Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Inside the African Union Mission in Somalia (Part II): Déjà vu Mogadishu

Uganda 7/11: Al-Shabaab Spreads Its Special Brand of Terror to the 'Pearl of Africa'
Draft Version

The African Union Summit held in Uganda last month was understandably overshadowed by the World Cup bombings in Kampala on July 11th. Following the closed-door meetings between African heads-of-state, AU and UN officials and the many representatives from governments and international institutions in attendance there were several public statements made about the shock and alarm at the attacks against innocent football fans trying to enjoy the 2010 Africa World Cup finals. To be frank none of the people attending the summit should have been surprised by the attacks because both al-Shabbab and al-Qaeda spokesmen had been warning of such action against Africans for some time. The only surprise is that al Shabaab chose to strike in Uganda and not against innocent civilians in Nairobi, East Africa’s economic hub and a city which has been serving for several years as a reluctant host to the largest Somali refugee and expatriate community in the world.

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, acting as host to the 43 African leaders in attendance, has been pressing the hardest for a change in the AMISOM mandate and a ramping-up of boots on the ground in Somalia along with an increase in support for the mission (military and financial) from AU partner countries and presumably UN member states who have pledged support for the African Union Mission in Somalia. As a matter of fact AU officials and leaders of key East African and IGAD* countries had a very heated four hour long discussion over their dissatisfaction with U.S. support with President Obama’s point man on Africa, Asst. Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson. I have found no information that such a heated meeting took place with other ‘key partners’ to the African Union, countries i.e. China, India, Brazil, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and of course representatives from the European Union countries. This should be a ‘red flag’ for anyone who is paying close attention to the crisis in Somalia and the lack of international support for the African Union mission to prop-up the Somali Transitional Federal Government. Don’t forget that it is the lives of young soldiers from Uganda and Burundi that are being lost in Mogadishu as well your tax dollars that finance the AMISOM mission.

At the end of meetings and discussions in Kampala a unified call-to-arms was made by top AU officials and Uganda’s President Museveni along with other African heads of state against the growing threat from al-Shabaab militants in Somalia. Yet this so-called call for unity and action espoused in statements by AU Commission Chairman Jean Ping cannot hide the fact that many African countries who had promised troops for the AMISOM mission as far back as 2006 are more reluctant than ever before to send soldiers to the war-ravaged nation. Below are articles which help to explain the many difficulties faced by the poorly organized AMISOM mission to Somalia today.

Long War Journal
The African Union's beleaguered Somalia mission by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Seungwan Chung – July 20, 2010

VOA News (Washington DC)
Analyst says planned African Union troop surge in Somalia would be a strategic blunder - July 29, 2010

World Defense Review (Strategic Interests column)
J. Peter Pham, Ph.D.: 'Muddled on Mogadishu: America's Confused Somalia Strategy' – March 23, 2010

The New York Times
News Analysis - More Troops for Somalia, but No Peace to Keep by Jeffrey Gettleman – July 28, 2010
In Somalia, Talk to the Enemy by Bronwyn Bruton – July 24, 2010
Tea with a Terrorist (in Somalia) by Aidan Hartley – July 24, 2010

Note*: IGAD denotes the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, a group of seven countries in the Horn of Africa and East Africa which includes Djibouti, Sudan, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Uganda. Eritrea has been suspended from the group since 2007 for bad behavior (supporting terrorists in the region).

And to make matters worse there are almost daily reports of the rapidly deteriorating situation in the country including mass defections of Somali government soldiers and police to the extremist al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam militias. Germany’s Deutsche Welle Radio reports that as many as 1000 German-trained Somali police have gone missing along with their weapons and newly acquired anti-terrorist training enroute from Ethiopia to Mogadishu. A recently completed internal IGAD report reveals that as many as 10,000 EU-trained Somali soldiers may have done the same thing (defected), and the New York Times reports that the personal bodyguards of the Somali president defected to the al-Shabaab in July. This is occurring at the same time that the African Union along with U.S. and E.U. lawmakers and ministers are trying to convince their respective citizens that the AMISOM mission has merit and the fight to support the struggling TFG to help stabilize Somalia must go on at all costs.

The Independent (Kampala weekly news magazine)
Why We Should Pull Out of Somalia by Andrew Mwenda
The Last Word: articles and commentary by Andrew Mwenda

Note: As Andrew Mwenda would tell you, despite his bias toward any policies for Africa emanating from Washington DC, President Museveni will use these terrorist attacks in Kampala to help cement his victory in presidential elections next year. Yoweri Museveni has been in power in Uganda since 1986 with no desire to step down and turn the reigns of power over to a younger, more capable person in sight. The guy is a bigger cult figure in the country than Idi Amin Dada could have ever dreamed! Then there is the problem with Museveni’s inability (and lack of willpower) to stop the murderous, brutal insurgency against women and children in northern Uganda that has been going on for nearly 20 years (Joseph Kony and the feared Lord’s Resistance Army), but hey I’m getting ahead of myself. That’s another can of worms re: M7 (Museveni undercover) for a later post down the road.

The East African (Kenya)
Al Qaeda veterans now run Al Shabaab militia
Kampala twin attacks expose US uncertainty over Somalia

Garowe Online (Puntland – northern Somalia)
African leaders blast US official Johnnie Carson for soft stance on Somalia
Hundreds of German-financed Somali police officers go missing
German government denies Somali child soldiers recruitment allegations (EU Training Mission for Somalia)

DW World (Deutsche Welle Radio Online, Germany)
EU launches new military training mission for Somali security forces
German military cooperation with African countries yields mixed results

The New York Times
Presidential Guards in Somalia Defect to Insurgents

Note: The European Union has at least three major initiatives in place to help the people of Somalia and support the Transitional Federal Government and the AU Mission to Somalia including military training of the Somali National Army (in Uganda and Ethiopia), the EU Naval Force for Somalia (Mission Atalanta against piracy) and loads of humanitarian aid and support logistics to fight hunger amongst the refugees from the long-running conflict. Approximate cost to date for EU taxpayers is more than €100 million Euros and counting. The cost to U.S. taxpayers for various forms of humanitarian and military assistance over the past two decades (1991-2010) is astronomical and probably will never be revealed, especially the cost of support for the Ethiopian invasion and occupation of Somalia from 2007-2009. Financial support to the Somali Transitional Federal Government from the rest of the international community, especially fellow Muslim countries in the region (Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, and the Gulf States) and richer African countries (South Africa, Nigeria, Namibia, Tanzania, Angola, Kenya) is something that we do not hear much about in the international media, which makes one think that there is no financial support from these countries for the AMISOM mission in Somalia.

European Union websites and resources on Somalia
EU at the UN - Somalia: EU Commission allocates €35 million for victims of conflict and natural disasters
EU at the UN - EU Statement - United Nations Security Council: Debate on the Situation in Somalia
European Union Naval Force Somalia - Operation Atalanta
EU/Norway Joint Strategy Paper for Somalia 2008-2013 (pdf)
NATO - Topic: Somalia, Assisting the African Union in Somalia

The African Union Summit in Kampala was attended by 43 African heads-of-state, including Africa’s top democratic leaders (about 6-10 presidents, max), many whom I admire a great deal for the leadership they have shown on the continent and abroad. Of course there was also the usual crowd of less-than-honorable African leaders in attendance with Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe leading the pack. Libya’s flamboyant Colonel Muammar al- Gaddafi, who held the rotating Chairmanship of the African Union in 2009, was in Kampala protected by his famous troop of Amazon body guards. Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir managed to stay away from the summit due to pressing appointments (a naked fear of an ICC arrest warrant). Egypt’s President Mubarak also could not attend the summit due to urgent business back in Cairo (succession worries and poor health) but he did manage to send an ambassador.  President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo chose not to make an appearance for unknown reasons (coup fears). No troops for Somalia from any of these guys as they are desperately needed to continue the repression of citizens back home.

The Obama administration sent a high-level delegation of U.S. government officials that included the administration's lead diplomat on Africa, Asst. Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson, the U.S. Ambassador to the African Union Michael Battle, U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan General (ret.) Scott Gration, and surprisingly the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (head of the U.S. Department of Justice). Eric Holder, who is America’s top law enforcement official, delivered a speech during the opening day of the Kampala Summit that is worth reading as it spells out U.S. policy for Africa in light of the bombings in Kampala. There is an exclusive interview with Asst. Secretary Carson over at that highlights his perspective on U.S.-Africa relations and policies under the administration of President Barack Obama.

President Obama did not attend the African Union Summit in Kampala (he is still cleaning Gulf oil off of his shoes) and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was busy preparing for her daughter’s wedding day.  Actually, President Obama and Secretary Clinton have been busy hosting some of Africa's finest young people and budding entrepreneurs at The President's Forum with Young African Leaders in conjunction with the 2010 AGOA Forum on US / Sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation. Nonetheless President Obama did manage to send his top cop (Eric Holder) and his Africa A-Team minus some notable figures such as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Dr. Susan E. Rice, an expert on failing and failed states and their links to extremism and terrorism (ref. her earlier work at the Brookings Institution before she joined the Obama administration).

Brookings Institution (Washington DC)
Weak and Failed States: What They Are, Why They Matter and What to Do About Them
Index of State Weakness in the Developing World by Susan E. Rice and Patrick Steward

Note: Many people may not know who Johnnie Carson is or what his responsibilities are in the Obama administration. An experienced U.S. diplomat in Africa serving several U.S. administrations, Secretary Carson is rather soft-spoken and reserved in his public comments___ a Jendayi Frazer he ain’t (the feisty, take-no-prisoners lead diplomat for Africa under Condoleezza Rice and George W. Bush). Dr. Jendayi Frazer always had strong rebuttals ready for Robert Mugabe’s demeaning slurs against her in comparison to the tepid response by Asst. Secretary Carson during a gala event at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Washington DC in May this year. The Zimbabwe ambassador to the U.S. referred to Secretary Carson as a ‘House Slave’, indirectly placing U.S. President Obama and other African-American lawmakers and political leaders into the racist category commonly referred to as ‘House Negroes’. Mugabe and other members of the Zanu-PF party have been making these kinds of statements about African-Americans for years (see his outburst at the 2009 African Union Summit in Libya). Yet, Mugabe remains a welcome guest and favorite son at the table of African Union summits and conferences, as does Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir and other despots and dictators from the continent. This is something else for the American electorate to keep in mind when the AU comes with hat in hand looking for support and money for a 'troop surge' in Somalia and a lot of other needs it may have in the near future.

Which brings me to the main topic of my short series of posts on Somalia:

What does the world do now that two Islamist extremist groups (al-Shabaab, Hizbul Islam) lead by an international terrorist network (al-Qaeda) have finally succeeded to within a gnat’s ass of taking over an African country that sits upon one of the most geo-strategic sea lanes and land corridors in the world?

Foreign Policy Magazine
Argument: Help Wanted in Somalia by Omar Abdira Ali Sharmarke – June 21, 2010
Prime Minister of Somalia, Transitional Federal Government

End Part II___ Part III coming ASAP

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