Somali Diaspora Network (SDN)
U.S. Policy on Somalia: A Recipe for Self-fulfilling Prophecies
Fairfax, Virginia, USA, 4 April 2008: Fifteen months into the Ethiopian invasion and occupation of Somalia and the country has seemingly fallen off the edge. Somalia is now witnessing the worst humanitarian crisis in Africa with over one million internally displaced and facing "a staggering scale of need," (Refugees International, 03/31/2008).
According to the United Nations, thousands have been killed and many more wounded since the occupation began, while the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) which arrived on the tanks of the invading troops is now on the verge of collapse (New York Times, 03/29/2008). Neither the support of the United States (U.S.) nor the military power of Ethiopia has helped it achieve any meaningful acceptance. Somalis rightly view the TFG as a government imposed upon them by an historic archenemy and legitimacy, evidently, can neither be purchased with money nor coerced through bombardment.
Many Human Rights groups have also documented the impunity with which Ethiopian troops have operated in Somalia in the past year. In August 2007, Human Rights Watch released a major report titled Shell-Shocked: Civilians under Siege in Mogadishu documenting the crimes against civilians committed by all the warring factions during March and April of 2007.
The report specifically documented the deliberate shelling by Ethiopian troops of densely populated areas including hospitals, the looting of private property and the mass arrests and detentions of civilians. Since then, two-thirds of Mogadishu's population has been displaced and the resistance to the occupation has grown largely in response to the war crimes and injustices committed against civilians. Furthermore, the disproportionate and heavy-handed use of force by Ethiopian troops has left little doubt in the mind of many Somalis that Ethiopia is indeed the enemy they perceive it to be.
In addition to supplying Ethiopia with logistical, financial and political support, the U.S. occasionally takes matters into its own hands. In early March 2008, the United States dropped several missiles on Dobley, a small Somali village near the Kenyan border. The alleged target was a man suspected of terrorist attacks in Kenya a decade earlier. As with similar bombing campaigns conducted by the U.S. in Somalia, at least four since early 2007, this one missed its target. This shoot-first approach has once again taken the lives of innocent villagers and others who found life in Mogadishu unbearable. These reckless bombings of dubious legality have so far achieved nothing but stoke the ire of a population already under siege.
In their opinion piece (Los Angeles Times, 03/28/2008), Jennifer Daskal, senior counter-terrorism counsel for Human Rights Watch and Leslie Lefkow, senior researcher on the Horn of Africa for Human Rights Watch attribute the predictable and "unsurprising growth in anti-Western and anti-American sentiment among Somalis who never supported radical Islamist movements before" to the callous U.S. bombings and "Ethiopia's blank check to commit abuses." The authors further warn that "eliminating a few alleged terrorists will not solve these deeper problems," but that "an effective counter-terrorism policy must address the underlying human rights and humanitarian tragedies that are fueling the crisis."
The policies of targeted killings and unwavering support for Ethiopia's brutal occupation are proving to be detrimental to Somalis and undermining U.S. policy in the Horn of Africa. In addition to hampering reconciliation efforts, these policies clearly undermine the TFG itself, the very government the U.S. purports to support. The Somali people justifiably see an imposed government of warlords and their cronies, a brutal and callous occupation and the world's only superpower stubbornly and recklessly pushing the country over the edge.
The Somali Diaspora Network urges the United States to:
- Immediately withdraw its military and political support for Ethiopia's illegal occupation of Somalia
- Support the investigation of war crimes and human rights abuses committed against the civilian population by advocating the establishment of a war crimes tribunal for Somalia
- Conduct a congressional investigation of U.S. military assistance to Ethiopia to determine its full adherence to U.S. law
- Support UN Security Council action demanding that Ethiopia withdraw its troops from Somali territory without delay
- Support the reconciliation efforts among all Somali stakeholders from within and without the TFG
ABOUT SOMALI DIASPORA NETWORK (SDN) – SDN is a grass-roots organization committed to advocate on critical policy matters pertaining to Somali-American interest and issues of concern through communication and information sharing, raising public awareness, and educating the public and government officials.