Secretary of State John Kerry came off, once again, sounding like «Johnny One Note» on the first-ever visit by an American Secretary of State to Somalia. In his short three hour meeting with Somali leaders, including Somalia’s ineffective and powerless president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, Kerry was confined to a sandbag-fortified security bivouac at Mogadishu airport because the Somali government has no control over its own capital city. Kerry emphasized to the Somali president the need for Somalia to establish a strong military to unite the country. However, Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) has been ineffective in battling against the Islamic State-aligned Al Shabaab jihadist movement, which has launched deadly terrorist attacks across the border into Kenya, and Somalia-based pirates that have preyed on shipping in surrounding international waters. The security situation in Somalia is so poor, the U.S. ambassador to Somalia, Katherine Dhanani, is resident in Nairobi because the security situation in Mogadishu prevents the U.S. from re-opening its embassy there.
The United States helped oversee the occupation of parts of Mogadishu in 2006 by troops from the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM). Most of the invading troops came from Ethiopia and Kenya. The foreign occupation of Mogadishu was aimed at dislodging the jihadist-oriented Islamist Islamic Courts Union (ICU) from power. Kerry’s three hour meeting with the rump Somali government took place under the protective military umbrella of AMISIOM, which maintains its military headquarters at Mogadishu airport.
Kerry’s hastily-arranged surprise visit to Mogadishu airport was made during his well-publicized trip to Kenya. Kerry’s emphasis on Somalia rebuilding its military while African Union peacekeepers patrol Somalia’s major population centers is in keeping with the Obama administration’s steady militarization of America’s foreign policy in Africa. To emphasize America’s military-oriented Africa policy, Kerry followed up his short visit to Mogadishu airport with a stop at the U.S. military and intelligence base at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, a major operations center for U.S. drone attacks in the region.
In actuality, the spirit of John F. Kennedy's Peace Corps, a civilian program without any ties to the U.S. military or intelligence community designed to help steer newly-emergent nations, mostly in Africa, to self-sufficiency and development, is now officially dead. The U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) now holds ultimate sway over America’s Africa policy and assistance programs. The State Department's aid program for countries like Somalia is now firmly under Pentagon control.
Kerry is not only blindsided by a militaristic foreign policy toward Africa, and particularly, Somalia’s woes, but is constrained by the State Department’s enthusiasm for the Somalia status quo. Somaliland, the former British Somaliland that declared itself independent from Somalia in 1991, should have beaten South Sudan to achieve international recognition as an independent state. However, the United States continues to insist that Somaliland reunite with the dysfunctional government in Mogadishu. And the Pentagon maintains an inordinate amount of influence over U.S. policy toward Somaliland, a state that has held democratic elections in a sea of turmoil since it declared independence in 1991 after the fall of the bloody U.S.-supported Somali dictator Mohammed Siad Barre. AFRICOM advisers are busy providing training and weapons to African Union "peacekeeping" forces in southern Somalia whose mandate is to reunite Somalia into a unitary state. The independence of Somaliland and the autonomy of Puntland, another self-governing Somali region in northern Somalia, are seen by AFRICOM and the State Department as short-lived until a strong government can be re-established in Mogadishu.
In many respects, the government of Somaliland faces the same uphill battle for recognition as the Al-Hirak movement faces in South Yemen, across the Gulf of Aden. In both cases, Somaliland and South Yemen, there is a popular desire for the restoration of the independence that was once enjoyed by both former British colonies. In the case of Somaliland, the post-colonial independence granted by Britain to «British Somaliland» in 1960, although only lasting five days prior to the country uniting with Italian Somaliland to form the Somali Republic, gives the Republic of Somaliland proclaimed in 1991 a firm legal basis under international law. However, the United States has decided that neither Somaliland nor the former People’s Republic of South Yemen, declared after Britain’s withdrawal in 1967 but terminated when the country unified with North Yemen in 1990, will ever see their independence restored. And the presence of U.S. drone bases at Camp Lemonnier and Arba Minch airport in Ethiopia are meant to reinforce to all the players on the Horn of Africa and the southern Arabian Peninsula that the United States policy in the region is backed up with the threat of stealth deadly force provided by the drones.
Somalia’s puppet president, Hassan Sheik Mohamud, is a 2001 graduate of the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding’s faith-based conflict resolution center of Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Harrisonburg is also the location of James Madison University and both campuses have maintained their share of connections to the U.S. intelligence community.
Ever since the downfall of Sad Barre, the failed Somali state has experienced the rule of leaders dubiously-appointed under Western supervision and having longstanding ties with the West. Mohamud’s predecessor, Mohamed Osman Jawari, the current Speaker of the Somali parliament, lived in Norway before moving to Somalia. His predecessor, Hassan Sheikh Sayid Abdulle, the current Somali ambassador in Rome, was a Somali army officer who graduated from the National Defense University in Washington, DC. From 2009 to 2012, the President of Somalia was Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, the former commander-in-chief of the jihadist Islamic Courts Union who switched over to the American side. Ahmed, to the satisfaction of his American overseers based at the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, appointed Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, the former First Secretary of the Somali embassy in Washington, as Prime Minister. Somalia’s prime minister from 2007 to 2009 was Nur Hassan Hussein Adde, the INTERPOL liaison officer and chief of the Somali National Police under the Siad Barre regime. Ever since the 1960s, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency trained members of the Somali police force as its agents-of-influence while the Soviet KGB held sway over most of the Somali military’s officer corps.
Essentially, John Kerry paid a visit to a regime in Mogadishu that exercises no power over Somalia and which has been propped up by one American agent-of-influence after another.
Somaliland, on the other hand, has shown itself to be resilient in the face of international non-recognition. The nation of 3.5 million people, where moderate Sufism plays a large part in religious life, is a relative oasis in a political and religious desert of turmoil. The country has two airlines that provide service between the capital Hargeisa and Djibouti, Dubai, Ethiopia, and Saudi Arabia. Somaliland has its own currency, the Somali shilling, and an impressive banking and telecommunications sector. In other words, Somaliland is the type of nation that Kerry wants to see run out of Mogadishu for all of Somalia, including Somaliland. That goal, however, is a fool’s errand and a pipe dream. It is far better to recognize Somaliland’s independence and hope that the failed nation of Somalia and all of its semi-autonomous constituent statelets such as Puntland, Jubaland, and others will use Somaliland as a role model for their own futures.
In many ways, the plight of Somaliland is similar to that of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. All three nations were born out of ruthless civil wars engineered by the West and all three have been shunned by the international community. None of these aspirant nations have seen the type of support from Washington that enabled Kosovo and South Sudan to receive international recognition. Kerry and his advisers would rather continue to support failed states like Somalia, Kosovo, and South Sudan in the interests of the State Department’s ignominious loyalty to its own status quo enthusiasts than in recognizing stark reality.