November 9, 2006

Letter from Africa

Letter from Africa

somali stamp[CharlesFred / Flickr]

Last week we did a show on Somalia: on whether the de facto Islamist government is a good thing for the country, on whether it expands the risk of regional war, and on how the U.S. should react to the potential threat of terrorist activity. An AP article from yesterday reinforces the extent to which Ethiopia and Eritrea are taking sides in Somalia. And this email from Jonathan Ledgard, Africa correspondent for the Economist who was on our show, raises more questions about how the U.S. is acting in the region:


Just back in Nairobi. Depressingly the State Department has a warning out now about Somali suicide bombers; it reckons that a shipment of suicide belts made it into Mogadishu and young Somali men will blow themselves up in places in Nairobi where westerners often gather. This can mean two things, neither of them good. Either there really are suicide bombers out there, or, far more likely, Washington has decided not to talk with the Islamists and is trying to create a negative impression of them. The latter would mean US military aid going to Ethiopia. It’s hotting up.

Jonathan Ledgard, Africa correspondent for the Economist, in an email to Open Source, 7 November 2006

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  • scribe5

    [This comment has been deleted because it failed to follow one of our commenting guidelines. – Brendan]

  • Mohamed Hussein

    I agree that Washington is trying to create a negative impression of the Islamists and has given Ethiopia the green light to start a war in Somalia. On November 21 Jendayi Frazier said on the BBC that she changed her mind and would now recommend IGAD (Uganda and Ethiopia) troops going in to Somalia to stop the “expansion” of the Islamic courts. Within 24 hrs the Prime Minister of Ethiopia announced Ethiopia was ready to wage war against the Islamic Courts. To many Somalis this is just the US covert activity now becoming overt rather than a change of heart.

    The US warning regarding suicide attacks in Kenya was as dubious as the allegations that Iraq was seeking Yellow Cake in Niger. The allegation was based on postings on anti-Islamic movement websites that claimed they had a letter written by Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys in which there were instructions about a list of people and places to be targeted. The letter was at some of these websites for only few hours and is no longer on any website (because it cannot withstand minimum scrutiny just as the Niger documents were found to be forgeries). The letter was also fishy because it was supposedly from one Somali to another but was written in Arabic. It was probably written in Arabic to make it sound authentic to the Americans. The Americans citing Somali website announced the warnings more than 3 weeks after the first postings. Most important the announcement was made to the media without informing the Kenyan authorities who said they first heard of the US warnings from the media.

    Just like Iraq wild allegations are made and the need to keep sources secrets is used as way of preventing verification of the allegations. Just like Iraq it looks good on paper to have Uganda and Ethiopia send in troops to Somalia. Just like Iraq the fighting will get out of control and only bad options will be left.

    For the past 16 years Somalis thought it was only the greed of warlords and clan warfare that kept them divided and in a lawless hell. Ethiopian meddling was always known but a US/Kenya/Ethiopia/Uganda plot has become clearer and now beyond doubt. The former Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi gave a speech at the National Defense University (US) in which he admitted that Somalia’s neighbors including Kenya wanted to keep Somalia divided and weak because of previous territorial disputes. Now that Mogadishu for the first time in 16 years is very peaceful, safe and hopeful, the US and its allies are working very hard to bring back the hated warlords (calling them President, Minister of Interior, Defense Minister etc. does not change the fact that they were and still are warlords) imposing them on us.