by Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor
(Pan-African News Wire)
During the last week of September there was unprecedented fighting in several areas in the east African nation of Somalia. This rising tide of violence is directly related to the resistance efforts of the Somali people against the US-backed occupation of their country carried out by the military forces of neighboring Ethiopia.
An important dimension to the recent fighting is the role of African Union (AU) peacekeeping units which largely consists of Ugandan troops who have operated in a fashion that has drawn increasing attacks from the resistance movement in the capital Mogadishu. On September 29, Islamic resistance fighters fired on Ugandan, Ethiopian and Somali-puppet Transitional Federal Government (TFG) troops resulting in the reported deaths of at least four people.
Witnesses quoted in a Agence France Press (AFP) report on September 29, stated that two people and a soldier were killed in a series of gun battles during Sunday night, September 28. "Three people, one of them a Somali government soldier, died near Villa Baidoa when two mortar shells struck buildings," Hamad Ali Ahmed told AFP.
During the same time period in the Holwadag district of Mogadishu, another person was killed in the crossfire and least seven people were wounded.
Islamic resistance members confirmed that the attacks on the military bases of the pro-US forces is the result of a new offensive aimed at driving the Ethiopians, Ugandans and their Somali allies in the surrogate government out of the capital. According to Commander Mohamed Mohamud Dulyadeyn, "we attacked the bases of Ugandan forces, Ethiopians and Somali stooges. Five of our men were wounded, but they sustained heavy casualties." (AFP, September 29).
Also on September 29, a roadside bomb struck Ethiopian troops in the capital of Mogadishu. The device exploded while Ethiopian soldiers were leaving an area near the presidential palace.
"The bomb went of on foot soldiers at Debka junction, I don't know the casualities of the soldiers but five civilians were wounded in the blast, the Ethiopians didn't open fire on anyone," eyewitness Yonis Hussein told the Somali-based Shabelle Media Network. In the aftermath of the blast, Somali surrogate troops arrived at the scene and randonmly opened fire on commuters who were gathering in the area. No casualties were reported in the incident.
The escalation of fighting between September 20-29 has sparked another large-scale exodus from Mogadishu. "From September 20, our figures show that 18,500 people have fled their homes due to the fighting and shelling," said Ali Sheikh Yassin, the acting chair of the Elman Human Rights Organization in Mogadishu.
"Heavy fighting and shelling went on in Hodan and Halwadag districts in south Mogadishu," Yassin said. The Elman Human Rights Oraganizaton chairperson said that many families could be seen on the roads moving rapidly out of the area.
Journalists operating in the area confirmed the severity of the situation in south Mogadishu. "The area is emptying. Those who had not left before are on the move now. It is not going to be a very happy Eid (festivities after the month of Ramadan) for many." (IRIN Report, September 29).
One of the important resistance organizations, The Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia, which is led by Sheikh Sharif Sheih Ahmed, and is currently engaging in discussions with the TFG, said that the actions of the Ethiopian and Ugandan troops and their local counterparts are totally unacceptable.
The Alliance condemned the Ugandan troops and accused them of brutality and indiscriminate use of excessive force in areas occupied by the civilian population not involved in the fighting.
In a statement on September 29, The Alliance stated that: "AMISOM (the African Union Mission in Somalia) used unnecessary force and targeted heavily populated quarters and markets far away from the fighting areas, which can only be taken as a deliberate mass killing."
In response to the statement by The Alliance, AMISOM spokesman Barigye Ba-Hoku told the Inter-Regional Information Network (IRIN) that accusations of indiscriminate targeting of civilian "was nonsense." Ba-Hoku said that the AU forces did not initiate these attacks. "We only defend our positions when attacked," he said.
The United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR, claims that Somali refugees are flooding the Dadaab camp in north-eastern Kenya. "This year alone we have registered more than 45,000 new asylum-seekers at Dadaab," the agency said in a statement. On average about 5,000 Somalis reach the camp every month.
In other attacks, the Al-Shabab organization, which is a spin off from the Union of Islamic Courts, have carried out operations against four International Medical Corps (IMC) offices in the Bakool and Bay regions of Somalia. In a September 26 statement, the IMC said that the group "is deeply concerned about the impact of these attacks on the health of aleady suffering Somali people, especially children.
Ongoing talks between the opposition forces and the TFG in neighboring Djibouti has failed to reach agreement on ending the fighting. According to a civil society activists close to the talks in Djibouti, "the main stumbling block is the withdrawal of Ethiopian forces."
The activist told IRIN on September 23 that TFG "seemed to be trying to find a way for a less hurried withdrawal, while the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia was demanding that the Ethiopian military withdraw from the country within 30 days.
Humanitarian Situation Worsens
As a result of the intense fighting, the main hospital in the capital of Mogadishu has been overwhelmed by the number of injured people caught up in the clashes. "We are receiving more injured people than we can reasonably handle; we are completely swamped," Abdi Mohamed Hangul, a doctor at Medina Hospital told IRIN on September 24.
Dr. Hangul said that the numbers of injured people were increasing daily. "Last night alone (September 23) we had 30 people within an hour. I worked as a doctor throughout the civil war and I have to say this is one of the worst times for the population. It is a disaster."
Hospital beds were completely filled and people were being treated for various injuries in the corridors and outside the facility under trees. "We have more people outside than inside," the physician said. Making the situation worse is the fact that some staff members are unable to come to work at the hospital due to the intense fighting.
Despite the shortage in workers at the two main hospitals, Medina and Keysaney, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) spokesperson Pedram Yazdi, said that: "For the time being, the capital hospitals have enough medical supplies to cope with the influx of wounded, and we will re-supply them if more is needed." (IRIN Report, September 24).
US Navy Responds to Attacks on Vessels
Meanwhile off the coast of Somalia in the Gulf of Aden, there has been a number of ships seized by so-called pirates who hold these vessels and their crews for ransom. On September 29, a Ukrainian ship was being held with a large scale arsenal whose destiny was disputed.
It was reported by Reuters press agency that aboard the Ukrainian ship there were grenade launchers and ammunition as well as T-72 tanks. In response to these developments, the United States military, which is active in this region, has sent the USS Howard Destroyer and other boats of the Gulf-based Fifth Fleet to confront the hijacked Ukrainian ship.
"There are now several Fifth Fleet ships in the vicinity," said the fleet's deputy spokesman Lieutenant Nathan Christensen. "Our goal is to maintain a vigilant and visual watch over the ship while negotiations take place." The Somalis holding the ship are demanding $20 million.
The Gulf of Aden, which is located between the Yemen and northern Somalia, is a major artery utilized by approximately 20,000 vessels every year traveling to and from the Suez Canal. Somalis have seized 30 ships already since the beginning of the year.
One of the main Islamic leaders, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys told Reuters on September 29 that his organization, which was associated with the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), the front that was consolidating its power at the time of the US-backed invasion in December of 2006, that they were not involved in the ship seizures.
"Piracy is not our hobby and we are sorry for being linked to everything that is bad." Aweys noted that during the rule of the UIC, piracy was substanially curtailed. Aweys noted however that "no one congratualated us," on these efforts.
US Role Must be Condemned
The escalation of fighting in Somalia, both on land and in the waterways surrounding this Horn of Africa nation, must be blamed on the foreign policy role of the United States. Under the guise of "fighting Islamic terrorism" the US has heightened destabilization and instability in Somalia and throughout the region.
If was the Bush administration that engineered the invasion of Somalia by Ethiopia in late 2006, after the Union of Islamic Courts had made significant progress in organizing the population and establishing community development projects. Since the UIC efforts were taking place independent of US foreign policy imperatives, the imperialists set out to occupy the country utilizing a military surrogate under the leadership of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia.
Since this time Ugandan troops, operating ostensibly on behalf of the African Union, have been sent into the capital to back up the Ethiopian occupationists.
Increasing attacks on vessels in the Gulf of Aden is now providing another rationale for US Naval operations. However, these efforts are doomed to failure. Anti-war and anti-imperialist forces inside the United States must raise the interventionist program of the government as a further manifestion of the bogus "global war on terrorism."
Judging from the current situation in Somalia, the first step toward normalization and stability in the Horn of Africa will be the immediate withdrawal of US forces and the resumption of real negotiations between the various political forces inside the country and the region.