African Union soldiers in Somalia
Nairobi/Mogadishu – The African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has admitted its troops opened fire on a group of civilians in the capital Mogadishu, killing two and injuring seven.
According to a statement released late Tuesday, an AMISOM convoy leaving the airport “accidentally” opened fire on a group of civilians near a United Nations compound. “We are not certain whether the soldiers were responding to a perceived threat to their own safety,” Force Commander Major General Nathan Mugisha said in the statement.
“However, all the soldiers involved have been … taken into a military custody while a full inquiry is launched into the precise circumstances that took place.” “AMISOM takes its responsibility for the safety of civilians in Mogadishu very seriously, and apologises for the fatalities that have occurred today,” he added. The statement was a rare acknowledgment that AU fire had killed civilians.
AMISOM has long been accused of indiscriminate shelling and firing that led to the deaths of non-combatants, but has always denied such actions. Ugandan and Burundian peacekeepers are in Mogadishu to prop up the weak Western-backed government, which is under siege from Islamist insurgent group al-Shabaab and its allies. More than 21,000 people, largely civilians, have died since the insurgency kicked off in early 2007. Somalia has been embroiled in conflict since the ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.
Ambassador Michael Battle
The new scramble for Africa
The past few years have seen a dramatic uptick in American diplomatic
efforts in Africa, which has coincided with a decisive shift in
political rhetoric about the continent. At first glance this might seem
like a positive development, reflecting a more progressive attitude
toward what has long been considered an unimportant global backwater.
But a closer look reveals that American diplomacy in Africa is less
about serving the good of African people than it is about securing the
interests of private American capital. Nowhere has this been more
flagrantly clear than on the lips of Michael Battle, the US ambassador
to the African Union.
First, a bit about Ambassador Battle. He received a master’s in divinity
at Trinity College and a PhD in ministry at Howard University, and
served at the Interdenominational Theological Centre in Atlanta until he
was nominated to his current post by President Obama in 2009. Battle’s
position at the AU is new and little known outside diplomatic circles.
The US only established a dedicated ambassadorship to the African Union
during the Bush administration in 2006. This mission — known as USAU —
is the first of its kind among non-African states, and is designed to
facilitate US operations in Africa as a more “efficient” and “effective”
alternative to bilateral relationships with individual African states.
This month I had the opportunity to attend a speech delivered by
Ambassador Battle during his visit to the Miller Centre of Public
Affairs at the University of Virginia. I noticed a new diplomatic
rhetoric right at the outset of his presentation. First, he referred to
Africa as a continent of “riches” and “abundance”, flagging a notable
departure from earlier, longstanding representations of Africa as
“desolate” and “impoverished”. Paralleling this point, Battle spoke at
length about shifting US policy in Africa toward corporate “investment”
and “partnership” and away from public “aid” and “assistance”. Continue reading