Dispatches reveals how key politicians at the heart of the vicious fighting in Somalia - described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis - enjoy incredibly close links to Britain. They have British or EU passports, their families live here and they commute between Somalia and homes in English cities. British taxpayers are financing them in the name of democracy - yet in Somalia they are linked to allegations of mass murder, torture, extortion and corruption.
Our Government’s Dirty Little Secrets.
House of Commons debates - Wednesday, 11 June 2008 -
Somalia (Human Rights)
Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn. —[Steve McCabe.]
By George Galloway
13/06/08 “ICH ” — - -A Government ready to rely on those friends of liberty, the Democratic Unionist party, to shred the liberties of our own people are almost by definition unembarrassable, but I hope this evening to add to the issues ventilated in a recent Channel 4 “Dispatches” programme to adumbrate the extent to which the tragedy in Somalia, which so many people are now becoming aware of, is another of our Government’s dirty little secrets.
We must start the story in Ethiopia, where 4 million people, according to the United Nations, are facing starvation and 120,000 Ethiopian children have just one month to live, according to last week’s media reports. Television viewers were shocked to see the pictures last week of the widespread suffering redolent of 1984 and the great famine of that year.
The US and Britain immediately pledged $90 million in famine relief. Just one week after its appeal to the international community for famine relief, the Ethiopian Government increased their military budget by $50 million to $400 million. The regime in Addis Ababa—when I knew them in the 1980s, they were pro-Albanian Maoists—are the most militarised and heavily armed in Africa. They are in a state of perpetual war or preparation for war with one neighbour, Eritrea, and they are supporting anti-Government rebels in Sudan, many believe with western connivance.
Most astonishingly of all, the Government of Ethiopia—that starving country whose little children are fly infested, kwashiorkor swollen, famished and famine stricken—have been encouraged, armed, trained, financed and otherwise facilitated to invade and occupy their neighbour, Somalia, and create a reign of terror in that land, which is testified to by this voluminous Amnesty International report, which, if I had time, I would extensively quote from.
Somalia has lost thousands of dead as a result of the Ethiopian invasion. Millions have been displaced. Somalia, under Ethiopian occupation, is the grimmest prison state in Africa—far worse than Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. Who has done the encouraging, the arming, the training, the financing and the facilitating? The same US and British Governments who donated the $90 million to the same Ethiopian Government who are burning their money and burning the villages, the neighbourhoods and the people of occupied Somalia.
This Government are never done talking about the shortcomings of African leaders. Just last week in Rome, the Secretary of State for International Development was roaring at Robert Mugabe, yet there has not been a squeak out of him, or any other Minister, about the much bigger crime in which we are ourselves deeply complicit. Is it any wonder that African opinion considers so much of what we have to say about misgovernance in Africa to be the deepest, most cynical hypocrisy?
Two weeks ago, Channel 4’s “Dispatches” team took terrifying risks to bring us the latest from occupied Mogadishu. That was undoubtedly an award-winning documentary. It was memorable for many reasons, not least the scene in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office when the Minister of State, Lord Malloch-Brown, his face frozen in horror, was confronted by Aidan Hartley with the central case of the documentary makers. For the benefit of Members who did not see the programme—the Minister will certainly have seen it; she would hardly be sent out to bat on this wicket without being shown it—that central case was that, in the grim prison state of occupied Somalia, the fingerprints of our country and our Government were all over the scene of the crime.
The President of the puppet regime imposed by the Ethiopian army in Somalia turns out to be British. He spends much of his time here—well, it is dangerous in Somalia, after all—and has property and family here. After presiding over a gang of torturers, murderers, grand larceners and extortionists, he flies back to England. Then there is the police chief whose officers kidnap people for ransom, which they extort from people living in our own country—in Leicester, in Birmingham, in London. They torture people, make them disappear, and kill them if their families will not pay. He too is British. As for the former Interior Minister who presides over an interior of mass refugee camps, starvation and misery, and who stands accused of stealing international aid and diverting food for political purposes—why, he is British as well.
Guess who is paying the wages of the murdering, kidnapping, torturing, quisling police force in Ethiopian-occupied Somalia? That’s right: we are. The public dictatorship in Somalia is a very British crime, especially as our own Government—in particular, that pocket-sized Palmerston to whom I referred earlier, the Secretary of State for International Development—are so voluble on the subject of other problems in Africa.
So how did we get here? How did we get into bed with the former pro-Albanian Maoists of the Government in Addis Ababa? I am afraid that the answer is our old friend, our old acquaintance, the policy of “my enemy’s enemy is my friend”. The policy that has got us into so much trouble, from Afghanistan to Iraq and many other parts of the world, is what lies behind this obscene paradox.
We are supporting the Ethiopian Government’s occupation of Somalia because George Bush told us to: because Somalia is a front line in George Bush’s ill-conceived, counter-productive, utterly discredited, “about to be booted out in the United States” so-called war on terror. We were against the former Government of Somalia because they were an Islamic Government, just as we are against the Government in Sudan because they are an Islamic Government, and just as Ethiopia, on our behalf, opposed the Government in Eritrea because they are an Islamic Government.
This policy, having been such a disaster around the world, is now in full force in Somalia, and but for Channel 4’s “Dispatches” hardly anyone in Britain would know anything about it. No British Minister has come to the Dispatch Box to explain why British taxpayers’ money is being paid to a police force in Mogadishu that is accused of kidnapping people and extorting ransom money from British citizens. No British Minister has come to explain—unless we interpret Lord Malloch-Brown’s frozen face as an explanation—why we are so heavily involved with a puppet regime that is bereft of political and public support in Somalia.
This policy of backing anyone whom Bush tells us to back—this policy of backing anyone who is against those whom we, today, perceive ourselves to be against—is morally utterly vacuous. Arguably worse than that, however, is the fact that it is a total, dismal failure, as we have found in Afghanistan to our bitter, bitter cost, not least this very week. The very mujaheds whom Mrs. Thatcher’s Government lauded, supported and armed are now murdering and killing our soldiers in Afghanistan—
It being Seven o’clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.
Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn .—[Ms Diana R. Johnson.] - Part 2 Here
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