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.
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
“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.
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