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U.S. role

What's at stake in the Horn of Africa

Published Jan 7, 2007 9:05 PM

An estimated 15,000 Ethiopian troops invaded Mogadishu, the capital of the African country of Somalia, in late December to militarily defeat the Islamic Courts Union. The ICU until recently controlled large sections of the southern part of that country. It has now pulled back from the cities and said it will conduct guerrilla warfare against the invaders.

This war and invasion began to escalate in early 2006. Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government, which has been put together with U.S. and British connivance, supported the invasion.

As of Jan. 1, the ICU forces have been pushed back on a temporary basis. The ICU has a mass base among many Somalis, along with other Muslims throughout the region, due in part to social services it provides for the poor, especially in the areas of health and education.

The U.S. government has openly supported this invasion under the guise of the Bush administration’s on-going war against “terrorism,” which began after 9/11. This war began with the illegal invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and now has spread its tentacles into the Horn of Africa. Millions of Muslims view Bush’s endless war as a ploy to attack Islam, not just as a religion but also for daring to resist imperialist and colonial aggression.

This recent conflict has drawn Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda into an anti-ICU alliance. Jakkie Ciliers, executive director of South Africa’s Institute for Security Studies, stated in the article “Africa, Root Causes and the War on Terror,” that “The potential impact upon the region is catastrophic, and may, if not checked, open the Horn as the latest battleground between the U.S. and Islam with disastrous consequences for its peoples, regional stability and the consolidation of African development, peace and security.”  

A U.N. resolution orchestrated by the U.S. and Britain, which hold permanent positions on the Security Council, is being used to justify sending a “peacekeeping force” to Somalia to protect the transitional U.S.-backed government there from the ICU forces.

Fighting “terrorism” or quest for oil?

What has been the concrete involvement of the U.S. in this war between Ethiopia and Somalia, two of the poorest countries in the world?

According to William Church, director of the Great Lakes Centre for Strategic Studies, the CIA has been funneling between $100,000 and $150,000 monthly to the Alliance for Restoration of Peace and Counterterrorism, which includes Somali officials recognized by the West, “warlords” and business people. Military equipment has also been donated to the Somali military by Select Armor, a private company based in Virginia.

The Pentagon also sent $19 million worth of weapons and loans to Ethiopia in 2005 and is scheduled to provide another $10 million worth of weapons this year. (Sudan Tribune) In countries as poor as Somalia and Ethiopia, this is a lot of money.

Just as Bush used the phony excuse of “fighting terrorism” to invade and occupy Iraq, he is using the same excuse to justify Washington’s support for the invasion of Somalia by Ethiopia. And just as controlling another country’s oil reserves was the real reason for invading Iraq, the same holds true for this recent invasion of the Horn of Africa.

The Horn has great strategic value, since naval bases there can control the traffic of tankers and other ships through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. In addition, however, the U.S. is well aware that Africa has the world’s third-largest oil reserves, after the Middle East and Latin America.

Industry sources say these reserves amount to over 95 billion barrels, or about 8 percent of the world’s total. Nigeria is the largest producer of oil on the African continent. It remains one of the poorest countries because Shell, ExxonMobil and ChevronTexaco, not the Nigerian people, control the oil production, wealth and profits there.

Much of Africa’s overall oil reserves are untapped and are strategically located in the Horn of Africa, which is on the Red Sea and is a direct route to the oil-rich Middle East.

The Pentagon established a Central Command in Africa in 2002 and stationed naval warships off the Horn of Africa. The excuse was that they were monitoring the movements of al-Qaeda members based in Afghanistan.

Just last month, the Pentagon sent a proposal to the White House requesting that an African Command be set up to oversee all U.S. military maneuvers throughout the African region. Bush is expected to approve this request within the next few months.

Can there be any doubt that both these commands will carry out the same task of working on behalf of Big Oil transnational corporations in an attempt to oversee the drilling for oil that is expected to occur in the Red Sea?

The U.S. has expressed concern that representatives of the Chinese government recently visited Kenya, Sudan and Ethiopia to discuss oil and trade agreements with those governments. China is offering developing countries better terms than those established by the imperialist powers. This is another reason why the U.S. wants to deepen its economic influence in Africa through military hegemony.

The U.S. ruling elite and its military arm could care less for the people of Somalia, Ethiopia or the African people in general. Friends can become enemies and vice-versa at a blink of the eye when securing profits is at stake.

A case in point is during the early 1990s, when the U.S. military invaded Somalia under the guise of providing humanitarian aid. The troops were driven out by the heroic resistance of the Somali people. Another example is that the U.S. was a major enemy of the 1974 Ethiopian revolution until it was weakened and then eventually overthrown by internal and external factors, including U.S. intervention. Today, the government in Ethiopia is to the liking of the White House.

It is important for revolutionaries and progressive activists to expose what is going on in the Horn of Africa and connect this development to the overall struggle against U.S. imperialist designs in the Middle East, Asia and elsewhere. The people of Africa deserve reparations, political stability and economic development free from imperialist domination and plunder.

E-mail: mmoorehead@workers.org