Africa in Review 2018: Imperialist Militarism and the Quest for Reconstruction
Bombing operations by the United States military against the Horn of Africa state of Somalia have escalated during the course of 2018.
Once the administration of President Donald Trump came into office nearly two years ago, purported “restrictions” placed on Pentagon operations through the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) were lifted.
Nonetheless, this notion of lifting restraints on aerial strikes against what is said to be “terrorists” operating inside the country should not be misunderstood on the continent or in the international community. The war against Somalia is part and parcel of numerous attempts to install surrogate regimes in the mode of Washington, efforts which can be traced back for decades.
There is also the enhancement of special commando units which although claiming to have a principal focus on training of the Somalian National Army (SNA), are directly engaged in attacks against identified “enemies” which include the two major factions of Al-Shabaab. As a result of the escalating AFRICOM involvement, dozens of people have lost their lives over the last several months.
A regional military peacekeeping force known as the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) has been operating in the country for over 11 years. The more than 20,000 troops from AMISOM have grown war weary due to the fact that no foreseeable end to the war in Somalia is apparent.
At the same time in 2018 Washington has reestablished a diplomatic mission in Mogadishu after 28 years. In 1991, the U.S.-backed government of Mohamed Siad Barre collapsed and since this time period there have been periodic direct invasions (1992-1994), the utilization of surrogate regional armies (2006-2009) and ongoing diplomatic maneuvering in the quest for potential profits from the exploration of petroleum resources in the north of the country.
In neighboring Ethiopia and Eritrea, the two nations which had been at war since 1998, reached a peace agreement in July. Heads-of-state from both governments, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia and Isaisis Afwerki of Eritrea, have visited each other’s respective capitals of Addis Ababa and Asmara. There is much optimism that these developments hold promise for the opening up of trade and joint economic projects in the Horn of Africa. United Nations Security Council imposed sanctions against Eritrea have been lifted in light of the peace agreements in the region.
However, looking at the fact that the signing of at least one of the agreements between Asmara and Addis Ababa during September took place in Saudi Arabia while the United Arab Emirates (UAE) played a role in facilitating talks gave pause to many inside and outside of Africa. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are continuing to carry out a genocidal war on behalf of imperialism in Yemen. These monarchies are notorious for violating the political and human rights of their own citizens and residents.
Motivations for this rapprochement in the Horn of Africa carry the possibility of strong financial benefits for Abu Dhabi and Riyadh through the construction of an oil pipeline in the region. Military considerations as well in the efforts to isolate the Islamic Republic of Iran from cultivating diplomatic relations with Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Djibouti can only serve the interests of Washington and its allies among the Gulf monarchies.
A report published by the Belgium-based International Crisis Group in November emphasized:
“In its anti-Iran drive, Riyadh sought assistance from past allies Sudan and Eritrea, both of which had strengthened ties with Tehran while all three countries were under international sanctions. Beginning in the 1990s, Sudan had built its defense industry with Iranian assistance and know-how; Eritrea had offered use of its port, Assab, to the Iranian navy. In 2014, however, both countries ejected Iranian diplomats. A year later, both agreed to contribute troops and resources for the Yemen war.” (Eritrea Hub, Nov. 7)
This same article goes on to illustrate how:
“The UAE took de facto responsibility for operations in Yemen’s south and quickly found itself in need of a naval and air base along the Red Sea. The natural candidate was Djibouti, where DP World had built the port. By then, however, Abu Dhabi’s relationship with Djibouti was souring over allegations of corruption related to DP World’s contract (DP World disputes the allegations). Officials from the two countries had a falling-out in April 2015, when the UAE, with DP World’s infrastructure, sought to use Djibouti as a military launching pad into Yemen. The Saudi-led coalition turned to another port, Eritrea’s Assab. Riyadh signed a security agreement also that April to use Assab, leaving Abu Dhabi to carry out the deal’s terms. By September, the Emirati military was flying fighter-bombers from the Eritrean coastline.”
A meeting between the leaders of Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea in Mogadishu was historic as well since Asmara has been accused of supporting al-Shabaab, a charge in which it has vehemently denied over the years. Other complications in interstate relations stem from the territorial dispute simmering for a considerable time period between Djibouti and Eritrea.