This video is called The Corrupt Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
Remember George W. Bush‘s and his cronies’ propaganda about their wars? If we were to believe them: No, really, the Iraq war was not about oil; perish the thought … And the Afghan war did not have anything to do with pipelines … It was all about Saddam Hussein being behind 9/11 … err, sorry, after the war was already well underway, the United States Bush administration itself retracted their earlier propaganda on this. It was about Iraq‘s weapons of mass destruction … err, sorry, after the war was already well underway, the Bush administration itself retracted their earlier propaganda on this.
After the two official reasons for starting bloody war had proved to be spurious, the Bush propagandists came with a third pretext: they were so full of love for the poor Afghan and Iraqi people, especially for women and children, that they wanted to bring prosperity, democracy and good government to their countries, by bombing them, firing guns at them, and opening torture prisons in them.
The Bush regime also really loved the poor Somali people, especially women and children. They wanted to bring prosperity, democracy and good government to Somalia as well. They had the US Air Force bombing Somalia. Though they left most of the invasion, aimed at bringing prosperity, democracy and good government to Somalia, to their buddy Meles Zenawi, dictator of Ethiopia. Mr Zenawi being well known for being prosperous himself, though his subjects are starving, enjoying free speech himself though suppressing it among his subjects, seemed exactly the right guy for bringing Bush style democracy to the Horn of Africa.
In the propaganda of the Bush gang, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan would become shiny examples, models for the other countries of the Middle East and Africa.
Well, how are things eight year years later, now that Bush’s presidency is finished, but his wars are not?
Let’s look at Iraq. Where there had been a really bad dictator, Saddam Hussein, and US sponsored economic sanctions on top of that. Things then, just before Bush’s war started, were so bad that many people could not imagine them becoming even worse. Still, they did.
Now, there are definitely more jails in Iraq, and more torture.
Over a million more deaths.
More unemployment, less women’s rights, less gay rights, far less electricity and water, in Iraq. And far more refugees from Iraq, than in the darkest days of Saddam Hussein.
Iraq may hang 126 women by year’s end despite international appeals: here.
Let us look at corruption. What does Associated Press today have to say about Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan, which, if we would believe the Bushists, will surely after those eight years be shiny beacons of prosperity, democracy and good government?
Associated Press says:
Afghanistan slips in corruption index despite aid
17 Nov 2009
BERLIN – Afghanistan has slipped three places to become the world’s second most-corrupt country despite billions in aid meant to bolster the government against a rising insurgency, according to an annual survey of perceived levels of corruption.
Only lawless Somalia, whose weak U.N.-backed government controls just a few blocks of the capital, was perceived as more corrupt than Afghanistan in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index.
Iraq saw some improvement, rising to 176 of 180 countries, up two places up from last year.
Some ‘improvement’ in Iraq … at least half of it caused by corruption in Afghanistan getting even worse.
In Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai‘s inability or unwillingness to tackle cronyism and bribery the past five years have resulted in an increase of support for the Taliban insurgents. That has prompted calls by the Obama administration for Karzai to tackle the practice or risk forfeiting U.S. aid.
Since 2001, the U.S. Congress has appropriated more than $39 billion in humanitarian and reconstruction assistance for Afghanistan, according to a report by the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. European nations send about 1 billion euros ($1.49 billion) a year, a total of 9 billion euros since 2002.
International donors are increasingly questioning how much of the billions of dollars in aid might have been misappropriated.
The report said examples of Afghan corruption ranged from the sale of government positions to daily bribes for basic services. …
In Iraq, corruption has become widespread since the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003 with scarcity of serious government measures against corrupted officials.
That has undermined the largest nation-building efforts with siphoning billions of dollars away from the country’s struggling economy, increasing frustrations among Iraqis mainly over corruption, lingering violence and poor public services. …
The United States, which was in 19th place compared with 18th last year, remained stable despite Transparency’s concerns over a lack of government oversight of the financial sector.
The report also pointed out that the U.S. legislature is another reason for concern, as it is “perceived to be the institution most affected by corruption.”
There were some bright spots in the new report — Bangladesh, Belarus, Guatemala, Lithuania, Poland and Syria were among the countries that improved the most.
US-occupied Iraq, Afghanistan among world’s most corrupt countries: here.
Afghan minister accused of receiving huge bribe: here.
An Australian man who worked with a security contractor in Afghanistan pleaded guilty to a scheme to solicit kickbacks from a U.S. contract, Washington said: here.
A 21-year-old single mother serving in the US Army will likely face charges for refusing deployment to Afghanistan when she could not find care for her infant son: here.
Afghanistan’s Colombia connection: here.
Saudi Arabia bombards Yemeni rebels in policing role for US imperialism: here.
Public Opinion Turns Against Afghan War
Written by Steven J. DuBord
Wednesday, 18 November 2009 07:00
The tide of U.S. public opinion is turning against the war in Afghanistan according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted November 12-15. According to the random sample of 1,001 adults, 52 percent of Americans say the Afghan war has not been worth it.
The 52 percent marks a 13-point increase from just under one year ago in December 2008. Only 44 percent now believe the war in Afghanistan has been worth fighting, the smallest number since early 2007.
President Barack Obama’s dilemma of whether to send more troops or not is reflected in the poll. When asked to assume the President does send more, 46 percent favor a larger increase to both wage war and train Afghan forces, while a virtually equal 45 percent would prefer a smaller increase just to train the Afghans.
Lack of confidence in Hamid Karzai’s Afghan government, especially in view of disputed election results, shows in the poll. Just 38 percent believe his government will someday have a military effective enough to take over from American forces; 58 percent doubt it. Only 26 percent think Karzai is reliable, versus 68 percent who don’t think he can be counted on.
When asked to consider if withdrawing from Afghanistan increases the risk of terrorism for the United States, 23 percent think withdrawing increases the risk, but 64 percent say withdrawing leaves the risk the same. In other words, almost two-thirds of Americans don’t think that the war in Afghanistan makes any difference to stopping terrorism, even though fighting the “war on terror” is the rationale for being there.
Approval of Obama’s handling of the war is down to 45 percent, a drop of almost 20 points from a high of 63 percent early in the year. Although 46 percent trust him to do a better job than the Republicans would, a close 41 percent place more trust in the Republicans.
Confidence that Obama’s policies are making America safer from terrorism is down five points since the summer, from 32 percent to 27 percent. A constant 22 percent believe his polices are making the Unites States less safe.
What is unfortunate is that the questions of a poll such as this one limit the debate to preset options and fail to consider all aspects of the situation. The question should not be whether the war is worth it, but whether it was constitutionally authorized and strictly necessary for national defense.
Whether or not the Afghan government is trustworthy or competent enough to secure its own country is of no pressing interest to the defense of American soil. If Afghanistan ends up harboring terrorists who strike at the United States, then war should be constitutionally declared so that once Afghanistan surrenders, victory in the war can be officially recognized and our troops can come home soon after. Any other perspective requires the United States to literally conquer and occupy the entire world in order to supposedly keep our nation safe from harm.
A never-ending war against terrorism effectively gives terrorists the continuous victory of keeping the United States on a war footing, causing more and more of our liberties to slip away and our military to become strained to the breaking point. The Voice of America reported on November 17 that the strain of perpetual war is driving the number of Army suicides to record levels.
There have been 140 suicides among active duty soldiers and 71 among reservists and the National Guard. This exceeds last year’s numbers, and there is still more than a month left to go. This also marks the fifth consecutive year that the number of suicides has increased.
Afghans say poverty, not Taliban, main cause of war
By Jonathon Burch
Wednesday, November 18, 2009; 4:09 AM
KABUL (Reuters) – Most Afghans see not Taliban militants but poverty, unemployment and government corruption as the main causes of war in their country, according to a report by a leading aid group released on Wednesday.
After three decades of war, Afghanistan remains one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world. It is also one of the most corrupt. Unemployment stands at 40 percent and more than half the country live below the poverty line.
On top of that, violence is at its highest levels since U.S.-backed Afghan forces toppled the Taliban in late 2001.
The report, based on a survey of more than 700 ordinary Afghans by British charity Oxfam and several local aid groups, found that 70 percent of people questioned viewed poverty and unemployment as the main drivers of the conflict.
Nearly half of those surveyed said corruption and the ineffectiveness of their government were the main reasons for the continued fighting, while 36 percent said the Taliban insurgency was to blame.
The 704 respondents from around the country were allowed to give multiple answers on reasons for the conflict.
“The people of Afghanistan have suffered 30 years of unrelenting horror. Afghan society has been devastated,” said Grace Ommer, Oxfam Country Director for Afghanistan.
“Repairing this damage can’t be done overnight. It will take a long time for the economic, social and psychological scars to heal … Afghanistan needs more than military solutions,” she said in statement.
There are some 110,000 foreign soldiers in Afghanistan, 68,000 of them American, trying to quell a strengthening Taliban insurgency that has spread to previously peaceful areas.
U.S. President Barack Obama is in the final stages of deciding whether to send up to 40,000 more U.S. troops.
But ordinary Afghans are frustrated at the slow pace of development, endemic corruption and the inability of Afghan and international security forces to stop the violence.
Despite the billions of dollars in aid poured into the country, most Afghans have seen few changes to their lives. Afghanistan relies on aid for around 90 percent of its spending.
“Many individuals felt that though much had been promised to the Afghan people, little had actually been delivered — creating frustration and disillusionment and ultimately undermining stability,” Oxfam said in its report.
“Individuals called for better measures to ensure that economic development and aid reach those who need it the most,” it said.
After the Taliban, the reason most people gave for the continued fighting in their country was foreign interference, 25 percent of respondents saying other countries were to blame.
(Editing by Paul Tait)
Territorial Army soldier died ‘waiting for body armour’
Rifleman Andrew Fentiman wrote on his blog that he was waiting for new equipment
By JOHN HIGGINSON CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT – Wednesday, November 18, 2009
A Territorial Army soldier was killed two weeks into a tour of Afghanistan after telling friends he was still waiting for new armour.
Rifleman Andrew Fentiman, who died while on foot patrol in Helmand on Sunday, had complained about waiting for new equipment in an internet blog.
‘We are still waiting on these new body armour and helmets that were promised to us,’ wrote the 23-year-old sales manager, from Cambridge, after arriving in Afghanistan on November 2.
Afghanistan runs on well-oiled wheels
By Pratap Chatterjee
KABUL – Every morning, dozens of trucks laden with diesel from Turkmenistan lumber out of the northern Afghan border town of Hairaton on a two-day trek across the Hindu Kush down to Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul. Among the dozens of businesses dispatching these trucks are two extremely well connected companies – Ghazanfar and Zahid Walid – that helped to swell the election coffers of President Hamid Karzai as well as the family business of his running mate, the country’s new vice president – and warlord – Mohammed Qasim Fahim.
Some of the trucks are on their way to two power stations in the northern part of the capital: a recently refurbished, if inefficient, plant that has served Kabul for a little more than a quarter of a century, and a facility scheduled for completion next year and built with money from the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
Afghan political analysts observe that Ghazanfar and Zahid Walid are striking examples of the multimillion-dollar business conglomerates, financed by American as well as Afghan tax dollars and connected to powerful political figures, which have, since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, emerged as part of a pervasive culture of corruption here.
Nasrullah Stanikzai, a professor of law and political science at Kabul University, says of the companies in the pocket of the vice president: “Everybody knows who is Ghazanfar. Everybody knows who is Zahid Walid. The [government elite] directly or indirectly have companies, licenses and sign contracts. But corruption is not confined just to the Afghans. The international community bears a share of this blame.”
Indeed, the tale of the “reconstruction” of Kabul’s electricity supply is a classic story of how foreign aid has often served to line the pockets of both international contractors from the donor countries and the local political elite. Unfortunately, these aid-financed projects also generally fail – as the Kabul diesel plants appear destined to – because of a lack of planning and the hard cash to keep them operating.
The rise of a powerbroker
Abdul Hasin and his brother, the vice president, offer a perfect examples of the new business elite. The two men are half-brothers, born to the two wives of a respected religious cleric from Marz, a village in the Panjshir Valley, north of Kabul.
In the early 1980s, Fahim, the older brother, joined the mujahideen forces of Ahmad Shah Massoud in the struggle against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. In 1992, three years after the Soviet army withdrew in defeat, Fahim was appointed head of intelligence in Afghanistan by the new president, Burhanuddin Rabbani, in the midst of a fierce and destructive civil war among the victors.
When the Taliban took control of the country a few years later, Fahim became the intelligence chief for the Northern Alliance, also led by Massoud, which controlled less than a third of the country. On September 9, 2001, two days before the World Trade Center was attacked, Massoud was assassinated by al-Qaeda operatives and Fahim took control of the Northern Alliance, which the US would soon finance and support in its “invasion” of Afghanistan.
A number of popular accounts of that invasion, such as Bob Woodward’s book Bush at War, suggest that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) directly gave Northern Alliance warlords like Fahim millions of dollars in cold, hard cash to help fight the Taliban in the runup to the US invasion. “I can take Kabul, I can take Kunduz, if you break the [Taliban front] line for me. My guys are ready,” Woodward quotes Fahim telling a CIA agent named Gary after pocketing a million dollars in $100 bills.
Once the Taliban were defeated, Fahim was invited to become vice president in the transitional government led by Karzai, a position he held for two years. It was at this juncture that Fahim’s brothers, notably Abdul Hasin, started to build a business empire – and not long after, good fortune began to rain down on the family in the form of lucrative “reconstruction” contracts.
In January 2002, while Fahim took whirlwind tours of Washington and London, meeting General Tommy Franks, who had commanded US forces during the invasion, and taking the salute from the Coldstream Guards, his younger brother was putting together a business plan. Soon thereafter, Zahid Walid, a company named after Abdul Hasin’s older sons, not so surprisingly won a series of lucrative contracts to pour concrete for a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) base as well as portions of the US Embassy being rebuilt in Kabul and the city’s airport, which was in a state of disrepair.
On a plot of land in downtown Kabul reportedly “seized” for a song by Fahim, Abdul Hasin also financed the construction of a high-rise building dubbed “Goldpoint”, which now houses dozens of jewelry shops. Soon, the company was importing Russian gas, and not long after that, Abdul Hasin set up the Gas Group, a company that ran a plant in the industrial suburb of Tarakhil that marketed bottled gas to households and small businesses.
In the winter of 2006, Zahid Walid won a $12 million contract from the Afghan Ministry of Energy and Water to supply fuel to the old diesel plant in northwest Kabul, according to data published on the website of the government’s central procurement agency, Afghanistan Reconstruction and Development Services. In the summer of 2007, the company won another $40 million diesel-supply contract, and last winter it took on a third contract worth $22 million.
On October 19, I visited Zahid Walid’s heavily guarded headquarters in the wealthy Kabul neighborhood of Wazir Akbar Khan, not far from the even more heavily fortified US Embassy. There, Ramin Seddiqui, the managing director of the company’s diesel-import business, filled me in on another exclusive contract the company had secured from the Afghan government only days before for an additional $17 million. Zahid Walid is now to supply diesel fuel to the new 100 megawatt diesel power plant being built by Black & Veatch, a Kansas construction company, with money from USAID.
Most senior Afghan government officials and political figures are loath to discuss how Zahid Walid has won all these contracts – at least publicly. On a recent visit to the Ministry of Commerce, I asked Noor Mohammed Wafa, the general director of oil products and liquid gas, about them. He promptly claimed that he had never even heard of the company. He then shot a glance at my Afghan assistant and said in Dari, “That’s Marshal Fahim’s company, isn’t it?” When I asked whether the rules were different for powerful political figures – as everyone in Kabul knows is the case – Wafa politely denied any suggestion of favoritism in the awarding of import licenses.
In fact, dozens of people assured me in private on my most recent visit to Kabul that favoritism and corruption were the essence of the Karzai government the US has helped “reconstruct” over the past eight years.
A white elephant power plant
While Zahid Walid has won close to $100 million in diesel contracts from the Afghan government in these years, there is hard evidence that the money for this once-needed fuel is now essentially being squandered. Earlier this year, KEC, an Indian company, completed the first of two high voltage powerlines from neighboring Central Asian countries that will bring cheap and reliable electricity into the capital.
The initial 220 kilovolt power line from Uzbekistan – a $35 million project – follows the same path as Zahid Walid’s diesel trucks over the Hindu Kush. The comparison, however, ends there. True, the Indian engineers who constructed it had to survive the brutal snows in the Salang pass, but their work is now done. On the other hand, the truckers continue to take the treacherous daily drive through the tunnel that connects northern Afghanistan to the south, bringing Turkmen diesel to Kabul at 22 cents a kilowatt hour. Meanwhile, the Uzbek electricity, traveling effortlessly through KEC’s transmission lines, costs the Afghan taxpayer a mere six cents a kilowatt hour.
To add insult to injury, much of the diesel is meant for the USAID power plant at Tarakhil, which has become a symbol of the sort of massive and widespread reconstruction waste and abuse that has gone on in this country for years. The plant, built by Black & Veatch, is now projected to cost $300 million, three times the price of similar plants in neighboring Pakistan.
In addition, it will only be capable of supplying one-third of the power the Uzbek powerline can deliver far less expensively. Nor will the Uzbek line be the only source of cheap electricity. KEC’s engineers have broken ground on a second power line – this one from Tajikistan – that will supply 300 megawatts of electricity to Kabul, three times what the Tarakhil plant will produce at a bargain basement construction cost of $28 million.
“At full capacity, we burn 600,000 liters a day,” Jack Currie, the Scottish manager of the Tarakhil plant told me as I toured it in late October. “And just how much will that cost the Afghan taxpayer?” I asked. “Well,” replied Currie, “you can assume a dollar a liter of diesel.” I quickly calculated and arrived at an annual total of $219 million per year, not including the plant’s maintenance costs (estimated at another $60 million a year). Currie looked astonished when I mentioned the figure.
I took these numbers to Mohammed Khan, a member of the Afghan parliament and chair of its energy committee. “Will you approve the funds for this diesel power plant?” I asked. The soft-spoken Khan, a trained electrical engineer who worked for many years in the Kabul Electricity Department, answered simply: “No. Not unless we have an emergency.”
So why build a power plant that, in terms of kilowatt hours made available, costs 26 times as much as the Indian-built powerline? Anwar-ul-Haq Ahadi, Afghan’s former finance minister, recalls the process. The idea, he says, originally came from then-US ambassador to Afghanistan, Ronald Neumann, who dreamed it up in April 2007 shortly before he left the country. He apparently envisioned it as a strategic alternative to the Uzbek powerline. After all, at that time the repressive Uzbek regime had denied Washington the use of what was seen as a key military base in Central Asia, Karshi-Khanabad, and so functionally kicked US troops out of the country. Naturally, then, it was also seen as an unreliable political partner for the US-backed regime of Karzai.
Following up, USAID officials told the Karzai government that they could build a diesel plant in Kabul in just over two years for $120 million. It would, the ambassador indicated, be functional just in time for the 2009 elections, allowing Karzai to claim that he had provided power to the electricity-starved capital. The Afghan president readily agreed to the plan, instructing anxious officials at the Ministry of Finance to approve the scheme in early 2007. He even agreed to put $20 million of Afghan funds into the project – after being assured that the US would pay for the rest.
Over the next two years, while Indian engineers raced the Americans to provide power to Kabul (ultimately winning handily), the Ministry of Energy and Water was having a hard time keeping the lights on during Kabul’s harsh winters. And while the city waited for these promised sources of power to come on line, the new political-business elite, with its specially set up companies like Zahid Walid, was winning government-issued contracts to supply diesel to the old Kabul power plant – and making money hand over fist.
Zahid Walid was hardly the only politically well-connected business to clean up: Ghazanfar, a company from Mazar-i-Sharif, also won $17 million in diesel-supply contracts in the winter of 2006-2007, and then an astonishing $78 million in new contracts for 2008, early 2009. Not surprisingly, Ghazanfar turns out to be run by a family that is very close to President Karzai. (One sister, Hosn Banu Ghazanfar, is the women’s minister and a brother is a member of parliament.)
In March 2009, the Ghazanfars opened a new bank in the capital, plastering the city with giant billboard advertisements featuring a cascade of gold coins. Less than six months later, the bank wrote out a $2 million interest-free loan to Karzai for his election campaign, paying back the favors his government had done for them over the previous three years.
Afghanistan as a patronage machine
This week, Mohammed Qasim Fahim will be sworn in as the next vice president of the new government of Afghanistan. Under an agreement with USAID, this new government is required to spend Afghan money to buy yet more diesel for the Tarakhil power plant, which in turn will put money exclusively and directly into the vice president’s brother’s pocket.
Hamid Jalil, the aid coordinator for the Ministry of Finance, points out that wasting money on unnecessary projects like Tarakhil has helped to hobble Afghanistan’s progress in the past eight years. “The donor projects undermine the legitimacy of the government and do not allow us to build capacity,” he says, adding in the weary tone you often hear in Kabul today, “corruption is everywhere in post-conflict countries like ours”.
A former Afghan finance minister, Ashraf Ghani, summed up the whole profitably corrupt system that has run Afghanistan into a cul-de-sac this way. “It’s not crazy, it’s absurd,” he says. “Crazy is when you don’t know what you’re doing. Absurd is when you don’t provide a sense of ownership and a sense of sustainability.”
Pratap Chatterjee is an investigative journalist and senior editor at CorpWatch. He is the author of Halliburton’s Army: How A Well-Connected Texas Oil Company Revolutionized the Way America Makes War (Nation Books, 2009) and Iraq, Inc (Seven Stories Press, 2004).
(Dr Ali Safi contributed research and reporting for this article. A video story by Chatterjee related to this one can be seen at Britain’s Channel 4 News.)
(Copyright 2009 Pratap Chatterjee.)
(Used by permission Tomdispatch)
Catholic Information Service for Africa (Nairobi)
Kenya: Youth Warned Against Joining Somalia War
20 November 2009
Nairobi — In response to reports that Kenya is recruiting youth to go and fight Somalia war, a Muslim clergy has cautioned Muslim youth not to allow themselves to be drawn by financial incentives and accept to undertake mercenary work outside the country.
According to The Friday Bulletin a weekly newsletter, the Chief Kadhi Sheikh Hammad Kassim said it was wrong to participate in such ventures as they go against the cardinal principles of Islam.
“The Prophet, peace be upon him, in his farewell spoke against shedding the blood of Muslims and we should not accept to be used by others and drawn to fight against our Muslim brothers,” Sheikh Kassim said.
He castigated those involved in the practice saying that they were sowing seeds of discord among Muslims.
While the government has consistently denied involvement in the scheme, many youths from North Eastern Province have come up in public saying that they have been offered a monthly payment of up to Kshs 44,000 or USD 564 to fight in Somalia to beef up the Transitional Federal Government which is facing an onslaught from various militia groups.
The Friday Bulletin quoted the chairman of the defence committee Adan Keynan saying that the scheme was a major security breach which could result in dangerous ramifications for Kenya.
Early this week, a joint parliamentary defence committee investigating the matter said credible reports indicated that a group of Kenyan youths at Manyani Training Camp in the Coastal region were receiving military training in readiness for the Somalia mission.
The youths who spoke to the media claimed that they were ferried to the camp in police and military vehicles, according to the Friday Bulletin.
Over 300 youths are reportedly been recruited for the Somalia mission an act which has generated concerns within the country.
Uganda: Somalia – 60 Peacekeepers Killed in Three Years
2 December 2009
At least 60 African peacekeepers have been killed and 200 injured in Somalia over the last three years, the African Union Mission in the country has said.
The peacekeepers, according to a statement issued by Amisom last week, continue to operate under a hostile environment in Mogadishu because of regular attacks on them by Somali rebels.
“That problem has been compounded by the complex and multi-faceted nature of the conflict and the fluid nature of the actors,” the statement said.
The statement was issued in preparation for a conference on confidence-building for Amisom which will open today in Munyonyo, near Kampala.
Somali rebels in September attacked and killed 17 peacekeepers including the deputy force commander, Maj. Gen. Juvenal Niyoyunguriza. However, Amisom which was mandated in 2007 to support the Transitional Government of President Ahmed Sharif Ahmed said it has managed to bring the warring parties to dialogue and facilitated the provision of humanitarian assistance to civilians.
The estimated 5,000 African peacekeepers comprised of Ugandan and Burundian forces are thin on ground with a shortfall of 3,000 forces. Amisom says the Somali mission is not popular in Uganda and Burundi, the two contributing countries, because of “lack of sufficient information” about the mission, and “negative publicity” on the attacks and killings of peacekeepers. Critics in Uganda have accused the government of fighting a war that has no local bearing, a charge that the government disputes.
The Monitor, Uganda: What Fate of Uganda’s Troops in Somalia Reveals About Our Politics
Charles Onyango Obbo
8 December 2009
A week ago a terrorist bomb exacted a heavy toll on the struggling Somalia government, when an explosion blasted a Mogadishu graduation ceremony, killing 19 civilians, including three ministers.
A few weeks earlier, there had been another deadly attack, this time on the African Union peacekeepers, where several members of the Ugandan contingent of the AMISOM force in Somalia were killed.
That attack forced AMISOM to reveal, for the first time, that it had lost 80 of its soldiers in explosions and clashes with Somali militants since the force deployed there in March 2007.
The 5,000 AU troops are mostly from Uganda and Burundi. Of the 80 soldiers killed, 37 of them are Ugandan.
The anniversary of the Somalia mission usually passes without comment, and Ugandan casualties there get one or two days in the media, and are then quickly forgotten.
One reason for this is that the public has grown cynical of UPDF missions abroad, and the interests the army serves at home. The defining experience was the nearly 10 years that the UPDF spent in the Democratic Republic of Congo, during which time it came to be viewed as nothing less than a bandit force used by rogue officers and NRM big wigs and their cronies in Kampala to plunder minerals, timber, coffee, and even wild game.
In Somalia, many reasoned that the UPDF role in the mission was part of a scheme by President Museveni to buy favour from the West, and shield him the pressure over his push to amend the Constitution in 2005, which opened the door for him to be president for life.
Even if that were true, on close scrutiny, the UPDF peacekeeping in Somalia is different from the disastrous one to the DRC in major ways. Unlike the DRC, the group of militants who eventually take power in Somalia can have far-reaching implications for East African security. Right now, the radical Islamist group Al-Shabaab that controls most of Somalia has governments in the region and the West running scared. They believe that an Al-Shabaab take over will be the equivalent of having Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda ruling Somalia.
My own view is that Somalis are among Africa’s most pragmatic people (which is why they succeed where they have been scattered by the crisis back home) and that the risk of an Al-Shabaab takeover is overstated, but it is understandable why others might be alarmed.
So unlike DRC, the UPDF in Somalia have nothing to loot. In fact, don’t expect them to return with local women in tow and chicken dangling from their backs, as happened with the troops in Congo.
That said, even if Museveni has his own private agenda, for once the UPDF mission in Somalia – its most dangerous and thankless such task — is part of something big.
If you look closely at the kind of officers in Somalia, you begin to see something else. Quite a few of them belong to the old National Resistance Army idealistic tradition, which believed that they would take over power and bring about a fair, law-abiding, corruption free political order in Uganda.
This school lost out years ago, and the power-hungry and blood-sucking wolves have taken over and are calling the shots. Indeed, they are growing stronger.
The UPDF in Somalia, therefore, is what the national army would have looked like if it hadn’t been turned into a fiefdom of a largely tribal officer corps, serving dishonourable interests of the NRM political elite – like stealing elections, tormenting the opposition, and serving as a palace guard. The contrast of the UPDF in Mogadishu with that at home, where it is has been deployed to guard land which influential people have bought out of the speculative calculation that they will make a killing from the oil in it, could not be more stark.
Compare again, the kind of officers who were deployed to hunt down the Lords Resistance Army and its leader Joseph Kony at their Sudan-DRC border bases earlier in the year. With the help of the US, the hopes were high that Kony would be killed, or at least captured. Therefore politically favoured, but inexperienced, officers who are part of the Museveni grand succession project were given the command, in the hope that their success against Kony would catapult them to national stardom. It didn’t happen.
By contrast, there will be national stardom for the Ugandan officers in Somalia, however successful they are, in part because they are part of a multinational effort. Secondly, success in Somalia will not come dramatically from a battlefield victory. In that sense, the UPDF mission is driven by old school but honourable values of service, not personal glory.
If you are a student of Ugandan, or more specifically NRM politics, pay attention to the mission in Mogadishu. Pay attention because it represents ideals that are dying in the army back home, and this might be the last time you will see them. The only thing the boys in Somalia have with those back home, is that they both have not been paid their salaries for some months now.
Somalia: More Ethiopian Troops Reach Central Somalia
19 December 2009
Baladweyn — Hundreds of Ethiopian troops have reportedly reached at Kalaber intersection about 25 km north of Beledweyne town in central Somalia, witnesses said on Saturday.
Residents say the Ethiopian troops armed with armed vehicles and other military trucks made a base in Kalaber, a strategic junction that connects central and southern regions of Somalia.
The Ethiopian troops left from Ferfer in eastern Ethiopia and crossed the border early on Saturday. Former Somali government officials are following the Ethiopian troops.
The motive behind the arrival of the Ethiopian troops is not known. Ethiopia denies frequently that its troops re-entered Somalia.
The Ethiopian troops pulled out from the country in January 2009 after two years of ill-fated occupation.
Garowe Online (Garowe)
Somalia: Ethiopian Troops Back
21 December 2009
Heavily armed Ethiopian troops with several army trucks have reportedly crossed the border into central Somali regions of Hiran and Galgadud, residents and reports said.
Residents of Balanbale town in central Galgadud region said they have seen Ethiopian military forces backed by army vehicles in the outskirts of the town.
One resident said the troops have dug trenches in positions without prior notice of the elders.
Ethiopian troops have also crossed the border and reached Kalabeyr town in Hiran region, about 22km (14 miles) from the Somali-Ethiopian border, according to locals.
A resident told Garowe Online “a lot of troops arrived in the area on early Saturday and have started making military manoeuvring.”
Ethiopian troops have in the past carried out military incursion into central Somalia to oust Islamist militant groups fighting the embattled UN-backed Somali government.
Since withdrawing from Somalia early this year, Addis Ababa amassed its troops along the border and kept watchful eye on political development in the war-torn country.
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