Preserving American Security Ties to Somalia

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Preserving American Security Ties to Somalia

December 26, 1989 21 min read Download Report
Michael Johns
Former Policy Analyst, The Heritage Foundation
Michael Johns is a former policy analyst for African and Third World Affairs at The Heritage Foundation.

(Archived document, may contain errors)

I C 745 December 26,1989 PRESERmG AMERICAN SEcURlTy TIES TO SOMALIA INTRODUCTION Trouble is looming in Somalia, the Horn of Africa's easternmost country as political support for its regime appears to be eroding.This is creating problems f or the United States.

Though the Somali government of President Mohammed Siad Barre was once a Soviet client, since 1977 it has been one of America's few allies in the region. Somalia granted the U.S. access to Somali military bases and has served as a ba lance to Soviet military involvement in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula Rebel Gains. Though Siad still enjoys strong political support from much of his native Marehan ethnic clan, based in south-central Somalia, his popularity outside these a r eas has diminished greatly. The Ethiopian-supported Somali National Movement (SNM) rebels, who have fought the Siad government since 1982, reportedly have taken substantial control of the country's north em territories with the exception of Hargesia, the r egional capital, and four garrison towns. But early this month even Hargesia came under rebel attack And last month the rebels claim to have captured Galcaio, a town in central Somalia. Even in the capital, Mogadishu, support for Siad is diminishing.The c al movement, the Somali Union Congress.

Hawieh clan, the largest in Mogadishu, recently formed an opposition politi- F 1 p. 10; and Agence Fmnce-Parse Intensive Offensive Reported December 7,1989, Foreign Broadcasf Information Service (FBIS Robert Dowden S omalia is disintegrating into anarchy 77ze Independent (England), October 10,1989, Siad is also losing stature in the international community because of his regimes alleged human rights abuses. A U.S. State Department report this August charges that the S o mali Armed Forces appears to have engaged in a widespread, systematic and extremely violent assault on unarmed civilians and a September 1988 Amnesty International report contains similar char ges? Additionally, Siads advancing age (he is believed to be o ver 80) and questionable health have led even his trusted inner circle of advisors openly to discuss a change of leadership.

Washington not only in the Horn of Africa, but also in the Indian Ocean, Red Sea, and Persian Gulf. Siad grants American warplanes landing rights at air ports and American warships use of port facilities at Berbera, a northern Somali port town on the Gulf of Aden, and at Mogadishu, the countrys capi tal, which borders the Indian Ocean.

Access to these facilities have played an import ant role since 1980 in American military plans to respond to crises in the Middle East, Southwest Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa.The airstrip at Berbera, constructed by the Soviets in 1976, is over three miles long, making it among Africas longest.

During t he Iran hostage crisis in 1979, Jimmy Carter viewed the Somali bases as one of the few potential launching points for American forces attempting to rescue the American hostages inTehran. The facilities also counter the Soviet air and naval facilities in E thiopia, SouthYemen, the Socotra island off the South Yemen coast, and on the Dahlak Archipelago off the Red Sea coast of Ethiopia.

The loss of American access to Berbera and Mogadishu would diminish greatly U.S. access to the region, and tilt the regional power balance substan tially in favor of the Soviet Union.

Washington and Mogadishu are at the lowest point in Siads 20-year reign.To hold back the rebels, Siad needs outside military assistance. But American military aid, which amounted to $7.5 million in 1987, was suspended in July 1988 because of Somalias poor human rights record.This has forced the Somali leader to shop the globe for military equipment, even, it seems, re questing assistance from Libya and the Soviet Union. Also because of human rights abuses, the U.S. cancelled a proposed military exercise wi t h Somalia called Bright Star, scheduled to have taken place last month As it has turned out, Washingtons decision to trim its strategic and military cooperation with the Somali government has done nothing to improve human Critical Bases. Siads political w e akness presents a dilemma for Shopping the Globe. To make matters worse, relations between 2 Robert Gersony, Why Somalis Flee: Synthesis of Accounts of Conflict Experience in Notthem Somali Refiigees, Displaced Persons and Others Bureau for Refugee Progra m s, Department of State, August 1989 p. 60; and Sotnalia: A Long-term Human Rights Crisis (New York: Amnesty International, September 1988 2 rights in Somalia. As recently as July, Somali troops reportedly opened fire on demonstrators in Mogadishu, killing dozens? With the govern ment facing an arms shortage, the SNM has been able to attack areas in Somalia previously at peace, thus endangering political stability in the nation and forcing the government into a state of desperation. Human rights continue to be vio lated and peace appears to be further away than ever. Americas policy of suspending strategic and military cooperation with Somalia, therefore, has failed to achieve its objec tives. Countering Moscow.

Because the Soviets are deeply entrenched mili tarily in the Horn of Africa, the U.S. needs some military presence to counter them. Somalia is one of the few ap propriate locations for this. If Siad falls, how ever, a new regime could deny America access to the Somali facilities.To prevent this, Washi ngton should modify its policy of disengaging entirely from Somalia. The Bush Administration should work to ensure that SOlMALIA Official Name Somali Democratic Republic.

Area 246,000 square miles, about the size of Population 5.4 million.

Capital Mogadishu (estimated population Ethnic groups 98.8% Somali; 1.2% Arab California 700,000 and Asian. Major clans: Darod, Digil, Dir Hawieh, Isaaq, and Rahanwein.

Religion 99% Muslim.

Work force -About 2.2 million: Agriculture 82 Industry and commerce 3%.

Government 5%.

Natural resources Undetermined quantity of various minerals, including petroleum.

Agriculture products Livestock, bananas corn, sorghum, sugar.

GDP per capita (1987 267 Infant mortality rate 145/1,0

00. Life expectancy 47 years.

U.S. trade with Somalia Imports from Somalia (1988 1.4 million.

Exports to Somalia (1988 27.1 million.

Somali Trade with the World Total exports (1987 Total imports (1987 418 million 95 million Source: Sontafia: Backgroutid Nofes, U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Public Affairs, April 1986, p.1. and World Tables (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkiris University Press, 1989 p. 509, World Bank sources; and Foreign Economic Trends and Their Implication s for the United States, U.S. Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration, prepared by U.S. Embassy Mogadishu, August 1988, p. 2 3 The human rights group, Africa Watch, estimated that as many as 450 people were killed in this lighting, but g overnment estimates were that the fatalities did not exceed

23. Jane Perlez, Report for U.S. Says Somali Army Killed 5,000 Unarmed Civilians, 77ie New Yo& Tirites, September 9,1989, p. 5 3 Somalia does not fall into hostile hands and prod Siad to improve his human rights record and to move toward free elections To achieve these objectives, the U.S. should Revive the military assistance program with Somalia.

Urge the Somali government to upgrade security at the military facilities in Berbera and Mogadishu to defend them from attacks from the Somali National Movement and other insurgents.

Extend the access agreement, first signed in 1980, to the Berbera and Mogadishu facilities when it comes up for renewal in 1990.

Promote reconciliation talks between the Somali government and the Somali National Movement the United Somali Congress, and other opposition groups.

Open contact with the Somali opposition to encourage them to ac cept a cease fire and initiate talks with the government.

Demand that Ethiopian le ader Mengistu Haile Mariam cease his military support for the Somali insurgents FROM COLONIALISM TO INDEPENDENCE Located in eastern Africa, Somalias coastline borders the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden. Before achieving independence in 1960, Somalia wa s a colony of both Britain and Italy, each of which controlled separate regions of the country. Britain controlled what was called British Somaliland, now north em Somalia; Italy controlled what was called Italian Somaliland, now southern Somalia. British- c ontrolled areas remained under Londons rule from 1886 until June 1940, when Italian troops, following their declaration of war on Britain, overran British garrisons. As part of its military operations against the Italian East African Empire in 1941, Brita i n captured all of Somalia.The United Nations General Assembly ruled in November 1949 that Italian Somaliland should be placed under an international trusteeship for ten years, with Italy as the administering authority. Following the ten-year trusteeship, Italian Somaliland was to be granted independence.

Britain, meanwhile, took steps to prepare for independence of British Somaliland. Legislative assembly elections were held in British Somaliland in February 1960, and the new legislature on April 6,1960 ca lled unanimously for independence from Britain and declared its intention to unite with inde pendent Italian Somaliland. British Somaliland was granted independence on June 26,1960, and five days later, it joined Italian Somaliland to form an inde pendent nation, the Somali Republic 4 MODERN SOMALIA Somalia borders the African nations of Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya. With its Horn of Africa location, Somalia is Africa's gateway to the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Peninsula As such, Somalia has been one of the few African nations whose trade and travel contact with the Arabian peninsula dates back centuries. Somalia is a member of the Arab League and (with almost all of its citizens professed Muslims) the Organization of the Islamic Conference OIC two inter national organizations dominated predominately by Middle Eastern nations. It is also, understandably, a member of the Organization of African Unity (OAU).

Somalia's 5.4 million people inhabit a nation about the size of California making it one of the more sparsely populated nations in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The country lacks modern transportation and communication networks which has discouraged foreign investment.There is no rail system, and a large portion of the country lacks phone service.

Ethnic Tensions . Unique for Africa, Somalia is composed of only one eth nic group, the Somalis, that share a common language (Somali) and religion Muslim They are divided into six major clans, the Darod, Digil, Dir Hawieh, Ishaak, and Rahanwein, that have traditionally been rivals. With the independence of Somalia, these tribe-like clans were forced to govern and live side by side, causing ethnic tension.

Like its Horn of Africa neighbors, especially Ethiopia and Sudan, Somalia is extremely poor. It lacks many of the nat ural resources, such as copper diamonds, gold, and manganese, found in abundance elsewhere in Africa. Its work force is largely unskilled, working almost exclusively in agriculture, fish ing, and livestock. Though petroleum exploration has been undertaken , the results have been disappointing. Sound economic statistics are hard to come by in Somalia.The U.S. Department of Commerce's most recent analysis of the Somali economy reports that for 1987 gross domestic product per capita was $267 (compared, for exa m ple, to $368 for Kenya 950 for Nigeria, and 1,739 for Mexico In 1988, Somalia exported $1.4 million worth of products to the U.S mainly soybeans, corn oil, wheat, and corn meal. The U.S. ex ported $27.1 million worth of products to Somalia, mainly instrum e nts, ap pliances, and food products Nationalist Parties. Somalia adopted its first national constitution in June 1961, providing for a European-style parliamentary democracy. Political par ties were numerous and based on the different clans.The most promi n ent were the Somali National League, the United Somali Party, and the Somali Youth League. Though nationalist sentiments were strong, tension developed between the clans in the northern and southern territories. Political divisions 4 4 "Foreign EconomicTr ends and Their Implications for the United States U.S. Department of Commerce International Trade Administration, prepared by U.S. Embassy Mogadishu, August 1988, p. 2; also, US.

Department of Commerce sources 5 also developed between those nationalist par ties such as the Somali Youth League that wanted to bring territories in Ethiopia and Kenya inhabited by ethnic Somalis, under one unified Somali state, and the so-called moder nists, represented by the Somali National Congress, a coalition of former memb e rs of the Somali National League and the Somali Youth League, who were more concerned with conomic modernization and improving relations with other African nations One Somali political party, the Somali Youth League (SYL won enough support from the divers e clans to assume political power in Somalia in 1967.

The SWs party leader, Mohamed Ibrahim Egal, was elected prime minister in 19

67. He maintained Somalias democratic political structure and worked to foster closer relations with neighboring Ethiopia and Kenya democracy ended in October 1969 when Somalias army and police, led by Major General Mohamed Siad Barre, overthrew the gover n ment in a blood less coup.The new regime governed through a 20-member Supreme Revolu tionary Council (SRC with Siad as chairman. And in an apparent effort to obtain military and political support from Moscow, Siad announced in Oc tober 1970 that he was a socialist.

The U.S. was strongly allied at the time with Emperor Haile Selassies government in neighboring Ethiopia, and Siads rise to power offered the Soviets an opportunity for greater influence in the Horn of Africa. The Soviets embraced Siad and signe d a treaty of friendship and cooperation with Somalia in 19

74. In the three following years, the Soviet Union sent an es timated $435 million in military support to Somalia.

In the mid-l970s, Siad began training a rebel movement in the Ogaden region of eastern Ethiopia called the Western Somali Liberation Front WSLF The Ogaden which is populated predominately by ethnic Somalis was viewed by Scad as part of a greater Somalia. Siad hoped that by foment ing unrest in the Ogaden, he could someday detach it f rom Ethiopia and annex it to Somalia 1977 to support the WSLF in their fight against Ethiopia.The same month however, in a startling reversal of policy, the Soviet Union withdrew its sup PO-rt of Siad and began sending military assistance to Ethiopias new leader Mengistu Haile Mafiam, who bok power following a two and a half year struggle within the coalition that had toppled Emperor Haile Selassie in Sep tember 1974.This dramatic shift in Soviet policy was due in part to MOSCOWS calculation that it could t ake advantage of the increasingly tense relations be tween Washington and Mengistu, spurred primarily by Mengistus human rights violations. Another reason for the switch was Mengistus more sincere ideological commitment to Marxism-Leninism f Socialist Reg i me. Egals rule lasted only two years. Constitutional Strategic Prize. Siad ordered his forces to invade the Ogaden region in July 5 Background Notes: Somalia, U.S. Department of State, April 1986 p 4. I 6 Perhaps most important, in the choice between alig n ing with Ethiopia or Somalia, the Soviets simply viewed Ethiopia as the greater strategic prize as it surely is. Soviet military presence in Ethiopia gave Moscow access to the Red Sea at ports only 200 miles from oil-rich Saudi Arabia. The Soviets also in h erited existing American military facilities, like the communications cen ter in Asmara, near the Red Sea! Since 1977, Moscow clearly has valued its strategic alliance with Mengistu, sending Ethiopia some 7 billion of military assistance Breaking With Cub a . Following Moscow's embrace of Mengistu, Siad ex pelled all Soviet advisers in November 1977 and abrogated the friendship agreement with the Soviet Union.That month, too, because of Cuba's exten sive involvement in the Ogaden War, Siad also broke diploma t ic ties with Cuba? Without Soviet military backing, Somalia's forces were forced to retreat from the Ogaden in March 1978, though the WSLF continues to carry out guerrilla activity in the region to this day THE US. AND SOMALIA Upon breaking with Moscow in 1977, Siad turned to the U.S. for military assistance, though the U.S. was initially reluctant to help him because of his support for the Ogaden insurgents in Ethiopia. Eventually, however, the U.S became convinced of the need to counter Soviet involvemen t in the region and responded favorably to Siad's request for closer relations As a result, the U.S. opened an Agency for International Development ATD) office in Somalia in 19

78. Current AID programs include a livestock quarantine station designed to bre ed healthy cattle, management training programs and health services. AID also provides the Somali government with advice on export competitiveness.The U.S. has provided Somalia with $300 million in economic assistance since 1985, most of which has been us e d for economic development, food aid, and management training programs U.S. Military Aid. The U.S. in August 1980 signed an agreement with Siad giving the U.S. access to airfields and dock facilities in Berbera and Mogadishu.The same year the U.S. began p r oviding Somalia with military as sistance. Since then, the U.S. has given Somalia $133.5 million in such aid, in addition to military training. U.S. lethal military aid to Somalia has been mainly rifles and other small weapons. When Ethiopian forces invad ed Somalia in summer 1982, the U.S. airlifted military supplies to help Somalia defend its territory.

Relations between Washington and Mogadishu were close from 1982 until last year, though military aid for Somalia was cut from around $25 million a 6 Right s in Ethiopia Heritage Foundation Buckgrounder No. 692, February 23,1989 7 Diplomatic relations between Cuba and Somalia were just reestablished this year For a fuller discussion of Ethiopia's strategic value, see Michael Johns A U.S. Strategy to Foster H u man Cuba's Fidel Castro sent some 22,OOO troops to the Ogaden to assist Ethiopia in its fight against Somalia 7 year to $5 million a year in 1987 because of across-the-board reductions in the Pentagons African military assistance budget. Siad visited the U.S. in 19

82. Along with Zaire, Somalia has been viewed widely as one of the U.S.3 closest allies in Africa As reports of significant human rights violations by the Siad regime reached the West, the U.S. suspended its lethal military ,aid for Somalia in J uly 1988, and $21 million in economic assistance was redirected to other African countries this August. Another reason for the suspension was U.S. un happiness with Siads refusal to talk with the SNM rebels. Siad since has ex pressed willingness to talk u n conditionally with the SNM has released most political prisoners, and has appointed a commission to provide recommenda tions on a return to democracy, but the U.S. ban on military aid to Somalia has not been lifted Staying Engaged. As a result, U.S. polic y toward Somalia is in 1imbo.There is significant congressional opposition to reactivating U.S. military and economic assistance to Somalia, though both the Pentagon and State Depart ment reportedly have expressed support for renewed assistance. We dont wa nt to give a signal of withdrawal, a State Department spokesman com mented in October 19

88. We want to stay engaged.8 Earlier this month, the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Africa Irvin Hicks visited Mogadishu for talks with top Somali officials. He reportedly praised Siads recent decision to explore the possibility for a multi-party system in Somalia but made no announcement about restoring U.S. economic or military assis tance.

Congressional opposition to aid to Somalia has been led b y Democrat Rep resentatives Howard Wolpe of Michigan and William H. Gray, 111, of Pennsyl vania.This September, Gray introduced a Sense of the Congress Resolution that insisted upon significant improvements in the area of human rights as a precondition to the resumption of foreign assistance to Somalia.1o 9 SOMALIAS STRATEGIC IMPORTANCE Somalia-U.S. trade relations are very limited, and Somalia possesses few natural resources required by the U.S. The U.S. interest in Somalia is limited almost exclusively t o the African countrys strategic value: its location along the coastline to the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden, two strategically im portant waterways.

The Somali coastline is the second largest on the African continent after South Africa. An estimated 500,000 barrels of crude oil passes through the Gulf of Aden each day, much of it destined for Europe, North America, and 8 David Ottaway, Congress Blocking Aid to Somalia, The Washington Post, October 26,1988, p. Am 9 Mogadishu Domestic Service, December 4,1989, Foreign Broadcast Infomation Service, December 7,1989 10 Congressman William H. Gray, 111, letter to congressional colleagues, September 25,1989 8 American allies in Asia. Given the volatile nature of the region, created by such unpredictable coun t ries as Ethiopia and Iran, as well as the Soviet Unions deep military involvement, it is necessary for the U.S. to maintain naval and air power in the region.The Soviets have built a major military facility in the Dahlak Islands in the Red Sea, and have a i r and naval bases on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula at Aden and on the Yemeni Island of Socotra in the Gulf of Aden.These facilities enable the Soviets to dock and refuel ships fly reconnaissance flights in the region, and to project air and na v al power in the Indian Ocean, Gulf of Aden, and the Red Sea Renewing the Bases Agreements. The bases in Somalia allow the U.S. to counter Soviet military power in the region. In accord with the 1980 access agreement, the U.S. can operate Navy flights out o f the air strips at Berbera and Mogadishu, conduct joint exercises with Somali forces, dock and refuel ships, and conduct military repairs.The air strips at Berbera and Mogadishu enable the U.S. to fly reconnaissance flights in the region, and could be us e d for combat air operations in the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, or the Indian Ocean. Berbera and Mogadishu also are used for military training exercises in the region.The option for discontinuing the agreement comes up next year, but the Siad government has said it wants to renew it Political instability in Somalia, however, could make renewal uncertain.

Siad is at war with the Ethiopian-backed Somali National Movement. Given the SNMs close ties with Soviet-backed Ethiopia, its victory over the govern ment p otentially could end U.S. access to the Berbera and Mogadishu facilities. Such a development could lead to not only greater instability in the Horn of Africa, but also to the expansion of Soviet military power into Somalia SIADS RULE Major General Mohamed Siad Barre has ruled Somalia with an iron hand since taking power in October 19

69. He has permitted little dissent and at times has crushed such dissent with force. Though his rule has been authoritarian, Somalias human rights record, while heavily criti cized, has been much better than that of Mengistu Haile Mariam in neighboring Ethiopia. Over one million Ethiopians have died, primarily as a result of atrocities committed by Mengistus government and by the man-made famine created-by Mengistu in 1984 in a n effort to crush areas of political opposi tion Unlike many dictators, Siad recently permitted human rights inves- tigators from Amnesty International, the Department of State, the General Accounting Office (GAO) and other institutions to visit Somalia a n d inves tigate the countrys human rights conditions 11 Petroleum Economist, October 1989, p. 325, and Department of Energy sources 12 See Johns, A US. Strategy to Foster Human Rights io Ethiopia, op. cir. Also, Michael Johns, Gorbachevs Holocaust: Soviet Complicity in Ethiopias Famine, Policy Review, Summer 1988, p. 74 9 Findings by these human rights organizations over the past year, however have revealed significant human rights violations under the Siad regime.

These conditions are widely reported to have deteriorated since May 1988 when the Somali National Movement (SNM) launched it largest offensive to date against the Siad regime. A September 1988 Amnesty International report found that Somalia had engaged in a consistent pattern of torture lengthy and often arbitrary detention of suspected political o onents of the government and often unfair trials of political defendants. Amnesty Inter national is planning a follow-up report on Somalias human rights conditi o n Room for Miscalculation. Another human rights report by Robert Ger sony, a consultant for the State Departments Bureau for Refugee Programs concluded this August that the Somali government was responsible for the murder of at least 5,000 unarmed civilia n s who belonged to the Issak clan.14 The Gersony report must be viewed skeptically, however, because it relies on interviews with Somali refugees and displaced persons, which leaves room for miscalculation. Gersonys 1988 human rights report on civilian mur ders by the Mozambique National Resistance (RENAMO) was done infi similar fashion, prompting condemnations of the reports methodology.

Nonetheless, the number of accusations against Siad, coming from diverse sources, leave little doubt that a very serious human rights problem exists in Somalia. But such abuses are not restricted to the government. Somalias major armed rebel movement, the Somali National Movement, also has been criticized for violating human rights. According to Gersony: During the first t h ree months of its 1988 offensive in northern Somalia, SNM combatants killed unarmed civilians in individual instances which together may have resulted in the deaths of at last several hundred or more persons During its presence in Burao (in northern Somal i a the SNM conducted summary ex ecutions of fifty or more prisoners, some after perfunctory court martia1s.l6 The fierce tactics of both the government and the SNM in northern Somalia have forced some 400,000 Somalis to seek refuge in Ethiopia Positive Ste p s. Human rights accusations have not been the only charges leveled against Siad. Many Somalis contend that Siad has granted special privileges to members of his native Marehan clan. Government positions and trade licenses reportedly often have been grante d first to Marehans which has been enormously frustrating to other Somali clans, especially the Issaqs.

This practice has intensified ethnic-based tensions timated 100 political prisoners were released and last month a commission lP In the past year, howev er, Siad has taken positive steps. In February, an es 13 Somalia: A Lonttetm Human Rights Crisis, op. cit p. 1 14 Gersony, op. cit p. 61 15 See, for instance, William Pascoe, The Controversial State Department Report on Mozambique, Heritage Foundation Bac k grounder Update No. 75, May 4,1988 16 Gersony, op. cit p. 62 10 was appointed to prepare constitutional amendments that will allow a multi party political system. Siad has also remarked recently that elections could be held as early as next year U.S. POLI C Y TOWARD SOMALIA Washington now faces a challenge in Somalia. Siad is an aging dictator with diminishing support among his people, and his departure from power is wide ly believed to be imminent.The Bush Administration must anticipate Siads departure and p repare for relations with his successor. In doing so, the Ad ministration should have two main objectives: 1) continued American access to Somali airfield and seaport facilities in Berbera and Mogadishu; and 2) a peaceful transfer of political power in So m alia that will, among other things improve the human rights condition In pursuit of these objectives, the U.S. should Revive the military assistance program with Somalia. Denying Somalia the military aid it needs to defend itself against a foreign support e d insurgency and an aggressive Soviet-supported neighbor Ethiopia, does not improve Somalias domestic human rights climate and may aggravate the situation by creating a sense of desperation among the Somali armed forces. Such a policy also could push Siad into such hostile hands as Libya and the Soviet Union.

The U.S should revive its military assistance to Somalia, providing it with defensive-oriented military aid for use against rebel advances while urging the Siad government to open peace talks with the rebels designed to reach political reconciliation and democracy Upgrade security at American military facilities in Somalia. As the civil war in Somalia rages, chances increase that the Somali National Movement (SNM) or other armed insurgents may attack A merican facilities.The SNM is already fighting in Berbera.The U.S. should en sure that these Somali facilities are properly defended by upgrading their security. Because the bases are not owned by the U.S this will require close cooperation with Somalia R enew the U.S.-Somali access agreement to the Berbera and Mogadishu facilities when it comes iip for review in 19

90. The air port and seaport facilities at Berbera and Mogadishu respectively offer U.S. forces access to the Indian Ocean, the Persian Gulf, a nd the Red Sea. Given the volatile nature of this region, it is critical that the U.S. maintain such access to defend U.S. security interests.The access agreement with Somalia enables the U.S. to fly Navy flights 17 Siad Barre Says Free Elections Planned f or 1990, Agence France-Presse, November 12,1989, Foreign Broadcast Infomation Service, November 13,1989, p. 3 11out of the air strips, conduct joint exercises with Somali forces, dock and refuel ships, and conduct military repairs Open talks with Somalias opposition. To foster reconciliation be tween the government of Somalia and the Somali opposition groups the Bush Administration should establish diplomatic contact with the Somali National Movement (SNM) and other opposition groups.

The SNM refuses to ta lk with the Somali government until Siad leaves power. The U.S. should urge the SNM to change this policy Demand that Ethiopias Mengistu not destabilize Somalia Ethiopian dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam is providing arms, trucks fuel and other military ass istance to the Somali National Movement.

This aid in part, has been used to attack Ethiopian refugee camps in Somalia, resulting in civilian fatalities. SNM forces, for instance, at tacked two refugee camps in A abar and Las Dhure, killing an es timated 43 people in May 19

88. The U.S. should inform the Ethiopian leader that unless he ends his destabilizing role in Somalia, the U.S. will terminate all diplomatic contact with Ethiopia 58 Link further U.S. economic assistance to Somalia to improvements in th e countrys human rights record and to progress toward democracy. Instead of terminating military assistance to Somalia over human rights violations, which will endanger U.S. security inter ests and potentially push the Somali government into the hands of h ostile nations, the U.S. should offer Somalia increased economic as sistance as human rights improvements are made and steps are taken toward democracy. Siad has already set up a commission to explore constitutional options for a return to democracy, and t he U.S. should encourage this commission to present such a plan as quickly as pos sible. Once a new constitution providing for a restoration of democracy in Somalia is agreed upon the U.S. immediately should restore the economic assistance program, which w as estimated at $21 million before Congress suspended it this August. The U.S. should in form Siad that once free and fair elections are held in Somalia, the U.S. will be prepared to double this assistance CONCLUSION Somalia has been one of Americas close s t allies in Africa since 1980.This useful relationship need not be sacrificed because of Siads political weakness and poor human rights record. Instead, Washington should use its limited in fluence in Somalia to encourage political reconciliation between t he warring factions and to promote human rights improvements, while at the same time 18 For a fuller discussion of human rights violations by the Somali National Movement (SNM), see Gersony op. cil., pp. 40-42, pp. 51-52, and p. 62 12 safeguarding U.S. se c urity interests in the region by ensuring continued ac cess to Somali air and naval facilities Constructive Force. Human rights have been violated systematically in Somalia, but Siad has made modest progress in the past year. Political prisoners have been released, commissions to explore steps toward democratization have been appointed, and Siad has expressed interest in res toring a multiparty system and opening negotiations ~th Somali opposition groups. Washingtons abandoning Somalia will not improve hum an rights in Somalia, but could only open the way for increased Soviet and Libyan in fluence.

Instead of disengaging from Somalia, the U.S. should work more closely with Siad to democratize Somalia and respect human rights, while still safeguarding U.S. se curity interests through a restoration of the military assis tance program and greater cooperation on protecting the security of the im portant base facilities in Berbera and Mogadishu. As such, the U.S. can protect U.S. security interests in the region w hile becoming a more construc tive and influential force in fostering a more humane and stable Somalia.

Michael Johns Policy Analyst


Michael Johns

Former Policy Analyst, The Heritage Foundation