[Dehai-WN] TheGlobeandmail.com: Global players jockey for power in war-ravaged Somalia

[Dehai-WN] TheGlobeandmail.com: Global players jockey for power in war-ravaged Somalia

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Wed, 21 Sep 2011 19:55:07 +0200

Global players jockey for power in war-ravaged Somalia

 <http://www.theglobeandmail.com/authors/geoffrey-york/> geoffrey york

MOGADISHU- From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

Sep. 21, 2011 9:06PM EDT

After 20 years as a failed state, Somalia has become a playground for
foreign occupiers of every stripe. Its crumbling streets and gutted
buildings have attracted a host of powerful armies and agents from around
the world, each with its own agenda and its own vested interests.

This war-torn land, like the similarly crippled nation of Afghanistan, is
too impoverished and too feeble to resist the interference from abroad. And
now its deadly famine is luring another wave of outsiders - mostly
well-intentioned, but each contributing implicitly to Somalia's loss of

Some of the foreign players are highly visible. Ordinary Somalis are forced
to step aside to make room for those who are barrelling down the streets of
Mogadishu: a heavily armed convoy that bears the flag of a European relief
agency, or an armoured vehicle filled with Ugandan troops and painted with
the initials of the African Union.

Others are lurking covertly in the background: U.S. intelligence operatives;
Ethiopian secret agents; and Islamist militants who were trained in Pakistan
or Afghanistan.

Critics of foreign aid sometimes suggest that African countries should be
left alone to settle their own problems, but for Somalia it is too late. The
country has been subjected to foreign interference for two decades, and its
own people have little say in the matter.

Here are some of the key actors in Somalia today:


Washington is heavily involved in Somalia, despite its refusal to keep
troops in the area after its severe losses in the disastrous Black Hawk Down
battle of 1993. One of its levers is financial: it has spent more than
$300-million since 2007 to prop up the official government, providing money
for the Somali army and subsidizing the African Union peacekeepers in

But its influence is more than monetary. It sends in shipments of weapons
for the government forces. It provides training and dozens of "advisers" to
the peacekeepers and the Somali army. It has sent its Special Forces
operatives on helicopters into Somali air space to assassinate suspected
members of terrorist organizations. It sends armed drones on surveillance
missions over Somalia to hunt for militants. And its private security firms
have been active as U.S. government contractors in Somalia, recruiting
French and South African war veterans as "mentors" to the African

An investigation this summer by a U.S. magazine, The Nation, reported that
the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency has a heavy presence in Mogadishu,
including a sprawling compound at Mogadishu airport, where it hires Somali
soldiers and intelligence agents for "counter-terrorism" duties. The report
said the CIA uses a secret prison in Mogadishu to interrogate prisoners,
some of whom are captured in neighbouring Kenya and flown secretly to


Thousands of Ethiopian troops, backed by the United States, invaded Somalia
in 2006 to drive out an Islamist government in Mogadishu. They remained in
Somalia until 2009, propping up the weak central government. But even after
their formal withdrawal, the Ethiopians have remained big players in
Somalia. They have supported and trained the government army, and they have
continued to make occasional incursions into Somali territory.

"Ethiopia runs Somalia, even today," says Tony Burns, operations director at
Saacid, the biggest Somali relief agency.

"If you want to be president or prime minister, you make your trip to Addis
Ababa to be anointed," he says. "Ethiopia still has an embassy in Mogadishu,
they have 250 military still in Mogadishu, and they have an intelligence
network that still operates throughout the whole of Somalia. The U.S.
Defence Department and the CIA still depend completely on the Ethiopian
intelligence network."


There is strong evidence of foreign support for the Islamist militants known
as al-Shabab, who control most of southern and central Somalia. Al-Qaeda has
become an ideological ally of al-Shabab, and foreign fighters have arrived
in Somalia from al-Qaeda training camps in the Middle East, Afghanistan and
Pakistan. Those foreign insurgents have also imported foreign tactics to
Somalia: suicide attacks, roadside bombs and trench warfare. African Union
peacekeepers say the insurgency by al-Shabab is fuelled by shipments of
weapons from the Middle East into Somalia. And there were strong hints of
its links to foreign terrorist organizations in July 2010 when al-Shabab
launched a massive bombing attack in Uganda, killing more than 70 people.

Eritrea, which has fought a series of brutal wars against Ethiopia since the
1960s, has been another foreign supporter of al-Shabab and other Islamist
militias in Somalia. Investigations by the United Nations have found that
Eritrea provided weapons, money, transport and training for the Islamist
fighters. Its support for the Islamists is partly aimed at counter-balancing
Ethiopia's influence in Somalia. The result was a proxy war between the two
rivals on Somali territory.


These two East African nations are providing almost all of the 9,000 troops
in the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia. In heavy fighting across
Mogadishu this year, they pushed back the fighters of al-Shabab and
succeeded in removing them from most of the city. Uganda, a major regional
power, has also become a key broker in Somalia's political scene, putting
pressure on politicians to settle disputes within the Somali government. But
its military role is its greatest influence. As the leading power in the
peacekeeping force, Uganda has been crucial in ensuring the safety of the
fragile Somali government and protecting it from al-Shabab.

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