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While appealing for increased U.S. assistance

Somali president visits Midwest communities

Published Oct 18, 2009 10:32 PM

After a major address before the Columbus Council on World Affairs, the U.S.-backed president of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, Sheik Sherif Sheikh Ahmed, told journalists that his fragile regime could not prevent the seizure of power by the two main resistance groups in the Horn of Africa nation. Ahmed was in the United States to appeal for continued aid from the Obama administration and to speak before the Somali expatriate communities in Columbus, Ohio; Chicago; and Minneapolis.

Ahmed was installed as leader of the TFG in January after the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from Somalia. The Ethiopian military had intervened in December 2006 to disperse members and supporters of the Union of Islamic Courts, which had taken control of large sections of the country.

As a result of a split within the UIC, with which Ahmed was previously associated, a new TFG was established which excluded members of al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam. Both these groups have demanded the total withdrawal of African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) military forces from the country and the establishment of an Islamic state.

Regarding the continued resistance to the TFG, Ahmed told reporters in Columbus: “Doing something together about it is necessary. My government does not have the capacity to act alone and do that work.” (Associated Press, Oct. 7)

“We believe that if the Somali government [and] the United States government ... cooperate, we can bring stability to Somalia,” said Ahmed, who complimented the Obama administration for its support and said that a meeting held with the U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, “was an indication of a level of interest in East Africa.” (The Lantern, Oct. 8)

With the Obama administration, U.S. policy towards Somalia and the Horn of Africa has remained essentially unchanged. The AMISOM forces and the TFG government headed by Ahmed are largely being propped up by the U.S.

Flotillas of U.S. and other warships are patrolling the waters off the coast of Somalia in the Gulf of Aden as well as in the Indian Ocean under the guise of fighting piracy. The U.S. maintains a military base in neighboring Djibouti and has pledged to continue its backing of the Kenyan government.

Accusations of terrorism by the U.S.

The U.S. government has targeted the Somali community claiming that it is the focus of recruitment for al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam, groups which intelligence agencies say are affiliated with al-Qaeda. A U.S. military airstrike in southern Somalia in September resulted in the reported death of Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, who had been accused of involvement in a car bombing of a resort area in Kenya in 2002.

According to the Associated Press: “Authorities say as many as 20 Somali men in Minneapolis, possibly intent on holy war, returned to the impoverished nation during the last two years. At least three of them have died in Somalia, including one believed to be the first American suicide bomber. Three others have pleaded guilty in the U.S. to terror-related charges.” (Oct. 7)

In his address to the Minneapolis Somali community, Ahmed warned his audience to reject efforts aimed at opposing his government through military force. Some 80,000 Somalis live in the Minneapolis area.

The escalation in immigration over the last two decades has been in response to the collapse of the U.S.-backed Somali government of Mohammed Siad Barre during 1991 and the successive failed efforts to establish a stable representative state. The U.S. intervened directly in Somalia from 1992 to 1994 but withdrew after the resistance of the people resulted in casualties inflicted upon the Marines that occupied the country.

Accusations of “terrorism” have even affected the distribution of humanitarian aid to the people inside Somalia. Since large sections of the country are under the control of the Hizbul Islam and al-Shabaab, the U.S. had placed restrictions on which organizations can provide assistance.

In 2008 the U.S. reportedly provided $274 million in humanitarian assistance and food aid. In 2009, the Obama administration has allocated $189 million in similar aid.

“USAID will continue to review its policies and procedures for the provision of humanitarian assistance in Somalia, and this review will include ensuring compliance with U.S. laws designed to prevent potential support to terrorists,” stated Russell Brooks, a press officer at the State Department. (IRIN, Oct. 6)

Since the U.S.-backed Ethiopian invasion in December 2006, Somalia has faced its worse humanitarian crisis since the collapse of the Barre regime. About 3.8 million people, almost half the population, are in need of assistance. The number of displaced persons is estimated at 1.5 million.

Reports of another Ethiopian incursion

Reports emanating from central Somalia on Oct. 11 indicate that hundreds of Ethiopian troops have entered the country, arresting dozens of people accused of being affiliated with the resistance movements. The Ethiopian troops, along with pro-government Somali militias, entered three villages west of Beledweyn, approximately 186 miles north of the capital of Mogadishu.

Husein Farah Gomey, an elder from the area, said he “saw dozens of armed vehicles belonging to the Ethiopian army with some Somali militias, they entered Wagada village and detained several people before getting out of the village this morning.” (AFP, Oct. 11)

According to a Hizbul Islam official, Sheik Abdurahman Sheik Mohamoud, “It is not the first time [Ethiopian military forces] have carried out such raids inside of Somalia taking innocent civilians with them, but we tell them that such provocation will only breed bloodshed.”

Some of the residents of the area told the AFP that the Ethiopian military crossed into the area in pursuit of a rebel group fighting the government in the Ogaden region. A similar report in August also claimed that Ethiopian troops entered the area and temporarily displaced the resistance movements that were in control of the territory.