dimanche, janvier 21, 2007

Actualité - Protesters Denounce Illegal Occupation of Somalia

On January 20, several hundred people protested in front of the US consulate in Toronto to demand the immediate withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from Somalia. “Somalia should not be a theatre of proxy wars and the hidden agenda of Ethiopia and its American allies”, stated Shukria Dini, an organizer with the Coalition of Concerned Somali Canadians (CCSC), the group that organized the demonstration. The CCSC emphasizes the illegality of the occupation, which violates the principle of state sovereignty enshrined in the UN Charter, as well as UN Resolution 1725, which forbids neighbouring states from deploying troops to Somalia. The occupation is also a violation of the African Union Charter. Dini emphasizes the gendered impact of the occupation, citing reports of Ethiopian soldiers raping women in Somali towns and villages.

CCSC demands an immediate end to US diplomatic and military support for the occupation, and a halt to US bombing of Somalia. The coalition also demands that the Canadian government join the international community in denouncing this illegal aggression against Somalia.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has not made any official statements about Ethiopia's occupation of Somalia.

The rally included speakers from the Trade Unions Against the War, the Canadian Arab Federation, the Coalition Against Israeli Aparteid, the Canadian Peace Alliance and the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War, as well as an anti-occupation coalition of people from one of Ethiopia’s largest ethnic groups, Oromos Against the Ethiopian Invasion of Somalia.

Acting with US support and funding, Ethiopia invaded Somalia in the last days of 2006, replacing the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) with a government led by US-backed warlords. The ICU, which took power in Somalia six months before the Ethiopian invasion, were credited with restoring stability for the first time since civil war tore the country apart in the early 1990s. The ICU had been criticized for imposing unpopular religious rules in the country, but remained popular for its stabilizing effect; during its brief reign, the Mogadishu airport had been opened for the first time in over a decade.

Former CNN and BBC producer Tim Lister reported that "When the Islamic Courts were expelled, some residents of the capital were relieved that strict Sharia law, which had forbidden movies and televised soccer and the chewing of the narcotic qat leaf, was gone. But for most, apprehension was the dominant sentiment."

Last week, the Washington Post reported that US special forces had participated in the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia.

Immediately following the invasion, US-backed warlords staged a crackdown on media outlets, including one founded by Somali refugees who lived in Canada but who returned in 1999.

US planes bombed Somalia several times, claiming to target Islamic terrorists. A reported 70 people were killed by the air strikes, with hundreds injured. Hundreds of families have fled the area of the bombings, fearing more attacks.

"The answer to terrorism is stable, democratic states, not rule by army warlords," Africa Action director Nii Akuetteh told the New York radio and television show Democracy Now! "Some of these people that the US has armed are actually terrorists, so even if the US trying to protect its interests in the region, it is going about it in a terrible way... It seems to me it will make the situation much worse."

Speaking on the same program, Salim Lone, the former spokesperson for the UN mission in Iraq, said that "The US has been trying for many months now to try to undermine the Islamic Courts Union. They have been violating the existing UN resolutions since 1992, which forbid any armed assistance to Somalia... the US has been violating the arms embargo, over the UN and using private contractors to funnel arms to the warlords."

In 1993, Canadian troops operating in Somalia tortured and killed Shidane Arone, a 16-year-old Somali, and tortured several other Somalis, many of them children. The ensuing scandal was known as the Somalia Affair, but a commission charged with investigating the incidents was shut down before it finished investigating. No one was ever officially held responsible.

It is estimated that 100,000 Somalis now live in Canada.

(The Dominion - Isabel Macdonald)

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