[dehai-news] (AP) Rights group: US making Somalia crisis worse

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From: Biniam Tekle (biniamt@dehai.org)
Date: Mon Dec 08 2008 - 10:13:40 EST

Rights group: US making Somalia crisis worse


NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) The United States and other foreign governments'
failed policies are exacerbating the crisis in Somalia, even as the country
endures a deadly Islamic insurgency and rampant piracy, a human rights group
charged Monday.

Somalia has been in chaos for nearly two decades, and the country's
Western-backed transitional government has failed to assert any real control
since it was formed in 2004. It relies on troops from Ethiopia for
protection, and has lost most of the country to Islamic fighters.

Human Rights Watch, a New York-based rights group, said the U.S. has been so
focused on fighting terrorism that it has overlooked the shortcomings of
Somalia's government.

"The United States, treating Somalia primarily as a battlefield in the
'global war on terror,' has pursued a policy of uncritical support for
transitional government and Ethiopian actions, and the resulting lack of
accountability has fueled the worst abuses," Human Rights Watch said in a
report Monday.

The European Commission has advocated direct support for the government's
police force "without insisting on any meaningful action to improve the
force and combat abuses," the report said.

U.S. officials would not immediately comment on the report.

The rights group also accused all sides in the conflict the government,
the Ethiopian troops and the Islamic insurgents of committing war crimes
and other serious abuses for indiscriminately firing on civilian
neighborhoods almost every day.

"The combatants in Somalia have inflicted more harm on civilians than on
each other," said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
"There are no quick fixes in Somalia, but foreign governments need to stop
adding fuel to the fire with misguided policies that empower human rights

The United States fears that Somalia could be a terrorist breeding ground,
and accuses a powerful insurgent faction known as al-Shabab of harboring the
al-Qaida-linked terrorists who allegedly blew up the U.S. embassies in Kenya
and Tanzania in 1998.

Ethiopia recently announced it would withdraw its troops by the end of this
month, leaving Somalia's government vulnerable to insurgents, who have
captured most of southern Somalia and even move freely in the capital,

Thousands of civilians have been killed or maimed by mortar shells,
machine-gun crossfire and grenades in the insurgency. The United Nations
says Somalia has 300,000 acutely malnourished children, but attacks and
kidnappings of aid workers have shut down many humanitarian projects.

Somalia has been without an effective government since 1991, when warlords
overthrew a dictatorship and then turned on one another.

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