Somalia: Imperialists to blame for half a million famine deaths/ FRFI 233 Jun/Jul 2013

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 233 June/July 2013

As imperialist powers jostle for Somalia’s promising oil and gas fields, organising one bogus conference after another, a report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has revealed that 258,000 people died as a result of famine in Somalia between 2010-2012, including 133,000 children under the age of five. This vast human tragedy is the responsibility of imperialist policy, particularly by Britain and the US, which has destroyed Somalia in pursuit of influence in the wider region.

2010-12 famine worse than 1992

The FAO’s Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit for Somalia and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network found that, between 2010 and 2012:

• An estimated 4.6% of the total population and 10% of under-fives died in Southern and Central Somalia –the areas most affected.

• Deaths included Somalis in refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia.

• ‘Excess’ deaths caused by the famine peaked at 30,000 per month between May and August 2011.

There were an additional 290,000 ‘baseline’ deaths in the area over the same period, giving an overall toll of 548,000. In comparison, an estimated 220,000 people died during the 1992 famine.

By September 2011, the UN estimated four million Somalis were starving. It declared a famine in July 2011 but declared it ‘over’ by February 2012 – just in time for the first London Conference on Somalia. Yet deaths continued until April 2012 at least. The famine was used in a cynical attempt to end the civil war in Somalia in favour of the corrupt and now disbanded British-backed transitional federal government (TFG).

Famine myths

Officially, the famine was blamed on:

• the 2010-11 drought, ‘the worst in 60 years’;

• rising food prices;

• constraints on ‘humanitarian access’ laid at Al Shabab’s door by the imperialists.

Yet drought does not automatically mean famine. Until the 1970s, Somalia was a pastoral economy which, despite recurrent droughts, was virtually self-sufficient in food. That agricultural system was systematically destroyed in the 1980s through the intervention of the World Bank and the IMF. Michel Chossudovsky, author of The Globalization of Poverty and the New World Order, describes how:

‘A very tight austerity program was imposed on the government largely to release the funds required to service Somalia’s debt … This structural adjustment programme reinforced Somalia’s dependency on imported grain … food aid increased fifteen-fold … this influx of cheap surplus wheat and rice...led to the displacement of local producers, [and] a major shift in food consumption patterns to the detriment of traditional crops.’

‘Food aid’ was used to secure dependence on imperialist states – ‘food aid to sub-Saharan Africa increased by more than seven times since 1974 and commercial grain imports more than doubled. Currently Africa imports about $15 billion of food per year, yet from 2003 to 2010, the number of undernourished people increased from 206 million to 245 million.’

Chossudovsky explains how IMF-imposed currency devaluations led to ‘hikes in the prices of fuel, fertiliser and farm inputs’; social programmes were curtailed. Infrastructure collapsed and the deregulation of the grain market and the influx of ‘food aid’ left farmers destitute.

The imperialists encouraged the cultivation of export crops on the best farmland. Water and veterinary services were privatised. As Somali cattle exports to the Gulf declined, Australian and EC exports rose. By the early 1980s, food aid and the sale of food aid became the main source of state revenue, enabling imperialist ‘donors’ to control the entire budgetary process. Health and education programmes were decimated and public sector wages slashed.

False aid

In FRFI 223 we reported how food aid was being looted from Somalia’s displaced people camps by TFG officers, with refugees killed in the process. Much so-called food aid in 2011 never reached the starving people it was intended for but was instead sold on or fed to livestock.

The food aid itself has been downgraded from animal-sourced milk-powder to a cheaper corn soya blend which is completely inappropriate for young children and does little to prevent malnutrition. Between 2008 and 2012, MSF, WHO, Unicef and the UN’s World Food Program (WFP) repeatedly demanded that the US and EU ‘stop supplying nutritionally substandard food to malnourished children in developing countries’, with no response.

As for Al Shabaab, the radical Islamic group did bar 16 organisations, including the WFP, from areas it controlled in 2009. But other aid groups, including the International Committee of the Red Cross operated in these zones, as did numerous Somali NGOs. The main obstacle was not denial of access by Al Shabaab, but logistical issues of resources and transport. People still starved in areas the WFP did have access to.

Imperialism to blame

The 550,000 deaths in Somalia in 2010-2012 weren’t caused by a lack of food, or by drought, or indeed by a lack of ‘food aid’, but by imperialism’s undermining of food security in the 1980s. Poor countries export food and ‘cash crops’ to rich ones. All economic activity which doesn’t serve the interests and profits of imperialism and international agribusiness is systematically destroyed. The imperialists are trying to hide Somalia’s history as a self-sufficient food basket, and their role in its destruction, while denouncing Somalia as a ‘failed state’. What cynical, two-faced hypocrisy!

Charles Chinweizu

British conference to cement carve-up of Somalia /FRFI 232 Apr/May 2013

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 232 April/May 2013

Britain’s announcement in December 2011 of its intention to secure ‘British interests’ in the oil-rich and strategically important Horn of Africa, intensified the scramble by the imperialists and local powers to secure their own regional interests. Now another conference is to be held in London on 7 May 2013.

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Britain’s quest to divide and rule Somalia /FRFI 231 Feb/Mar 2013

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 231 February-March 2013

On 7 May 2013 the British government will host another conference in London to discuss the future of Somalia. Undoubtedly the new Somali Federal Republic model, chosen by the UN, will be hailed a ‘success’. The reality is it is fast becoming a sectarian nightmare for the Somali people who are forced to divide into smaller and smaller clan-based enclaves and ‘buffer-zones’, like the latest breakaway Jubaland, where foreign authorities, including Kenya and Ethiopia, seek proxies to control.

Britain holds its former protectorate Somaliland, in northern Somalia, as its big ‘success story’, keeping quiet about the brutal behaviour of President Ahmed Silanyo towards protests following municipal elections in November 2012. Ten people are said to have been murdered after protests spread across the region. On 6 December the Somaliland Police Special Protection Unit, an anti-terror unit trained and funded by the British MOD, is thought to have been involved in four murders in Hargeisa. At least nine other people were injured, some of them seriously, including a ten-year-old girl who was shot in the stomach. The government also attacked protesters in Zeila, Saylac (western Somaliland); videos posted online show government troops deliberately shooting and killing teenagers on a demonstration against the fraudulent election results.

On 10 January Somali President Hassan Mohamud met high-ranking World Bank officials, telling them: ‘Somalia needs to reinstate operations with the World Bank family...We believe the World Bank can play an important role in the reconstruction of Somalia.’ It was the World Bank and IMF that destroyed Somalia’s economy in the 1980s, leading up to the crumbling of the state and civil war.

A week later, on 17 January, the US ‘recognised’ Somalia, after Mohamud met Hillary Clinton and promised that ‘Somalia will remain grateful to the unwavering support from the United States government in the last 22 years…and I say in front of you today, thank you, America.’ He did not question the many Somalis killed by US drones or demand the removal of US-backed AMISOM troops and military bases from the country.

The British government has funnelled £2.2m into the UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s counter-piracy programme, to run prisons in Puntland and reinforce its police and maritime forces which will defend British interests in the region. On 6 January the first private British navy for the last 200 years was set up off Somali waters to defend private British interests and rake in massive shipping insurance contracts with Lloyds of London. The chairman of mining giant Glencore Simon Murray backs the company behind the venture, Typhon. The firm’s personnel include ex-Royal Marines, Legionnaires, NATO commanders, and a former chief of HSBC’s marine and insurance business. Typhon owner Anthony Sharp told the Daily Telegraph, ‘I had the idea for Typhon playing polo one afternoon, thinking about what my next business might be’. Britain is responsible for naval operations and judicial programmes for the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia.

Anthony Rupert

Hands off Somalia!/FRFI 230 Dec 2012/Jan 2013

FRFI 230 December 2012/January 2013

Imperialism continues to target Somalia, as the nation sees an ever-growing interest in its oil and an accelerating rush to grab its natural resources. Australia-based Jacka Resources, Ophir Energy and Turkish firm Genel all announced plans to start ‘extensive exploration activities’ in the semi-autonomous area of Somaliland, in what has been called the biggest exploration programme in the region for 21 years.

Genel, headed by former BP chief executive Tony Hayward, who visited the region in early November 2012, is preparing to commence ‘seismic work’ early next year, with an eye to drilling its first well in the second quarter of 2014 and another following in 2015. Despite speculation that the new federal government may up-end oil agreements made after 1991, the London-listed company remains unmoved and plans to spend $400m drilling five wells across Africa in the next three years. Negotiations continue between Somaliland and ‘unnamed groups’ to give away remaining oil blocks. In a continuation of secrecy, further unnamed private equity firms, backed by Chinese, Korean and Indian investors, are also developing manganese, iron ore and coal projects in the region. Iran, hoping to gain influence in the Horn of Africa, announced plans to open an embassy in Somalia, replicating Turkey amidst tensions between the two nations over Syria. Prior to this, only five countries had embassies in Somalia.

Somalia has also recently entered into an agreement with the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) to establish the country’s first ever stock exchange. Peter Mwangi, NSE boss, thinks the time is right for the stock exchange due to the years of war and civil unrest bringing the country ‘to its knees’ and Somalia’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Idd Mohamed believes that ‘Kenya has been the most Somali-friendly country in the world’ and that the exchange will somehow help Somalia ‘receive assistance from oil exploration firms, private banks and other key players in the energy sector and telecommunication industry.’ The stock exchange headquarters will be in Nairobi.

Armed drone attacks by the US are on the increase, with the Financial Times reporting in October that ‘their use has become so extensive in Somalia that there are reports of commercial air traffic being disrupted’. Larger observation drones have been launched from Camp Lemmonier in Djibouti for years, along with long-range Reaper surveillance drones launched from the Seychelles to spy on pirates.

Meanwhile, the criminalisation of Somalis in Britain took an even more diabolical turn when a young British Somali man was stripped of his citizenship simply for refusing to join MI5 in something Theresa May claimed was ‘for the public good.’ Having grown up here since the age of five, Hashi went missing earlier this year, leaving his family fraught. They soon discovered the Home Office had revoked the care worker’s passport after accusing him of being involved in ‘Islamic extremist activities.’ Asim Qureshi of CagePrisoners, said ‘this is a purely racist profiling policy of the British government and particularly its security agencies.’ The family now fears that Hashi is being held in the brutal Camp Lemmonier, notorious for illegal detention and torture. When working in a London community centre, Hashi and four Muslim colleagues were approached and threatened with being labelled as ‘extremists’ if they refused to spy on other Muslims. For refusing to bow down to this disgusting demand, Hashi is paying a terrible price, and this appears to be one of a dozen similar cases. The new ‘government’ in Somalia will enable the floodgates to open for mass deportations and detention of Somalis as it provides the illusion of stability and will serve the agenda of imperialism. It’s clear the fight is only beginning.

Nazia Mukti

Somalia: imperialists impose new constitution / 228 Aug/Sep 2012

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism 228 August/September 2012

Imperialism is set to impose a new constitution on Somalia on 20 August. There will be no elected constituent assembly to discuss or modify it, no plebiscite to approve it. There will not be the slightest shred of a popular mandate for it. Its purpose is not to aid the reconstruction of a country devastated by imperialist plunder, invasion and civil war, but to provide the political conditions for renewed imperialist looting, particularly of the oil resources in the north east of the country.

The main constitutional proposal is to end the post-colonial attempt to build a unified state and to create a federation of what will be in effect three statelets – Somaliland in the north-west, Puntland in the north-east, and Somalia to the south. This process of balkanisation is aimed at establishing conditions of political stability for the profitable operations of oil and other monopoly corporations. Already British imperialism, which has been leading the imperialist intervention following the February conference in London, is establishing Somaliland as its client state in the region. This will serve as a launch pad to grab the oil resources of neighbouring Puntland. The remainder of Somalia will be left to the UN AMISOM force with the remit of destroying Al Shabab, the Islamic militant organisation formed in response to the Ethiopian invasion in 2006.

Britain’s renewed intervention in Somaliland – it was the former colony of British Somaliland – dates back some years. A leaked US embassy cable from 24 July 2009 says that Britain ‘plans “to thicken” its support to Somaliland, though the British government is not considering recognition at this stage... the UK government would only look at recognition if south central Somalia appears to be in chaos for another 20 years’. A further cable on 2 December 2010 spoke of Britain funding the Somaliland Special Protection Unit, a branch of the police force in 2010 and 2011 ‘in order to increase the UK’s and international community’s ability to access Somaliland.’

British aid for Somalia has increased significantly, starting in 2009 under the Labour government. The annual average until 2015 will be £63m, and as the Department for International Development says, 40% is destined for Somaliland as it is ‘a more peaceful and democratic self-governing region. Progress there could help stability across the region.’ A new project backed by the City of London, called the Somaliland Development Corporation (will serve as a vehicle for foreign investment. Reuters reported in February: ‘several foreign banks have expressed interest in operating in Somaliland where they are keen to capitalise on its untapped market potential.’ The Somaliland ruling elite has placed itself at the service of imperialist interests: foreign direct investors in Somaliland will pay no tax for three years, then only 10% on profits which can be freely repatriated. There will be full compensation for any future expropriations.

Once the new Somali constitution is approved by a hand-picked group of local politicians and clan elders, the imperialists will seek to bring the Puntland administration under their control. At present many Puntland leaders are linked to pirate operations with officials taking kick-backs from pirate negotiators. The renewed pressure will be through further funding of local security forces, the hiring of private security contractors, and the recent extension of EU naval operations allowing EU forces to target pirate infrastructure on the Somali mainland (see FRFI 227).

Hands off Somalia! was set up in response to the British-led imperialist intervention in Somalia, organising its first protest outside the 23 February London conference. On 16 June it held a meeting ‘Imperialist Hands off Africa’ devoted to analysing the multiple threats imperialism poses to the continent. The meeting was supported by FRFI, Uhuru and Pan Afrikan Women’s Association and called for action against the BBC which recently screened a documentary which effectively promoted British foreign policy on Somalia. The Hands off Somalia! Rage against the BBC! protest took place on 30 June with an open mic outside the BBC Broadcasting House building with an enormous banner made by supporters saying: ‘British Biased Corporation – censoring truth, manufacturing lies’.

Somalia is not for sale!

Imperialist hands off Somalia!

Imperialist hands off Africa!

Anthony Rupert