On 17 March 2007, the CPGB-ML organised a meeting on the question of Somalia, following the recent US-sponsored Ethiopian aggression against Somalia. Members of both the local Somali and Indian communities attended this meeting and enthusiastically supported the position adopted by the CPGB-ML and the main speaker, Comrade Mohammed Hassan.
Comrade Hassan is a former Ethiopian diplomat and now lives in Belgium, where he is a prominent member of the Workers’ Party of Belgium (PTB).
Mohammed Hassan started by saying that imperialism’s policy in regard to Somalia has always been to divide and break it up. Imperialism and colonialism, because of their own interests, and without consulting the Somali people, drew borders that divided Somalis between five separate colonies – French Somaliland (Djibouti), British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland (now united as Somalia), the northern part of Kenya known as the Northern Frontier District (NFD) and the Ethiopian-controlled parts of the Ogaden.
Even after the creation of Somalia in 1960, the wishes of Somalis in Kenya were ignored when they voted to join Somalia by a majority of 87 percent in a referendum in 1962. Ethiopia did not look favourably upon Somali independence because the latter wanted all Somali lands to be united. So, in 1965, Kenya and Ethiopia made a common pact against Somalia.
Why Ethiopia invaded Somalia
Ethiopia has invaded Somalia because the Ethiopian regime is supported by no more than 6 percent of its population; its economy is shattered; the ruling party of Ethiopia – the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), which is dominated by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) – is split and thoroughly shattered since Meles Zinawi, the so-called leader of Ethiopia, hijacked the TPLF. The EPRDF/TPLF lost the 2005 election, but Zinawi’s response to his defeat was to reject the election result, arrest the leadership of the opposition and incarcerate 20,000 of its members inside a concentration camp. In the process, the ruling clique killed 3,000 people. Defeated by the people, Zinawi’s is a minority, corrupt and illegal regime of thieves.
The US encourages and utilises the contradictions in the Horn of Africa. In fact, the Ethiopian state has become a tool of the CIA. Not surprisingly, then, Ethiopia is acting as a mercenary. It could hardly do otherwise, since it lives off the CIA’s life support machine. By acting as a tool of US imperialism, the Ethiopian regime has brought back the antagonism between Ethiopia and Somalia.
The presence of oil in Somalia has made US imperialism extremely determined to dominate Somalia, and now oil has also been discovered in Ethiopia and Yemen. In 1986, the late Siad Barre (president of Somalia between 1961 and 1991) signed an agreement with four US oil companies, including Conoco. Following his death, the US managed to destroy the Somali state. When the late General Aideed took steps to recover Somali sovereignty, the US opposed him tooth and nail, asserting that a united Somalia would be a danger to Ethiopia and Kenya. However, the US failed to defeat the forces led by General Aideed and had to stage a humiliating withdrawal after many US soldiers were killed, and their bodies dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, in 1993. Following that debacle, the US followed a policy of supporting several cliques of warlords, drug dealers, gangsters and crooks.
It was in response to the conditions of lawlessness, insecurity of life and property and disintegration of the country that the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) organised to overthrow the warlords. The people of Somalia, fed up with the intolerable conditions they had endured for 15 years, threw their weight behind the ICU. As a result, the ICU defeated the warlords and liberated Mogadishu and large parts of the country in June last year.
It was the first time in a decade and a half that peace, stability and normality had returned to Somalia. In addition, the ICU victory was a great blow to US imperialism’s designs to dominate Somalia through its warlord stooges. It is to undo that victory of the ICU and Somali masses that US imperialism has instigated the mercenary Ethiopian regime to invade Somalia with 40,000 troops. The US is now seeking peacekeeping forces from Italy, Pakistan, Rwanda, Kenya and many other countries to pacify the Somalis. To a thunderous applause, Comrade Mohammed Hassan declared that if tens of thousands of US soldiers could not pacify the Somalis in 1993, there was no chance that the soldiery from neighbouring poor African countries could do it.
As to Ethiopia, Comrade Mohammed Hassan said that the Ethiopian ruling class can only survive through war and by instigating anti-Somali nationalist hysteria and fanning religious discord. One of the excuses for the Ethiopian/US intervention is the alleged presence of ‘Al-Qaeda’ in Somalia, particularly in the ranks of the ICU. This is a total lie. In fact, in order to create religious hostility between christians and muslims, it is the Ethiopian regime that has organised the burning of churches there.
The US is losing badly its predatory war in Iraq; the NATO alliance is losing its war of aggression against the Afghan people; and Israel suffered a resounding defeat at the hands of Hizbollah in its US-sponsored war against Lebanon. Mindful of the possibility that it might be kicked out of the Middle East, the US is turning to Africa as a base from which to carry on its struggle for world domination.
In this context, Somalia and Ethiopia are very important to US imperialism’s plans. It could use these territories to block trade between Africa and China and India. Much of the water that feeds the river Nile comes from Ethiopia, so that country could be used to prevent water reaching Sudan. The US considers Ethiopia to be of such importance that it maintains two embassies in Addis Ababa – one to conduct its relationships with Ethiopia and the other to regulate its relations with the African Union. The imperialists are using the African Union to weaken the nationalist member states by mobilising the reactionary members in support of the US policies of domination and superexploitation.
Comrade Mohammed Hassan concluded by saying that the Ethiopian as well as the Somali people are bound to see through the nefarious schemes of both US imperialism and the puppet Ethiopian regime. In any case, overcoming their initial setbacks, the ICU is bound to wage a people’s war against the mercenary Ethiopian occupation forces. No matter how long it takes, US imperialism and its Ethiopian stooges are bound to be defeated. With their defeat will come the conditions for the establishment of democratic and sovereign regimes in Somali as well as in Ethiopia.
Comrade Mohammed Hassan received a rapturous applause at the end of his speech, which was followed by lively discussion, including, among others, the two contributions referred to below. The meeting concluded with a few closing remarks by CPGB-ML Chair Harpal Brar.
Junayd Egale condemned both the recent deployment of troops to Somalia by Uganda and Kenya’s transfer of ICU prisoners to the Somali ‘Interim Government’, that group of warlords who were prolonging the war and had kept Somalia poor and needy for the past 15 years. He went on to say that it is time we campaigned together to say ‘No more imperialism’. From Somalia and Zimbabwe to Afghanistan and Iraq, we must condemn the interference of US and British imperialism. Junayd emphasised that the Somalis, if left alone, can live together and solve their own problems; he also explained that it was now important to support the resistance movement in Somalia.
Britain said it wants to impose democracy everywhere, yet in Britain that same ‘democracy’ means limited freedom, limited justice and limited human rights. And where is the international law that allows Ethiopia to invade Somalia? Junayd had sent emails to the BBC and C4 to inform them of demonstrations in London against the invasion of Somalia. He was told that someone would get back to him, but was still waiting! But when fewer than 20 people demonstrated outside the Zimbabwean Embassy, they were outnumbered by media cameras not only from Britain but also from America and Europe!
Godfrey Cremer said it was important for working people in Britain to support the resistance to the aggression against Somalia. We are united because we are fighting the same struggle. The Labour Party acts against working people in this country and if we are going to get anywhere we have to stand up against imperialism, which is represented by the Labour Party, and fight for a social system that will meet the needs of ordinary working people.
While giving out leaflets for the meeting, he had been challenged because he was not Somali. He had responded that if we do not stand up for anti-imperialist struggles like the one going on in Somalia, we will never to able to stand up for ourselves. We were fighting against the same imperialist enemy and would be much more likely to succeed if our struggles were united.
Harpal Brar, in concluding the meeting, said that imperialism has the armies and weapons, including nuclear weapons, but there is one weapon that the people have that imperialism will never have: we are many and they are few. If we unite and put our resources together, we can beat imperialism, just as the Red Army did in the second world war, just as the Vietnamese and the Koreans did, and just as the Iraqis, Afghanis and Palestinians are doing today against US imperialism and Israeli zionism.
The British working-class movement will be nothing but a sham and a fraud unless in its struggle for its own social emancipation it is closely connected to the hundreds upon hundreds of millions of colonial and neo-colonial slaves in the oppressed countries of the world. They are fighting against imperialism and weakening our common enemy. Together we shall win and, when that day comes, there will be joy in our streets.