At least one French soldier has been killed in Somalia during a failed bid to free a French hostage, who is also believed to have died, the French defence minister has said.
The operation to free the secret agent, with the alias of Denis Allex, was launched by France's elite DGSE secret service, Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement on Saturday, adding that another French soldier was missing.
"All indications are (that Allex was) killed by his captors," Le Drian said.
He had earlier spoken of two dead troops.
Francois Hollande, the French president, has expressed his condolences to the dead soldier's family.
"This operation confirms France's determination not to give in to the blackmail of terrorists," he said.
But the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shebab armed group denied Le Drian's assertion that they had killed the hostage, adding that they would decide his fate in two days.
The al-Shabab statement said "the helicopters attacked a house ... upon the assumption that Denis Allex was being held at that location, but owing to a fatal intelligence blunder, the rescue mission turned disastrously wrong".
|Al Jazeera's exlusive interview with a spokesman for Al Shabab|
"The injured French soldier is now in the custody of the mujahedeen and Allex still remains safe and far from the location of the battle," it said.
"Several French soldiers were killed in the battle and many more were injured before they fled from the scene of battle,
leaving behind some military paraphernalia and even one of their comrades on the ground."
leaving behind some military paraphernalia and even one of their comrades on the ground."
A spokesman for Al Shabab told Al Jazeera in an exclusive interview that French troops attacked a house in Bulomarer, but it was Al Shabab fighters who pushed them back.
"When the [French] soldiers could not get anywhere, they used helicopters to bomb indiscriminately," said Ali Mahmoud Rage, who added the French were unable to successfully achieve their mission.
"[The French] also killed more than 10 civilians, including women, men, and the elderly," he said."They also failed to capture the French soldier, and he is still in our custody."
Allex is among nine French hostages in Africa of whom at least six are held by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
A French intelligence agent who was taken hostage in Somalia three years ago is still alive, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has said
According to Xinhua, the minister said in an interview to local broadcaster Europe 1 that there were new "proofs" and "news" that showed the agent of France's General Directorate for External Security, who was identified as Denis Allex, was alive.Abducted in 2009 by the Al-Shabab outfit in Mogadishu, Alex was accused of helping train Somalia's police and presidential guards.At least six French nationals are still being held hostage by Islamist groups in Somalia's Sahel region.
Converted to Islam
An Ahlu Sunna official in central Somalia has claimed that his group has received proofs that French national, Denis Allex, who used to work for French intelligence services (DGSE) before he was kidnapped by al Shabaab militants in Mogadishu in 2009 is alive and has converted to Islam. In an exclusive interview with Bar-kulan, Ahlu Sunna’s security boss in El-bur Abdi Hassan Mohamed said Allex goes by the name Abu Omar after converting to Islam while still in the hands of al Shabaab. He said Allex now lives in an area called Januni, some 45 kilometres north of El-bur town where he runs a militant training camp. Mohamed alleged that the former French intelligence services official trains around 900 militants, mainly children. He said they were contacted by parents of some of the “militants to be trainees” handled by Allex himself. Bar-kulan could not independently verify Ahlu Sunna’s claim that Allex has joined ranks with the outlawed al Shabaab militants. Allex was seized in Mogadishu on July 14, 2009, as was another French agent who was held by a different group, Hezb al-Islam, and freed the following month. In June France’s then foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, said Allex may have been held in the autonomous Puntland region of northern Somalia.
Consistent with his unfailing mission to speak for the best interest of the failed, fragmented and powerless Somalia, Professor Michael Weinstein of Perdue University, Indiana, USA has tried one more time to reason with the Somali Elite and the International Community (donor/powers) about the main problem hobbling the Provisional Federal Government (PFG) of Somalia as its predecessors through his analysis published byGaroweOnline on December 29, 2012. He eloquently explained the structural weaknesses-pull from without and pull from within-, responsible for the PFG’s slow performance.
By adding the adjective “provisional” to the Federal Government’s name, the professor reminds the Somalis that despite all rhetoric, in the eyes of the international community, the present government isn’t different from the previous transitional governments in legal, diplomatic and political terms. In short, without defending the competence and integrity of PFG leaders, he underscored that the donor-powers’ decision to starve the PFG, considered as a pull from without, unless PFG leaders accept a kind of Trusteeship Administration for the next 20 years, is more ominous for the revival of Somalia than the pull from within (from dissatisfied Somali factions).” Nevertheless, he restated that both forces are destructive.
The truth is that Somalia is trapped in servile or abusive international relations in terms of foreign policy and diplomacy. Today’s role of Somalia’s government is to rubber stamp the international decisions on Somalia to make foreign domination palatable. The international photo-ops and red carpets granted to the Somali leaders and the frequent three hour visits of foreign dignitaries to Mogadishu mask the unequal power and foreign driven policies imposed on Somalia. It’s hard to miss the contradictions between the public statement and the official policy actions of donors and neighboring countries in dealing with the new government.
During his visit to Ethiopia in November 2012, President Hassan has been informed to honor all deals concluded between Ethiopia and previous transitional federal governments since Ethiopia’s intervention in Somalia is not sanctioned by United Nations and African Union (AU) as part of AMISOM forces. But in subsequent developments, Ethiopia, annoyed by the open door policy of the new government, as usual, seems to have undertaken political, diplomatic and military campaign to tarnish the credibility of the new government and dispel the perception of political independence of Somalia. Ethiopia wants to be the strategic gateway for Somalia.
Next, despite earlier confirmation of the visit of President Hassan , the Kenyan government declined to welcome him hours before his departure from Addis Ababa as gesture of pressure. The Kenyan government, whose forces control large area of Somalia, could not believe that the president of Somalia ignored Kenya’s wishes like its candidate for the Prime Minister’s position or Jubbaland political dispensation.
As a result, western diplomats in Nairobi and European capitals rushed immediately to Mogadishu to admonish the new government to listen and work with Ethiopia and Kenya. The new government declared its determination to cooperate with neighboring countries, AU and United Nations for furthering the mutual interests of all.
After diplomatic shuttles, the Somali president received an invitation for a one day official visit from President Muwai Kibaki of Kenya with the expectation of endorsing the nine-point Draft Communiquépublished before the meeting of the two leaders. But, the foreign minister of Kenya read out an eleven-pointOfficial Communiqué. I transcribe below some points of the two communiqués for analysis.
5. Underscored the need to coordinate and cooperate both at the bilateral, regional and international levels efforts geared towards consolidation of peace and security in Somalia as well as reconstruction of the country and building of new institutions of governance.
7. Commended the role of the Inter-Governmental Authority (IGAD) in the Grand Stabilization Plan for South Central Somalia and other liberated areas and stressed the need to support this process which has been endorsed by the IGAD Heads of State and Government, the African Union and the UN Security Council
7. Commended the role of the Inter-Governmental Authority (IGAD) and the support to IGAD by the African Union and the UN Security Council.
8. Noted with appreciation the role of AMISOM in liberating large parts of Somalia from Al Shabab militants and called on the United National Security Council (UNSC) to consider favourably the extension of the mandate of AMISOM when it expires on 7th March, 2013, so that AMISOM can continue helping in the process of consolidation of peace and security in Somalia.
9. Recalled the negative impact on the sub-region of the breakdown of law and order in Somalia over the years and acknowledged as legitimate the consensus and interest of the sub-region in ensuring peace, security and stability in Somalia
9. Agreed to relaunch and revitalize the Joint Commission as the principal framework for cooperation in the security, cross border issues, Economic Cooperation, Trade, Immigration, Education as well as cultural exchanges
10. Underscored the vital importance of cooperating in the fight against Al Shabab and other militant elements who are a threat to the national security of both countries.
11. Agreed to establish a Joint Permanent Border Commission to deal with Security and Cross border issues along the common border.
Point 5 requires the new government of Somalia to coordinate with the Kenyan Government at bilateral, regional and international levels on all efforts geared towards consolidation of peace, reconstruction and building of new institutions of governance in Somalia. Implicitly point 5 covers the objectives of the Grand Stabilization Plan for South Central Somalia deleted from point 7 of the official communiqué.
Point 8 of both communiqués supports the extension of the presence of AMISOM forces in Somalia while it does not mention the urgently needed support for funding the Somali security forces and the lifting of the arms embargo. The official communiqué contains new points 9, 10, and 11 concerning a Joint Commission for Cooperation (JCC) stipulated in 2005, cooperation in the fight against Al-Shabab and other militant elements, and a Joint Permanent Border Commission. There is no sufficient information about the 2005 agreement, the other militants and border commission mentioned in these additional points.
The Foreign Ministry of Ethiopia’s comment on the visit of President Hassan S. Mohamud to Kenya made extensive reference to the draft communiqué instead of to the official communiqué, particularly highlighting the Grand Stabilization Plan for South Central Somalia. This deliberate misrepresentation indicates the kind of diplomatic ambushes the new government faces in dealing with neighboring countries.
Sanaullah Baloch, UN Constitutional Advisor on Somalia, perhaps sensing grudges from the neighboring countries suggests in his piece Somalia: peace prospects of January 9, 2013 the following:
“The Somali leadership needs a visionary diplomatic approach to avoid any sort of confrontation and competition with neighboring countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda, which have played a crucial role in the peace process and peacekeeping.”
The British Government invited the Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign Minister of Somalia Fawzia Yusuf Haji Aden and the Foreign Minister of Somaliland Dr. Mohamed A. Omar. In his one paragraph statement, the UK Foreign Secretary William Hague who met with Foreign Minister of Somalia said, “The foreign minister outlined the Somali government’s plan to tackle the challenges ahead including improving security, increasing access to justice, transparent financial management, political reconciliation and economic development.”
The question is how the Somali government will implement that plan without substantial financial assistance from donors? Mogadishu port revenue is not sufficient to cover half of Mogadishu Local Government budget needs. All international funds are channeled to UN Consolidated Appeal Process (CAP) of $1.3 billion for 2013, to AU/AMISOM forces, to private security companies, and to Ethiopian forces.
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (CFO) website details information about the two below mentioned policy initiatives (Assistance) dedicated to Somalia/Somaliland. These initiatives are components of the UK National Security Strategy (NSS) and Building Stability Overseas Strategy (BSOS).
(1) Policy preventing conflict in fragile states
(2) Policy preventing and reducing piracy off the coast of Somalia
The British Government leads a working group of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia focused on regional capacity development for the prosecution of the captured pirates and military engagement against piracy. Most of the funds allocated for the implementation of these policy initiatives are transferred to UN and Non-Governmental organizations.
The UK Minister for Africa, Hon Mark Simmonds held talks with the foreign Minister of Somaliland. Both parties agreed cooperation on terrorism, piracy, economic development and continuation of the dialogue between Somalia and Somaliland.
The new government of Somalia has severe limitations to deal systematically, proactively and skillfully with the complex foreign policy issues and the myriads of actors. It doesn’t have necessary institutional capacity, integrity and independence to carry out foreign policy that supports domestic policy goals. Some of the causes are:
· Absence of basic institutional capacity at national level for carrying out policy and administrative functions.
· Somali diplomatic missions are either self-employed or guests (agents) paid by the host governments.
· Lack of institutional memory and reliable documentation of international bilateral and multilateral agreements.
The new government of Somalia gains no benefits by working with countless personalities and entities. The continuation of present chaotic and manipulative interactions with the international community will inevitably result the defenestration of the new government.
Donor-powers have predetermined their non-negotiable policy actions towards Somalia. So to avoid haphazard diplomatic engagements which could jeopardize Somalia’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, credibility and long term stability, it is necessary a deep analysis of the core foreign policy issues and diplomacy options that would help peacebuilding and statebuilding in Somalia. It would be politically more sensible to adopt a streamlined framework of cooperation with the international community.
Professor Michael Weinstein said loudly that “the political outcomes in “Somalia” are not under the PFG’s control, but are the resultants of the play between external actors, PFG and domestic factions.” It is the responsibility of the Somali Government and Elite- particularly public intellectuals- to speak and fight for the best outcomes which would promote first and foremost the common interests of Somalia. Only patriots bequeath lasting positive legacy to their people and country.
Mr. Mohamud M Uluso