The top U.S. diplomat for Africa faced a revealing question at a press conference in Uganda that exposed African suspicions about the American role in Somalia, a failed state threatened by Muslim terrorists loyal to al Qaeda and plagued with pirates who attack ships in the Indian Ocean.
“The conflict in Somalia seems to have been perceived as a war being fought on behalf of America and against Islam. How are you engaging influential Muslim countries to resolve the conflict?” a reporter asked after an African Union summit in the capital, Kampala, last week.
Johnnie Carson, assistant secretary of state for African affairs, showed his vast diplomatic skills as he fielded the loaded question.
Some suspicions about U.S. motives in Somalia likely date to the 1993 battle of Mogadishu, popularized in the film “Black Hawk Down.” Eighteen highly trained American soldiers died and dozens more were wounded in an attempt to capture warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid or his top aides. At least 1,000 Somali militia men and civilians were killed.
Mr. Carson pledged U.S. financial support for African leaders, who agreed to send 2,000 more troops from Uganda and Burundi to reinforce the 6,000 soldiers already trying to help the interim government of Somalia in its desperate bid to maintain some form of order in the East African nation.
He cited “a domestic problem of an imploded state,” vast numbers of refugees burdening other nations in the region, and pirates and “violent extremists,” a reference to al-Shabab terrorists who claimed responsibility for bombings in Kampala during the World Cup last month.
Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:
• Arvin Boolell, minister of foreign affairs, regional integration and international trade of Mauritius; Sir J.I.A. Arumemi Ikhide Johnson, executive chairman of Arik Airlines of Nigeria; Amos Muhinga Kimunya, trade minister of Kenya; Monique Nsanzabaganwa, minister of trade and industry of Rwanda; Tswelopele Cornelia Moremi, executive secretary of the Southern African Customs Union; and Sindiso Ngwenya, secretary general of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa. They are among the speakers at a two-day forum marking the 10th anniversary of the African Growth and Opportunity Act at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.
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James Morrison joined the The Washington Times in 1983 as a local reporter covering Alexandria, Va. A year later, he was assigned to open a Times bureau in Canada. From 1987 to 1989, Mr. Morrison was The Washington Times reporter in London, covering Britain, Western Europe and NATO issues. After returning to Washington, he served as an assistant foreign editor ...
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