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Q & A: Ethiopia, Somalia and Piracy

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم


An Ethiopian official has announced that Ethiopia has decided to withdraw their armed forces from Somalia by the end of this year. This statement comes in the wake of substantially increased piracy activities in the Gulf of Aden along the Somali coastline during recent months, which has increased dramatically in the past few days with the hijacking of a Saudi tanker containing some two million barrels of crude oil onboard.

At the same time, the media carried a statement by Abdullah Yousuf, the transitional President of Somalia wherein he said that Al-Shabaab - Mujahideen Youth Movement of Somalia controls most of the country and that they are on the verge of taking over the capital Mogadishu. Ethiopia, having suffered huge losses in Somalia is only grudgingly staying put for now.

News agencies have broadcast a statement by the Foreign Minister of Ethiopia at the IGAD countries' foreign ministers' conference held in Addis Ababa on November 18th 2008 where he said: "I want to stress again and make it very clear that the Ethiopian forces are not prepared to continue to take the costly responsibility indefinitely and it is important to send the correct message to the Somali leaders at this crucial juncture."


Does this indicate the frustration of the American allies who are fighting on behalf of the US in Somalia and their inability to hold on anymore?

How is the so-called ‘Djibouti Accord' signed on 26th October 2008 relevant to this issue?

Finally, are such nation groups in a position to influence the organisation technically and militarily, or are the big powers behind them?


Yes, indeed piracy related activity has increased considerably in the recent past and keeping this in mind, we can note the following:

1. The majority of the ships hijacked have either been European or owned by other countries, but no American ship has so far been hijacked and they continue to work there without any interruption.

News agencies reported on 17th November 2008 a statement by Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said that the pirates were highly trained and any military action (against them) would only endanger the safety of the hostages.

Commander Jane Campbell, spokeswoman of the US Navy's 5th Fleet, told the BBC on 18th November 2008 it had warned shipping companies that the US naval presence could "not be everywhere", adding: "For that reason we have strongly encouraged proactive self-protection measures for the companies."

She said in another statement reported by Al-Arabiyyah on 19th November 2008 that they do not intend to intervene in the matter since these activities are not of a military nature rather they are criminal activities.

The BBC website reported on 20th November 2008 a statement by the Pentagon spokesman Jeff Morell who said that even if all naval power were to be deployed in the region, the problem would not be solved.

2. There has been a heavy presence of foreign naval warships in the Gulf of Aden and along the Somalian coastline. There are ships from the US Navy Fifth Fleet. NATO which decided last month on 9th October 2008 to send naval forces to the region also has warships. The European Union decided on 10th November to launch a British-led anti-piracy armada off the Horn of Africa called Operation Atalanta. Its mission is to protect water ways south of the Red Sea from Pirate attacks, and will be coordinated at Northwood, Britain's joint operation headquarters, under the command of Rear Admiral Phil Jones. At least seven ships, including the frigate HMS Northumberland, will take part in the mission.

Even before this latest deployment, a naval task force of between 12 to 15 warships has been deployed in the region as part of Combined Task Force 150 (CTF-150) a multinational coalition against piracy. Despite all these efforts, piracy in the region has increased.

3. We believe that the Europeans and especially the French, rushed rather frantically and responded to the events. You can see them forming one force after another. Also, they were behind the UN Security Council resolution No. 1816 of 2nd June 2008 which allowed naval warships to enter Somali territorial waters to prevent piracy and armed attacks on ships. This was to remain effective for a period of 6 months and could be extended. This UNSC resolution was passed on the initiative of France.

It was reported on 16th November 2008 by the AFP that Bernard Kouchner, the French Foreign Minister proposed carrying out air and naval strikes in December in order to protect the region south of the Red Sea, i.e. the Gulf of Aden & the coast line of Somalia from the pirates.

AFP also reported a statement from Rear Admiral Hubert de Gaullier des Bordes, Commander of French naval forces in the Indian Ocean who stressed that piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea had become a real and professional paramilitary force. Germany also called for carrying out military operations in the region. Then on 20th November 2008 the UNSC unanimously passed the resolution at Europe's behest co-drafted by Britain. This resolution called for penalising those who assist in the spreading of the menace of lawlessness and violence in the Somali territories and coastline including piracy.

4. On 18th November 2008, Al-Jazeera reported that Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, Chairman of the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) Djibouti wing, spoke of his surprise at the increase in the piracy-related incidents despite the presence of fleets of warships of the major powers in the region. The Sheikh added that this ‘mystery' was beyond comprehension.

On the same day, Al-Jazeera in its programme ‘Meet Today' quoted Sheikh Omar Iman Abu Bakr, Chairman of the ARS Asmara Wing, said that piracy is the handiwork of the Americans. He said that it is well known that there are a large number of US ships present along the Somali coast and yet piracy continues right under their noses. In fact the pirates are being trained by US forces and they hijack ships laden with goods for Somalia and other places under the eyes of the US.

5. From all these facts, we are able to conclude the following:

Firstly, the Americans have failed to achieve victory in Somalia. The US army failed miserably during its invasion of Somalia in 1993. They were unable to stay for more than 18 months before turning their backs in humiliation. Ethiopia fought a proxy war in Somalia on behalf of the US but like its master it has now abandoned its camps. Hence it is unlikely that the US would win a war in Somalia in the foreseeable future at least.

Subsequent to this defeat, the Americans decided to achieve a diplomatic and political victory through tricky negotiations. They aimed to form a unity regime through make-believe harmony between the government of Abdullah Yousuf and the Islamic Courts. Though the US has succeeded in bringing together the Djibouti wing of the Islamic Courts and Abdullah Yousuf who signed an accord on 26th October 2008, it is unlikely that this treaty would serve its purpose because of the resistance of Al-Shabaab to this infamous accord. Al-Shabaab controls vast portions of Somalia and as Abdullah Yousuf himself has conceded, they are on the verge of entering the Capital itself. It is known that this movement broke away from the Asmara and Djibouti wings of the Islamic Courts after they signed the Asmara Accord in September 2007. Al-Shabaab accused both wings of the Islamic Courts of aligning with the secularists and abandoning Jihad in the path of Allah سبحانه وتعالى.

Thus the US failed to achieve a military victory or even a political victory in Somalia.

Having failed to achieve victory in Somalia, the Americans then decided to focus on controlling the region through the seas. They made the Somali coast and the Gulf of Aden as centres for hijacking international ships especially the European ones, and thus engaging them in these pirate incidents. This, according to the Americans will be Europe's ‘nightmare' which will ‘relieve‘ the Americans of their earlier defeat on the Somali soil. The US would then control the horn of Africa through the seas and then proceed on the shores. Thus this piracy facade is in their terms, a 'creative' way to get involved in the regional politics of the Middle East.

Subsequently, through this maritime turmoil, they hope to achieve their goal of exercising control over the Bab el-Mandeb in the Gulf of Aden on both sides, i.e. the Yemeni side as well as the Djibouti side. This will in future enable them to have control over Somalia again. Thus having engaged the Europeans in the piracy turmoil, and driving away their navy, they will be in complete control over the land as well as the Red Sea. It must be appreciated that this sensitive region is economically and strategically a vital region since a third of all crude oil as well as one tenth of sea transported goods pass through this region.

Secondly, the US stance on the issue of piracy is that of indifference while the Europeans who have suffered losses are highly concerned. The Americans regard these as merely ordinary criminal acts and not terrorist acts which merit military action. They consider any military action against pirates as either ineffective or undesirable, not only that, they also hold that even if all the countries were to unite, they would not be able to restrict piracy.

This stance of America has also influenced its agents in the region. In the meeting of the five Arabian littoral states (countries with a coast) held in Cairo on 20th November 2008, Egypt tried to assemble a communiqué which referred to respecting Somali territory and its territorial waters during any military operation against piracy. This is diametrically opposed to the French view which supports taking military action beyond international borders and coastlines.

This is the US stance on piracy, as opposed to the Europeans who regard it as a paramilitary activity and as Sarkozy describes it, a real crime, which must be dealt with through comprehensive military action against it during the next month.

Thirdly, America has not shut its eyes with regard to Djibouti. It has tried and continues to try and consolidate its hold there. However, France regards Djibouti as its main centre in the region. Djibouti has the largest overseas French base with more than 2700 French soldiers who can launch land or air operations to the very heart of Africa in order to protect French influence in the region.

France is aware of American designs on Djibouti and has permitted the US to use its old military base Camp Lemonier where America has placed less than a thousand of its soldiers. Through this gesture, France hopes to limit US's aspirations on Djibouti. However, the Americans have other designs on this base. They hope to expand it to accommodate some two thousand troops under the guise of fighting terrorism. In fact it was under this pretext that they first obtained France's permission to enter the base.

The newspaper Asharq Alawsat on 28th October 2008 quoted the French Defence Minister as saying that the United States aimed to use this as their rear base to fight terrorism and added that the American presence was not permanent but was linked to fighting terror. He then stressed that the French presence was permanent. This statement indicates that there is a certain amount of apprehension about the French withdrawal and continued American presence in Djibouti. Though the French Defence Minister merely alluded to it, a senior French military official clearly stated in the same newspaper on the same day, "by deploying its forces in Djibouti, America aims to ensure its permanent presence in the horn of Africa in the hotbeds of conflict in Yemen, Somalia and even Sudan."

Also part of the US agenda is to establish a permanent base in Aden just as Britain once did, so that the US can launch operations to consolidate its influence in Yemen. This is why Yemen is apprehensive of the recent developments. On 18th November 2008, Al-Jazeera reported a statement by Dr Abu Bakr al-Qirbi, the Yemeni Foreign Minister wherein he expressed his concern over the concentration of Western countries naval fleets in the Gulf of Aden under the pretext of fighting piracy. The Yemeni Foreign Minister regarded this presence as a threat to Arab security, and considered the ships deployment as internationalising the Red Sea.

It is this American aspiration on Djibouti and Aden that it has begun to ‘terrorise' the international and European ships in order to engage them in terms of security and then ease them out of the region or at least reduce their presence.

Thus the issue of piracy is linked to two points - the internal situation in Somalia, and the control over the Gulf of Aden and the Somali coastal region. It must be noted that the US is allowing piracy incidents to occur whilst it is present on the seas as its eyes are set on the horn of Africa. At the same time, Europe is committed to securing its interests and preventing piracy even if that involves taking military action.

We can conclude from all of this that piracy is thriving in the region because of America.

Finally, it hurts to see the Red Sea and the Somali coast becoming a haven for the kufr colonialist nations while the region's Islamic lands are suffering. At the same, the Muslim regimes around the Red Sea and the Somali coastline have their hands stained with Muslim blood and have merely become tools of the kufr countries in their conflict over the hegemony in the lands, waters and airspace of the Muslims.

Truly, these rulers are akin to beasts and indeed the Prophet صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم said the truth when he warned:

«يأتي على الناس سنوات خداعات... وينطق في الناس الرويبضة قالوا وما الرويبضة يا رسول الله قال الرجل التافه يتكلم في أمر العامة»

"The people will be faced with years of deceptions....and the beasts (ruwaibidah) will speak for them. The companions asked him who are the beasts (ruwaibidah), he said: a trivial stupid person will speak on people's matters."

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