A conflict between Somali unionists and secessionists was spawned by a U.S. attempt to acquire a military base. War and a humanitarian crisis are the end result.
In the February 8th, 2023, edition of Black Agenda Report, I wrote about a brutal war in Northern Somalia fueled by America’s quest for an imperial base. The struggle is between secessionists who want to split Somalia based on 19th-century colonial borders and unionists who are yearning for a unified Somali Republic.
The secessionists are in favor of the American military base. The unionists vehemently oppose it. The casualties on both sides are staggering.
The epicenter of the violence is the city of Las Anod, in the state of Sool. The violence is raging for the 21st straight day as of this analysis.
Over 100 people are confirmed dead among the unionists. According to the unionist civilian defense unit’s spokesperson, many are noncombatant civilians. Most succumb to indiscriminate artillery shelling by the secessionist forces. The wounded cannot be accurately counted as the relentless shelling continues.
Casualties are hard to verify among secessionists. The Hargeisa regime makes an extraordinary effort to hide figures of dead and wounded. Hargeisa is the de facto capital of the secessionists.
One eyewitness who traveled on the highway connecting Oog, where secessionists set up a command center and the city of Burcio, described a bloodbath. The unimpeded bloodstain on the road between the two cities indicates the high number of wounded and corpses being transported according to one eyewitness.
Tens of thousands of Las Anod residents fled. Some estimates put the newly displaced population at 100,000 to 200,000.
The pregnant wife of one of my college classmates is among the displaced. She went into early labor and gave birth on the outskirts of Las Anod.
He is an able man and can provide for his family but there are tens of thousands of displaced people who do not have access to necessities. Many were day laborers in Las Anod with nothing more than clothes in their bags. It is a huge humanitarian catastrophe.
Secessionists bear the sole responsibility for the conflict and displacement. The destruction of telecommunication towers, hospitals, drinking water facilities, and other public infrastructure made life unbearable for the remaining residents of Las Anod.
While casualties are high and the humanitarian situation is dire, the secessionists are amassing more militia on the outskirts of the city.
A spokesperson for unionist civil defense units told local media that heavy weapons including tanks are still being brought in.
Some of America’s allies in the region have joined the conflict in support of secessionist aggression. Djibouti is the most visible thus far.
Djibouti is a tiny one-city country with just over a million people in the Horn of Africa. Djibouti is an independent country and the majority of its population is ethnically Somali. The emergency of this tiny nation was a negotiated settlement between Somalia and France which colonized the territory until 1977.
Two men have ruled Djibouti since its independence. Hassan Gouled Aptidon, an independence fighter, ruled the country from 1977 to 1999. The current dictator, Ismail Omar Guelleh, resumed power after Aptidon died in 1999. Guelleh remained a ruler since.
Guelleh is a benefactor of America’s “War on Terror” after September 11th, 2001. America ignored Guelleh’s crimes including rampant corruption and dismal human rights abuses in exchange for access to infrastructure and other easements.
Djibouti had been designated as a strategic partner by Pentagon planners. Djibouti port has been a vital docking station to resupply America's navy fleet patrolling the Gulf of Aden since 9/11.
The port in Djibouti is overflowing with commercial activities and no longer meets US Navy security protocols for large carriers. Hence, Pentagon planners see the military base in Berbera, Somalia as a crucial site to support rapidly expanding military operations in the Horn of Africa.
Guelleh is adjusting to America’s increased military presence in the region. He is betting on secessionists based in Hargeisa in order to influence the proposed base in Berbera.
Guelleh had been providing diplomatic support to the secessionists for years now. Secessionist leaders often travel overseas with Djibouti diplomatic passports including when visiting America.
Guelleh decided to directly support the secessionist’s brutal attacks on Las Anod. A Djibouti opposition group published a detailed press release on February 8th, 2023. It documented Guelleh’s commitment to “direct support on the battlefield (supply of arms, carrying out drone strikes on Laascaanood(sic)”. Drones flying over the city had been spotted by residents.
On Sunday, February 5th, 2023, an airplane from Burgas, Bulgaria landed in Hargeisa. Sources inside Guelleh’s regime confirmed the plane carried weapons and ammunition.
Somalia is under a United Nation arms embargo. The source confirmed weapons were purchased under Djibouti’s name.
Secessionist forces destroying Las Anod are equipped with old Soviet Union artillery. Only a few countries such as Bulgaria manufacture ammunition for such weapons.
This is a repeat of a similar arrangement in 2006 when Ethiopia Defense Forces (EDF) acting as an American proxy invaded Somalia and captured the capital Mogadishu. Ethiopia scoured the world for ammunition for its old Soviet weapons.
A sanctioned North Korea was the only country with sufficient stockpiles. The U.S. gave a waiver to Ethiopia to make the purchase.
We’re witnessing a similar playbook over 15 years later. This time Djibouti acting as a proxy of the U.S. is making purchases for a Somali group to evade the UN arms embargo.
It’s unlikely that the U.S. did not know about the February 5th shipment from Bulgaria. The plane carrying weapons stopped in several countries allied with the U.S. including Turkey, Egypt, and Sudan before delivering the payload in Hargeisa.
Djibouti is clearly providing direct support to the secessionists. The commander of the secessionist militia Nuh Ismail Tani confirmed that he was fighting on behalf of Djibouti during a presser on February 18th, 2023. Tani accused civilian unionist defense units in Las Anod of being terrorists and a threat to the Horn of Africa.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The unionists are mostly civilians who are yearning for a unified Somali Republic. Tani is trying to wrap himself around the old “War on Terror” mantra to solicit more American support through Djibouti.
U.S. covert support for secessionists in Somalia is the latest involvement. Efforts spectacularly failed once again. It led to hundreds of deaths, many wounded and nearly 200,000 people displaced.
The American Ambassador to Somalia was scheduled to meet with leaders of secessionists in Hargeisa last week. A lower level embassy staff met with secessionists instead. Communication by the embassy about the meeting was vague and the carnage of death and displacement continued. It will continue as long as the U.S. insists upon attempting to exercise control in Somalia.
Jamal Abdulahi is a Technology Entrepreneur and longtime civic leader. Follow him @fuguni.