive the USA and their puppet Ethiopia for bringing Somalia back to the reign of terror and chaos of the warlords. And in their eyes it is crystal clear that the talk about Al Qaeda's presence in Somalia is nothing else then the excuse
v) The invading soldiers of Zenawi in Somalia are largely from his Tigray Christian tribe. These soldiers do not speak the Somali language; once deep inside Somalia, they will be exposed to attacks by the locals. But also in Ethiopia itself, Zenawi needs these men back as soon as possible because he needs them to confront the growing revolt in his own country
The Americans have a direct role in the war: “The Zenawi regime is a rogue force used in the hands of American imperialism in the region. Since Antony Lake, Clinton's national security advisor, indicated Ethiopia as one of the four countries (the others were Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt) that are decisive for the defense of American interests in Africa, the government of Zenawi has had all the support it needed. The Ethiopian army is at present being reformed as a local mercenary force in the service of the Americans that can be used against any country in the region. On one of the American army's websites, Stars and Stripes, one could read on 30 December the testimony of one of the sixty American instructors who are training Ethiopian soldiers. Sgt. 1st Class Bill Flippo is an instructor based at Camp Hurso near in the city of Dire Dawa, Ethiopia. He says; "I feel that what I'm doing now is really helping to fight the war on terror," Flippo said. "The knowledge we are giving to these soldiers is what they will use if they go and fight in Somalia, Eritrea or wherever."
So what is in it for America? According to Mohamed Hassan:
“There is the presence of oil and gas reserves. Since 1986, four big oil transnational corporations received permission for the first time from the Somalian president Siad Barre to search for oil. And they found important reserves.But most of all : Somalia has a very strategic location. It has a coast of 3300km. This is the largest coastline in Africa. One part of this coastline is just in front of the most important region in the world for the moment, the Middle East.This century the historical wheel is turning again towards the emerging countries of China and India. Chalmers Johnson, author and president of the Japan Policy Research Institute, cites Javed Burki, a former vice-president of the World Bank's China Department who predicts that by 2025 China will probably have a GDP of $25 trillion in terms of purchasing power parity and will have become the world's largest economy followed by the US at $ 20 trillion. This year we also saw important efforts from China to increase its trade with Africa. China urgently needs oil and other minerals for its rapidly developing economy. And Africa can respond to that need. So the Horn of Africa has become a very strategic place for the next twenty years.”
The destabilisation of Somalia by the Americans is unlikely to be confined within its own borders: “There are Somalis living in different neighboring countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti. Somali nationalism has ignited and this war will extend into places like Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya, known until now mostly as a safari destination for Western tourists. The peoples of the region are becoming mature. They see what is happening and their first reaction is that of horror. If the Bush agenda of destabilizing and genocide continues, anti-imperialist feelings will increase and people will unite to defend their homes and countries.”
The intervention in Somalia is therefore entirely reactionary, and socialists should condemn it.
(BTW - I distance myself from the use of the word genocide by Hassan)