Creating people's geographies
UPDATE: Thanks to Amina for pointing to this link: Nicola Nasser, Somalia: The Latest Misadventure, Counterpunch, 3 Jan 2006.
This is a timely essay on the urgent situation in the horn of Africa by my dear Somali sister Amina Mire. A truncated version has been published online at Counterpunch. We are fortunate to have available for posting the fuller article version. Amina’s biography is appended to this important article and a clearinghouse blog for Somali-related issues will soon be launched by Amina.
Somali National anthem:
Toosoo isku tiirsada ee
Hadba kiina taag daranee
“Somalia wake up,
wake up and join hands together
and we must help the weakest of our people
all of the time.”
The Return of Warlords means Death and Destruction for Somalis
By Amina Mire (*)
For the average western person, the current Ethiopian invasion of Somalia is just another military operation taking place in a distance land in the war against Islamic terror. For Somalis, this invasion is nothing short of humiliating catastrophe. Somalis are deeply nationalistic; yet their nationalistic passion to towards their country did not prevent them from committing self-inflected genocidal civil wars, which weakened their cultural fabric, political institutions and central authority so that after 16 years without functioning state, Somalia is today under the occupation of their most hated historical enemy, Ethiopia.
The latest Ethiopian invasion of Somalia is a conflict between the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) and US sponsored Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (ARPCT), a group of Somali warlords backed by Ethiopia and the US. After 1991 collapse of central authority in Somalia, and the ensuing civil war, the ICU emerged as a grassroots organization in response to the lawlessness, violence in the country. In the absence of central political authority,using, primarily, Sharia law and other traditional Somali values (xeer and dhaqan), the IUC was able to bring law and order throughout the country as well as essential services such as healthcare and education. The IUC was the only source of civil society, while warlords continue to terrorize ordinary Somalis. Whilst the ICU was able clean drugs and guns from streets in their communities, many attempts to forge transitional government have failed because squabbles over power sharing. The current Transitional Federal Government is the latest of such many fruitless efforts.
In June 2006, the Islamic Union Courts have assumed centralized control over many parts in the South, including the capital city, Mogadishu. This move came about, partly after it was revealed that the CIA was secretly working with Somali warlords and Ethiopia to occupy Somalia. In the context, of post September 11, 2001 political stigmatization the Bush Administration had identified the IUC as a terrorist group. Many Somalis saw such rhetoric as a thinly disguised pretext for the US’s desire to avenge the 1993 defeat of US Forces in Somalia. Despite U.S. cash payments to various warlords none was able to assert their authority over the population and bring law and order and security to the Somali people.
On the other hand, the ICU was able to clear big urban centers such as Mogadishu, of guns and drugs off the street and also clean up the city. Seaports and airports opened for commercial business again after 1995. Despite bring hope of peace and security to the Somali people who suffered so long under state of insecurity and lawlessness, the Bush administration continued to treat the ICU as a terrorist organization and started courting its overthrow by using Ethiopia as a proxy state to do its dirty work in exchange for cash incentives for the warlords and for Ethiopia’s leader, Meles Zenawi. Apparently, the Bush administration, prefer Somalia in state of destruction and despair rather than negotiating with the IUC. Bush’s support for the Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia will ensure deep hatred towards the US many generations to come.
It is in this context that it is critically important to examine how Bush administration and his neocon cabals came to conflate the very idea of “peace and security” for western citizens with the war on “Islamic terror”. So that the war on Islamic terror, and “peace and security” for the west, in turn, requires a perpetual war on Muslims. The result has been an endless suffering and destruction of human lives, cultures and communities that neither brings peace to the west nor reduces terrorist incidents against western citizens and interests around the world. The latest Bush administration’s backing of Meles Zenawi’ illegal invasion of Somalia shows the futility of this strategy. Consequently, we need to question the conceptual basis of Bush’s global war on terror.
That is, we need to think more about the need to for a collective human security rather than the security for some. Global collective human security, which includes ecological security, is the only viable way to ensure a lasting security for all. In other words, the security for American citizens cannot be secured for the destruction of Somalis, Iraqis, Palestinians, Afghanis. This means, we must reject the notion that the death and destruction of the poor and weak is a necessary price worthy paying for the security and the material comfort of those who live in the west. This discussion is pertinent because the current Bush administration’s enduring war against terror means a perpetual suffering of Muslims because they have been staked out as the enemies of the west.
This discussion is urgent in light of Bush administration’s deliberate escalation of the conflict in Somalia. This is because Somalis have suffered so much already. The country has been without central authority since 1991. There is no shred of evidence that Somalia pose a security threat to the US or the West; nor there is any shred of evidence that Islamists in Somalia are providing safe heaven for Al Qaida or other terrorist groups. In the context, the utter humiliation of Somalis in the hands of their historical enemy, Ethiopia, the current US support for Ethiopian invasion of Somalia will, most certainly, create wide spread of hatred toward the US, where there was non before.
Meles Zenawi faces fierce opposition from various opposition groups inside Ethiopia who accuse him of illegal usurpation of political power, rigging election results, arresting his critics, in some cases, killing hundred of people taking part in peaceful protests against his political misrule. Thus, the sudden invasion of Somalia is a perfect strategy, for him to buttress his legitimacy as a national leader who can defend Ethiopia against Islamic terrorism. Internationally, he is able to position himself and his nation as a friend of the U.S. and Bush’s strong man in the Horn of Africa in the US global war against Islamic terror. It is in this context that the Bush administration was able to quickly push through the Security Council the rather dubious resolution which gave Zenawi the green card to invade Somalia.
Resolution 1725 on Somalia has all the markings of US strong-arm tactics, double standards, domination and manipulation. The resolution authorizes a regional force from the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the African Union (AU) to protect the weak Transitional National Government in Baidoa and provide training for its forces. It also authorizes partial lifting of the Somalia Arms Embargo of 1992. It is the result of a vitriolic and aggressive defamation campaign by the US State Department and Meles Zenawi, the deceptive leader of the genocidal vote rigging minority regime in Ethiopia, against the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC).
Many Somalis, who are not religious, saw their own safety and security improved under the rule of IUC. In addition, many Somalis in the worldwide Somali Diaspora support IUC for the same pragmatic reasons. Most Somalis were willing to give the IUC sufficient time to clean the streets of guns and violence. After restoring law and order back into the streets, it would have been possible, albeit slowly, to modernize some of their interpretations and the applications of Islamic Sharia. Besides, Sharia laws are already part of the Somali cultural value system.
A large number of Diaspora Somalis were willing to return to Somalia, and rebuild the country, once peace and security were ensured. But now, we are back into the old, ugly days where teenage boys toting AK47s in the back of pick up trucks, used to terrorize the local population. It is hard to predict what future hold for Somalia; I can easily predict the following scenario. Meles Zenawi is a Christian, who draws most of his political power and military support from his Tigre tribe. As a result, his invading soldiers in Somalia are largely from his Tigre Christian tribe. These soldiers do not speak the Somali language; once deep inside Somalia, they will be exposed to attacks by the locals.
Under this humiliating condition, Somalis will turn on each other. There will be endless recrimination, revenge and counter revenge and the clan based cloak and dagger power struggle will continue. The warlords are who are addicted to Chat (opium based green leafs) and they will need violence to procure money to purchase it. It was largely business men who brought the Islamist to power, because the Islamists brought law and order, ports and airports were reopened after 11 years. As we reflect on Bush Administration’s outsourcing of the invasion of Somalia to Ethiopia, for Meles Zenawi and the Warlords, who are currently carrying out the death and destruction in Somalia, the New Year’s Eve hanging of Saddam Hussein may be pedagogically instructive, for Hussein was once a darling friend of number of US administrations. Now he is being tried and convicted by a sham court, under occupied Iraq and with open approval of the Bush administration, for “crimes against humanity”.
But, as Foucault reminds us, there are precise meanings associated with the art of torture and other forms of corporeal punishment; the hanging of Saddam Hussein, and therefore, slow and painful death, rather than killing him on a firing squad or by injection of a lethal dose of Potassium Oxide, and therefore, quick but painful death, speaks as much the barbarity of the United States as that of Saddam Hussein. Saddam was ruthless and merciless figure; he found his twining spirit in the ruthlessness and mercilessness of Bush and neocon’s hanging robe.
It is pertinent to tell ordinary western citizens, in whose names the destruction of the people and country is being justified, Somali people are neither anti-western nor do they pose security threat to the west. They have their own lives to worry about. They live political and economic conditions of insecurity. Somalis are proud people. They have strong sense of historical memories; and they will not easily forget Bush’s support of the Zenawi’s bombing of Mogadishu. Rather than seeking peaceful diplomacy and dialogue, the Bush administration outsourced the military invasion and occupation of Somalia through Ethiopia’s strong man, Meles Zenawi.
Ironically, Zenawi’s invasion of Somalia has killed any chance the weak transitional federal government might have had to rule Somalia. The warlords were hated before by all Somalis for their corruption. Now they will be despised as traitors and stooges for the number one enemy of the Somali people, Ethiopia. The history of the animosity between Somalia and Ethiopia is long. In this humiliating condition, Somalis will turn on each other; there will be endless recrimination, revenges and counter-revenges. The clan-based cloak and dagger power struggles will continue.
 Tesfamariam, Sophia. December 11, 2006. ‘UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL: Jendayi E. Frazier’s Bully Pulpit’. (See the source)
This text also appeared in a shorter version on Counterpunch
(*) Amina Mire was born and raised in Somalia, and has been living in Canada since 1983. She has a pharmacy Diploma from Somalia, a B.Sc. in Chemistry and B.A. in Philosophy(University of Winnipeg); and an M.A. in Philosophy from the University of Toronto, with strong emphasis in the philosophy of Science and political theory.
She is concurrently a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Sociology and Equity Studies in Education (OISE.UT) and in the Women’s Studies in the Institute for Women’s Studies and Gender Studies of the University of Toronto. Amina’s many publications include: “Skin-Bleaching: Poison, Beauty, Power, and the Politics of the Colour Line” in the Canadian based feminist journal Resources for Feminist Research (RFR)Vol.28. No.3/4 (2001/winter/spring issue).
Her doctoral dissertation “Soaping the Cells: Poison, Beauty and Skin-Whitening Biotechnology’ examines the social, political and the economic Implication of the practice of skin-whitening. She now lives in Ottawa, Canada, and can be reached at [email protected]