This year’s World Social Forum was held in Nairobi Kenya, the first in the African continent. Many who participated in it have written their accounts of the Forum, and the significance to the movement building towards another, a better world. What seemed to be missing from the accounts I’ve read is that while we were in Nairobi, the US bombed the East African country Somalia in what was falsely justified as a move to eradicate Al Queda operatives in the Horn of Africa.
In the many workshops dealing with peace and security held at the Forum, few raised the importance of our presence in Kenya, a country which has played a key role in providing support for US military offensive against neighboring Somalia.
The increasing US military role in Africa should be a concern to all of us and the January 23rd bombing of a defenseless people, while the Social Forum was on its 3rd day, should have raised alarm from the progressive peace movement. US military attack of Somalia should be seen parallel to US aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan.
How then to explain the silence of the US peace movement on Somalia. Perhaps US-based organisations don’t have the proper analytical framework from which to understand the significance of the Horn of Africa region. Perhaps it is because Somalia is largely seen as a country with no government and in perpetual chaos, with 'fundamental Islamic' forces not deserving of defense against the military attacks by US in search of 'terrorists'.
The US has officially made known the intention to have the largest US military presence in Africa, known as AfricCom. The rationale for this of course is to curb further spread of Islamic fundamentalists presence in Sub Sahara Africa which viewed as open ground for possible Al Queda recruitment.
US political and military alliance with Ethiopia – which openly violated international law in its aggression towards Somalia, is destabilizing the Horn region and begins a new shift in the way the US plans to have permanent and active military presence in Africa.
Four days after the bombing of Somalia, one of the largest peace protest was held in Washington DC on 27 January. Somalia remained off the agenda by the expressed intent of the organizers to keep single focus on Iraq and ‘bringing the troops home’.
Does this mean the US public only responds to messages of peace as narrowly defined as securing the safety of US military personnel in Iraq? Visions of the global peace movement cannot be limited the interests and concerns for particular geographic areas and people. What drove hundreds of thousands out to the Washington DC protest in the friging cold weather is beyond self-interest and the concern for all lives, Iraqi, American, Afghani and Somali !
Somalia goes to the relevance (or irrelevance?) of Africa in US history; lack of proper framework from which to understand current political events in the continent and ways of engaging the general public.
It is bad enough that the Washington Consensus views Africa through the lens of national security concerns, or as a source of oil and other minerals. The peace movement, which speaks for all peace-loving people in the US and the world, should maintain a different perspective if we are to move towards the vision that 'another world is possible'.
* Nunu Kidane is Network Coordinator for Priority Africa Network (PAN) based in Oakland, California – [email][email protected]