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The Dartmouth
May 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

... Assess the Blame Down in Africa

In his lecture at Dartmouth last Friday, "The War on Terror and the Terror of War: Somalia and the Horn of Africa," professor Abdi Samatar from the University of Minnesota explained why popular opposition to Somalia's martial law depicts South African President Mbeki as the Quisling of our time. Just like the Norwegian traitor who sold out his own people to the Nazis, the African Union continues to allow an American war on terror in Somalia.

In 2006, the U.S. government actively permitted an Ethiopian invasion of Somalia. According to Samatar, the Somalis felt stabbed in the back by their American-influenced African leaders and left without hope of a unified country. By exploiting the chaotic situation in Somalia and engaging in foreign policies based on self-interest, the United States has left behind its fundamental values of liberty and equality for all people.

The deep divide between various ethnic groups in Somalia finds its origins in the political genealogy of the country. The African Union recognized the various groups as incompatible forces that ought to be separated, assuming that unification is beyond reach. Based on this position from the African Union, international forces collaboratively altered the Islamist coalition government, with Americans at the vanguard of this overthrow, in the second half of 2006. Desperately attempting to eliminate any potential threat of extreme Islamism, they replaced it with dictatorial martial law by initiating a puppet government consisting of warlords, with Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed as president.

By overthrowing the previous government, the African Union and United Nations discredited the Islamist rule's ability to bring about peace among the fighting groups for the first time in 15 years. The security and well-being of the Somali people was put aside for American self interest-driven "War on Terror." Classifying Islam as the main source of terrorism, the United States has thus undermined the potential of religion to bring together fighting groups whose sole common factor is their belief in Islam.

As Professor Abdi Samatar suggested on Friday, the United States and the AU have failed to recognize that war on terror merely encourages terrorism, as terror is a result of war -- not its cause. The martial law dictatorship promotes radicalism by suppressing its citizens' aspirations. Moreover, Mbeki has, within the AU, become President Bush's point man, and thereby evoking feelings of national betrayal in many Somalis. The political turmoil in the country is escalating rapidly, and the UN's head of the Human Rights Commission has referred to the situation as being more severe than Darfur. In fact, the number of people who have died due to internal unrest among competing groups in Somalia is currently equal to the number of deaths that have occurred in Darfur to date.

By controlling the actions of African leaders within the African Union, America is able to justify its control over Somalia by exploiting the threat of terrorism. The American fear of terrorist attacks makes Westerners blind to the suffering of people living under martial law in Somalia. The "Quislings" of the African Union, themselves in a close relationship with the United States, have most recently bought into this Western pressure by creating an "African proposition" on how to handle the Somali crisis. The proposition supports the creation of a secular government that stands for little more than the American political agenda when it comes to "containing" terrorism. Critics have pointed out that Mbeki chose to refrain from mentioning his close contact with President Bush prior to the American-supported Ethiopian attack on Somalia, an action which suggests that Mbeki was well aware of American intentions, and was appointed to be Bush's point man in preventing the spread of "terrorism."

It is time for the United States to return to its initial value system concerning foreign politics, in which the peace and welfare of all people are seen as priorities. To echo Professor Samatar, war will inevitably give birth to more wars: The war on terror only serves to inflame relationships between nations and peoples. The United States ought to use its good relations with the African Union to ensure the well-being of Somali people, instead of continuing to fight Islam. It is time for our "bearers of democracy" to put aside their own agendas in favor of the people living in misery in Somalia by paying attention to local demands.