With the Libya campaign seen as mission accomplished, Britain reiterates it is eyeing another conflict-torn African country – Somalia. The UK cites threats to its national security, but some analysts say this hides a self-interested strategic agenda.
Earlier this week, the UK’s international development minister, Andrew Mitchell, called for “urgent action” in the impoverished country, as “Somalia is a very direct threat to the security of the United Kingdom”, as quoted by Agence France Press.
It’s not the first time that Britain has highlighted the dangers emanating from the conflict-torn African state. In November, the British Prime Minister has called Somalia a “failed state that directly threatens British interests.” David Cameron has scheduled a London summit in February to bring together the countries currently active in the Horn of Africa to discuss how to address the situation. Key decisions are expected to be made on a number of issues, ranging from humanitarian aid to a possible military mission.
International development minister Andrew Mitchell, however, has ruled out any “intention of putting boots on the ground.”
But fears of an intervention have escalated against the backdrop of a claim by Britain’s secret services that Somalia, one of the poorest states in the world, is a new training ground for terrorists. According to The Independent newspaper, MI5 chief Jonathan Evans has warned that Somalia has become the next destination after Pakistan for terrorist training.
Mitchell appeared to confirm MI5’s assertion, saying “there are probably more British passport holders engaged in terrorist training in Somalia, than in any other country in the world.”
The would-be jihadists residing in Britain are not just of Somali origin, but also hail from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Yemen and North Africa.
There is a real risk, according to Jonathan Evans, that returnees from Somalia could carry out bomb attacks in British cities.
However, some analysts doubt that UK is motivated purely by concern about British tourists and aid workers being attacked and kidnapped in Somalia and the rise of piracy in the region.
Somalia holds vast oil and gas reserves and other natural resources, including uranium, which the US and other countries have had their eyes on for years.
Many also point also to Somalia’s strategic position, with critical oil transport roots crossing its territory to the Gulf of Aden.
Jeremy Corbin, Labour MP and UK “Stop the War” coalition activist, gave RT his explanation of the latest rhetoric.
“You usually find when the military strategists are planning a long-term intervention somewhere, they are looking at geological maps first and looking at political maps second,” he told RT’s Laura Smith. “And the oil, the gas is one of the biggest issues.”
Given the country’s status as the poorest in the world, the MP believes a very different strategy is called for.
“There is a huge Somali community round here that I represent, most of whom are from the South, but not all,” he said. “And they are not saying to me, ‘Please, intervene!’ They are saying,’Can we please have support to get a functioning system of government and peace in Somalia?’”