Somalia: Global war on terror and the humanitarian crisis

Published on Pambazuka News (also on and on Horace, by Horace Campbell, August 18, 2011.

The US government’s counterterrorism activities and ‘humanitarian’ assistance in Somalia and the Horn of Africa go a long way towards explaining the region’s entrenched problems, writes Horace Campbell.

In Somalia, half of the population is at risk of famine. This famine endangers the lives of over 11 million people in the Horn of Africa. The scale of this crisis makes one raise questions. What is famine today? How is it possible to have famine today in the midst of plenty? How is it possible that nearly 20 years since Operation Restore Hope, the ‘development secretary’ of the United Kingdom Andrew Mitchell is warning that ‘humanity is in a race against time’ in Somalia? The famine is one wake-up call for us to realise that some of our priorities are wrong. 

Andrew Adasi, an eleven-year-old boy in Ghana, showed the passion and care of real people when he went and mobilised money from among the people of Ghana for the children in Somalia. This mobilisation by this young man should inspire all of us to be concerned about the children who are now threatened all over the Horn of Africa. The African Union has appointed another Ghanaian, former president Jerry Rawlings, as its representative for Somalia. Only four countries in Africa have made donations, and up to this point, the response inside of Africa has not matched the scale of this human tragedy. Two days ago the Organisation of the Islamic Conference OIC pledged US$350m to help famine victims in Somalia.

Yet in the midst of this crisis we must look beyond the hype of fundraising and go deeper. Famine and drought makes good business for NGOs and international organisations that have ulterior motives for their ‘humanitarianism’. I must reassert the view that only a confederation of democratic societies in the Horn can protect the people from the devastation of further disasters such as this famine. It is also in the context of African unity with democratic leadership where it will be possible to lay the foundations for the conditions to prevent future famines and the militarism that has spread behind droughts and dislocation of citizens. Some entrepreneurs have travelled to the region to sell to the people the technology to make rain. This is a travesty. International cooperation to end famine and starvation should not be an exercise for people to make money. I want to use my personal journey with the struggles for peace in Somalia to raise my voice to support the Somali and East African people in this hour of need.


Somalia is the most homogenous country in Africa. But this homogeneity has been shattered by the imperialist partition of Africa that divided the Somali people in five different places – Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and the different parts of Somalia (one dominated by British colonialism and the other by Italian colonialism). These forms of colonial divisions and partitioning were compounded by the internal colonialism of the Somali Bantu by other Somalis … //

… At this point, it has become clearer that drought is only the immediate cause of the present famine in Somalia. The remote and primary cause is the destabilisation of the country by a US policy that has used the pretext of humanitarian aid to further its own militaristic interests in the name of war on terror in the region. And this same war on terror has negatively affected the people of the region so that there is drought in Djibouti where the US has a military base. In Djibouti a compromised and spaced-out government is more intent on serving the US than serving the interests of the people. There is drought and famine conditions in Ethiopia where millions are at risk, but the Ethiopian military has been a proxy for the US military in Somalia. As we wrote about earlier, this Ethiopian military invaded Somalia to fight the IUC (means ICU?). This US military policy also negatively affected the people of Kenya where the government fears genuine democratic participation because the Kenyan people will oppose the use of Kenya as a base for extraordinary rendition and the support for the US operations in Somalia. This US military in East Africa has also negatively affected Uganda where Ugandans have sent troops into Mogadishu as part of the African Union peacekeeping force. The African Union certainly needs peacekeepers in Somalia but Yoweri Museveni in Uganda has kept himself in power by adopting the same policies of the US, that is, to maintain militarism in northern Uganda instead of seeking political solutions that would isolate the Lord’s Resistance Army.

Ultimately, the famine points a finger at the priorities of the US in the Horn of Africa. After 19 years of engagement with East Africa through Operation Restore Hope, the famine is a grim reminder that militarisation moves people who cannot farm and feed their families. It reduces the capacity for regional mobilisation among neighbours to deal with such crisis as the ongoing famine.

The impact of militarisation has been so severe that even pro-imperialist organisations such as Human Rights Watch have now joined in condemning the tactics of the USA in Somalia. Human Rights Watch could not but bring out the reality that the US military activities had exacerbated the situation and in seeking to be even-handed sought to blame everyone for the famine. In a 58-page report, ‘’You Don’t Know Who to Blame’: War Crimes in Somalia,’ Human Rights Watch documented numerous abuses during renewed fighting in the past year by the different parties. The Islamist group Al-Shabaab, the Somali Transitional Federal Government TFG, the African Union peacekeeping forces Amisom, and Kenya- and Ethiopia-backed Somali militias are all cited in the report. This report also cited abuses by the Kenyan police and crimes committed against Somali refugees by anti-social elements in Kenya. Even the vaunted British Broadcasting Corporation has now weighed in with a condemnation of the US in Somalia, with its correspondent Andrew Harding stating that the US policy on piracy, oil and fighting terrorism has been the number one root cause of the failure to deal with the drought that led to famine (

Human Rights Watch could not do otherwise because less than a month previously Jeremy Scahill had exposed that the CIA has participated in the running of secret detention and interrogation centers in Somalia. He also implicated the Kenyan authorities in sending Kenyans to the secret prison in Mogadishu ( Famine and dictatorship are two of the outcomes of the US counterterrorism strategies in Africa.

Recently, the US Africa Command carried out stress test on a number of African countries to test for simmering conditions that could lead to the kind of revolutionary uprisings that took place in Egypt and Tunisia. The intellectual basis of the stress test was as sound as the stress test that the US did on some of its major banks that are now still insolvent. The drought, famine and humanitarian crises are a reason to call for the dismantling of the US African Command. This is because many humanitarian organisations will not cooperate with US agencies because of the affiliation of the USAID with AFRICOM. The United Nations and African Union Mission to Somalia’s AMISOM must cancel the contract of Bell Pottinger if decent humans are to seriously consider making positive contributions to resolving the real tragedy in East Africa.

In recent Congressional testimony, the US Department of Defense, the US Department of State and USAID represented AFRICOM as a development agency and said that AFRICOM has the resources to carry out humanitarian assistance in Africa. It is this very claim that AFRICOM is a development agency that gives further propaganda advantage to the Al-Shabaab forces who are refusing humanitarian assistance for those displaced by the drought and famine. From press reports Al-Shabaab has removed from Mogadishu. But we agree with the view of Abdi Samatar that Al-Shabaab, the TFG, the AU forces and the US militarists have compounded the conditions for the majority of the people of Somalia.

The AU and democratic, progressive forces in Africa must be more engaged with the struggles for democracy in Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti and Ethiopia. Dictatorial and corrupt governments have more interest in remaining in power than in solving famine crisis or providing other needs of the people. The progressive forces were able to oppose the war on terror so that the US government now uses the term overseas contingency operations instead of the war on terror. In the same vein, progressive forces must work with those who want to give genuine humanitarian support to the peoples of East Africa. The progressive forces must ensure that in this crisis we are not carried on another road to hell. (full long text).


Islamic Courts Union ICU;

on Human Rights Watch HRW: a 58-page report You Don’t Know Who to Blame: War Crimes in Somalia;

AMISOM on African, on en.wikipedia;

Kenya- and Ethiopia-backed Somali militias on SAHEL Blog, on News from Africa;

for Operation Restore HOPE on; on fr.wikipedia, voir aussi Évolution ultérieure de la situation; on en.wikipedia /Unified Task Force; and on Operation Restore

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