The camp of peace needs to come to a second realisation: that peace cannot be built on humanitarian intervention, which is the language of big powers. The history of colonialism should teach us that every major intervention has been justified as humanitarian, a ‘civilising mission’. Nor was it mere idiosyncrasy that inspired the devotion with which many colonial officers and archivists recorded the details of barbarity among the colonised – sati, the ban on widow marriage or the practice of child marriage in India, or slavery and female genital mutilation in Africa. I am not suggesting that this was all invention. I mean only to point out that the chronicling of atrocities had a practical purpose: it provided the moral pretext for intervention. Now, as then, imperial interventions claim to have a dual purpose: on the one hand, to rescue minority victims of ongoing barbarities and, on the other, to quarantine majority perpetrators with the stated aim of civilising them. Iraq should act as a warning on this score. The worst thing in Darfur would be an Iraq-style intervention. That would almost certainly spread the civil war to other parts of Sudan, unravelling the peace process in the east and south and dragging the whole country into the global War on Terror.
Friday, March 9, 2007
Wednesday, March 7, 2007
U.S. hires military contractor to back peacekeeping mission in Somalia
NAIROBI, Kenya – The State Department has hired a major military contractor to help equip and provide logistical support to international peacekeepers in Somalia, giving the United States a significant role in the critical mission without assigning combat forces.
DynCorp International, which also has U.S. contracts in Iraq, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq, will be paid $10 million to help the first peacekeeping mission in Somalia in more than 10 years.
The support for the Ugandans is part of a larger goal to improve African forces across the continent and promote peace and stability in a region that's often lawless and a haven for terrorists, including some tied to al-Qaeda. The U.S. has also begun to depend more on African nations for oil and minerals, and wants to expand its influence.
The State Department has committed $14 million for the African Union peacekeeping mission to Somalia and has asked Congress for $40 million more. DynCorp's work force includes many former U.S. troops who frequently work in hostile areas. (Aren't they called mercenaries?)
DynCorp, whose services range from equipment maintenance to paramilitary security forces to training police, provided logistics for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Somalia from 1992-95. It was not immediately clear if DynCorp employees would work inside Somalia under the new contract, signed three weeks ago.
Other company operations in Africa include a program to disarm and rehabilitate former soldiers in Liberia, while advising the government on the reconstitution of the army. The company also supports peacekeepers in southern Sudan, and is working with the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia to help the African Union create a standby military force to respond to emergencies, according to the company Web site.
Dyncorp is not the only U.S. security company working in Africa. Northrop Grumman Corp. has a similar contract, worth up to $75 million, to support the African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance program, which aims to train 40,000 African peacekeepers over five years.
KBR Inc., a subsidiary of Halliburton Co., provides services to at least three bases in Djibouti, Kenya and Ethiopia used by the U.S. Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.
The contracts come at a time when the Pentagon wants to develop closer relationships and provide greater military assistance to Africa.
A small number of U.S. Special Forces troops fought alongside Ethiopian troops in Somalia in December when they drove out a Somali extremist group that the U.S. has linked to al-Qaeda, according to a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the mission.
In January, U.S. Special Operations aircraft staged two airstrikes against suspected al-Qaeda forces hiding inside Somalia, the official added.
The United States is not the only country seeking to provide private military services in Africa.
In 2005 the Somali government signed a $50 million contract with New York-based TopCat Marine Security to help create a coast guard to protect its coast and shipping from pirates. The State Department blocked TopCat from deploying because of a U.N. arms embargo, Hassan Abshir Farah, Somalia's marine resources minister said.
Here we go again
Tuesday, March 6, 2007
"There are lots of ways that protecting innocent people being slaughtered by their government is in the US interest. There are lots of ways that stabilizing a volatile region is as well. President Bush in particular has shown himself to be open to this kind of argument; unfortunately, much of its force has been discredited by the debacle in Iraq."I'm not sure I agree that Bush has shown himself to be open to this argument; rather he's open to using this argument when it suits his larger purposes. Is there any chance that he'll intervene in Darfur at the end of his lame-duck administration just as his father did in Somalia?
By Sahal Abdulle MOGADISHU, March 6 (Reuters) - Insurgents unleashed two attacks against the Somali government and its foreign allies in Mogadishu on Tuesday, just hours after Ugandan peacekeepers assigned to tame the anarchic city landed.
The concerted assaults, some of the heaviest in weeks, appeared timed to coincide with the arrival of some 350 Ugandans in the vanguard of an African Union mission to help restore law to a country mired in chaos since central rule crumbled in 1991.
More than a dozen mortar strikes hit the airport, where the Ugandans were camped after landing earlier. A Ugandan army spokesman said none of the soldiers was wounded. "The military side of the airport has been hit. We cannot cross from this side to the other side," said a witness. The Ugandans were the first batch of peacekeepers to arrive in Mogadishu since a U.S. and U.N. operation ended in failure in 1995, after relentless street battles with local militiamen. Read the entire article
Somalia: Who's on First?
March 6 (Reuters) - Insurgents attacked the airport in Mogadishu on Tuesday and fought a heavy battle with government and Ethiopian troops as Ugandan peacekeepers arrived in Somalia's lawless capital. Here is a chronology of recent events in Somalia:
Oct. 2004 - In 14th attempt since 1991 to restore central government, lawmakers elect Ethiopian-backed warlord Abdullahi Yusuf as president. In December, new Prime Minister Mohamed Ali Gedi swears in 27 ministers in Kenya.
Feb. 2006 - Lawmakers arrive in the southern city of Baidoa for the first meeting of the country's parliament on home soil. June 2006 - The Somalia Islamic Courts Council (SICC) seizes the capital Mogadishu from U.S.-backed warlords and takes control of parts of southern Somalia. The interim government and the SICC recognise each other in their first direct talks.
Sept. 25 - President Yusuf escapes a bomb attack that kills five outside parliament in Baidoa. -- Islamist fighters take over the southern port of Kismayo, Somalia's third largest city.
Oct. 9 - Islamists declare holy war against Ethiopia, which they accuse of invading Somalia to help the government.
Nov. 30 - Ethiopia's parliament votes to let its government take necessary steps to rebuff any invasion by the Islamists. Dec. 12 - Islamists tell Ethiopia to leave Somalia within seven days or face war.
Dec. 19 - Fighting starts following the end of the deadline.
Dec. 24 - Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi says he is waging war against the Islamists to protect his country's sovereignty, in Ethiopia's first public admission of military involvement in Somalia.
Dec. 28 - Islamists flee Mogadishu ahead of a joint Ethiopian and Somali government force which captures the city.
Dec. 31 - Somali Prime Minister Gedi enters Mogadishu.
Jan. 1, 2007 - Islamists abandon defences at Kismayu.
Jan. 8 - President Yusuf arrives in Mogadishu for the first time since he became president in 2004.
-- U.S. aircraft strike the southern village of Hayo, after it was believed that at least one al Qaeda suspect was sheltering there. Ethiopian and Somali troops had chased the Islamists' last remnants to the area.
Jan. 13 - Parliament declares a three-month state of emergency amid fears of a return to clan violence. Jan. 17 - Parliament ousts powerful speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan, who split with the president and prime minister late last year over his peace overtures to rival Islamists.
Jan. 17 - Parliament ousts powerful speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan, who split with the president and prime minister late last year over his peace overtures to rival Islamists.
Jan. 23 - Ethiopian forces begin leaving Mogadishu.
Feb. 20 - U.N. Security Council authorizes an African Union peacekeeping mission for Somalia for six months. March 6 - Some 350 Ugandan troops land at Mogadishu airport amidst pitch battles between insurgents and government and Ethiopian troops.
March 1 - A Ugandan vanguard of an African Union peace force to help the interim government flies into Baidoa.
March 6 - Some 350 Ugandan troops land at Mogadishu airport amidst pitch battles between insurgents and government and Ethiopian troops.
Monday, March 5, 2007
Bono, Vanity Fair, and the Fate of Africa
If you ever needed any evidence that Africa is in deep shit, here it is. To quote, Paul Theroux, THERE are probably more annoying things than being hectored about African development by a wealthy Irish rock star in a cowboy hat, but I can't think of one at the moment.
Rock star Bono is going to edit an issue of Vanity Fair dedicated to African poverty. (Article in the NY Times if free for a couple of days.) It will succeed largely in making the rich readers of VF feel better about themselves, but for Africa nothing good will come from it's current status as a cause celeb. Leonardo DiCaprio can receive applause at this year's Academy Awards as he denounces "blood diamonds" to the diamond-drenched throng. Al Gore is lauded by people who are driven to the Vanity Fair after-party in SUVs and stretch limos.
I don't doubt Bono's sincerity. I do have questions about his sophistication in these matters. Africa is pretty well fucked unless there are major changes to the world's economy. And the first thing that needs to happen is that the wealthy countries need to abolish agricultural subsidies. And that is not going to happen. The West will pay all sorts of lip service to alleviating African poverty, but they will not do the one thing that will start the process. Anyone with even a slight interest in the fate of Africa should read this article about U.S. agricultural policy.
As Americans were long protected from the real costs of oil, we are very much protected from the real costs of food. The cash costs as well as the environmental costs. But we don't want to hear that. More to come.