By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Published Sep 19, 2010 10:46 PM
On Sept. 9 U.S. Marines seized the German-owned M/V Magellan Star vessel off the coast of Somalia. The Antiguan-flagged, 8,000-ton container ship had been taken over by Somalis the day before.
The Marines took nine Somalis into custody and claimed there were no injuries in the operation. This assault on the Magellan Star was launched from the USS Dubuque after the Turkish frigate TCG Gokceada responded to a distress call from the German-owned ship.
Both the USS Dubuque and the TCG Gokceada are part of a flotilla of warships that patrol the Gulf of Aden in so-called anti-piracy maneuvers designed to ensure safe passage through one of the most lucrative trading waterways in the world. The multinational force that is permanently stationed in the Gulf of Aden off the Horn of Africa was formed in January 2009.
Although the U.S., the European Union and other states have warships in the Gulf of Aden ostensibly to fight piracy, the struggle for control of Somalia has intensified in recent weeks. Both areas on land and in the Gulf of Aden are contested zones for imperialist hegemony over this strategic region of the African continent.
According to a recent article published by the BBC, “At least 23 foreign vessels with more than 411 crew members are currently held by pirates, according to Ecoterra International, an organization monitoring piracy. Last year there were more than 200 attacks by Somali pirates — including 68 successful hijackings — and ransoms believed to exceed $50 million in total were paid, the organization said.” (Sept. 9)
Inside Somalia the military and political struggle for the future of the state has escalated. On Sept. 12, five troops of the U.S.-backed Transitional Federal Government were killed by the resistance forces, which control the majority of areas within the capital of Mogadishu as well as large sections of the central and south of the country.
On Sept. 9 nine people were reported killed when the Al-Shabab resistance movement launched attacks on the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) forces that are stationed at the Mogadishu airport. At the time of the attacks TFG President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed was consulting with a delegation that included the United Nations special representative for Somalia, Augustine Mahiga.
Al-Shabab announced in recent weeks that it would step up its offensive aimed at driving out AMISOM troops, who are mainly Ugandan and Burundian soldiers. During a July African Union summit in Kampala, Uganda, the organization’s current chair and host, President Yoweri Museveni, said he would deploy additional soldiers to the Horn of Africa nation in retaliation for a bombing inside Uganda that killed dozens of people.
Uganda is heavily supported by the United States, which supplies military equipment and training for its armed forces. Museveni stated on Sept. 2 that his government was prepared to dispatch 10,000 troops to Somalia in order to prevent a defeat of the TFG.
French Press Agency reported, “The African Union force in Somalia has boosted its size and set up nine new positions in Mogadishu where it is protecting the government from a fierce Islamist insurgency.” The African Union’s deputy representative to Somalia, Wafula Wamunyinyi, reported that the “numbers of troops have gained up slightly above 7,000 to 7,200 since July.” (Sept. 3)
Wamunyinyi went on to state: “We have steadily increased our area of control of Mogadishu. We have made progress and taken new positions. If we get the correct support, troop deployment and equipment, we are going to expand our presence towards the north [of the capital].”
Resisting puppet regime
Both the resistance movements, Al-Shabab and Hizbul Islam, have vowed to repel any efforts to expand the bases of the AMISOM troops in Somalia. In a recorded message, Al-Shabab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane (also known as Sheikh Abu Zubeyr) urged his fighters to “redouble their attacks against Somalia government troops and African Union peacekeepers.” (Garowe Radio, Sept. 12)
Abu Zubeyr continued, “The clashes in Mogadishu that Al-Shabab carried out are against our enemy: the Somali government backed by the African Union. I appeal to the people to join the war against the TFG.”
Meanwhile, Hizbul Islam leader Sheikh Dahir Aweys appealed to AMISOM forces “to leave the country,” claiming this is the only solution to resolving the conflict now escalating inside Somalia. Most analysts agree that without AMISOM troops, TFG would collapse immediately.
The George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations have provided military assistance aimed at propping up the TFG regime. Since Obama came into office in 2009, military and political support for TFG and AMISOM has increased.
In late August the Obama administration reiterated its support for its current course in the Horn of Africa. In addition to support for TFG and warships off the coast, the U.S., along with France, also maintains a military base in neighboring Djibouti.
John Brennan, Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, condemned recent military actions by the resistance forces of Al-Shabab and Hizbul Islam. Brennan stated, “Al-Shabab’s vision of Africa stands in sharp contrast to the vision of the overwhelming majority of Africans.” (Associated Press, Aug. 24)
Yet the U.S. imperialists have long had designs on dominating Somalia and the Horn of Africa. In 1992 under George H.W. Bush, the U.S. deployed thousands of Marines to Somalia in a purportedly humanitarian mission called “Operation Restore Hope.”
The mission was soon exposed as a military occupation and met fierce resistance from the Somali masses. U.S. troops and United Nations forces were compelled to withdraw after a year inside the country.
As a result of the increasing role of African resources within the world capitalist system, particularly oil and strategic minerals, the U.S. is increasing its military involvement on the continent. Anti-imperialist and anti-war organizations in the U.S. must demand that the self-determination and sovereignty of African peoples be respected and that the Pentagon withdraw its military advisers, troops and naval vessels from the entire region.
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