Hands off Somalia!

(Published in Lalkar

September witnessed a bloody attack by between ten and fifteen Al-Shabaab militants upon Nairobi’s prestigious Westgate Mall, a partly Israeli-owned complex which offers the country’s elite and well-heeled tourists the “supreme experience of shopping“. The rescue operation stretched over several days and concluded with a death toll estimated at over seventy, with many wounded and unaccounted for.

The attack appeared to have been meticulously planned, with some reports suggesting that machine guns had earlier been smuggled into the shopping centre and stashed in a shop rented for that purpose. By contrast, the response of state security was marked by incompetence and corruption, with different spokesmen unable to agree a consistent narrative as events unfolded. The collapse of three storeys of the Mall, causing many of the casualties, was at first attributed to the militants burning mattresses in order to create a diversion, then later to a suicide bomb. Unofficial reports disagreed, suggesting that in fact the collapse had been caused by the security forces firing rocket-propelled grenades indoors. Further doubt was thrown on the competence and integrity of the security forces when it emerged that, even as the siege dragged on, thousands of dollars worth of jewellery and electronic equipment was being looted by persons unknown.

This act of terror attracted a good deal of lurid media attention and handwringing. What was missing from most coverage however was any serious attempt to explain how such an event came about in the first place. The impression given was that this destruction had come out of a clear blue sky, a completely random and motiveless outrage perpetrated by evil Muslim bombers against an unsuspecting civilian population.

The moral outrage which greeted the slaughter of three or four score unfortunate Nairobi shoppers contrasted starkly with the resounding silence from the same quarters concerning the many thousands of Somali men, women and children who have died, and continue to die, as a result of over thirty years of imperialist meddling in the Horn of Africa, culminating in the current occupation and attempted break-up of Somalia by Kenyan, Ethiopian and other African forces acting shamefully on behalf of the British, US and French imperialist powers. Continue reading