The headlines from the Horn of Africa are grimmer than ever this week.
Machine gunfire, mortars, rape, disease and more are plaguing the African nation of Somalia, and civilians are taking the brunt of yet another mess created by the United States. The poor, the voiceless, the dispossessed are once again dying, with little or no debate on the issue. The Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without borders) reports that "columns of people," fleeing the violence in Mogadishu, are heading for makeshift refugee camps where health conditions are deteriorating due to lack of sanitation and water. Mainstream political analysis has largely ignored the fact that the Bush administration is involved with one of the most oppressive governments in Africa, trying to force yet another “regime change,” this time in Somalia. How often can Bush get away with it?
Regional Map of Horn of Africa-- Source: UN Cartography
In 2002, George Bush squawked that there “would be no telling how many wars it will take” to defeat terrorism. In June of 2006, the Associated Press reported that Bush was “expressing concern” that volatile conditions in Somalia could lead al-Qaeda to use it as a staging ground to plan attacks.
"The first concern, of course, is to make sure that Somalia does not become an al-Qaeda safe haven - it doesn't become a place from which terrorists can plot and plan,” Bush warned.
In the same month, without offering any details, analysis or explanations, the State Department’s spokesman, Sian McCormack said the United States has “a strong interest in fighting foreign terrorists in the Horn of Africa.”
As usual, the press has not been paying close attention to the signs, signals and warnings from the Bushies as they telegraphed their intent to meddle in Africa under the guise of fighting terrorism—and laying claim to more oil and resources.
The sad and horrific result is a rapidly escalating refugee crisis in Somalia today, and it is predicated on another little-reported incident in January of this year. Then, the Bush administration launched a gunship attack on the poor, remote, Somali village of Hayo, which is near the Kenyan border.
In a purely opportunistic attack during heavy flooding in Somalia early this year, a U.S. AC-130 gunship openly swooped into the Horn of Africa. The gunship destroyed the village on the pretense that one al Qaeda member responsible for American embassy bombings was being sheltered there. The US Navy was not far behind, and established a blockade off the Somali coast, supposedly to stop Islamists from escaping, but effectively isolating civilians.
This air strike and blockade plainly aligned the Bush administration with the same Somali warlords, now cooperating with the Ethiopian Government, who were responsible for “Black Hawk Down.” Half a million people have fled the violence in Mogadishu since, and the resulting refuges crisis is producing an emerging health crisis, as well as the predictable rape and abuse of women and children. The United Nations reports 321,000 people have fled Mogadishu in recent weeks, many sleeping in the open or under trees.
Today’s (April 25, 2007) New York Time’s People Who Feed off Anarchy in Somalia Are Quick to Fuel It, is reminiscent of the Time’s cheerleading of the Iraq invasion.
There has been little analysis of Ethiopia's dictator, Meles Zenawi, who is actively seeking the support of US interests to work with the Bushies, ostensibly, to win the “war on terror.” What is ironic is that the US originally meddled in Ethiopian politics in 2004, when the US played a key role in bringing Islamists to prominence in the first place. By supporting Ethiopia’s interference in Somalia politics, a threat was created which led to the formation of Islamic militias to protect their own “homeland.” America forgets that homeland security works both ways. Enter the CIA, which armed, supported and trained the Ethiopian/Somali warlords under the guise of anti-terrorism in 2006. The final weeks of 2006 produced bitter fighting in an attempt to drive the Islamist militias from Mogadishu and create a western leaning, i.e., US friendly regime. Meanwhile, Somalians are facing US/Ethiopian supported clan rule which is filling the void as the Islamists flee. However, as usual, it is mostly civilians who are reaping the results of the fighting.
UNICEF commissioned African journalist Keith Harmon Snow to investigate the situation. Snow says that the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) was going into villages, destroying all civilian dwellings and chasing the villagers into the countryside-- all under the ruse of ousting terrorists.
“In August the military forcibly displaced all Anuak people from some 13 to 15 Anuak villages in the remote and already devastated regions,” Snow reported. (December, 2006).
Other voices from the ground are crying genocide; in a scenario reminiscent of Rwanda in 1994, when all that was available in mainstream media were reports that characterized the French-supported massacre as an “ethnic conflict.” Americans have come to expect this type of violence in Africa without raising a collective eyebrow, and it appears as if we are on the same road in Somalia, only this time, it is the US which is behind the murders, displacements and hellish suffering under the guise of “counter-terrorism.” Will we once again send dignitaries to view mass graves and piles of bones in Somalia a few years hence, with apologies all around that “we did not know what was happening?” How many times must we say never again?
Today, the Shabelle Media network reported conflicting views of the situation on All Africa.com.