Somalia: “The Americans ignored their warnings”

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The nation of Somalia has been without a functioning central government for the past 15 years. In 2002 a group composed of seven nations in the region—Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda—convened a Somali Peace and Reconciliation Conference in Kenya. The process undertaken by this group, called IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development) resulted in the election of “an all-inclusive government of national unity for Somalia” in 2004.

This government, however, remained “weak and under- funded” due to the failure to deliver promised international support, resulting in Somalia falling under the control of various militias. The result is that one militia, the Islamic Courts Union militia, last month assumed control of the Somalian capital of Mogadishu.

Did the United States have a role in this failure of the democratic process? Here’s the lead paragraph from a Knight Ridder News Service story from June 17:

“In early March, nine of Mogadishu’s most prominent community leaders secretly flew to neighboring Djibouti and pleaded with U.S. military officials there to stop funding the warlords who were devastating the city. Backing the warlords, they said, would end up strengthening an Islamist militia with a shadowy radical wing.

“The Americans ignored their warnings, three of the Somalis at the meeting told Knight Ridder in separate interviews, and the community leaders’ fears came to life this month when the Islamic Courts Union militia defeated the warlords and took control of the Somali capital.”

The Kenyan newspaper The Standard, put it this way on June 22nd:

“[The] US policy of supporting a section of warlords has been carried out covertly and in brazen defiance of the IGAD framework.

“It is perfectly understandable for the U.S. to seek all ways to ensure the security of its own citizens by pursuing suspected terrorists…. The point, however, is that recent history, most notably the still unraveling war in Iraq, has demonstrated the dangers of unilateralism. But the application of the same gung-ho, poorly planned and single-minded adventurism in Somalia this year by the Bush Administration demonstrates the Americans have learnt little from Iraq.”

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