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Resistance grows to the U.S.-backed Somali regime

Published Dec 10, 2009 9:27 PM

A bomb blast at the Shamo Hotel in Mogadishu on Dec. 3 has further destabilized the unpopular and fragile Transitional Federal Government of Somalia. It clings to power due to the deployment of 4,500 troops under the auspices of the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), a move engineered by the U.S. government through the U.N. Security Council.

The attack killed more than 20 people, including four ministers of the government headed by President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed.

The TFG has never had control over more than a section of the Somali capital, despite the allocation by both the Bush and Obama administrations of millions of dollars in weapons and equipment to the AMISOM forces. The government’s position has become even more precarious with the expulsion of three top military officers of the TFG, bringing to light splits within the regime.

On Dec. 6 it was announced that new police and military commanders were being appointed to handle the worsening security situation. Garowe Online reported, “Gen. Ali Mahamed Hassan [Madobe] is the new police chief, replacing Gen. Abdi Hassan Awale [Qaybdid] while Gen. Mahamed Gelle Kahiye is taking over the military from the sacked Gen. Yussuf Hussein Osman [Dhumaal].”

This same report went on to state, “The embattled Somali government recently sacked Somali military and police commanders for failure to curb the rampant insurgency in the war-torn country.” Although the TFG cabinet and Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke praised the newly appointed police and military commanders, opposition to the decision was reflected in demonstrations of hundreds of people in the capital in support of the former officials.

In the immediate aftermath of the bombing, the TFG placed blame on the main Islamic resistance organization, al-Shabaab. Al-Shabaab denied responsibility for the attack. The other organization fighting the TFG, Hizbul Islam, also refuted allegations that it was involved in the explosions, which took place during a graduation ceremony for Benadir University.

A spokesperson for al-Shabaab, Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage, said: “We declare that al-Shabaab did not mastermind that explosion. ... It is not in the nature of al-Shabaab to target innocent people.” (Reuters, Dec. 4)

The al-Shabaab spokesperson went on to stress: “We know that some so-called government official left the scene of the explosion just minutes before the attack. That is why it is clear that they were behind the killing.”

Al-Shabaab controls large sections of the southern and central regions of the country.

Security situation deteriorates

These developments in Somalia illustrate that the situation is quite unstable in the capital, where the AMISOM forces and the TFG are based. As a result of the instability, the TFG prime minister has called for greater direct U.S. military involvement in Somalia.

Comparing the situation in Somalia to the U.S. policy towards Afghanistan, Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke wrote in a letter to the Times of London: “We accept that ... the situation in Somalia will appear beyond repair but the reality is very different. What is so startling is that all the conclusions are as true about Somalia as they are about Afghanistan.” (Reuters, Dec. 5)

The prime minister of the TFG continued by arguing: “Piracy and the growth of Islamic extremism are not the natural state of being. They are but symptoms of an underlying malaise—the absence of government and hope. The irony is that it would cost only a quarter of what is being spent right now on the warships trying to combat piracy to fund our plan and actually solve the problems rather than simply chasing them round the Indian Ocean.”

This appeal is closely associated with the view by the U.S. that Somalia is a haven for al-Qaida. Corporate media reports claim there are hundreds of “foreign fighters” inside al-Shabaab. The al-Shabaab organization has denied these accusations and says it is a movement led and supported by Somalis.

The U.S. has already dispatched a tremendous flotilla of warships, as alluded to by the prime minister. The Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean are shipping lanes for billions of dollars in goods and weapons. The problem of piracy derives from U.S. interference in the region, which has sparked increased instability and conflict.

Apparently there are other problems with the U.S.-backed AMISOM forces, which are composed of troops from Burundi and Uganda. The troops have been accused of committing atrocities against Somali civilians while carrying out the war against the Islamic resistance movements.

Despite the millions of dollars allocated to the AMISOM forces and the TFG, recent reports indicate that the soldiers have not been paid in months. The failure by African Union officials to account for millions of dollars for Somalia operations “has dried up payments for 4,500 peace-keeping troops after upset donors abruptly halted disbursements.” (Uganda Monitor, Dec. 5)

The same report said Ambassador Nicholas Bwakira, the African Union special representative in Somalia, told Voice of America that the Ugandan and Burundian troops had not received any salaries since May and “this has a very bad impact on the morale of the troops and that of the government concerned.”

Uganda reports that 37 of its troops have been killed in the fighting in Somalia. Burundi admits to losing 43 of its soldiers.

Meanwhile, Hizbul Islam organization leader Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys urged the Somali people to escalate their struggle against the U.S.-backed AMISOM forces: “The people can reach peace and progress if they fight against the foreign troops in Somalia. The Somali people can return their prestige and honor after 20 years of conflict and political deadlock.” (Shabelle.net, Dec. 5)