FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Tale of Somali Pirates, Ethiopia and the U.S.A.

by TOM MOUNTAIN

Pirates, warlords, Marxist guerilla turned G-20 statesman and the USA… the real story of the Somali pirates in the Horn of Africa is a tale that needs telling.

This story starts in a place calling itself Puntland, after The Land of Punt, a once great and glorious civilization in Africa’s Horn, today a forgotten legend found only in the most ancient texts. Formerly part of Somalia, Puntland can be found at the very tip of the Horn of Africa. From its shores desperadoes in small, open boats motor hundreds of miles into the Indian Ocean in search of unwary ships to hijack and hold for ransom.

Many reasons are given for what drives these pirates but the question not being asked is how they have managed to get away with extorting over a quarter of a billion dollars from the international community.
The fact remains that despite the assembled flotillas from much of the world’s navies, with unmanned drones flying over head and satellites in space watching their every move, the Somali pirates of Puntland have been almost unimpeded in collecting their loot and returning to their lairs. No Delta Force commando raids, no  cruise missiles,  not even a smart bomb, little if any attempt has been made to bring these pirates to justice. The answer to this mystery lies at the very core of US foreign policy which is based on using local gendarmes to do its dirty work, and of course, being able to distance itself from these crimes when they are exposed.

The warlords in Puntland are allied with the Ethiopian regime, lead by Meles Zenawi, a Marxist guerilla turned G-20 statesman. With both regimes built on a house of cards the USA and its western allies are afraid to place any stress on the lot in fear of it all falling down. With the Ethiopian regime gone, who is going to enforce western interests in East Africa?

The law of the jungle rules life in the Horn of Africa and in Puntland in particular. In this struggle for survival, clan connections, and loyalty, are all important. In Puntland the clans are ruled by a council of warlords, whose brigandry and opportunism has earned them the support of the murderous clique of former Marxist guerillas who today rule Ethiopia. Ethiopian P.M. Meles Zenawi and his former comrades in arms in the Tigrayan Peoples Liberation Front, one-time followers of Enver Hoxha and the Albanian Communist Party’s version of world revolution, are today enforcing Pax Americana in East Africa.
From his seat  of power in Addis Ababa, where in past days another western cop on the beat, Emperor Haile Sellasie, kept his imperial court, Meles Zenawi recently summoned his minions in Puntland. Upon the Puntland leaderships arrival in Addis Ababa press conferences were held where gestures of fealty were duly made and close ties proclaimed, but behind the scenes, fractious meetings marked by not so veiled threats marked the days. It would seem that not enough of the loot collected by the pirates of Puntland was making its way back to the regime in Addis Ababa.

Meles Zenawi, who soon after this meeting  would be on the world stage at the G-20 meeting in Toronto, needs Puntland for its Indian Ocean coastline and as a bulkhead against outbreak of Somali nationalism in Somaliland in the north and the Islamic resistance in the south. He also needs Puntland as a safe haven for the Ethiopian military, still licking its wounds after its mauling by the Islamic resistance and its withdrawal from southern Somalia.

The USA needs Meles to continue enforcing its interests in the Horn of Africa and in times past has seen their enforcers of Pax Americana collapse when domestic matters explode. Ethiopia is fighting home grown insurgencies in its southeast in the Ogaden, in the north in Tigray, in the west in Gambella and in the south west in Oromia. The defeat in Somalia at the hands of a small, poorly trained and armed rag tag bands of Islamic fighters in the southern and Mogadishu regions of Somalia has further demoralized the Ethiopian military which has never recovered from the loss of tens of thousands of its best troops a decade ago in the invasion of Eritrea.

Invasions and counterinsurgency take a large military. A large military requires a lot of money, and with a domestic economy crippled by famine, civil war and a decades-long kleptocracy, Ethiopia is one of the most aid-dependent countries in the world.

Ethiopia has about 80 million people and with its abundance of water, rich agricultural land, minerals and now even oil, should be a rich country, at the very least able to feed its own people. In real life Ethiopia’s number one hard currency earner is cut flowers, about $400 million a year. With coffee, at $250 million a year, coming in second, Ethiopia has less than $1 billion a year in foreign currency to bankroll its imports. As a result Ethiopia remains the largest recipient of western aid in sub Saharan Africa, with some years receiving almost 90 per cent of such. Ethiopia also is the recipient of about $2 billion a year in loans, and with such a small export base, it shouldn’t be surprising that most of these loans go unpaid. “Debt Forgiveness for Africa” is how it ends up being described.

What is almost unknown in the west is that Ethiopia also has the largest, best equipped army in Africa, though finding information in the western media about Ethiopia’s military has been all but impossible for over a decade now.

Ethiopia invaded its former colony Eritrea in 2000 and by its own admission lost 123,000 of its own soldiers killed in action. Ethiopia invaded Somalia at the end of 2006, something no Ethiopian leader in history had ever done, and quickly found itself attacked from all sides by the Islamic resistance. By the time Ethiopia officially “withdrew” some two years later, estimates of Ethiopian soldiers killed in action range from 20-30,000.

Today, the Ethiopian army is conducting search and destroy operations throughout the ethnically Somali Ogaden region and at the same time, during a series of the worst droughts in history, blocking all food aid to 90 per cent  of the province. Even the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders have been expelled. What is being committed can only be described as genocide and Ethiopia doesn’t want any witnesses blowing the whistle on them.

If Ethiopia can carry out genocide against its own population for years now with the unwavering support of its western funding agencies, it is little wonder that the pirates of Puntland have nothing to fear from all the naval flotillas in the world. The empire of the USA maybe crumbling but it still calls the shots when it comes to its gendarmes on the beat in East Africa, and little is being allowed to threaten an already shaky Ethiopian regime.
The tale of the pirates of Puntland may be hard to believe, but then truth is so often stranger than fiction. And with fiction passing as fact in the western media when it comes to the Horn of Africa, it behooves one and all to stop and take a second look at what is really going on in our parts.

Thomas Mountain lives in Eritrea and can be reached at  thomascmountain@yahoo.com

Thomas C. Mountain attended Punahou School for six years some half a dozen years before “Barry O’Bombers” time there. He has been living and writing from Eritrea since 2006. He can be reached at thomascmountain at g_ mail_ dot _com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

August 30, 2016
Russell Mokhiber
Matt Funiciello and the Giant Sucking Sound Coming Off Lake Champlain
Mike Whitney
Three Cheers for Kaepernick: Is Sitting During the National Anthem an Acceptable Form of Protest?
Alice Bach
Sorrow and Grace in Palestine
Sam Husseini
Why We Should All Remain Seated: the Anti-Muslim Origins of “The Star-Spangled Banner”
Richard Moser
Transformative Movement Culture and the Inside/Outside Strategy: Do We Want to Win the Argument or Build the Movement?
Nozomi Hayase
Pathology, Incorporated: the Facade of American Democracy
David Swanson
Fredric Jameson’s War Machine
Jan Oberg
How Did the West Survive a Much Stronger Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact?
Linda Gunter
The Racism of the Nagasaki and Hiroshima Bombings
Dmitry Kovalevich
In Ukraine: Independence From the People
Omar Kassem
Turkey Breaks Out in Jarablus as Fear and Loathing Grip Europe
George Wuerthner
A Birthday Gift to the National Parks: the Maine Woods National Monument
Logan Glitterbomb
Indigenous Property Rights and the Dakota Access Pipeline
National Lawyers Guild
Solidarity with Standing Rock Sioux Tribe against Dakota Access Pipeline
Paul Messersmith-Glavin
100 in Anarchist Years
August 29, 2016
Eric Draitser
Hillary and the Clinton Foundation: Exemplars of America’s Political Rot
Patrick Timmons
Dildos on Campus, Gun in the Library: the New York Times and the Texas Gun War
Jack Rasmus
Bernie Sanders ‘OR’ Revolution: a Statement or a Question?
Richard Moser
Strategic Choreography and Inside/Outside Organizers
Nigel Clarke
President Obama’s “Now Watch This Drive” Moment
Robert Fisk
Iraq’s Willing Executioners
Wahid Azal
The Banality of Evil and the Ivory Tower Masterminds of the 1953 Coup d’Etat in Iran
Farzana Versey
Romancing the Activist
Frances Madeson
Meet the Geronimos: Apache Leader’s Descendants Talk About Living With the Legacy
Nauman Sadiq
The War on Terror and the Carter Doctrine
Lawrence Wittner
Does the Democratic Party Have a Progressive Platform–and Does It Matter?
Marjorie Cohn
Death to the Death Penalty in California
Winslow Myers
Asking the Right Questions
Rivera Sun
The Sane Candidate: Which Representatives Will End the Endless Wars?
Linn Washington Jr.
Philadelphia District Attorney Hammered for Hypocrisy
Binoy Kampmark
Banning Burkinis: the Politics of Beachwear
Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Paul Buhle
In the Shadow of the CIA: Liberalism’s Big Embarrassing Moment
Rob Urie
Crisis and Opportunity
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Bernie’s Used Cars
Margaret Kimberley
Hillary and Colin: the War Criminal Charade
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Ishmael Reed
Birther Tries to Flim Flam Blacks  
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians of the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Terry Tempest Williams
Will Our National Parks Survive the Next 100 Years?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail