Somaliland Election status

From the Somaliland Press, positive news and photos of the voting in progress, now that it is closing time at the polls.

Progressio will issue a preliminary statement as the international observation coordinator tomorrow on how things are going so far at that time.

Gettleman reports on Somali TFG Child Soldiers–now what?

Jeffrey Gettleman’s Sunday NY Times story about child soldiers fighting on “our side” for the TFG is moving and has some “legs” in terms of popularity on the web site.

At the same time, it would appear that the U.S. administration through the Biden visit to Nairobi was intending to soften up and be more supportive of the Kenyan government because of the perceived threat to U.S. interests from Somalia. Certainly the message from the Kenyan V.P. Musyoka’s visit to Washington a few months ago was just that–the U.S. should let up in Kenya and support the Government in traditional Cold War/GWOT fashion as a bulwark against Somali and Somali-based terrorists. Jendayi Frazer herself said not long ago that Obama’s Somalia policy was substantially the same as Bush’s.

To me, the question we ought to ask is whether since the policy has been conspicuously unsuccessful in recent years we ought to do more of it because the problem is now worse, or whether we are open to adaptation.

Biden arriving in Kenya–Obama does KBC interview from Washington

Biden arrives Monday in Nairobi. The Nation reports that the Kenyan gov’t wants to use the visit to make a case for greater U.S. engagement on Somalia, in particular boosting the U.N. role.

President Obama meanwhile did an interview from Washington with the KBC:

During the interview in Washington with KBC, President Obama spoke of his wish to see a more prosperous Kenya. He urged Kenyans to “seize the moment” offered by the referendum to put the post-election violence behind them.

The US President sent the strongest indication yet that he wanted to see Kenya’s constitution review process come to a successful conclusion and announced plans to visit the country before his term ends.

But he clarified that the US was not pushing for the Yes vote at the referendum, slated for August 4.

President Obama said the decision to vote Yes or No at the referendum was up to Kenyans themselves.

Kyrgyzstan–lessons for the U.S. in East Africa?

Certainly the stature and image–and influence–of the United States in Kyrgyzstan seems to be badly damaged by the degree to which the U.S. got itself intertwined with the corrupt Bakiev regime. Bakiev played his leverage from granting the U.S. continued use of the Manas airbase at the Bishkek airport–increasingly important to the U.S. as the war on Afghanistan ramped up.

The needs of warfighting trump support for democracy, anti-corruption efforts and such. That’s reality. Thus, the question: in a war of choice for nation building in one country, what is the collateral damage to good governance and democracy elsewhere?

How far are we willing to go to support the TFG in Somalia? What compromises will we face in dealing with the leaders of Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Burundi?

One immediate issue is whether and how the U.S. will use its influence with the Kenyan military in regard to cooperation with the International Criminal Court in its current investigations.

I was an IRI election observer in Kyrgyzstan when Bakiev was elected to a full term in July 2005 following the March 2005 Tulip Revolution. I observed voting in small cities and towns in the Ferghana Valley region in the southwest. This was near the site of the Andijan massacre across the border in Uzbekistan and the region was tense–nonetheless, the atmosphere was hopeful with the new government. Voting was anti-climactic in that Bakiev cut a deal with his most prominent opponent shortly before the election, so the outcome was not really in doubt.

In that heavily Islamic part of the country the economy had been in decline since the fall of the Soviet Union. No one had taken down the statues of Lenin, or even a large portrait of Marx in the auditorium of one of the schools where we observed voting. The Soviet Union, I was told locally, had simply ended without much warning. Since then the roads were gradually crumbling, the machinery was wearing out, the stores had closed–and locals with a profession had gone to Russia for work. The country was much in need of the rent the U.S. was paying for use of Manas, but a main reason for getting rid of Akiev was the perception that he was running the government to the benefit of his family rather than the people as a whole. Apparently Bakiev was not the change in the this respect.

“Fuel Sales to US at Issue in Kyrgyzstan” NY Times

“How Not to Run an Empire” FP

“Blood in the Streets of Bishkek” FP

“When Patience Runs Out”–IHT, Paul Quinn-Judge of International Crisis Group

UN Monitoring Group reports strong Kenya links to both sides in Somalia

Kevin Kelley in the East African:

Kenya serves as “a major base” for Islamist groups battling Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government, the United Nations says in a recent report that also details the Kenyan government’s training of TFG forces — in apparent violation of a UN embargo.

Kenyan nationals account for about half of all foreigners fighting in Somalia under the banner of the Al Shabaab insurgency force, the report says.

Many of these fighters are recruited through a support network in Nairobi consisting of “wealthy clerics-cum-businessmen, linked to a small number of religious centres notorious for their links to radicalism,” the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia states in its March 10 report.

Leaders of Al Shabaab and Hizbul Islam, the other main insurgent group in Somalia, “travel with relative freedom to and from Nairobi, where they raise funds, engage in recruitment and obtain treatment for wounded fighters,” the Monitoring Group finds.

Some African and European diplomats based in Nairobi meanwhile engage in visa fraud that enables the smuggling of illegal migrants into Europe and other destinations for fees of about $12,000 for a man and $15,000 for a woman, the UN says.

In the meantime today, BBC reports that hundreds marched in Mogadishu in a second public protest against al-Shabab

State Dept Press Conference in Rome to Respond to Media Reports on Somalia–Carson speaks to NY Times piece

The State Department held a press conference Friday in Rome (and quickly released the transcript) with Asst. Secretary for African Affairs Johnnie Carson and Ambassador to the UN Mission in Rome Ertharin Cousin to respond to media reports about US Somalia policy. In response to the first question, from the AP, to be specific about the media they were responding to, Amb. Carson said:

the most prominent article was one that appeared approximately a week ago in The New York Times, written by Jeff Gettleman, and I think co-authored by one of his colleagues, which asserted or carried the assertion that the U.S. Government had military advisors assisting and aiding the TFG, that the U.S. Government was, in fact, helping to coordinate the strategic offensive that is apparently underway now, or may be underway now, in Mogadishu, and that we were, in effect, guiding the hand and the operations of the TFG military. All of those are incorrect. All of those do not reflect the accuracy of our policy, and all of those need to be refuted very strongly. I think my statement clearly outlined what we are doing and why we are doing it.

In a nutshell, Carson is saying that the US strongly endorses the TFG; the TFG is a reflection of the “Djibouti peace process”; that the “Djibouti peace process” is an African-initiated process supported by the IGAD and “the key states in the region” as well as the African Union, and the EU and the other various international powers that be–along with the US. BUT, don’t blame us for whatever the TFG is talking about doing, or is in the process of doing, militarily to escalate an offensive against the extremist Al-Shabaab. (“However, the United States does not plan, does not direct, and does not coordinate the military operations of the TFG, and we have not and will not be providing direct support for any potential military offensives. Further, we are not providing nor paying for military advisors for the TFG. There is no desire to Americanize the conflict in Somalia.”)

As for details of US spending:

But with respect to U.S. support for AMISOM, the United States, as a member of the Contact Group and as a member of the international community, has provided something in the neighborhood of $185 million over the last 18 or 19 months.[2] And that is in support of the AMISOM peacekeeping effort – Uganda, primarily, but Burundi and Djibouti as well. Funding going to the TFG from the United States has been substantially smaller, and that number is approximately $12 million over the last fiscal year.[3] So the amounts of money that we are talking about are really relatively small. [the footnotes say that Carson’s figure for AMISOM is cumulative to 2007; that Djiboutian troops aren’t there yet; and that the $12M to the TFG is “in kind” with about $2M in direct cash]

In other words, we spend most of our money on the military peacekeeper mission.  Short press conference, no follow up on this.  Like, why so little money for the TFG when we so strongly endorse it rhetorically?

On TFG requests for US military assistance:

I have not, in my office, received any formal or informal request from the TFG for airstrikes or operations in support of the offensive that may be underway right now. I have seen newspaper comments of TFG leaders responding to questions that have been posed to them about whether they would be willing to accept outside support. But we have not received any, I have not received any, my office has not received any requests for airstrikes or air support or people on the ground to assist the TFG in its operations. The TFG military operations are the responsibilities of the TFG government.

That seems quite clear, and explicitly narrow.

On the Somalia Monitoring Group report leaked to the NY Times about the diversion of food aid, no claim that the report itself is inaccurate or that the reporting is inaccurate.  The report will be reviewed by the Security Council next week.  The issues are not new.  The World Food Program has taken some action in the recent past.  The World Food Program board decided just this morning that it would apply and follow all its policies in Somalia. The World Food Program follows its policies in all countries, etc, etc. . . .

Today-Supreme Court hears oral argument in Samantar v. Yousuf–Somalia and Somaliland Torture Case (Updated)

NPR’s story from before the argument this morning.

For a recap of the today’s argument and other details see SCOTUSWiki on Samantar v. Yousuf

This site includes links to the various briefs, including the Amicus Brief filed by Foreign Minister Duale for the Republic of Somaliland in favor of Yousuf (the victims), and other supporting amicus briefs from three Democratic Members of Congress, Senators Spector and Feingold and Representative Lee, and from a group of former US diplomats including Princeton Lyman. The US Government also supported affirming the Fourth Circuit’s ruling overturning the District Court’s dismissal of the case on sovereign immunity grounds.

The Summary of Argument from the Somaliland brief:

TORTURE, EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLINGS AND THE ARBITRARY DETENTION OF SOMALI CITIZENS WERE ALL EXPRESSLY FORBIDDENBY THE CONSTITUTION THAT CREATED THE GOVERNMENT OF THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF SOMALIA. SUCH ACTS THEREFORE COULD NOT POSSIBLY HAVE BEEN PERPETRATED UNDER ANY LEGITIMATE AUTHORITY GRANTED TO THE SOVEREIGN GOVERNMENT OF SOMALIA OR ITS PUBLIC OFFICIALS. UNDER THESE CIRCUMSTANCES, THE DOCTRINE OF SOVEREIGN IMMUNITY DOES NOT APPLY.

THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS HAS ENACTED STATUTES PROVIDING THE VICTIMS OF HUMAN-RIGHTS ABUSES A REMEDY WHEN THE PERPETRATORS OF THOSE ABUSES ARE FOUND WITHIN THE CONFINES OF THIS COUNTRY’S BORDERS. IT IS ESSENTIAL THAT THE JUDICIAL PROCESS ENVISIONED BY THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS BE PERMITTED TO GO FORWARD SO THE EFFORTS TO ACHIEVE PEACE AND RECONCILIATION IN SOMALILAND AND THROUGHOUT THE REGION CAN BE REALIZED. MORE IMPORTANTLY, IT IS ESSENTIAL THAT THE RULE OF LAW BE APPLIED TO THE PERPETRATORS OF INTERNATIONAL HUMAN-RIGHTS ABUSES WHEN THEY ARE FOUND WITHIN THE BORDERS OF THE UNITED STATES.

Amicus briefs supporting Samantar were filed by three former Republican Attorneys General, Meese, Barr and Thornburg, and by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Somaliland Times Carries ABC Story on civil suit in US for human rights violations against former Siad Barre Defense Minister living in Metro DC

The link is here. This is a case where we have both alleged victims (including a former Hargeisa businessman) and alleged perpetrator having been officially welcomed into US after the events in question–and one in which the US goverment, with probably quite little awareness by the American public, would have been allied with defendant in his ministerial capacity at the time. It seems to me that there would be a number of positive individual liberty/human rights implications to allowing this case to go forward–the Supreme Court should decide in the near future.