|Africa News Digest
Release Alleged al-Qaeda Tape To Stoke Horn of Africa Conflict?
In a move that bolsters the Cheney-Bush Administration's efforts to provoke an anti-Islamic crusade in the Horn of Africa, an unauthenticated audiotape, purportedly by Osama bin Laden's number two man, Egyptian-born Ayman al-Zawahri, was released Jan. 5. The tape called for launching an Iraq-style guerrilla campaign of suicide and other attacks against Ethiopian forces in Somalia. "You must ambush, mine, raid, and [carry out] martyrdom campaigns so that you can wipe them out," the tape proclaimed.
The tape also implored Muslims worldwide to support Somalia's Islamists with fighters, money, and expertise: "I speak to you today as the crusader invader forces of Ethiopia violate the soil of the beloved Muslim Somalia." The tape called Somalia "one of the crusader battlefields that are being launched by America and its allies and the United Nations against Islam and Muslims."
The day before, Robert Kerr, a counsellor for public affairs at the U.S. Embassy in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, said that the United States has a right to pursue Somalia's Islamists: "Counterterrorism is one of the U.S.'s goals in Somalia. We feel we have a right to pursue al-Qaeda terrorists wherever they are."
U.S. Navy ships are patrolling the East African coastline so that the al-Qaeda elements the Bush Administration says are there, can't escape.
Under the guise of opening a new front in the anti-Muslim "global war on terror" by supporting the presence of Ethiopian troops in Somalia, the Bush Administration is attempting to create the conditions needed to nurture a fundamentalist jihadist movement in Somalia. The resulting conflict could set the entire Horn of Africa on fire, sparking an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, and widening the divide between the West and the Islamic world.
Ethiopia-Somalia Crisis Threatens To Engulf Neighbors
The crisis is already showing signs of how it could engulf neighboring countries in the region. Ethiopian/Somali forces are hunting down fleeing radical jihadists thought to hiding in the Somalia-Kenya border area. The Kenyan Times reported that Ethiopian helicopters pursuing the elements of the Somali radical Islamic militia bombed a Kenyan village, and that six herdsmen are feared to have been killed in this incident. Kenyan Foreign Affairs Minister Raphael Tuju denied this report, but reiterated strong support for the Transitional Federal Government (TGF) in Somalia, which is now being backed militarily by the Ethiopian government. Kenya played a leading role in setting up the Transitional government for Somalia, in late 2004.
Already at that time, Kenya was the country with the largest number of Somali asylum seekers, and the number is now growing. There is also a significant number of Kenyans who are of Somali origin, because the colonial powers cut through a Somali clan when they drew the colonial border.
It is feared that radical jihadist fighters and their allies from Somalia will attempt to enter Kenya, an area which is already populated mainly by Somali refugees, to melt into those populations. There have already been reports that Ethiopians have mistaken Kenyan infantry troops and vehicles for fleeing Islamic fighters, firing missiles at them.
EIR sources indicate, however, that the number of hard-core fundamentalist jihadist fighters is actually quite low, and nowhere near the majority, as Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has claimed.
However, the presence of an African Union peacekeeping force is necessary for Ethiopia to withdraw, and the materialization of this force could take a significant amount of time. Thus, Ethiopia will be seen as a U.S.-backed occupying force, playing into the hands of the radical jihadists, allowing them to grow. The U.S. provided Ethiopia with intelligence and aerial reconnaissance for its military intervention.
While the Bush Administration maintains that the Ethiopians are winning, all that has been accomplished so far, in the eyes of many observers, is that Bush and Cheney have ensnared Ethiopia in a quagmire, and created a new and very violent hotbed of anti-Americanism in the impoverished Horn of Africa.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles said his troops would be in Somalia for a week, but by Jan. 2 was saying that the troops would be pulled out within weeks, after accomplishing their mission of eliminating the extremists before they would withdraw. But Prime Minister of the Ethiopian-supported TFG, Ali Mohammed Gedi, has said that Ethiopian troops could be staying in Somalia for months.
On Jan. 6, hundreds of people were protesting in the streets of Mogadishu, according to a BBC report. The reported targets of their protest were the presence of the Ethiopian forces backing the TFG, and the fact that the TFG wanted to confiscate their weapons. Mogadishu is full of weapons, and violence has grown rapidly since Ethiopian-led troops ousted Islamist militias in late December.
China's Aid to Africa Has Strategic Component
China has signed a series of loan, debt-relief, and economic cooperation agreements worth $80 million with Chad, according to a Jan. 5 Reuters report. The move comes less than six months after Chad cut off its ties with Taiwan and adopted the "One China" policy.
China's aid to Chad is one component of Beijing's ongoing involvement in Africa. China's help to Chad came days after China forgave $75 million of debt owned by Equatorial Guinea, one of the fastest-growing oil producers in Africa.
China is a major ally of Chad's neighbor Sudan, supplying it with everything from oil industry equipment to arms. Chad's President Idriss Deby has over the years complained about Sudan for backing rebels who want to overthrow Deby. Chad has also accused Sudan earlier for cross-border raids into eastern Chad launched by militia fighters from Sudan's war-torn region of Darfur.
The Chinese intervention in Chad in a positive way raises the possibilities of bringing a state of understanding, and peace, between the two neighboring nations in sub-Saharan Africa.