For over 15 years, following the overthrow of Mohamed Siad Barre, Somalia was racked by internal conflict, warlords and imperialism, especially US, meddling in its affairs. Fed up with the chaos, violence, insecurity and economic dislocation, the overwhelming majority of the Somali people rallied round the armed forces of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), which routed the last remnants of the US-funded and US-supported warlords out of Mogadishu on 5 June last year, before going on to establish control over most of the country. For the first time in 15 years, the ICU rule brought to the Somali people a semblance of order, national identity and prospect of a peaceful and prosperous future. Also, for the first time in 15 years, Somalia witnessed the emergence of a government (ICU) which enjoyed genuine legitimacy through the widespread support it received from Somalis from all parts of the country.
Washington’s campaign against ICU
The problem with the ICU victory, however, was that it was not to the liking of US imperialism, its warlord puppets driven out by the ICU, and the US’s Ethiopian puppet regime of Meles Zenawi. No sooner had the ICU emerged victorious than those inveterate enemies of the Somali people began to plot for its downfall, painting the ICU in Al-Qaeda colours and asserting that it presented a danger to the peace and stability of the region. ICU denied these absurd charges, pointing out that far from disturbing, it had brought peace and stability to Somalia – and by extension to the region as a whole. Flying in the face of facts, Washington and Addis Ababa continued with their campaign of malicious lies and slander against the ICU.
Unprovoked Ethiopian aggression
Considering the popular support enjoyed by the ICU government, and the rapid control it achieved throughout Somalia through a series of military victories against its opponents, there was nothing that the US or the Ethiopian government could do short of invading Somalia on some flimsy pretext and on the basis of doubtful legality. They stood the best chance of doing so by throwing their weight on the side of the so-called Transitional Government (TG), centred around the town of Baidoa. This TG, formed at a UN-sponsored conference two years ago, having among its members many US-backed warlords, including the most notorious of them all, Abdullahi Yusuf, its president, was weak, riven by internal divisions and exercising no control whatsoever anywhere other than in the small town of its seat. This so-called government was entirely powerless and totally ignored by the Somali people. For its very existence, it relied on Ethiopian support. And yet it is this outfit which is recognised by the “international community”, especially since the victory last June of the ICU. Even the Financial Times, no friend of the Somali people, felt obliged to state the following facts in its leading article on 4 January 2007: “The transitional government by itself lacks all credibility. It was created in Nairobi and confined, until last month’s [Ethiopian] invasion, to Baidoa, close to Ethiopia’s border. It never asserted its authority; its prime minister, Ali Mohammed Gedi, does not even command the support of his sub-clan” (‘Invading Somalia is no recipe for stability’).
Following several days of fighting between the ICU forces and the troops of the TG around the town of Baidoa, and seeing the TG on the verge of annihilation, on Christmas Eve (24 December), Ethiopia, with full US support, launched a devastating unprovoked war of aggression against Somalia in support of a government “with no apparent social base” (Financial Times, ibid.). After several days of bombardment by Ethiopian fighter jets and artillery, marking a dramatic escalation of conflict in the Horn of Africa, the ICU forces withdrew from frontline positions in central Somalia on 26 December. Since then they have vacated Mogadishu, the capital, as well as the southern port town of Kismayo. It is clear that, unable to match the US-supplied artillery and airpower of Ethiopia, the ICU forces have made a tactical withdrawal in order to be able to regroup and wage a long guerrilla campaign against the foreign invader. Ethiopia’s aggression has now been joined by the US, which has launched air strikes against the ICU from the US base in Djibouti.
With its unprovoked aggression against Somalia, Ethiopia faces a contradiction which it is powerless to resolve. If it pulls out its aggressor troops from Somalia, as it says it will soon, the TG will collapse like a house of cards in the absence of Ethiopian military support. If, on the other hand, the Ethiopian troops stay put, they will doubtless be sucked into an unwinnable guerrilla war. The speed with which the ICU has melted away in the face of the Ethiopian advance suggests that the ICU have an intelligent plan for luring the Ethiopians deep into Somalia. The Ethiopians will discover that in invading Somalia they have opened a door, behind which the ICU have some wicked tricks up their sleeve. They will find themselves in a situation not very different from the one in which the Anglo-American imperialist forces find themselves in Iraq.
Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, a prominent leader of the ICU, has stated that the war was “entering a new phase”, indicating that their forces were busy preparing for a protracted people’s war. “We will fight Ethiopia for a long, long time and we expect the war to go every place”, he said (quoted in the Financial Times, 27 December 2006).
The ICU have declared a holy war on Ethiopia and are bound to emerge victorious from this trial of strength, for nothing arouses the hostility of the Somalis more, and unites them better, than the presence of foreign troops on their soil and the spectacle of foreigners, especially US and Ethiopians, meddling in their internal affairs.
US behind the war
US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, has hailed the temporary Ethiopian victory as an “historic opportunity” for Somalia. On the contrary, by using the Ethiopian armed forces as its instrument of war against the Somali people, the US is engaged in turning the clock back 15 years; it is busy putting the notorious war lords in seats of power in order to be able to manipulate them all the better in its own interests of dominating the Horn of Africa – a region at the crossroads of the Middle East and Africa. Somalia, with one of Africa’s longest coastlines, stretching from the Gulf of Aden to its frontier with Kenya on the Indian Ocean, occupies an extremely strategic position, which US imperialism is determined to control and dominate.
Fully realising that the presence of Ethiopian troops on Somali soil is far too provocative to be productive of good results for US imperialism, the latter is busy organising an overtly “international peacekeeping force” as an instrument for consolidating its hold on Somalia. Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, another stooge of US imperialism, has offered to provide up to 2,000 “peacekeepers”. On Friday, 5 January, African and Western officials, including Jendayi Frazer, the US assistant secretary of state for Africa, met Abdullahi Yusuf, the so-called Somali president in Nairobi, to work out “peacekeeping” options and support for his deeply unpopular TG – with absolutely no influence and social base in Somalia. At this meeting, while the US, through Ms Frazer, agreed to provide $40 million to Somalia in “political, humanitarian and peacekeeping assistance”, the EU promised to help finance a force of 8,000 troops.
Meanwhile, a US taskforce off the Somali coast has been boarding vessels in the past few days in an effort to block the ICU fighters fleeing the country. Kenya, too, taking orders from the US, has officially closed its borders to stem the possible transit of ICU forces into Kenya.
Thus it is clear that in their latest war the Somali people are confronted with a fight not just against the non-existent TG, but against the might of US imperialism and its stooges. US imperialism, still smarting from its humiliating exit from Mogadishu in 1993, and in the middle of a debacle in Iraq, might have been tempted to intervene in the hope of a quick, ostensible victory, but it will find, just as it has in Iraq, that it has dug yet another deep hole for itself, from which it can escape only through yet another humiliating retreat. It has merely lifted a rock to drop on its own feet. The proletarians and progressive people everywhere must condemn the US-Ethiopian war of aggression against the Somali people and demand that the US and Ethiopian forces depart from Somalia, leaving it to the Somali people to settle their internal affairs without outside interference.