Enver Masud: Somali Pirates and the New Scramble for Africa


Richard Moore

April 11, 2009
The Wisdom Fund

Those Somali Pirates and the New Scramble for Africa

by Enver Masud

Those Somali pirates, the crisis in Darfur, the war crimes charges against Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir, and the bases in Africa sought by AFRICOM are best understood in the context of the New Great Game – the scramble for Africa’s resources.

In January 1991, Somalia’s president Mohammed Siad Barre was overthrown by a coalition calling itself the United Somali Congress which then divided into two groups – one led by Ali Mahdi Muhammad, who became president, and the other led by Mohammed Farah Aidid.

Fighting broke out among rival clans, and food shortages became widespread. Pictures of starving Somalis were repeatedly broadcast in the United States.

In a bid to destroy the forces of Mohammed Farah Aidid, on December 12, 1992, the U.S., undercover of a “humanitarian mission” invaded Somalia. In the following ten months, 10,000 Somalis died in battles with the U.S.

Colin Powell, at the time the chairman of the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, called the invasion a “paid political advertisement” for the Pentagon at a time (less than a year after the end of the so-called Cold War) when Congress was under growing pressure to cut the war budget.”

The U.S. ultimately withdrew. The deciding battle for Mogadishu, the Somali capital, was captured in the film “Black Hawk Down.”

It was a humiliating defeat for the U.S., and Somalia descended into chaos. U.S. support for warlords fueled the turmoil.

Peace was restored when the Islamic Courts Union came to power.

“Finally, after 16 years, the Somali people have decided to liberate themselves with the leadership of the Islamic court, said Sheikh Sherif Ahmed, Chairman, Islamic Courts Union.

“The Union of Islamic Courts does not want to impose a Taleban-style Islamic state in Somalia, says their leader.” (BBC News, June 6, 2006)

But the U.S. had its own plan. On December 24, 2006, Ethiopia, supported by the U.S., invaded Somalia.

“The coordinated assault was the first open admission by Ethiopia’s Christian-led government of its military operations inside Somalia, where – with tacit American support – it has been helping a weak interim government threatened by forces loyal to the Islamic clerics who control the longtime capital, Mogadishu, and much of the country. (New York Times, December 25, 2006)

“The real reason [for U.S. support of the invasion] is likely to be that the Ogaden region, which borders Somalia, sits on a not yet exploited gas field. (Daniel Whitaker, Observer, November 12, 2006)

When the U.S. role was revealed, support for the Islamists increased, and Somalia faced a new humanitarian crisis.

“A local human rights group put the death toll at 1,000 over just four days earlier this month, and more than 250 have been killed in the past six days.

“More than 320,000 of Mogadishu’s 2 million residents have fled since heavy fighting started in February.” (Salad Duhul and Elizabeth A. Kennedy, Independent, April 24, 2007)

The United Nations labeled it the “worst refugee crisis.”

Winterpatriot.blogsport.com reported “the United States has intervened directly into the conflict, carrying out bombing raids on fleeing refugees and nomads, firing missiles into villages, sending in death squads to clean up after covert operations, and . . . assisting in the “rendition” of refugees, including American citizens, into the hands of Ethiopia’s notorious torturers.”

“Amnesty International has called for the role of the United States in Somalia to be investigated, following publication of a report accusing its allies of committing war crimes.” (Steve Bloomfield, Guardian, May 7, 2008)

16,000 civilians died in this new conflict, and despite U.S. support, the Ethiopian troops were forced to withdraw in January 2009.

“Analysts had feared the withdrawal of the Ethiopians would lead to a power vacuum and fighting between rival Islamist factions.

“But at the moment all factions – whether they back the peace process with the government or not – seem to be working together.” (BBC, January 15, 2009)

Now, the new “Great Game of Hunting Somali Pirates,” may be a precursor to reestablishing U.S. control in the region – i.e. bases for AFRICOM.

The “piracy in Somalia has its origin among disgruntled fishermen who had to compete with illegal poaching by foreign commercial vessels in its tuna-rich coastal waters”, writes former Indian ambassador M. K. Bhadrakumar.

“At some 3,300 kilometres, Somalia has the longest coastline in Africa. With a fertile upswelling where the ocean reaches Africa’s Horn, the seas are rich in tuna, swordfish and shark, as well as coastal beds of lobster and valuable shrimp. (Daniel Howden and Abdinasir Mohamed Guled, Independent, November 14, 2008)

“The pirates are actually a blessing in disguise. They provide an excuse for the administration to beef up it’s military presence and put down roots. . . .

“When the Asian tsunami of Christmas 2005 washed ashore on the east coast of Africa, it uncovered a great scandal. Tons of radioactive waste and toxic chemicals drifted onto the beaches after the giant wave dislodged them from the sea bed off Somalia. Tens of thousands of Somalis fell ill after coming into contact with this cocktail. They complained to the United Nations (UN), which began an investigation. . . .

“In 2006 Somali fishermen complained to the UN that foreign fishing fleets were using the breakdown of the state to plunder their fish stocks. These foreign fleets often recruited Somali militias to intimidate local fishermen. Despite repeated requests, the UN refused to act.” (Mike Whitney, Global Research, December 2, 2008)

The scramble for Africa’s resources is acclerating.

“A US businessman backed by former CIA and state department officials says he has secured a vast tract of fertile land in south Sudan from the family of a notorious warlord, in post-colonial Africa’s biggest private land deal. . . .

“He believes that several African states, Sudan included, but possibly also Nigeria, Ethiopia and Somalia, are likely to break apart in the next few years”.

“Despite resistance from virtually every nation in Africa, the U.S. continues to seek a home for its Africa Command, AFRICOM. The lure of African oil and other resources causes Washington to devise various schemes to dominate the continent . . . a central Washington political thrust in Africa revolves around the Darfur region of Sudan [where Israel is collaborating with rebel forces]. What the U.S. really wants is regime change in Sudan, and control of its oil resources.” (Mark P. Fancher, opednews.com, February 18, 2009)

Like millions of innocent civilians in Somalia and Sudan, the captain of the Maersk Alabama is caught up in this deadly game.

Enver Masud, “A Clash Between Justice and Greed, Not Islam and the West,” The Wisdom Fund, September 2, 2002

Salim Lone, “Somalia: ‘Most Lawless War of Our Generation’,” DemocracyNow, April 27, 2007

M K Bhadrakumar, “The Great Game of Hunting Somali Pirates,” Asia Times, November 22, 2008

[All analysts agree that the best way to quash piracy off Somalia is to achieve stability onshore, where civil conflict has raged for the last 18 years.

Fourteen attempts to restore central government have failed since 1991, and a 15th one is in its infancy. The United Nations and others are hopeful that the administration of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, set up earlier this year, is the best chance in recent times of bringing peace to Somalia.–Andrew Cawthorne, “Who are the Somali pirates,” Reuters, April 11, 2009]