CAN A NEW CONSTITUTION BRING PEACE TO SOMALIA?
U.S., allies deepening military intervention will create more instability
On August 1 the Somalia National Constituent Assembly approved overwhelmingly a new constitution for the Horn of Africa nation. The document is the result of eight years of negotiations between various political forces inside the country.
The constitution allows for abortion if the life of the mother is in danger and it bans female genital mutilation. Islam is the only religion that can be propagated in Somalia although the new constitution says that other believes will be allowed.
Abshir Abdi, an assembly attendant, said of the new document that “Today Somalia has put its feet onto a democratic and peaceful path. The new constitution will heal Somalia from war trauma and put it onto a more peaceful life.” (Associated Press, August 1)
However, at the same time that the constitution was being voted on in the capital of Mogadishu, two bomb blasts rocked the location where these monumental decisions were being made. Two alleged bombers were killed in the explosion and several United States-backed Somalia troops were wounded.
The Associated Press noted in their report on events that “The explosions are a reminder that even as Somalia continues down a slow path of re-establishing a functioning government after two decades of near anarchy in this East African nation, al-Shabab militants who were pushed out of the capital last year can still infiltrate Mogadishu and wreak havoc.”
An 88-page document, the constitution is the product of negotiations and contributions of international law experts and Somalia politicians with the assistance of the governments of the U.S., Canada, Britain and Australia. The International Development Law Organization, which offers assistance to governments and non-governmental organizations, says that the new Somalia constitution on paper offers more fundamental rights than those in operation in the U.S. and Italy.
Imperialist War Intensifies
Nonetheless, the entire process of constitutional development and enactment is taking place amid increasing U.S.-coordinated military operations against the Al-Shabab Islamic resistance forces that are operating in various regions of the country. Some 17,000 troops are occupying Somalia from regional states that are closely allied with the U.S.
The bulk of the troops making up the so-called African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) come from Uganda, a close partner of Washington in the region. Other troops hail from Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya and Sierra Leone.
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has a strong presence in Somalia, with a station in Mogadishu. The CIA involvement is reinforced by the usage of predator and reaper drones that have killed hundreds just over the last few months.
According to the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, U.S. aircraft have killed at least 112 Somalians who were designated as “terrorists.” In January, a predator drone launched three Hellfire missiles at a group of Somalians that killed Bilaal al-Barjawi, who is said to have been involved in bombing operations in Uganda during 2010.
From neighboring Djibouti where a U.S. military base is in operation at Camp Lemonnier, the Pentagon has branched out to establish airbases across the region extending into the Indian Ocean island of Seychelles. Ethiopia, another close ally of the U.S., has provided territory for the construction of a secret airstrip at Arba Minch.
These military and intelligence operations in East Africa and the Indian Ocean have largely gone unreported by the corporate media. The situation in Somalia is portrayed as a fight against Al-Qaeda and that the situation inside of the country is unrelated to the struggle against U.S. intervention and the failure of the Somalia Transitional Federation Government to address the humanitarian and economic issues of the people inside the country.
Although the U.S. government is claiming that Al-Shabab has been driven out of Mogadishu, the capital, as well as other areas of the country, the resistance movement has demonstrated on numerous occasions its ability to strike back as was done on August 1.
On August 5, at least 18 people were reported killed as Al-Shabab forces clashed with TFG units in the Qansah-dhere district of the Bay region. TFG units were ambushed by Al-Shabab forces firing from several directions.
The Somalia Governor of Bay region reported that “Al-Shabab agents attacked our positions in Qansah-Dhere town, firing rockets and propelled grenades across the city. Somali forces confronted them and warded the attack off the area, killing at least 17 militants who are now lying on the ground.” (Shabelle Media, August 5)
The Al-Shabab militants were reported to have retreated after the attacks leaving the TFG forces open to further ambushes. These attacks are continuing in various parts of the south of the country.
There are indications that a massive assault is being planned against the southern port city of Kismayo which has been a major base of operations for Al-Shabab. In preparation for these attacks the Uganda People’s Defense Air Force dispatched a contingent of ace pilots to Somalia.
On August 12, four Ugandan-based Mi-17 and Mi-24 helicopters went missing in Kenya while in route to Somalia. A crew of 18 Ugandan military officers on board the helicopters were reportedly found after a hard landing.
This incident in Kenya illustrates the tense military situation taking place within the region. An all-out assault on Kismayo and other areas of southern Somalia will create more displacement and hardships for the Somalian population already suffering from the impact of one of the worst droughts in recent history.
The Need for Transparency and Unity
This entire process of constitution building in Somalia has been conducted over and above the heads of the population. The war that is being waged in Somalia is conducted in secret and is coordinated by the Pentagon and the CIA.
How can such a back drop result in a genuine democratic political system and social stability? The nation of Somalia and its breakaway region of Puntland has been the scene of oil discoveries and drilling in recent months and therefore the economic incentive for imperialism represents the underlying causes of the war.
Somalian Human Rights advocate and freelance writer Dr. Sadia Ali Aden pointed out recently in an essay that “This overwhelming secrecy denied the average Somali citizen the opportunity to fully examine and analyze the flaws that existed in the new constitution. Long before it was endorsed through a subjectively managed process, the document sent shock waves throughout the Somali people (in Somalia and in the Diaspora). “(horseedmedia.net, August 11)
Aden goes on to say that “to ensure success, sustained uprisings in the Arab Spring style is a must to force the powers that be to suspend the new constitution until independent parliament starts its mandate and genuine dialogue free of external influence is initiated on reconciliation, a system of governance that is right for Somalia and reestablishment of the Somali security force.”
There is much at stake for U.S. imperialism in Somalia and the Horn of Africa. The discovery of oil, natural gas and the strategic waterways of the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean will keep Washington in the region until they are forced out by the people.
Abayomi Azikiwe is the editor of Pan-African News Wire , an international electronic press service designed to foster intelligent discussion on the affairs of African people throughout the continent and the world. The press agency was founded in January of 1998 and has published thousands of articles and dispatches in newspapers, magazines, journals, research reports, blogs and websites throughout the world. The PANW represents the only daily international news source on pan-african and global affairs. To contact him, click on this link >> Email