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Uganda bomb blasts reflect struggle over Somalia

Published Jul 16, 2010 9:04 PM

Bomb blasts in and around the Ugandan capital of Kampala on July 11 killed at least 74 people who were gathered at a rugby club and an Ethiopian restaurant watching the finals of the 2010 World Cup.

U.S. National Security Council spokesperson Mike Hammer said in response that the United States was “ready to provide any assistance requested by the Uganda government.” (Al-Jazeera) The U.S. government has underwritten the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) military operations in Somalia under both the George W. Bush administration and the current presidency of Barack Obama, who condemned the attacks.

Inside the United States and the Western imperialist states, anti-war forces have a responsibility to educate the general public about the true role of the Pentagon and other European military institutions in the Horn of Africa and their aims to dominate and influence events in the region, as they have done since the 1970s.

Should additional military forces from pro-Western regimes be sent to the region, this will only aggravate the political situation inside Somalia. Any attempt at direct U.S. military intervention will result in greater resistance on the part of the people in Somalia and throughout the region.

One of Somalia’s resistance organizations, al-Shabab, claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying they were done in retaliation for the continued occupation of the country by AMISOM, which is comprised largely of military forces from both Uganda and Burundi.

A regional conference of the six-nation Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, threatened on July 5 to dispatch another 2,000 troops to Somalia in order to prevent the total collapse of the U.S.-backed Transitional Federal Government.

Al-Shabab takes responsibility

A spokesperson for al-Shabab, Sheik Ali Mohamud Rage, told journalists in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, that “al-Shabab was behind the two blasts in Uganda. We thank the mujahideens that carried out the attack.” (Al-Jazeera, July 12)

The Islamic resistance group spokesperson also emphasized, “We are sending a message to Uganda and Burundi, if they do not take out their AMISOM troops from Somalia, blasts will continue and it will happen.” In battles last week in Mogadishu, more than 40 people were reported killed in heavy artillery fire between al-Shabab and AMISOM troops.

During the week of July 5 another al-Shabab leader urged the people to overturn the U.S.-backed TFG regime. Mohamed Abdi Godane condemned the military forces of Uganda and Burundi for what he claimed were the deaths of numerous civilians in Somalia.

Godane called on “the Somali people to unite to fight against the enemy of Allah. We know that the people in Mogadishu were honored with two previous victories. They won the war against the Americans and the Ethiopians, and the fight against AMISOM will be the final victory by God’s will.” (Sapa-AFP, July 5)

The al-Shabab leader threatened the AMISOM forces: “My message to the people of Uganda and Burundi is that you will be the targets of retaliation for the massacre of women, children and elderly Somalis in Mogadishu by your forces. You will be held responsible for the killings your ignorant leaders and your soldiers are committing in Somalia.” (Sapa-AFP, July 5)

In a speech to the regional IGAD emergency conference on Somalia in Addis Ababa, TFG President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed appealed to the organization to send additional military forces to fight both al-Shabab and Hizbul Islam, the other resistance organization. Pressure exerted on the TFG has resulted in factional tensions within the fragile regime, prompting a recent reshuffling of the cabinet.

Echoing the sentiment of the TFG leader, Western-backed Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi stated: “The recent security situation does not augur well. This, coupled with the approaching end of the transitional period, calls for more serious work within the existing time frame.” (Sapa-AFP, July 5)

Regional implications for the Horn of Africa

Not only has the United States provided considerable military and political assistance to the Transitional Federal Government in Somalia, it has, along with the European Union, led a flotilla of warships that are occupying waters off the coast of Somalia in the Gulf of Aden. This naval operation is being conducted under the guise of fighting piracy within one of the most lucrative shipping lanes in the world.

The announced deployment of another 2,000 troops to prop up the U.S.-backed TFG has been welcomed by U.N. Special Envoy to Somalia Augustine P. Mahiga. “The U.N. will continue to uphold its partnership with IGAD and the African Union in Somalia in line with the Memorandum of Understanding on Somalia signed by the three organizations on 28 April 2010,” Mahiga said. (United Nations Office for Somalia, July 9)

The United States and other Western imperialist states are opposed to any government coming to power in the Horn of Africa that is outside their sphere of influence. Within the region, only the Eritrean government has spoken forcefully against further outside intervention. Eritrean Minister of Information Ali Abdu demanded that the East African states refrain from plans to dispatch additional troops in a doomed effort to prevent the collapse of a beleaguered regime.

The Eritrean official said that Ethiopia’s government was pushing for the escalation of the war inside Somalia because it “wants a disintegrated and weak Somalia.” (Associated Press, July 9)

Background of imperialist intervention

In 1977-78, the Jimmy Carter administration encouraged the-then Somalia government of Mohamed Siad Barre to invade the Ogaden region of Ethiopia. At that time, Ethiopia had just had a revolution that overthrew the U.S.-backed monarchy and the feudal landowners and had declared its intention of building socialism. The Somali invasion was defeated by Ethiopia with the assistance of Cuban internationalist forces.

The policies of the Siad Barre regime resulted in massive social dislocation and food deficits that led to an outbreak of famine in the early 1980s. Political stability would not be achieved for over a decade, when the Barre government collapsed in 1991.

In 1992, the U.S. sent thousands of Marines into Somalia in a supposed humanitarian project called “Operation Restore Hope.” The campaign was soon revealed to be a counter-insurgency move to root out independent political forces that opposed Western economic and political policies in the region.

Meles Zenawi became head of Ethiopia after the overthrow of the revolutionary government there and has acted in conjunction with the foreign policy objectives of successive U.S. administrations since the early 1990s. This is also true for the Ugandan government of President Yoweri Museveni, who has been a reliable partner for imperialist aims in the region.