US blamed over Somalia policy

President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, of the Alliance for Re-Liberation of Somalia speaks during the opening ceremony of peace talks in Djibouti on January 25. Photo/FILE

ADDIS ABABA, Monday

The United States has turned a blind eye to abuses by its allies in Somalia and worsened the situation there by reducing a complex conflict to a front in its “war on terror”, a leading human rights group said.

US-based Human Rights Watch said in a letter to African Union Commission chairman Jean Ping that the policies of many governments had been destructive in Somalia.

War on terror

“US policy on Somalia has been particularly unhelpful, treating Somalia’s complex realities as a theatre in the ‘war on terror’ while turning a blind eye to rampant abuses by the Ethiopian and transitional government forces,” HRW said in the letter that was handed to reporters at an AU summit on Sunday.

The letter was sent to Mr Ping late last month.

US ally Ethiopia sent its army into Somalia to topple an Islamist administration in Mogadishu and rescue the Western-backed transitional government at the end of 2006.

A million refugees

At least 10,000 civilians were killed in an ensuing Iraq-style insurgency that also created more than a million refugees and fomented piracy in shipping lanes off the coast.

The Ethiopians withdrew last month and Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, a moderate Islamist, who led the sharia courts government overthrown by them, was elected on Saturday as Somali president, raising hopes that a way can be found out of the conflict that has torn Somalia for 18 years.

Mr Ahmed has made positive noises towards the new US administration of President Barack Obama, saying Washington’s policy towards Somalia was positive and honest.

Serious crimes

“America has become a force which supports peace,” he told an Egyptian newspaper in an interview published on Sunday.

Human Rights Watch said all sides in the conflict over the last two years had committed war crimes and human rights abuses.

It accused Europe of sending aid to Somali police without insisting on accountability for serious crimes and said Eritrea had provided arms to fighters in Somalia as part of a proxy war against Ethiopia. (Reuters)

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