In recent months events in Somalia have been going through some twists and turns. The US inspired brutal occupation of Somalia by Ethiopian troops has patently failed to deliver the country into US hegemony. For two years Somali resistance forces have resolutely fought the occupation by Ethiopian troops and an African Union (AU) so-called peace keeping force. And in the last week of January this year Ethiopia withdrew its troops without leaving an imperialist-friendly government in control.
Indeed, the puppet so-called Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and its parliament had been forced to carry out their activities in Djibouti and have been shuffling themselves in a manner that bears all the hallmarks of imperialist inspired manoeuvring, the objective being a government that could pull the chestnuts out of the fire for imperialism by causing splits in the resistance.
As a result, on 31 January this year Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed was elected President of Somalia by a parliament, augmented by 200 more members, meeting in Djibouti. Sheikh Ahmed had been a leader of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) that brought stability to Somalia before the Ethiopian invasion. He has, however, succumbed to manoeuvres in Djibouti, while other components of the ICU remained in Somalia engaging the invaders in armed struggle.
Sheikh Ahmed has some allies within Somalia, but the signs are that the most resolute groups of the resistance are not inclined to now roll over and allow US domination through the agency of renegades that were once in the ICU with them.
Ethiopian troops had invaded Somalia in December 2006, instigated, aided and abetted by the US through a massive aerial and sea bombardment, intelligence and ‘advisers’ on the ground. But the Ethiopian troops struggled to maintain the foothold they achieved against resolute resistance, eventually withdrawing in January 2009. A small number of beleaguered AU forces from Uganda and Burundi, which also went in at the behest of US imperialism, have been left to guard government installations and some port areas.
US imperialism had organised the invasion by Ethiopian troops to oust the government of the ICU, which was bringing stability to the country after a long period of chaos. After President Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991 there had been 15 years in which contending warlords were in control in Somalia, with a series of 14 transitional governments being largely ineffective in the chaotic circumstances that prevailed. The ICU defeated the reign of the warlords, sidelined the TFG established in 2004, and rose to power on a tide of popular support, driving the last remnants of the warlords from Mogadishu and other southern cities on 5 June 2006. It quickly established a stable government controlling central and southern Somalia and continued spreading peaceful conditions for the population.
This, however, was not to the liking of US imperialism. We are repeatedly told that the US and its allies want stability in the world, and that all their interventions are just efforts to help achieve that. What imperialism really seeks is hegemony and it cares not one jot about instability unless it threatens its interests. It was quite happy with the unstable, chaotic situation under the warlords, who were amenable to imperialism, and anyway could be manoeuvred against one another.
Statements that there has been no stable government in Somalia since 1991 attempt to deny the fact that the ICU was creating a stable independent unified country. The trouble for imperialism was that it was not under its control. Such stability could not be tolerated, particularly in a country that commands one of the longest and most strategically important coastlines in Africa; hence the US/Ethiopian aggression.
The resistance grows
Following the invasion, some of the leadership of the Islamic Courts Union, including its Chairman, Sheikh Ahmed, formed the Alliance for the Liberation of Somalia in Asmara (ALS-A). Another group with the same name was formed in Djibouti – ALS-D. They developed as an ‘opposition’ to the TFG.
The most effective opposition was provided by strong components of the ICU, which remained in Somalia fighting the Ethiopian troops and the so-called AU peace-keeping force. The bourgeois media reported that the advancing Ethiopians had driven the resistance to the sea, where US warships blocked escape, and the Kenyan border, which had been closed. We were told the trapped resistance fighters would be mopped up.
But the resistance was not mopped up and it grew in strength. Al-Shabaab, a significant section of the ICU, emerged as its leading force. It waged guerrilla struggle until 2008, and by August that year al-Shabaab was able to capture the third largest city, Kismayo, and from then began engaging Ethiopian troops in more conventional forms of warfare, steadily gaining control of more and more territory
Faced with the military successes of the resistance on the one hand, and the complete failure of the puppet government to gain any support on the other, Ethiopia finally withdrew in the last week of January 2009.
Seeing its plans falling into ruins, imperialism sought to revamp the TFG, which was completely isolated and ineffectual, by splitting off elements from the ICU and drawing them in. It had backed a Reconciliation and Unity conference in July 2007, but was unsuccessful in putting pressure on the TFG to reconcile. The unpopular President, Abdullahi Yusuf, an ex-warlord, refused entry to the ICU, whose Chairman, Sheikh Ahmed, then announced that the ICU would not attend without a schedule for Ethiopian troop withdrawal.
The successes of the resistance in 2008, threatening to oust Ethiopia anyway, caused imperialism to increase its pressure. No doubt at its behest the Ethiopian prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, announced in August 2008 (at the time al-Shabaab took control of Kismayo) that he was prepared to withdraw troops even if the government was not stable or functioning (neither of which it had so far achieved nor looked like achieving!). At the end of November 2008 the Ethiopian government sent a letter to the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, and the Chairman of the AU Commission, saying that it would withdraw its troops from Somalia by the end of the year.
Abdullahi Yusuf, dependent on imperialist backing but now a major stumbling block to imperialism’s new plans, conveniently resigned on 29 December 2008. On the same day the US State Department issued a press statement announcing that it would provide $5 million to support formation of a joint security force in Somalia. It went on to say that the US expected the Somali parliament to act expeditiously and select a new President within 30 days under the terms of the Transitional Federal Charter. The statement referred to the Charter as a “United Nations backed framework for restoring peace and good governance in Somalia” – in other words a device to establish US hegemony!
It seems that Sheikh Ahmed had been won round, and he was elected President on 31 January 2009, immediately following Ethiopia’s withdrawal.
Imperialism’s plans are, however, still in a precarious state. While there are some allies of the renegades with fighting capacity and some base in parts of Somalia, the resistance led by al-Shabaab appears to have the support of the population. Within hours of Ethiopian troops leaving, al-Shabaab was in control of the southern town of Baidoa, which had been the stronghold of the TFG until it had fled to Djibouti, and seized the warehouse where the ineffectual TFG parliament had held meetings. Resistance fighters on the outskirts of Mogadishu were challenging TFG forces.
It has been claimed that Sheikh Ahmed went over to the TFG in order to spare the Somali people further bloodshed by negotiating a withdrawal of Ethiopian troops. But matters have moved on since Sheikh Ahmed’s demands on behalf of the ICU in mid 2007, and it is now clear that it was the military successes of the resistance that made Ethiopia’s position untenable. The fighting should be over, but it is in fact forces supporting Sheikh Ahmed and the pro-imperialist AU force that are prolonging it. They are attacking the resistance led by al-Shabaab, which correctly identifies them as would-be facilitators of imperialist domination of Somalia, and is continuing to resist.
On 19 March 2009 an audio-tape from Osama bin Laden, entitled “Fight on, champions of Somalia”, called for the overthrow of Sheikh Ahmed. Ken Menkhaus, a professor of political Science at Davidson University, suggests that this might bolster Sheikh Ahmed’s standing as “there’s nothing that plays as poorly in Somalia as foreigners trying to advance their own agenda in Somalia – telling them who they may or may not have as a leader”. He added, “In some ways you could not script it any better for the new government” (TIME, 20 March 2009). This stated advantage for imperialism does raise suspicions about who actually made the tape!
Two points need to be made. First, it can hardly have escaped the attention of the Somali people that, when it comes to “foreigners trying to advance their own agenda”, US imperialism is by far the front runner. It is not just a matter of an audio-tape, the resistance has fought US soldiers off in the past and has been fighting its proxy troops for the last two years – troops which have been meting out savage suffering to Somali civilians in an attempt to not just tell, but impose, who they should have as a leader.
Secondly, imperialism will no doubt seize on this tape as a reason for branding all resisting Somalis as “terrorists”, as part of a great “conspiracy”. Washington already has al-Shabaab on its list of “terrorist organisations”. It should, however, not be a surprise that those in various parts of the world who are subjected to the US conspiracy to dominate everywhere it can should resist those attempts, and even express some mutual support.
Imperialism for its part has no problems in supporting those it regards as allies, and is prepared to be dishonest in how it does so. Menkhaus and other advisers warn that the last thing Sheikh Sharif Ahmed needs is overt Western backing. He said: “Diffuse any idea that Sharif’s administration is a puppet by limiting yourself to quiet support. Don’t kill this administration with kindness.”
It is, however, clear that imperialism is fully expecting Sheikh Ahmed and his administration to achieve more subtly what the Ethiopian troops could not do by brute force.
The Somali resistance is intelligent and has fought bravely and successfully. Faced with current developments some parts of it may waver while others remain strong, but Sheikh Ahmed’s willingness to serve imperialism is clear and will become clearer, and the true interests of the Somali people will be served by those who continue to steadfastly oppose and resist all the efforts of imperialism, through whatever puppets, to subjugate Somalia to its rapacious hegemony.
Victory to the Somali resistance against imperialism and all its stooges!