WARARKA BARAAWEPOST Arbac0 23 december 2009



The West has helped to create in Somalia the very thing it feared the most

Jonathan Clayton

The red lines on the intelligence agency’s map plotting phone calls of known al-Qaeda operatives converged in one thick swath on Mogadishu, the capital of war-wracked Somalia.

The lines arched across Africa from Zanzibar in the east; Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, to Djibouti in the north, even across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen.

The calls were made in December 2002, a few days after suicide bombers had hit the Hotel Paradise in Mombasa and then tried to shoot out of the sky a chartered jet ferrying Israeli holidaymakers home. Some had originated from abandoned phones known to have belonged to the bombers or their relatives.

It was proved later that the two Sam7 missiles fired at the aircraft had come from Somalia, which still contained remnants of one of Africa’s biggest arsenals of the Cold War. In August 1998, investigators had shown me a similar map. Then, it had charted the likely routes from Somalia in and out of Tanzania and Kenya of those responsible for planning and executing the simultaneous car bombings of the US embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi in which 224 people were killed. Some of those responsible for that incident are still believed to be in Mogadishu. Even by that time, Somalia had been a failed state for almost a decade, already a haven for terrorists, criminals or those with just a good reason to hide.

“Somalia is a classic case of what not to do. The US and the West have created a lawless state where terrorist training camps and anti-Western views can flourish,” said a frustrated Western diplomat. It is hard to think of a country that is less suited to be left to its own devices than Somalia. Since the infamous Black Hawk incident in 1993, when 19 US servicemen were killed in a botched attempt to arrest the warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid, the West has had no coherent strategy for Somalia.

Since then, half-hearted Western diplomatic initiatives have, in fact, made the situation worse. The US in particular, but with Britain not far behind, has sided with historic rivals, such as Ethiopia, or supported deeply unpopular local politicians because they mouthed pro-Western slogans.

In so doing, the West has created the thing it feared most: a festering sore on the body politic of the region. “It is ironic that it has taken a bunch of modern-day pirates to show how Somalia is now the most dangerous terrorist breeding ground in the world,” the diplomat added.

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