It is important for the AU not to be fooled into sending troops to Somalia, because such
a peacekeeping force will ultimately legitimise the American/Ethiopian invasion.
According to The New York Times of 13 January 2007, the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in December (see p24 of this issue of NA) constitutes a “new blueprint” by which the US military wishes, in future, to conduct “proxy wars” through “surrogates”.
Meanwhile, Ethiopia has been protesting to the high heavens against anyone who observes that it went into Somalia in collaboration with the US to attain objectives laid down by the US. Ethiopia claims it invaded Somalia in pursuit of its own “self-defence”. In a letter to the British daily, The Guardian, on 9 January 2007, in reply to an article I wrote for the paper entitled, “America’s New Puppet”, the Ethiopian ambassador to London, Mr Berhanu Kebede, said (inter alia):
”Cameron Duodu seems to have sympathy for Ethiopia in that he feels it should not be drawn into a protracted war with terrorist extremists and al-Qaida collaborators. Ethiopia went into Somalia for reasons of self-defence. Is Mr Duodu aware that Ethiopia tried on eight occasions to have a dialogue with the Union of Islamic Courts, which had declared a jihad against Ethiopia… While we appreciate the long-standing partnership that we have had with the US, it should be clearly understood that Ethiopia acted to protect its national sovereignty, peace and stability.”
Unfortunately for the Ethiopian ambassador, his insistence that Ethiopia went into Somalia for reasons of self-defence is not borne out by the facts. On 13 January 2007, The Guardian reported that General John Abizaid, the commander of US forces from the Middle East through Afghanistan, arrived in Addis Ababa on 4 December to meet the Ethiopian prime minister, Meles Zenawi. Officially, the trip was a courtesy call to an ally. Three weeks later, however, Ethiopian forces crossed into Somalia. The US followed up by launching air strikes in Somalia against so-called “suspected al-Qaida operatives” believed to be hiding among the fleeing Islamist fighters.
“The meeting [between Gen Abizaid and Zenawi] was just the final handshake,” said a former intelligence officer familiar with the region. Washington and Addis Ababa may deny it, but the American air strikes exposed close intelligence and military cooperation between Ethiopia and America, fuelled by mutual concern about the rise of Islamists in the chaos of Somalia.
Pentagon officials and intelligence analysts even say a small number of US Special Forces were on the ground before Ethiopia’s intervention, in an operation planned since last summer, soon after the Islamic Courts Union took control of Mogadishu. Press reports have said US Special Forces also accompanied the Ethiopian troops crossing into Somalia.
“The main cause of delay was the weather,” said Mark Schroeder, Africa analyst at the intelligence consulting firm, Stratfor. The critical turning point was the end of the rainy season. “While Ethiopia could move small numbers of troops and trucks as a limited intervention into Somalia, they needed to wait until the ground dried up,” Schroeder added.
“Once they moved in, the [Ethiopian] troops were accompanied by US Special Forces, [emphasis added],” analysts say. For America, the relationship with Ethiopia provides an extra pair of eyes in a region that it fears could become an arena for al-Qaida. “The Ethiopians are the primary suppliers of intelligence,” said one analyst. However, he said, it was almost inconceivable that the US would not have sent its Special Forces into Somalia ahead of the Ethiopian intervention. In return, the US is believed to have provided the Ethiopians with arms, fuel and other logistical support for a much larger intervention than it has previously mounted in Somalia.
“[The US] has also made available satellite information and intelligence from friendly Somali clans,” a former intelligence officer said. “America’s renewed interest in the Horn of Africa dates to November 2002 when the US military established its joint taskforce in Djibouti, now the base for 1,800 troops, including Special Operations Forces. The under-the-radar approach was necessitated by the State Department’s opposition to any type of military intervention in Somalia. Until the middle of last year, diplomats remained hopeful of negotiations between the Somali government and the Islamic Courts Union. By last June, when the Islamists seized Mogadishu, the Pentagon appeared to have won that bureaucratic struggle.”
The interpretation put on the Ethiopian action by US officials deflates – if it needed any deflation – the claims made by the Ethiopian ambassador to London that Ethiopia acted in its self-defence. American officials who talked to The New York Times told the paper that:
“Military operations in Somalia by American commandos, and the use of the Ethiopian Army as a surrogate force [emphasis added] to root out operatives for al-Qaeda in the country, are a blueprint that Pentagon strategists say they hope to use more frequently in counterterrorism missions around the globe.
“Military officials said the strike by an American gunship on terrorism suspects in southern Somalia … showed that even with the departure of Donald H. Rumsfeld from the Pentagon, Special Operations troops intended to take advantage of the directive given to them by Rumsfeld in the weeks after the 11 September attacks.
“American officials said the recent military operations have been carried out by the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command, which directs the military’s most secretive and elite units, like the Army’s Delta Force… The State Department and Pentagon took control of Somalia policy in the summer, after a failed effort by the Central Intelligence Agency to use Somali warlords as proxies to hunt down the al-Qaeda suspects.”
Now, it is true that Ethiopians and Somalis have not been the best of friends during their existence as neighbours. But so many countries signed the Charter of the United Nations, and that of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU, now the African Union) precisely to create international instruments under which enemies can live in peace with each another.
There are procedures for protesting against hostile acts committed by one nation against another. The Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) in Somalia may have spewed threatening words against Ethiopia, but Ethiopia should have complained to countries that have some influence over the UIC. That Ethiopia resorted to invasion, when it is the African country entrusted with the custody, in its national vaults, of the original OAU Charter, is a gross betrayal of everything the AU stands for.
Doesn’t Ethiopia realise that by invading Somalia with the military collaboration of the US, it is giving respectability to the action of a country that is such a law unto itself that it deceived the UN with barefaced lies, and tried to hoodwink the UN into allowing it to invade Iraq, and when the UN refused to authorise such an invasion, went ahead and invaded Iraq all the same?
For an African leader to ignore this and go marching into its neighbour’s territory in the company of a country that knows no self-restraint, is beyond belief. Has Meles Zenawi forgotten that the US action in Iraq has gone down in history as being the same as what the Italians did, when they invaded Ethiopia in 1935?
People say that Zenawi invaded Somalia to divert attention at home from the consequences of last year’s “election-rigging” in Ethiopia, and the high number of protestors killed by the Ethiopian army in Addis Ababa and elsewhere in the country. Zenawi should ask Mengistu Haile Mariam whether one can ever be absolved from killing peaceful protesters. After all, Zenawi’s courts have just sentenced Mengistu to life imprisonment, in absentia, for crimes he committed against the Ethiopian people more than two decades ago.
It is important for the AU not to be fooled into sending troops to Somalia, because such a peacekeeping force will ultimately legitimise the American/Ethiopian invasion. Of course, it is
necessary to restore peace and order to Somalia. But the AU must recognise that most Somalis would regard an AU-enforced peace as military intervention on the side of a government licking the boots of Ethiopia and the US. Peace under such a regime will not last. And, indeed, already, the “Somali government” is facing attacks by the supporters of the very Islamists who are supposed to have been “defeated”.
What the AU must do is to recommence the process of genuine negotiations between the Somali factions that took place in Kenya and Sudan, and which very nearly produced a government acceptable to a majority of Somalis, until the CIA began to sabotage the negotiations.