Somalia: Battleground between imperialist rivals

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For 15 years, Somalia has been ravaged by imperialist powers and gangs of local warlords. At the end of December, after a week of bloody confrontations, Ethiopian troops, supported by the American army, routed the battalions of the Islamic Courts, who had to flee the capital Mogadishu, taking refuge with their heavy weaponry in the surrounding areas. But the Islamists are far from defeated and are now waging guerrilla war against the Ethiopian occupation and the federal Somali government.

Under the watchful eye of their various imperialist mentors, the protagonists of this war have been engaged in a truly barbaric contest, involving among other things the mobilisation of children of ten or even less, armed to the teeth to kill and be killed. Several thousand people were slaughtered in the space of a few days, and rape at the point of bayonet has become a standard practise.

The Somali volcano is in the process of shaking the entire region, starting with Ethiopia and Eritrea who are taking advantage of the situation to settle old scores on Somali territory. Both of these states have amassed several thousand men to back up the two main warring factions in Somalia. Kenya is also already involved in the conflict. Tens of thousands of refugees have already fled across the Somali border, and Nairobi is in the process of taking military action to expel thousands of them on the pretext of preventing any incursion of ‘terrorist groups’ into its territories. The war is becoming general while Somalia itself is sliding even further into the most terrible chaos, torn apart by various local war-lords who are in turn being manipulated from afar by the imperialist powers disputing the region since the 90s. Since the overthrow of the former president Said Barre, the country has been put to the sword by a succession of murderous clans struggling for power. The central state has virtually disappeared and the country has been sliced into regions under the control of mafia gangs- like Mogadishu itself, which has in turn been cut up into several zones ruled by cliques who enforce their authority through murder, rape and theft. For the population in general, it has been a true descent into hell.

American imperialism behind Ethiopia’s intervention

Not content with having armed and trained the Ethiopian army which chased the Islamic Courts from the capital, the Pentagon carried out air raids in mid January, leaving dozens of victims. This was a new military offensive by the US in this country, following the humiliating failure of their previous intervention in 1993.

At that time, under the fallacious pretext of the ‘Restore Hope’ operation, the US, accompanied by France and Italy in this instance, made an attempt to bring the situation under control by dispatching tens of thousands of soldiers to the country. This was a total failure and in 1994 the US had to pack its bags and go, but this didn’t stop them from continuing to use local gangs to do their bidding on the spot.

Why this new US offensive?

According to the Bush administration, the aim of the military engagement by the US in Somali is to continue the war against al Qaida This is a gross deception, because the US has been intervening in Somalia long before the formation of al Qaida. Its real aim is to defend its strategic imperialist interests.

The Horn of Africa is of growing importance to the American administration. The region is seen as strategic both for containing Islamic terrorism and preventing ‘failed states’ like Somalia from becoming a sanctuary for al Qaida; and, more classically, for controlling the approach to the Persian Gulf and protecting oil traffic” (Le Monde, 4.1.07)

As we can see, the real aim of the war being waged by Washington is to control the approach to the Persian Gulf and to make itself a global master of oil supplies. Somalia is directly opposite the Gulf and is a strategic zone for the imperialist powers disputing the region. It was with this very aim that the US has set up a new and specific regional command for Africa, entitled ‘US Africa Command’. In fact, the US is trying to increase its ability to maintain surveillance over the area and already has a military base in Djibouti and another one on Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean facing Somalia. It is clear that US ambitions can only come up against the ambitions of rival imperialist powers, which, like the USA, are pushing various local pawns across the chessboard.

The only perspective for Somalia is chaos

As long as the armed hand of world capitalism has not been cut off, the perspective for Somalia is a new plunge into chaos. The bourgeoisie itself admitted this in a UN report cited by Le Monde on 16/11/06:

Victim of unlimited militarism, Somalia, according to the UN experts, is heading ineluctably towards a wide-scale war which threatens to drag in the countries of the region…the Islamic Courts are consolidating their hold over the country thanks to the military support of Eritrea, but also of Iran, Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Djibouti.

The transition government, internationally recognised but forced to take refuge in Baidoa, benefits from the ‘aggressive support’ of Ethiopia, Uganda and Yemen. According to this report, the government doesn’t have much weight compared to the Islamists, who control the capital Mogadishu, as well as most of the centre and south of the country, and who have the capacity to turn Somalia into a new Iraq through terrorist attacks and assassinations.

Of course the Islamic Courts have now been pushed out of the capital, but they haven’t gone far and can count on support from a number of imperialist sources to continue carrying out raids against their enemies. It is more likely than ever that the country is heading towards an ‘Iraqi’ situation: indiscriminate killing, suicide bombings and massive bombardments. Or a ‘Congolese’ situation in which the country is occupied by a number of different powers all slogging it out for control of strips of territory.

Somalia may be miserably poor, but the imperialist vultures need it nonetheless. It is for that reason that it is currently the most striking illustration of capitalist decomposition in the whole of Africa. Amina 13/1/07 (from Revolution Internationale 376)