US policy in the Horn fails again

By Hezron Nyawachi, Business Daily

The seizure of a Ukrainian vessel with military shipment to the Kenyan army is the latest in a spike of attacks on shipping by pirates on the Somalia ocean front who since January have ransomed close to three dozens of ships.

The Gulf of Aden that sits strategically in the Arabian sea, sandwiched between Yemen and Somalia, is an important waterway and its strangling by insurgents will have international trade as the first culprit.

The lawlessness experienced in Somalia is part of the legacy of inaction and miscalculation in the horn by comity of states, in the belief that, rather than employ diplomatic means to a conflict that has ravaged for close to two decades now, military might is a cheaper option in eliminating the problem. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

With the lifting of the UN imposed embargo, the coast was clear for the Ethiopian troops TPLF with an implicit backing by Washington- to march into Mogadishu and dismantle the fleeting hold by Union of Islamic Courts (ICU) on southern Somalia that had returned a semblance of order: rival warlords had been banished, piracy at the Somalia coast was unheard of, and business was running in Somalia towns.

CIA’s folly of financing rival warlords against the radical ICU (with alleged links to al-Qaeda) to dislodge the ICU from power and the continued US air raids that have claimed more civilians lives than their targets in Somalia villages have served to violently radicalise Somalis against the US.

Had Washington empowered moderates across rival camps, while at the same time ratcheting up pressure on rogue sponsors of warlords and kept military strikes as the last resort, the ouster of radical ICU would not have had such naked outcomes.

Good campaign

The recent UN sponsored ‘Djibouti Agreement’ was a good campaign of rallying moderates to prevail upon their camps to lay down arms, but it did not achieve real success because it did not at the same time talk down the ‘real patrons’ of these militia groups who exercise real control and supply them.

The al-Shabaab (for youth in Arabic) have since the beginning of this year emerged as a potent force against the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and their Ethiopian Woyane backers in the Horn of Africa nation where the world has succeeded very much in looking the other way as Somalia disintegrates into total chaos.

Still, their blacklisting by the US State Department as a terrorist organisations has maddened them into an insurgency that can only be likened to Iraq.

Writing just before the ouster of ICU, John Prendergast and Thomas-Jensen of International Crisis Group warned the US of lionising military intervention over robust diplomacy and applying of pressure on the backers of ICU to stop supplying them with ammunition.

A recent International crisis Group report clearly pinpoints the consequence of that folly: ‘defence and intelligence operations intended to make the US more secure from the threat of terrorism may be increasing the threat of jihadist attacks on American interests.’

Their chickens have come home to roost. As they wrote, ‘the hyenas have closed in.’ Interested States; not less than 10 of them,, with Ethiopia Woyane and Eritrea at the head have been successful using Somalia as satellite State; pumping weaponry into their respective militia, to square out their grouses in Somalia soil further adding gasoline to the fires of an already worse situation.

This has further driven Somalia drown the drain, aggravating the fundamental problem of lack of a functional government hence creating a fertile ground for al-Qaeda cells to mobilise support and stage potential attacks on US interests. Piracy has primed on the Gulf of Aden due to this.

For security to prevail in Somalia, we have to develop Somalia. Elections slated for 2009 as per the 2004 agreement that established the TFG look improbable in the current environment.

The TFG alone has lost all muscle and credibility before their subjects. Legislators had long ago defected en masse and the TFG is regarded as alien itself as long as it continues to piggyback its power on the back of Ethiopians Woyane.

As a matter of urgency, international players must own the Somalia problem.