Iqbal Jassat: Horn of Africa, Victim of War on Terror

By Iqbal Jassat

As the African Union stands by, silently and perhaps helplessly watching Somalia’s return to anarchy, the Bush administration has claimed another “victory” for its discredited “war on terror”.

Undignified as it may be in this recent undertaking, the US government is nevertheless, unashamedly proud of backing Ethiopia in unseating the Somali Council of Islamic Courts [SCIC].

Reports confirm that with full US backing and military training, thousands of Ethiopian troops accompanied by tanks and fighter jets have invaded Somalia to forcefully impose a regime change.

As the sound of gunfire reverberated around the capital Mogadishu, the Guardian’s East Africa correspondent, Xan Rice reports that within hours, warlords who had been driven out by the Islamists were reclaiming their turf. Looting and anarchy that plagued the country before the SCIC came to power has returned with a vengeance.

And to cap it all, Meles Zenawi, the Ethiopian prime minister, sounding as aggressive and arrogant as his funder and chief-backer George W Bush, threatened to pursue “the SCIC leaders, Eritrean and international jihadists………”.

Why Eritreans? Simply because Zenawi’s decades old feud with his neighbour, who has denied him secure access to seaports has remained mired in conflict.

And “international jihadists”? Who are they? 

If so-called “terror experts” of the type allied to America’s hegemonic designs are to be believed then don’t be surprised if either Hamas or Hizbullah is implicated!

What these spin doctors wont reveal is the fact that by disregarding multilateral institutions such as the African Union, the Bush administration has ulterior motives in igniting a war in the Horn of Africa.

According to Salim Lone, a highly respected Kenya-based commentator, the United States has cast this as a war to combat terrorism, but its real goal is to obtain a direct foothold in a highly strategic region by establishing a client regime there. 

The Horn of Africa is newly oil-rich and lies just miles from another strategic US ally, Saudi Arabia, overlooking the daily passage of large numbers of oil tankers and warships through the Red Sea.

Interestingly, Lone also indicates that General John Abizaid, the current US military chief of the Iraq war, was in Ethiopia a few weeks ago. What was he doing there if not to get all of Zenawi’s ducks in a row in preparation for destabilizing Somalia?

The irony is that since the SCIC defeated a coalition of warlords, they immediately set out to establish law and order in the capital and large parts of Somalia. Hence the new UN resolution which glibly talks about restoring “peace and stability” ignores the fact that under the SCIC, Somalia finally experienced its first respite from 16 years of utter lawlessness!

-Iqbal Jassat is the chairman of the Media Review Network, South Africa

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