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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Ban Ki Moon proposal must be defeated

By Salim Lone-This is the most lawless war of our generation. All wars of aggression lack legitimacy, but no conflict in recent memory has witnessed such mounting layers of illegality as the current one in Somalia. Violations of the UN Charter and of international humanitarian law are regrettably commonplace in our age, and they abound in the carnage that the world is allowing to unfold in Mogadishu, but this war in addition has explicitly violated two Security Council resolutions. To complete the picture, one of these resolutions contravenes the Charter itself. The complete impunity with which Ethiopia and the transitional Somali government have been allowed to violate these resolutions explains the ruthlessness of the military assaults that have been underway for six weeks now. The details of the atrocities being committed were formally acknowledged by a western government for the first time when Germany, which holds the current EU presidency, had its ambassador to Somalia Walter Lindner write a tough letter, made public Wednesday, to Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf. The letter condemned the indiscriminate use of air strikes and heavy artillery in Mogadishu’s densely populated areas, the raping of women, the deliberate blocking of urgently-needed food and humanitarian supplies and the bombing of even hospitals. This is a relentless drive to terrify and intimidate civilians belonging to clans from whose ranks fighters are challenging the occupation There was a time when Security Council resolutions were hallowed for most of the world, as for example Resolution 242 demanding the return of occupied Palestine territory in exchange for peace. But in our new world order, the powerful decide which UN resolutions are passed, and then determine whether they need to be honoured. So the United States, which was violating the UN arms embargo on Somalia, rushed through another resolution in December that it thought would better serve its goals – and then proceeded to violate that one as well. The new resolution specifically forbade neighbouring countries from being part of the regional peace-keeping force the Security Council authorized for Somalia, but Ethiopia went much further than even that and unilaterally invaded, with the full covert assistance of the US, which also openly joined the war by bombing Somalia. This December resolution actually contravened the Charter itself, because it made the Security Council the aggressor and turned a clearly peaceful situation to war. The resolution linked the Islamic Courts to international terrorism and mandated a Chapter VII peace-keeping force to address the “threat to international peace and security” that Somalia posed - when by every independent account, including Chatham House’s on Wednesday, indicated that the country was experiencing its first peace and security since 1991 under the Islamic Courts Union. The resolution paved the way for the Ethiopian invasion which led to the bitter conflict that many independent analysts, including at a high-level meeting in Addis Ababa organized by Ethiopia’s Inter Africa Group, had warned would be the inevitable result. A government put in place by for force by archenemy Ethiopia was never going to hold sway. The long silence, and the refusal even now to announce measures that might arrest this civilian slaughter, marks the lowest point in the big powers’ abdication of the Responsibility to Protect mandate that was adopted, with British leadership, at a summit-level meeting of the Security Council two years ago. The world’s most impoverished people are now being ripped to shreds with no effort whatsoever to get the perpetrators to desist. A huge campaign must be launched to press western governments to end this slaughter, which is almost entirely the work of those in control of the country. The European Union warned a month ago that war crimes might have been committed in an earlier assault on the capital last month, in which the EU could be complicit because of its large-scale support for those accused of the crimes. Human Rights Watch has documented how Kenya and Ethiopia had turned this region into Africa’s own version of Guantanamo Bay, replete with of kidnappings, extraordinary renditions, secret prisons and large numbers of “disappeared,” a project that carries the “Made in America” label. Allowing free rein to such comprehensive lawlessness is a stain on all those who might have at a minimum curtailed it. Subsequently, work must begin to derail the astounding proposal by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon to be discussed by the Security Council in mid-June. Mr. Ban would like then to mount a UN-sanctioned “coalition of the willing” peace-enforcement force to restore order in Somalia – in other words, the UN would help Ethiopia and the United States achieve what their own illegal military interventions have failed in accomplishing, the entrenchment of a client regime which lacks any popular support. Such an operation would not succeed in any event, and could further threaten the turbulent Horn of Africa, which is already teetering on the brink. The Somali government is busy crying “Al Qaeda” at every turn, and offering lucrative deals to oil companies, in a bid to entice greater western support. But this war was lost long ago. In turning to Ethiopia, an arch enemy, the transitional government’s fate was sealed: the nation will not abide an Ethiopian-US occupation. Only a political solution will resolve this crisis. Africa must step up to the plate and show spine and leadership in a drive to protect its civilians, and work with Europe and the United Nations to convince the US to swiftly terminate its latest destabilizing adventure. By Salim LoneSalimlone@yahoo..com

Salim Lone, who was the spokesman for the UN mission in Iraq immediately after the 2003 invasion, is a columnist for the Daily Nation in Kenya.

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