A forgotten secret war that divided Africa: Terrorism rears its ugly head again in Somalia

Tuesday marks 31 years since the August 2, 1984, Ethiopian invasion of Somalia, an invasion that killed tens of thousands of Somalis and led to the onset of another devastating conflict that claimed around 250,000 lives.

There is little doubt that, had that invasion taken place during the Cold War instead of the turbulent international environment of the post-Cold War era, it would have been seen in the US as a genuine expression of concern and cooperation with regard to one of the many African struggles to gain autonomy from Somalia’s corrupt central government.

A five-member panel including two Americans awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their role in mediating Ethiopia’s famous 1984 peace deal. Photo Credit: Reuters

However, as with the coup in 1979 that ended its Communist puppet government and led to the overthrow of that nation’s brutal Marxist dictator, Emperor Haile Selassie, both events have been seen as evidence of US values and support for freedom and democracy.

In the case of the 1981 CIA-directed overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie, the coup itself and the subsequent armed clashes between Ethiopia and Somalia left up to 20,000 Somalis dead, according to Amnesty International. A massive counter-coup involving more than 2,000 US Special Forces soldiers bolstered the Ethiopian military but ended up backfiring against Washington.

US-backed warlords toppled the Christian Ethiopian government of Prime Minister Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991, paving the way for further popular uprisings by Muslims in other East African nations.

Meanwhile, in a symbolic confirmation of the changing global climate, Eritrea has since gained independence from Ethiopia after gaining independence from Ethiopia in 1993, joining Somalia, Sudan, Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Somalia.

Ever since the onset of that conflict, there has been little to no peace agreement and little to no collaboration with the Somalis on either side of the border. Meanwhile, the two countries have continued to engage in proxy conflicts. Most recently, Ethiopia fired on a U.N. mission led by African Union forces trying to bring peace to Somalia in April, but the Somalia defense minister said the ceasefire was now in place.

A drone is the ideal weapon for a lone Somali wolf

In a new report titled, “Somalia and the World: A Recurring Drama – The Model of a Secret War,” the Cato Institute and the Pacific Council on International Policy found a serious lack of coordination between Washington and its allies in the region. It notes:

“Under the Law of Armed Conflict, combatants and weapons must have a feasible combat purpose. No such war, however, starts with a ‘weapon of war,’ such as an artillery shell. So when it comes to Somalia, the US has two options. It can use any means it sees fit to enhance its own security. But a serious violation of the law of armed conflict requires a government decision to avoid killing civilians in a particular way, a decision that has not yet occurred.”

The report also points out that,

“An uncoordinated fight against the Islamic State in Africa would end up similarly at the center of regional security. The United States doesn’t want to cede leadership in the area to the likes of Somalia’s al-Shabab, with whom it is at war. Meanwhile, the European Union would like to exert a strong influence over the region’s more central states, as well as those controlling much of the Abyei region along the Sudan-South Sudan border.”

A rebel fighter fires his gun during clashes in the northern Somali town of Galkayo. Photo Credit: Reuters

Why the US should quit supporting the al-Shabab

From its incorporation of al-Qaeda, to its incursion into Somalia, Somalia has been a place the world should have known better by now. But many unfortunately missed the warnings from Washington and in addition to being a strategic location, Somalia has become increasingly dangerous for the armed forces of the region.

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