Socialist Worker

Defeat of the warlords in Somalia is a setback for US strategy

Issue No. 2009

For the first time for many years there is a sense of relief and hope among many people in Somalia.

The takeover of the capital, Mogadishu, on 4 June by the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) removed a political class of clan-based extortionists and dealers in everything from drugs to people, known as “warlords”.

They have divided and ruled the country since the collapse of the central state in 1991.

The UIC’s military victory, triggered by popular revolt against the warlords, achieved what international military intervention and peace talks have failed to accomplish since 1991.

Unable to neutralise or control the warlords, the Western powers ultimately resorted to working with them.

Fifteen rounds of internationally sponsored peace talks in 2004 resulted in the establishment of the present Transitional Federal Government.

But it has never had any control in Mogadishu and is recognised by only a minority of the country. The UIC’s success is a heavy setback for US policy in the region.

As analyst Larry Chin points out, “The Bush aadministration has secretly been supporting a group of Somali warlords, who were battling Islamic groups for control of Mogadishu.

“US leaders have long considered Somalia as a ‘terrorist haven’, as well as a potential ‘hotbed of Al Qaida activity’.

“Somalia is of strategic interest to the Bush administration, and its resources have been eyed by Western powers since the days of the British empire.

“US oil companies were positioned to exploit Somalia’s rich oil reserves during the reign of pro?US president Mohammed Siad Barre (who ruled 1969 to 1991).

“The infamous and murderous Somalia military operation of 1993 was not a humanitarian mission, but an undeclared UN/US war launched by George Bush senior’s administration, and inherited by the Clinton presidency.”

After the defeat of the US in this war, it was forced to come to an accord with the very warlords it had been fighting against. But the alliance with the US further blackened the warlords’ names in the eyes of most people.

Key to the success of the UIC was the fact that it was already an established and accepted presence in local communities, with a demonstrated social welfare policy.

Apart from bringing security to areas under its control, through its own militia and justice system, it had also set up farms, schools, water points, health clinics and orphanages.

Although the UIC did not initially have strong popular support, there was a feeling that it upheld moral standards and discipline, and had a unifying and familiar ideology in Islam.

This ensured the UIC received popular backing during the battle for Mogadishu.

The main turning point was the announcement of the US-backed “counter-terrorist” alliance, which was seen as an alien construct and a common enemy - it threatened a new lease of life for the warlords.

It remains to be seen how far ordinary people can take charge of their own futures. The West may attempt to use the Ethiopian regime of Meles Zenawi to tame or attack the new forces.

But there is no doubt imperialism has suffered a blow.

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Article information

Sat 15 Jul 2006, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 2009
Share this article


Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.