Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


Africa Command Prospect & the Partition of Somalia

The Africa Command Prospect and the Partition of Somalia


by Abukar Arman

As the US Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, was recently visiting American forces in Djibouti, the Washington Post was reporting how the Pentagon has been spearheading a seemingly dicey initiative to pressure Washington into recognizing the secessionist northwestern region of Somalia known as “Somaliland” as an independent state.

In an article titled ‘U.S. Debating Shift of Support in Somali Conflict’ that appeared on December 4, 2007 issue, the Post highlights how some Pentagon officials are convinced it is time “to forge ties with Somaliland, as the U.S. military has with Kenya and other countries bordering Somalia.” The article quotes a senior defense official who asserts that "Somaliland is an entity that works." And another unnamed official who confirms the Pentagon’s view is that "Somaliland should be independent," and that the US should “build up the parts that are functional and box in Somalia's unstable regions, particularly around Mogadishu.”

This initiative clearly contradicts the State Department’s wait-and-see approach to this diplomatically sensitive issue. And, handled haphazardly, this could set ablaze the volatile inter-tribal tensions looming in northern Somalia, and, according to the article, “set a precedent for other secession movements seeking to change colonial-era borders,” therefore, “opening a Pandora's box in the region.

That said, it is worth noting that aside from the on again, off again, clan-driven skirmishes that make headlines every now and then, throughout the Somali civil war, the northwestern region has enjoyed relative peace and stability.

Naturally, this unprecedented aggressive approach by the Department of Defense raises questions worth pondering: When did the Pentagon become the engine propelling the US foreign policy? Why would the Pentagon care whether or not Somaliland becomes an independent state or not? And, more importantly, how prudent is it to take this kind of an approach?

In answering the first question, remember how the events of 9/11 have “changed the world” and how as a result the notoriously Islamophobic Neocons ascended to (absolute) power; remember that moment in history when in certain circles it was fashionable to declare diplomacy dead and to claim militarization of the American foreign policy is imperative to the survival of the nation. It is then when the rules of the game have profoundly changed. Today, while the icons of that political machine have disappeared for one reason or another, the policy imprint they left behind would probably take generations to undo.

Last summer, US Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of African Affairs, Jendayi Frazer, addressed an audience of several hundred, mostly Somali scholars, activists, students, and professionals at a Somali studies conference held in Columbus, Ohio. In her speech, Dr. Frazer said “we were against the Ethiopian invasion”. This, of course, contradicted what the Somali people and the world already knew- that in January 2007 Washington switched hats from a “tacit supporter” of Ethiopia’s aggression to an active partner in the illegal invasion. US Air Force AC-130 gunship has launched aerial attacks against "suspected Islamist terrorists" based in Somalia.

So, was Dr. Frazer not being entirely honest? Perhaps not, though her statement was cleverly inserted in a context which could only give the impression that Ethiopia has invaded Somalia in spite of Washington’s objections. After all her statement was consistent with the State Department’s position; alas, that was superseded by the hawkish wishes of the Pentagon. And this brings me to the latter of the two original questions. And the simple answer is the establishment of the Africa Command or AFRICOM as it is commonly known.

AFRICOM is a US command center completely devoted to Africa. The primary objective of the command center is to promote US national security by “working with African states and regional organizations to help strengthen stability and security…” and creating an environment in which sustainable economic growth is possible. The command center is supposed to focus on “war prevention rather than war-fighting”.

It is no secret that many in the Pentagon consider the Somali port city of Berbera as the ideal location for AFRICOM. However, considering the site-selection criteria jointly developed by the Pentagon and the State Department that include “political stability; security factors; access to regional and intercontinental transportation; availability of acceptable infrastructure; qualify of life; proximity to the African Union and regional organizations; proximity to U.S. government hubs; adequate Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA),” Somalia might not look as a prime candidate. However, detaching the secessionist northwestern region from the rest of chaotic Somalia gives a different picture. This explains why the Pentagon's view is that "Somaliland should be independent."

The Pentagon is pressed against time. October 2008 is the deadline when AFRICOM is supposed to be fully operational. In the mean time, Somalia’s situation is worsening by the day. The situation there is now considered the worst humanitarian crisis in Africa. According to the UN, approximately one million civilians fleeing Mogadishu have become internally displaced persons (IDP) threatened by severe food shortage.

Oblivious to the scale of this humanitarian catastrophe and how their approach could potentially add another layer of complexity, the Pentagon is eager to accelerate the establishment of AFRICOM, especially now that China is making profound stride in Africa and the European Union is following suit. However, the real set back to Washington is its own self-defeating foreign policy that is treated as suspect everywhere.

According to Congressman Donald Payne, the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Africa, Washington should expect “a lot of skepticism, because there has been so little attention given to Africa…All of a sudden to have a special military command, I think the typical person would wonder why now and really what is the end game?"

The neocons’ legacy, the DADD syndrome, or the Diplomatic Attention Deficit Disorder, is still propelling Washington’s foreign policy and continues to project America negatively throughout the world, especially in the Muslim world and Africa.

The US foreign policy regarding Somalia ought to focus on ending the Ethiopian occupation and therefore ending their widely condemned human rights abuses, as well as facilitating an all inclusive reconciliation conference before the 2009 general elections. This is congruent, at least in part, with a nine point recommendation articulated in a communiqué issued by the Somali Cause upon the conclusion of its two day conference on December 1, 2007.

Somali Cause is a nine member coalition, Eight US based organizations and one Canada based- the Somali Canadian Diaspora Alliance.

*************

Abukar Arman is a freelance writer who lives in Ohio.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Werewolf: Living With Rio’s Olympic Ruins

Mariana Cavalcanti Critics of the Olympic project can point a discernible pattern in the delivery of Olympics-related urban interventions: the belated but rushed inaugurations of faulty and/or unfinished infrastructures... More>>

Live Blog On Now: Open Source//Open Society Conference

The second annual Open Source Open Society Conference is a 2 day event taking place on 22-23 August 2016 at Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington… Scoop is hosting a live blog summarising the key points of this exciting conference. More>>

ALSO:

Buildup:

Gordon Campbell: On The Politicising Of The War On Drugs In Sport

It hasn’t been much fun at all to see how “war on drugs in sport” has become a proxy version of the Cold War, fixated on Russia. This weekend’s banning of the Russian long jumper Darya Klishina took that fixation to fresh extremes. More>>

ALSO:

Binoy Kampmark: Kevin Rudd’s Failed UN Secretary General Bid

Few sights are sadder in international diplomacy than seeing an aging figure desperate for honours. In a desperate effort to net them, he scurries around, cultivating, prodding, wishing to be noted. Finally, such an honour is netted, in all likelihood just to shut that overly keen individual up. More>>

Open Source / Open Society: The Scoop Foundation - An Open Model For NZ Media

Access to accurate, relevant and timely information is a crucial aspect of an open and transparent society. However, in our digital society information is in a state of flux with every aspect of its creation, delivery and consumption undergoing profound redefinition... More>>

Keeping Out The Vote: Gordon Campbell On The US Elections

I’ll focus here on just two ways that dis-enfranchisement is currently occurring in the US: (a) by the rigging of the boundary lines for voter districts and (b) by demanding elaborate photo IDs before people are allowed to cast their vote. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Being Black Palestinian - Solidarity As A Welcome Pathology

It should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual. More>>

ALSO:


Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news