Looming Assault on Kismayo Amid Presidential Vote in Mogadishu: Somalia transitional regime to dissolve with leadership election
A parliamentary election held on September 10 was designed to determine who the next president of the Horn of Africa nation of Somalia will be. 25 candidates are involved in the process and the winner must garner 75 percent of the votes to be inaugurated as the new leader.
Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, the current president of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), which is bolstered in office by over 17,000 African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) troops that are supported by the United States, is a leading candidate to continue as head of a regime that will undoubtedly rely on Washington for its existence. Ahmed, a former school teacher and cleric as well as a leader within the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), comes from the town of Jowhar and belongs to the Abgaal branch of the Hawiye clan.
Other candidates include Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, the prime minister in the last administration, who is a U.S.-educated economist originating from the northern Puntland region and Ahmed Ismail Samatar, an academic specializing in international political economy and a former Fulbright scholar and author of numerous books on Somalia.
Sheikh Ahmed has been accused of fostering widespread corruption within the outgoing TFG regime. Denying these allegations, the U.S. ally said his government had done nothing illegal and has operated in an ethical and transparent fashion.
Nonetheless, a United Nations Monitoring Group on Somalia report alleges that 70 percent of the money allocated for development and reconstruction inside the country remained unaccounted for. Somalia, due to the intervention of the U.S. and its allies from Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, Sierra Leone and Kenya, is facing one of largest humanitarian crisis in the world with hundreds of thousands of people having lost their lives and at least two million displaced both inside and outside the country.
Even though the holding of the elections are being hailed as a major breakthrough in Somalia which has not had any semblance of a stable government since the toppling of Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991, the security situation remains tense and fluid even within the capital of Mogadishu. In the days leading up to the elections, security forces arrested more than 150 people on September 8.
U.S.-backed Somalia government official, General Garaad Nur Abdi confirmed the security sweep and noted that caches of weapons and explosives were seized in the operation. Suspects detained in the September 8 raids are currently undergoing interrogation for involvement in resistance movement activities led by the Al-Shabab Islamic organization that has been fighting the TFG for over three years.
A previous series of raids and arrests also took place on September 6, resulting in at least 323 arrests. Reports from corporate media outlets over the last several months indicate that Al-Shabab military forces have retreated from Mogadishu despite the existence of periodic attacks against the TFG regime.
On the same day as the parliamentary elections process for a new president was underway, thousands of people marched through Mogadishu demanding that process results in the selection of an Islamic leader. The demonstration took place near the presidential palace on Zeyyed Mohamed Abdulle Hassan Street.
“We do not want a pro-Western president,” the demonstrators chanted. The U.S. has been heavily involved in the internal affairs of Somalia to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars per year.
If the first round of the parliamentary election process for president does not result in a clear-cut winner, there will be run-off procedures until someone gains the required 75 percent of the vote. Whoever wins, it will be highly unlikely that the new president will break ties with the West.
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has a station in the capital of Mogadishu and the State Department offered earlier in the year bounties for the capturing or killing of leading militants within the Al-Shabab resistance movement.
Surrounding the arrests and mass demonstrations in the capital, one person was killed and many others were injured on September 9 in heavy clashes between the Somali National Army (SNA), which is backed by the U.S.-led TFG, and armed groups. The clashes which erupted on the previous day in the northern neighborhood of Hamar Jajab, escalated overnight spreading to other areas of the district.
A local resident told the Shabelle Media Network that “The skirmishes which raged on for several hours, began soon after armed men attacked an army base in the district, leaving one civilian dead and five injured who were rushed to hospital.” (September 9)
The U.S. and other imperialist states along with their allies in the region have much political capital invested in the stabilization of the government in Somalia and the defeat of the Al-Shabab fighters. Deputy Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia Wafula Wamunyinyi lifted up the electoral process as a milestone for the Horn of Africa state.
“I am confident that based on the level of commitment and determination demonstrated by the people of Somalia, the election of president will be free, fair and transparent. I also trust that based on the pronouncement by the candidates, all parties will accept the results of the elections as a true reflection of the wishes of the Somali people,” Wamunyinyi said. (Sabahi, September 9)
Military Assault on Kismayo May be Imminent
For several months the U.S.-led military forces in Somalia have been preparing for a major assault aimed at dislodging the Al-Shabab forces and their supporters from the strategic port city of Kismayo on the Indian Ocean. Revenues from the export of goods from the port city are purportedly being utilized to finance the operations of Al-Shabab.
On September 4, Kenyan Navy warships shelled areas north of Kismayo and its airport. On the same day in Mido, just 50 miles north of Kismayo, battles took place between U.S.-backed forces and Al-Shabab.
The Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) invaded Somalia in October 2011 in what was dubbed as “Operation Linda Nchi.” Despite the claims by Nairobi that it was acting to protect its national security in light of a spate of bomb attacks inside Kenya attributed to Al-Shabab, documents later revealed that plans for the intervention had been developed in close collaboration with the Pentagon for over two years.
KDF spokesman Col. Cyrus Oguna said that “Our plan is in place, it is ready, but we cannot for sure say the date of the start of the invasion of Kismayo, because that is out of our hands.” (Christian Science Monitor, September 6)
Oguna continued saying of the assault on Kismayo that “That decision will be determined by the African Union commanders. Kismayo is a very significant target as it is the only large port that Al-Shabab still controls.”
The KDF spokesman noted that “Taking it (Kismayo) truly will disrupt their commercial activities and therefore their military capabilities.” In anticipation of the all-out assault, nearly 60,000 people fled the port city for camps set up for displaced persons in rural areas.
The impending attack on Kismayo follows a series of other assaults on various towns over the last several months. The southern Somalia towns already under military bombardment and blockade include Afmadow, Afgoye, Daynile, Marka and Mido.
Andrews Atta-Asamoah, a senior research at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, South Africa, says that he would be quite surprised if Al-Shabab did not put up a formidable defense of the port at Kismayo. “For purely economic reasons, as it is the source of almost all their revenue,” Atta-Asamoah declared.
Although Atta-Asamoah predicted that if Al-Shabab conducts a tactical retreat it will signal the demise of the movement, leading Al-Shabab leaders have appealed to the people of Kismayo to defend the area. Abdirahman Hudeyfa, an Al-Shabab senior official told a crowd on September 6 that “You can see the victories of our mujahideen, they killed the enemy of Islam, the enemy of this country, and seized their weapons.”
“We brought these weapons we have seized from the enemy here because we want to show you how we are eager to defend our people and the town,” Hudeyfa said.
The U.S.-led war in Somalia is designed to secure the country and the entire Horn of Africa region for exploitation by the western-based transnational corporations and banks. Somalia is now producing oil and there are enormous economic resources in the areas of petroleum and shipping through the Gulf of Aden that western interests have targeted for seizure.
Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor, Pan-African News Wire