Who’s in Somalia? And why?


Below is a list of countries that have deployed forces or provide military support to troops on the ground in Somalia, and some of the reasons behind the military action.


Kenya’s invasion was reportedly to secure its northern border and to protect its coastal resorts from rebel militias. The operation has since grown into a medium-term occupation force, partly to establish Kenya’s military credentials in a dangerous neighbourhood.


Uganda’s military aspirations in the region rival Ethiopia’s, despite its much smaller army. Its strategy draws revenues from the UN peacekeeping budgets and US military, and reinforces Museveni’s ambition to become president of the East African Community.


Ethnically Somali, neighbouring Djibouti may have the most compelling security reason to intervene. President Omar Guelleh’s government, which faces growing opposition at home, is offering more than 5,000 troops to the AU force.


Ethiopian interventions in Somalia date back to the 19th century and its Somali-speaking Ogaden region remains in dispute. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi sees Somalia as a critical regional security issue with capacity to cause instability in Ethiopia’s south-east. Meles works closely with US counter-terrorism forces, confirming Ethiopia’s role as regional policeman.


President Isaias Afewerki’s policy in Somalia above all reflects his hostility to Ethiopia’s government and suspicion of western military operations in the region. Eritrea supports the Al-Shabaab militia in its battle against the Transitional Federal Government, which it sees as an incompetent proxy for Ethiopia’s and the USA’s interests.


Prime Minister David Cameron’s hosting of the London conference on Somalia on 23 February is mainly because of regional and international security concerns: the de-stabilising effects of Somalia on three important markets, and the possibility that British-based affiliates of Al-Shabaab could launch terrorist attacks on the Olympic games in London in July.


The US has focused on killing or arresting Al Qaeda operatives and local affiliates in Somalia. The Pentagon sees Somalia as a back office for Al Qaeda operations in the Middle East and its pirates as a serious threat to international shipping. The State Department pushes a more holistic strategy to boosting African Union peacekeeping and regional economic cooperation.


France uses its base in Djibouti to protect its strategic interests in the shipping lanes in the Gulf of Aden, and to monitor security in the Horn and the Arabian peninsula. Total has interests in maritime oil reserves along Somalia’s coast and other French companies have stakes in the rapid growth of East Africa’s regional market.


Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s family visit to Mogadishu in August 2011 was a diplomatic masterstroke, establishing Ankara as a key backer of Somali recovery and projecting Turkish interests in north-east Africa and the Gulf, whose states meddle in Somalia.


After working with Eritrea to support Al-Shabaab, Qatar is looking for other Islamist proxies to back in Somalia to extend its diplomatic clout. Its aim to bankroll development projects and take on a mediator role positions it as rival to Turkey.


source: the Africa Report