Africa Theater

The Economist: Should the West back Ethiopia?

We noted that the current (Feb. 22) issue of The Economist has an uncharacteristically favorable article on Eritrea, saying it can "help or hinder progress in the Horn." The same issue has an equally uncharacteristic slap at the rival Ethiopian regime, asking "Should the West go on helping a repressive Ethiopia?" It starts out with an outline of aid projects in Ethiopia, as if "the West's" only interest in Africa was fighting poverty. Only at the very end does it mention the strategic struggle in Somalia which is driving the West's alliance with Addis Ababa. This is pretty indicting, but we smell empty hand-wringing—or, at best, a warning that Meles Zenawi may not prove to be a stable proxy in the long run... An excerpt from The Economist:

Guinea: rights abuses under martial law

From Human Rights Watch via Reuters, Feb. 16:

Dakar — The Guinean government has failed to control security forces responsible for rapes, robberies and more than 110 killings since mid-January, Human Rights Watch said today. After the imposition of martial law on February 12, security forces committed numerous abuses during house-to-house searches for weapons earlier seized by a small group of violent protesters from police stations and other government installations. "Guinean security forces are using martial law as an excuse to terrorize ordinary Guineans," said Peter Takirambudde, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "Under the guise of reestablishing law and order, they're acting like common criminals, beating, robbing and brutalizing the population they're supposed to protect."

Africa Command: "Follow the oil"

President Bush has approved plans to create a Pentagon command for Africa, a move that reflects increasing US strategic interests in the continent. Bush said in a Feb. 13 statement that he had asked Defense Secretary Robert Gates to get the new "Africom" up and running by the end of September 2008. "This new command will strengthen our security cooperation with Africa and create new opportunities to bolster the capabilities of our partners in Africa," Bush said. "Africa Command will enhance our efforts to bring peace and security to the people of Africa and promote our common goals of development, health, education, democracy and economic growth in Africa." But Josh Rushing, al-Jazeera’s military analyst, told the network's Inside Story program that Africa Command came down to "following the oil." (Temoust, Niger, Feb. 13)

Architect of Darfur genocide wants to lead African Union

Do we laugh or do we cry? From Inter-Press Service, Jan. 29:

Resolving the conflicts in Somalia and Darfur will extend well beyond the two-day African Union (AU) summit, according to academics and civil society activists.

Ethiopian troops hunt down Oromo refugees in Somalia

Ethiopian occupation troops in Somalia are reportedly hunting down Ethiopian Oromo refugees living in the country. Allied Somali militias are also said to be abducting Oromos and handing them over to Ethiopian troops for reward money. Ethiopian forces in Somalia are reportedly claiming that the refugees are all members of the Oromo rebel forces fighting the Ethiopian government.

Somalia: US raids wiped out nomads; Kenya next domino?

Last week's US air raids in the Lower Juba region of southern Somalia near the Kenyan border, caused heavy civilian casualties, according to local reports. Some of the attacks apparently hit groups of nomadic herdsmen on their way to watering holes. Reports of civilian casualites run as high as 80 dead, with large numbers of cattle, goats and other livestock wiped out as well. Thousands of local residents are said to be fleeing towards the border. But with the border sealed, aid workers from Doctors Without Borders and other groups have been unable to cross into the region from Kenya to assist or verify the claims. The air strikes near the towns of Hagar, Bur Gabo, Banka Jiro, Bada Madow and Ras Kamboni areas are said to have continued for three days. (HornAfrik Radio via BBC Monitoring, Jan. 11)

Somalia: facts of US air-strike disputed; exiles deported for opposing intervention

Ethiopian and US forces are still in pursuit of three supposed al-Qaida militants originally said to have been killed in the US airstrike of Jan. 8, with an anonymous "senior US official" in Kenya telling AP that they all survived the raid. The official confirmed the US "special operations forces" were in Somalia, but said they were focused only on tracking down the suspected terrorists and not members of the Somali Islamist militia. "The three high-value targets are still of intense interest to us," the official said. "What we're doing is still ongoing, we're still in pursuit, us and the Ethiopians."

Somalia: US airstrikes, anti-Ethiopia resistance

Unknown Somali fighters opened fire with automatic weapons and launched rockets at Ethiopian and allied Somalian troops in Mogadishu Jan. 9. The attack came as the troops had established themselves in a building formerly used by the police force. No casualties have yet been reported, but the gunfight lasted several minutes, and was the second attack targeting Ethiopian troops in Somalia's capital in the past three days. Somalia's Ethiopia-backed interim government has postponed plans to disarm the public for the moment, but pledges to carry them out—by force if necessary. (Garowe Online, Somalia, Jan. 9)

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