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Mediterranean Quarterly 13.4 (2002) 62-73

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Africa and the War on Terrorism:
The Case of Somalia

Theodros Dagne


African countries overwhelmingly expressed their support for the U.S.-led efforts on the war against terrorism shortly after the 11 September attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. Some African countries are reportedly sharing intelligence and coordinating their efforts with Washington to fight terrorism in Africa, and the Bush administration has actively been courting African governments to join the U.S.-led antiterror coalition. Administration officials are pleased with the level of support they have received from African governments. In late October 2001, President Bush told more than thirty African ministers who were attending the annual African Growth and Opportunity Act Forum that "America won't forget the many messages of sympathy and solidarity sent by Africans." Bush administration officials note that Africa, with its large Muslim population, can play a pivotal role in solidifying support in Muslim and Arab countries.

Administration officials believe that Africa is a potential breeding ground for terrorism. Indeed, in recent years Africa has emerged as an important staging area, training center, and a favored place from which to target U.S. interests. 1 On 7 August 1998, mid-morning explosions killed 213 people at the U.S. embassy in Kenya, 12 of whom were U.S. citizens, and 11 people at the U.S. embassy in Tanzania. In June 1995, members of the Islamic Group, an Egyptian extremist organization, tried to assassinate President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Consequently, U.S. officials are [End Page 62] closely monitoring countries vulnerable to terrorist penetration and influence as well as countries that are sympathetic to these groups. Although there are over a dozen countries where terrorist groups have established a strong presence in Africa, administration officials are closely watching several of them, including Sudan and Somalia, more intensely. Sudan has long been considered a "rogue state" by much of the world community because of its support for international terrorism.

Since the ouster of the government of dictator Siad Barre in 1991, Somalia has been without a central government. Efforts to bring stability to the country in the Horn of Africa have failed repeatedly. Warlords and political factions control territories, and factional fighting continues unabated. In 1991, the Somali National Movement declared the northwest region independent and renamed it Somaliland. In the northeast, in Puntland, another group is in charge. In the south, a number of political actors and warlords claim legitimacy, but no single group is in firm control of the region. In 2000, after several months of talks in neighboring Djibouti, a number of Somali political figures formed the Transitional National Government (TNG). The TNG appointed Abdulkassim Salad Hassan president and Ali Khalif Galaydh prime minister. Some members of the international community have expressed support for the TNG, but none have recognized the fragile government. It is opposed by a number of groups in Somalia. The Somaliland government is also not recognized by the international community, despite the relative stability in that part of the country. (See figure 1.)

Several Somali groups, as well as the government in Somaliland, are concerned about the spread of Islamic fundamentalism in Somalia. In the mid-1990s, Islamic courts began to emerge in parts of the country, especially in the capital, Mogadishu. These courts functioned as a government and often enforced decisions by using their own Islamic militia; members of the al Ittihad militia reportedly provided the bulk of the security forces. A number of Somali groups and outside observers believe that the TNG is dominated by Islamic fundamentalist groups and that members of the al Ittihad security forces are being integrated into the new government's security forces. 2 The TNG has repeatedly denied any links to terrorist organizations and Islamic

Figure 1

Somali Groups and Key Players

Transitional National Government

Founded in 2000 after the Arta Conference in Djibouti

Leader: President Abdulkassim Salad Hassan

Headquarters: Mogadishu

Government of Somaliland

Declared independence in 1991

Leader: President Mohamed Egal

Headquarters: Northwest Somalia (Hargeysa...


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