Filed under: Africa | Tags: Africa, Al-Shahab, China, Ehiopian Government, Illegal Fishing, India, Invasion, Islamic Courts, Islamic Courts Union, Mogadishu, NATO, Occupation, Piracy, Puntland, Russia, Somali Pirates, Somalia, Somaliland, United States, Washington
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( Dated Piece – 26 December 2008 )
Piracy smokescreen used to step up military action
At the behest of the United States, the U.N. Security Council unanimously voted Dec. 16 to authorize nations to pursue Somali pirates onto land, an action which had previously been prohibited. The resolution comes at a critical juncture for Somalia, and in the shadow of Washington’s politico-military strategy in the African continent.
The pirates were originally groups of fisherman who, due to the stateless nature of Somalia, turned to piracy to combat illegal fishing vessels from around the world. They soon found their new trade much more lucrative.
The resolution also called for a regional office to coordinate the actions of a number of nations that currently have naval forces deployed in the waters off Somalia. Most notably, Radio Netherlands reported Dec. 20 that China has announced it too was sending ships to patrol Somali waters, joining countries like the United States, Russia, India, and international organizations like NATO. China has pursued a foreign policy of investing in the economic growth of the developing world. While this has been to China’s benefit, the terms offered are more equitable than those offered by the former colonial powers. China’s participation in the sea patrols is part of its effort to protect its growing stake in Africa.
The raised profile of piracy is a result of military action taken by all governments with a major stake in worldwide commodity shipping . The resolution states that Somalia’s pseudo-government must grant permission in order to carry out attacks, something both Somaliland and Puntland, a region of Somalia with its own autonomous government, had been pressing for.
Without a central government since 1991, Somalia has been embroiled in internal conflict between numerous militias and religious groups. In 2006, the Islamic Courts Union, a grouping of Islamic organizations, seized nearly full control of the country from the Transitional Federal Government, a U.S. puppet regime run by various warlords. Since late 2006, the Ethiopian government has occupied Somalia with U.S.-backing, seeking to prop up the TFG regime. This too has been ineffective, and forces from the ICU and the Islamic movement Al-Shahab have seized control of the country, with the TFG only holding on to Mogadishu and Baidoa, the de-facto capital. Originally allied with the ICU, Al-Shahab has since broken with them.
Recognizing the futility of their occupation, the Ethiopian government decided in early December that they would pull out of Somalia by the end of the year, leaving only an African Union force. Agence France Press quoted a foreign ministry press release from Dec. 20 as saying; “It should, of course, be underlined again that the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops will be carried out without fail by the end of December.”
The U.S. and other imperialist governments have a long history of carrying out destabilization campaigns to undermine independence and non-compliant governments all over the world. The instability in Somalia is in no small way a consequence of this history. The chaos in Somalia has enabled imperialism to gain a greater foothold in the region. Now the instability and the related issue of piracy has become an obstacle to the plans of Western imperialism in general and Washington in particular.
While political stability in Somalia would facilitate the end of piracy, the only government that had a shot at stability—the ICU—was undermined by U.S. intervention. Stability will not satisfy Washington if a compliant regime is not in place.
Charges of terrorism are the alleged reason the U.S. opposes the ICU. Terrorism is only a smokescreen. The U.S. government wants a stable, yet pro-Western, government in Somalia. The country occupies a key position along major international shipping lanes and sits very close to the critical Middle East region. Piracy is still a relatively minor disruption in the bigger geostrategic picture; nevertheless, the U.S. government and its allies are not too fond of having the resources they so diligently loot and plunder from other countries taken by “pirates.”
As these great power games play out, the people of Somalia will continue to suffer from immense economic hardship, the ravages of war and the negation of their self-determination. Progressive and revolutionary forces in the United States and around the world should oppose all imperialist interference in Somalia, whether in the form of puppet governments, or extra-territorial interference in Somalia’s land and sea space.