January 19, 2007 - No. 6
Somalia and Ethiopia
• Somalia and Ethiopia - Hakim Adi, Reader in History of Africa
and African Diaspora, Middlessex University, London
• Efforts to
Ensure that Ours Becomes a Continent of Peace, Focused on Responding to
the Challenge of Eradicating Poverty and Underdevelopment - Thabo Mbeki, President, Republic of
• UN Envoy Urges Government to Expand
Its Rule, Prevent Return of Warlords - UN News Service,
January 18, 2007
• UN Agency Prepares for Permanent Presence in
North as Refugee Flow Continues -
UN News Service, January 16, 2007
• UN Seeks to Re-Establish Aid Operation - Ethiopian News Agency, January 18, 2007
For Your Information: The Ethiopian
• Ethiopian Defense Minister Discusses
Operation in Somalia - Ethiopian
News Agency, January 18, 2007
• Eritrea Backs Away from Somalia -
Ethiopian News Agency, January 11, 2007
• UIC Extremists: Once Threats to the Region,
Now Vanished in the Air - The Ethiopian Herald, January 11,
• Aspects of Terrorism in Somalia -
Bethuel Kiplagat, The Nation (Nairobi), January 18, 2007
• Misfortune of Eritrea's Proxy Wars -
Kumsa Aba Gerba, Aiga, January 14, 2007
Somalia and Ethiopia
In Canada, there is an opinion according to which Ethiopia's
intervention in Somalia to rout the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) and
strengthen the Transition Government of Somalia (TGS) is aggression
against Somalia. Can you please explain the context for us?
Adi: The context for the conflict is that Ethiopia is both very
close to the TGS -- which is recognized by the UN, the African Union
(AU), and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)
(comprising the East African states of Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia,
Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda) as the only legitimate government of the
country -- and it is concerned about what it calls the "terrorist
activities" of the UIC. Elements of the UIC, which is said not to be
homogenous, had declared a jihad
against Ethiopia. Ethiopia has been concerned about border incursions
being made by the UIC, in the context of the support of separatist
organizations in the Ogaden, and most importantly the forces of the UIC
are believed both by the UN and Ethiopia as being backed by Eritrea,
contrary to UN sanctions. Of course the UIC was also at loggerheads
with the TGS. The two governments, Ethiopia and Eritrea, have not
resolved their border and other differences. Ethiopia considers Eritrea
to be a major force for instability in the region, which has attacked
all its neighbours and been to war with Ethiopia.
Ethiopia has been the major backer of the TGS since its
inception in 2004 and has sent military advisers to train and support
its forces. The UIC claimed this broke UN sanctions. Ethiopia also
played a key role in the process which led to the formation of the TGS.
Hitherto Ethiopia has also supported the political process and talks
involving both the TGS and the UIC. Its official position is that it
has no opposition to the UIC as such but only to that part of its
leadership which was engaged in "hostile terrorist activities" in
league with Eritrea and others.
The Ethiopian Government claims that its main aim is
development of Ethiopia, since this is the overriding concern and need
of the population and that they will not be diverted from it by the UIC
or by Eritrea. Ethiopia entered into negotiation with the UIC in two
meetings in Djibouti and Dubai to avert war but, according to Ethiopia,
the UIC continued with its attacks on the TGS and its threats of jihad against Ethiopia and actually
infiltrated into Ethiopian territory. Ethiopia says that because of
this activity and after exhausting other avenues, together with the TGS
and other Somalis, it took military action.
Ethiopia stresses that this was swift and precise and
took place outside major cities. It says the military action was
targeted at a section of the UIC leadership rather than the rank and
file. According to Ethiopia there was little opposition and much
support from the Somali population which also attacked the UIC. The
Ethiopians continue to insist that they wish to leave within weeks,
that they cannot afford to be in Somalia and that their main priority
is development. The Ethiopians also have little time for those who
suggested they will be drawn into an Iraq style conflict in Somalia, or
who predicted great Somali hostility to their involvement. In their
view this was the hope of Eritrea and their enemies -- and based on a
number of false premises, and they are determined to thwart their
Where does Ethiopia stand on Somalia's future?
The Ethiopians stress that the future of Somalia
lies with Somalis and they urge support for an African (i.e. AU IGAD)
"stabilization force," IGASOM, to assist the TGS. Talks are underway at
the moment to establish such a force. So far Uganda has officially
offered troops (subject to parliamentary approval) and five other
African countries including Nigeria and South Africa, are said to be
considering the possibility of sending troops. Recently it has been
reported that the TGS has asked Ethiopia to continue to train its armed
forces, a request which Ethiopia has agreed to but the Ethiopian
government has also again pledged that its troops will be leaving
Somalia in a matter of days.
Can you comment on the role of the U.S.?
As to the role of the U.S., Ethiopia's position is as stated by
President Meles Zenawi in the press conference held in Addis Ababa on
January 11, i.e. that it did not act in concert with the U.S. and that
there were no U.S. special forces, etc. At the same time, Ethiopian
government public statements appear to give
little or no recognition to the global situation as concerns the
striving of the Anglo Americans for hegemony and the role of the "war
on terror" to achieve the U.S. hegemony. Meles distanced himself from
the air strike, or at least from future air strikes. He did this in
what might be described as a diplomatic manner rather than a forthright
one, by suggesting that these pose dangers to civilians and cannot
generally be surgical.
As to other links with the U.S., the Ethiopians may have
concerns about the aims of the U.S. in the Horn of Africa and elsewhere
and have certainly not always seen eye to eye with the U.S. government.
But their main concern seems to be to get the very necessary aid and
assistance to safeguard and build their own very poor country without
actually compromising themselves and endangering their own sovereignty.
They have had some military training from the U.S., police training
from Britain amongst others. They have had economic and other
assistance from China. They also work with the World Bank and IMF, so
long as this is in the interests of the people of Ethiopia. So far they
conclude that they have done this successfully on the economic front.
Their attempts to focus on the economic development of Ethiopia and
serve the well-being of their people have always been their paramount
concern. They would like to follow through to its conclusion the
emphasis on the democratic involvement of the people in decision making
that was a feature of their program in coming to power. However,
dealing with the security situation in the Horn of Africa is a
constant. As a result, they seem to still rely on the western models of
political processes and institutions even though they have found the
U.S. and Britain to be fair weather friends when aid was cut off
following the unrest at the time of the last election.
There is also the claim that UN Security Council
resolution 1725, which relaxed the arms embargo in favour of the TGS
and the future IGASOM and infuriated the UIC, was a deliberate attempt
by its co sponsor, the U.S., to destabilize the situation. It certainly
led to an escalation of hostilities between the UIC and the TGS, the
former backed by Eritrea, and some other countries, and the latter by
Ethiopia. Although the U.S. and possibly Eritrea can gain from
instability this does not favour Ethiopia nor Somalia. It should be
pointed out the UNSC resolution was also co sponsored by the three
African members on the Security Council, Congo, Ghana and South Africa,
and supported by the TGS.
So there is no question that Ethiopia committed aggression against
Somalia as a U.S. proxy?
to The New York Times of
January 13, 2007, "[i]n the weeks before the military campaign began,
State Department and Pentagon officials said that they had some
concerns about the impending Ethiopian government's offensive in
Somalia. But as the Ethiopian's march toward war looked more likely,
Americans began providing Ethiopian troops with up to date intelligence
on the military positions of the Islamist fighters in Somalia, Pentagon
and counterterrorism officials said. According to a Pentagon consultant
with knowledge about Special Operations, small teams of American
advisers crossed the border into Somalia with the advancing Ethiopian
army. 'You're not talking lots of guys,' the Pentagon consultant said,
speaking on condition of anonymity. 'You're talking onesies and
twosies.'" However, the Ethiopian government disputes this version of
events. Prime Minister Zenawi claimed that there were no 'special
forces' involved but that Ethiopia has received some intelligence from
The U.S. is certainly fishing in troubled waters, just
as it did by creating and supporting various so-called war lords in the
past. On the other hand the TGS is supported by the UN, AU, IGAD etc.
and so it seems Ethiopia is confident that while it may have acted
against the letter of UN and AU resolutions it is clearly supporting
the legitimate government by acting to support the TGS as well as
defending itself both against the UIC and the provocation of Eritrea.
Since it is more likely that it is the U.S. which stands to gain from
instability in Somalia it is difficult to conclude that Ethiopia is
acting as its proxy -- while it is clear that Ethiopia is acting in
what it sees as its national interest.
Ethiopia speaks of its enemies as terrorists using what looks like the
same language as that used by the U.S. in its self-serving "war on
terror." Can you comment?
Yes, the language is the same. However, as I said, Ethiopia has its own
preoccupations. In today's international climate, it does not help to
assess the situation on the basis of the old adage: one man's terrorist
is another man's freedom fighter. The situation in Africa is very
complex as a result of all the problems past and present inherited from
colonial rule and today the interests of the U.S. in particular as well
as others to force all countries to submit to their dictate. The
African peoples are quite capable of sorting out these problems without
Thank you very much.
Efforts to Ensure that Ours Becomes a
Continent of Peace, Focused on Responding to the Challenge of
Eradicating Poverty and Underdevelopment
... Somalia has also turned into a source of regional
instability, even as the African Continent through the African Union
(AU) has intensified its efforts to ensure that ours becomes a
Continent of peace, focused on responding to the challenge of
eradicating poverty and underdevelopment.
For the sake both of Somalia and our Continent as a
whole, Africa has no choice but to come to the aid of this sister
African country. In many respects the deeply entrenched Somali crisis
demonstrates what can happen to many of our countries if they are not
governed and managed in a manner that addresses the interests of all
citizens, bearing in mind the national specifics of each country.
As a state entity Somalia came into being as recently as
1960. In that year the two colonies, British and Italian Somaliland,
gained their independence. To end the fragmentation of the Somali
population brought about by colonialism, they then decided to merge and
form the United Republic of Somalia.
This process of the unification of the Somali-speaking
people however also led to tensions with neighbouring countries,
Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya, each one of which has a Somali-speaking
minority. The worst manifestation of these tensions was, of course, the
1977 war with Ethiopia, when Somalia tried to annex the Somali-speaking
Ogaden region of Ethiopia. (Feudal Ethiopia had managed to seize part
of Ogaden during the 1880s, and later succeeded to get the whole of it
through an agreement with colonial Britain.)
We mention these events because today there are
Ethiopian troops in Somalia. Not surprisingly, the media reports that
many Somalis consider this Ethiopian presence as a humiliation. One
businessman, Abdulahi Mohamed Mohamud, was reported as saying, "We are
afraid of a long war, and people are angry at the Ethiopian troops."
As the Somali state collapsed after the overthrow of
Siad Barre in 1991, it became a conglomeration of different enclaves.
North-west Somalia proclaimed itself the independent Republic of
Somaliland. The Puntland region declared its autonomy. Various parts
especially of southern Somalia fell under the control of different clan
leaders, or "warlords."
The question that must arise is whether, in fact, during
the years of independence, the different traditional "clan" areas and
sections of the Somali population had developed a strong enough sense
of national cohesion and identity to ensure the survival of the United
Republic of Somalia proclaimed in 1960!
The importance of this question is highlighted by the
role played by the issue of clan divisions in the uprising that
overthrew Siad Barre in 1991, who evidently had discriminated against
some clans, specifically the Mijertyn and Isaq clans, in favour of his
own Marehan clan. In this regard, a BBC correspondent, Peter Biles, has
reported that: "When Somalia's president was overthrown in 1991, much
of the country fell under the control of warlords and clan-based
Another report spoke of "the oppressive, capricious, and
clan-based autocracy of the late dictator, Siyad Barre, who used his
interpretation of clan institutions for his own ends, to oppress
political opponents, create inequality, and promote conflict and
violence. So great was his malevolence and abuse of power that
virtually all Somalis now hold a deep-seated fear and distrust of any
Another important element of the story of Somalia is
that, as had happened in many African countries at the time, General
Siad Barre had acceded to power in 1969 by coup d'etat. He seized power after
Abdi Rashid Ali Shermarke, elected President in 1967, had been
assassinated. Inevitably, the absence of democratic institutions would
make it extremely difficult for the different Somali clans, regions and
interest groups to negotiate among themselves to define a national
compact that would ensure the cohesion of the nation.
Somalia now has an Interim Government that is recognised
by the AU and the rest of the world, born in 2004 after protracted
negotiations held in Kenya, involving the warring Somali factions. As a
result of the Ethiopian intervention, which ousted the Union of Islamic
Courts (UIC) that had fought itself into a position of power in
Mogadishu and other parts of southern Somalia, this Government is now
operating from Mogadishu.
As the military conflict continued after the ouster of
the UIC, the U.S. decided to launch air strikes against the retreating
UIC adherents, claiming that it was striking at terrorists who had
bombed the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam in 1998 and then
taken refuge in Somalia. The majority of the world, including the AU
and the UN, has been forthright in opposing this action, correctly
asserting that this will not help to resolve the crisis in Somalia and
would add oil to the fires that are burning in the Middle East. In
addition, some Somalis have been quoted as saying that these air
strikes were carried out as an act of vengeance for the death of 18
U.S. soldiers in Mogadishu in 1993 and the shooting down of the U.S.
'Black Hawk' helicopter.
Responding to the events in Somalia, including these
U.S. air strikes, the Foreign Minister of neighbouring Yemen, Abu Bakr
"Yemen was hoping that the Islamic Courts and the
interim government would have settled their differences through the
negotiating table. Unfortunately this did not happen.
"Now we have to deal with the situation as it is, and we
will have to work on getting everybody concerned in Somalia to
negotiate the future management of Somalia, to restore peace and
security, and to put the interests of Somalia above the interests of
clans or political parties or ideologies."
In these words, Abu Bakr al-Qirbi set the agenda for
Somalia that the AU must address during this year, 2007. Supported by
the UN Security Council, the AU is engaged in an urgent process that
should result in the deployment of AU peace-keeping troops in Somalia,
to help this sister country to extricate itself from its protracted
In this regard, the January 2007 President of the
Security Council, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, announced that the
Council regards Somalia as "a high priority matter" and is concerned
about instability, security, and the humanitarian situation. The
Council strongly supports an inclusive political dialogue among various
political forces in Somalia and favours the speedy deployment of
IGASOM, the new force that would be set up by the African Union and a
seven-nation East African regional group of nations.
Time will tell when the next Assembly of Heads of State
and Government, this time of the AU, will convene in Mogadishu. For
that to happen, as Africans we will have to do everything necessary to
overcome the old and new historic problems that have placed Somalia on
our agenda as an unresolved problem of the African Revolution, as the
liberation of the Portuguese colonies was an unresolved problem of the
African Revolution in 1974.
Beyond this, perhaps, as Africans, we should seriously
consider whether we should not take up the call originally made by
former President Khatami of Iran for a "dialogue of civilisations" -- a
dialogue that would lead to a peaceful resolution of conflicts between
clans, within nation states, between states, and between coalitions of
states, to ensure that the Somali example of anarchy and death is not
visited on our countries and the rest of humanity. Might this not serve
as a fitting tribute to the 50th anniversary of the historic
independence of Ghana of Kwame Nkrumah, which we will celebrate this
(For the full
text of the letter see:
UN Envoy Urges Government to Expand Its Rule,
Prevent Return of Warlords
The top United Nations envoy for Somalia travelled to
Mogadishu, the capital, today for high-level talks with the
Transitional Federal Government (TFG), urging it to seize this "rare
opportunity" to expand its authority after the recent ouster of Islamic
groups and prevent a resurgence of the warlords who tore
the country apart for the past 16 years.
"The TFG should work to establish an effective
administration at district and regional levels," said Secretary-General
Ban Ki-moon's Special Representative François Lonsény
Fall after meeting with President Abdullahi Yusuf at Villa Somalia and
later with civil society leaders.
Until Ethiopian-backed government forces pushed the
Union of the Islamic Courts (UIC) out of Mogadishu and much of the rest
of the country last month, the TGF had been isolated in the provincial
town of Baidoa in a country that has had no functioning central
government since the regime of Muhammad
Siad Barre was toppled in 1991.
Mr. Fall urged the TFG to avoid a power vacuum in the
areas it holds. "In the process, it should avoid the reinstallation of
former warlords who have lost credibility nationally and within the
international community," he said.
He stressed that the dialogue for peace and
reconciliation should embrace all national stakeholders. "These must
include clan and religious leaders, the business community, women's
groups and other representatives of civil society -- everyone who has
expressed their commitment to peace and reconciliation
in keeping with the principles of Somalia's Transitional Federal
Charter," he said.
Since the ouster of the UIC, which seized control of
Mogadishu in June and progressively extended its control, UN officials
from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon down underscored the historic
opportunity the country now has to restore peace and stability.
Mr. Fall noted that Ethiopia had recently repeated its
desire to withdraw troops quickly and that Kenya, as Chair of the
Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an east African
group, this week reported that several African countries had expressed
their intention to join Uganda in providing
forces for a peace support and training mission.
"I hope this will happen quickly and that an African
Union and IGAD force can take on the role of protecting the TFG and
training its army," he said. "I am hopeful that the international
community will also come in behind these efforts with the necessary
funding and technical support for the operation."
He encouraged representatives of civil society to help
build a conducive atmosphere for an inclusive dialogue towards
reconciliation. "Civil society has an especially important role to play
in Somalia's revival today," he said. "Its actions can reach beyond
clan and personal interests and promote the well-being
of all Somalis."
Mr. Fall appealed to all parties to recognize that the
current conflict had imposed an additional humanitarian burden on the
civilian population. "Many thousands of people are in desperate
circumstances, including some 440,000 people displaced by flooding in
the south," he said. "The United Nations
needs secure access to meet their needs.
"These people need our help and they need it now."
Yesterday the UN humanitarian coordinator for Somalia,
Eric Laroche, urged the international aid community to set up
substantial operations in Mogadishu, and UN agencies are already
providing food and other aid to tens of thousands of flood victims and
others who have fled the fighting in the south
and north of the country.
UN Agency Prepares for Permanent Presence in North as
Refugee Flow Continues
The United Nations refugee agency is working on setting
up the first permanent international presence in the Galkayo area of
Somalia's northern autonomous Puntland region since the 1990s to cope
with an influx of 12,000 people who fled the latest fighting in the
The new arrivals increased the number of internally
displaced people (IDP) in Galkayo to some 35,000.
A four-member UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
emergency team is currently in the region assessing the IDPs' needs
with a view to paving the way for a permanent international presence.
The recent fighting in central and southern Somalia
between fighters of the Union of the Islamic Courts (UIC) and the
Ethiopian-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG), which now
controls most of the two disputed areas, also sent refugees fleeing
towards the country's southern border with Kenya, where the UN World
Food Programme (WFP) has been providing rations for 6,000 people as
well as 12,000 residents hosting them.
Kenya has closed the border, and the UN Office for the
Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) today voiced concern over
the deteriorating health situation, although the UN World Health
Organization (WHO) has been able to bolster major hospitals in the
south with medicines, medical supplies and fuel.
Also today, the first UN inter-agency mission to
Mogadishu, the capital, since the TFG assumed control over southern
Somalia took place.
There are 14 refugee settlements around Galkayo town but
many of the new arrivals are left to fend for themselves in the
streets, living in slum conditions with no access to latrines, washing
facilities or potable water, members of the emergency team said.
"Those whose clan is present in southern Galkayo receive
protection and support from their clan members, but minority clan
groups from further south in Somalia are collected in destroyed
buildings and live in abject poverty, requiring immediate assistance,"
emergency team member Alex Tyler reported.
The team drove in from the coastal town of Bosaso in
Puntland on 8 January and plans to be in Galkayo for at least a month
assessing the needs and numbers and helping to provide aid. It will
distribute shelter kits and basic supplies such as plastic sheets,
sleeping mats and kitchen sets, which are due to be airlifted to
It will also work with partners and local authorities to
develop a comprehensive action plan addressing the longer-term needs of
Galkayo's IDPs, many of whom have been here for 10 or 15 years. Somalia
has had no functioning central government since the regime of Muhammad
Siad Barre was toppled in 1991, and it has been buffeted by successive
waves of factional fighting from then until now.
Although the TFG now controls Mogadishu some 700
kilometres southeast of Galkayo, the conflict continues to create new
displacements and to prevent long-term IDPs from returning home.
Those in Galkayo are part of an overall IDP population
in the border region of Puntland and central Somalia of some 80,000. In
the whole country, there are more than 400,000 IDPs, most of them
displaced in earlier conflicts and by drought in the south and centre.
UN Seeks to Re-Establish Aid Operation
The international aid community must avail itself of the
window of opportunity that now exists in Somalia after the Ethiopian
backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) drove fundamentalist group
out of Mogadishu by setting up substantial operations in the city, a
senior United Nations relief official warned on Wednesday.
"If we don't act quickly, though, this opportunity may
pass, " a UN country resident and humanitarian coordinator Eric Laroche
said following two-level UN missions to Mogadishu in the last week.
"The power vacuum could spread and we may see a
situation developing in Somalia in which the people once again find
themselves living in a lawless society. It is imperative that we act
now, so that to lose the momentum for recompilation that currently
exists," he added.
UN agencies are already providing food and other aid to
tens of thousands of flood victims and others who have fled the
fighting in the South and north of the country.
Given the ongoing relocation of the TFG institutions
from Baidoa to Mogadishu, the population has high expectations for
reconciliation, security and a resumption of basic social services,
such as education and health, in a country that has had no functioning
central government since the regime of Muahmmed Said Barre was toppled
in 1991. Since then its has been buffeted by successive waves of
"The people are war-weary after more than 15 years of
conflict, instability and insecurity," Laroche said."We need to resume
as soon as possible high impact projects in the capital that support
stabilization and make a viable difference in peoples' lives"
After consulting with the TFG and civil society in
Mogadishu, the UN will give priority to training police, demobilizing
and reintegrating militias, relocating key institutions,
re-establishing representative local authorities, and rehabilitating
and managing the harbor and airport.
Other agreed priorities include providing urgently
needed basic social services, especially a back-to-school campaign,
relocating and assisting displaced persons (IDPs), and reviving
Such initiatives will not only improve lives but can
help to bolster stability and reconciliation within Somalia.
The aid community has learned from the past in Somalia
and is currently developing a code of conduct which aims to promote
behaviors in line with basic humanitarian principles in order to avoid
fuelling the re-establishment of the system of coercion and violence
perpetrated in the past by the war lords.
For Your Information: The Ethiopian
Ethiopian Defense Minister Discusses
The victory over the extremist group in Somalia was the
result of the ongoing reform program within the national defense
forces, the Ministry of Defense said.
Speaking at a press conference held here on Thursday,
Minister of Defense Kuma Demeksa said the victory Ethiopia gained over
the extremist forces in Somalia will revitalize the spirit of the
people to rally behind the national defense forces.
Kuma said the victory would also strengthen and unify
the people to rally against poverty and to continue with the already
launched peace, development and democratization process.
Kuma said Ethiopia's security had been threatened by
extremists in the Union of Islamic Forces (UIC), which was created by
the Eritrean government, as well as other anti-peace forces, that
sought to hold back the peace and development of the nation.
The government and people of Ethiopia, farsighted as
they were, have tried to resolve the problem through peaceful means,
Kuma said, adding after extended patience however the country was
forced to take defensive measures.
The Ethiopian defense forces and that of the
Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFG) came out victorious
through sacrifices, he said.
The defense forces deserve admiration for crushing the
extremist group and safeguarding the sovereignty of the nation from
invaders and internal anti-peace forces, the minister said.
The defense forces came out victorious because the war
was carried out in self defense, with sufficient preparation, strong
military discipline, and with full public support, according to the
Apart from defending the nation's sovereignty, the war
against the terrorist forces was meant to ensure peace and security,
and not to invade Somalia.
The ministry has built a dependable and strong army
through the ongoing reform program, Kuma said.
Ethiopia would continue to carry out its mission and
withdraw from Somalia in a bid to bring about sustainable peace in that
country, he said.
Since the war in Somalia is over, it is now time to
focus on the already started reform program within the national defense
forces, the minister said.
Ethiopia Has No History of Interfering in the Affairs
of Neighboring States
Asked to comment on the questions of legitimacy in
Ethiopia's intervention in Somalia, Kuma said undermining the capacity
of the terrorists was totally unacceptable since they were heavily
equipped and had rallied thousands of foreign forces behind them.
Kuma said the extremist group had an ambition of even
advancing towards Addis Ababa with the support of the Eritrean
government and international terrorists.
He said the Ethiopian government is working with the TFG
and exerting diplomatic efforts for the quick deployment of African
Peacekeeping Mission since the Ethiopian defense forces will not stay
Defense Chief of Staff, Lieut. General Samora Yenus told
journalists on the occasion that the national defense forces carried
out intensive preparation before going to war in Somalia.
Lieut. General Samora said the defense forces have been
addressing fundamental issues with a view to ensuring transparency and
revitalize the strong spirit within the defense forces, make thorough
assessment and clear out confusions about the war.
Lieut. General Samora said the defense forces have been
working with the TFG by training its military personnel, recruiting
soldiers, and building its capacity.
The Ethiopian defense forces and the forces of the TFG
have prepared a good operational plan that enabled not only to achieve
victory but also avoid civilian casualty as much as possible, Lieut.
General Samora said.
He added that the war was conducted with strong rules of
Asked about the capabilities of the Union of Islamic
Courts (UIC), Lieut. General
Samora said it would have been wrong to undermine the UIC as it had the
support of the Eritrean government, the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF)
and the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), Al-Itihad as well as
experienced international terrorists,
who come from Afghanistan, Iraq or Lebanon.
Hence, Lieut. General Samora said the victory the
Ethiopian defense forces and that of the TFG have gained was not
because of the weakness of the terrorist group.
Eritrea Backs Away from Somalia
The big question for many in East Africa is "Why didn't
Eritrea attack Ethiopia when Ethiopia attacked the Islamic Courts in
Eritrea sent advisers to Somalia and had supplied the
Islamic Courts with weapons and other supplies. Reports from Eritrea
and East Africa now indicate that Eritrea was not prepared to strike
along the Eritrea-Ethiopia border, despite reports of Eritrean troop
movements during the fall of 2006. One
view holds that Eritrea is betting on a "long stay" by Ethiopia in
Somalia -- meaning a quagmire of sorts. In fact, Eritrea began touting
the quagmire theory in public on January 3. However, Ethiopia insists
the majority of its troops will leave Somalia within a few weeks.
Another view is that the Eritreans didn't believe
the Ethiopians would launch such a sudden, all-out offensive, and be so
successful in that offensive.
Eritrea is aware that the U.S. and other allies have
provided Ethiopia with intelligence data. That may have been another
"brake" on Eritrean action. Eritrea has "good observation" of what goes
on in Djibouti, which the U.S. has used as its major base in the
region. U.S. support flights and unmanned
aerial recon vehicles fly from Djibouti. For whatever reason, so far
the "Eritrean front" has remained quiet. Eritrea can still make the
case to its Somali allies that it has "pinned down" significant
Ethiopian forces along its border, but for the cornered Islamic Courts,
that's not a lot of solace. (Austin Bay Blog)
January 9, 2007: Ethiopia said it arrested four members
of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). The Ethiopian statement alleged
that the four were aiding Somali Islamists. Ethiopia claimed on January
2 that it had captured other OLF fighters in Somalia who were fighting
with Islamic Courts forces.
January 8, 2007: More details are emerging as captured
Somali Islamists discuss their training experience in Eritrea. Captured
Somali Islamists say that they had received training in guerrilla
tactics in Eritrea. The training also included instruction in making
Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and
using suicide vests. The training in IED manufacturing and use of
suicide vests is not a story Eritrea wants told. The captured men were
identified as members of Shebab, a Somali Islamist radical faction. One
of the men stated that "several dozen" Arab fighters served with the
Islamic Courts forces that were deployed
near the town of Baidoa, prior to the Ethiopian offensive.
January 2, 2007: Eritrea "blamed" the United States for
Ethiopia's stunningly successful offensive in Somalia.
UIC Extremists: Once Threats to the Region, Now
Vanished in the Air
Ever since the dictatorial Siad Barre government
collapsed in 1991, Somalia remained stateless for years. After several
diplomatic efforts and negotiations, a transitional government was
established in 2004. This was hoped by the international community that
it would bring peace and a better life for the people
in that country which had been in turmoil for over 15 years. The
transitional federal government (TFG) made a call to the international
community to assist the country to restore peace and stability. In
January 2006 the parliament of the transitional government convened for
first time at the town of Baidowa in central
However, the existence of the transitional government,
which was given a glimmer of hope fell under threat when the Islamic
Courts Union controlled Mogadishu, the capital, driving out the
warlords that were in command of the city for several years. Then the
fundamentalist group stood firm to overthrow
the transitional government and introduce Islamic rule in the country.
Besides, the group repeatedly made it clear through international media
that its aim was to realize the dream of forming the great Somalia, a
move that seriously threatens the peace of neighboring countries.
Moreover, the group repeatedly declared jihad against
Ethiopia which had been making unreserved efforts to
bring peace in Somalia.
The UIC, which embraced several international terrorists
from around the world, refused to resolve problems through peaceful
discussions although it was requested several times. It failed to show
willingness to undertake peaceful negotiations. Although the EU special
envoy Luis Michel made the last
effort to bring the Islamic Courts Union into peaceful negotiation with
the transitional government, the group decided to reject the
international call for peace.
The Extremist group which decided to overthrow the
transitional federal government expressed its mission to bring together
all Somali speaking people in the neighboring countries under the great
Somalia. This daydream of the UIC was threatening to the peace of
neighboring countries. As the situation
continued to be a growing danger for the neighboring countries
including Ethiopia, several analysts made it clear that actions needed
to be made as self-defense. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi noted that the
group has posed clear and present danger and explained that it had
invited international terrorists and declared
war against Ethiopia in front of international media.
Evidence shows that the extremist group, apart from
rejecting calls made by the international community has repeatedly
attempted to infiltrate insurgents into Ethiopia. This time it became a
must for Ethiopian defence force to protect the country from attack.
Due to this reason, Ethiopia, which had been
deploying relentless efforts along with the international community to
restore peace in the country was dragged into war against the
anti-peace forces. The national defence force together with Somali
government forces started their military operation.
When Ethiopian and Somali forces launched their
counter-attack, the extremist forces couldn't even resist for few days
and fled leaving various places of their stronghold to the transitional
government forces. International media started to report that both
Ethiopian and transitional government forces
were welcomed warmly in places they arrived ousting the extremists.
Twenty-four hours after the counter-attack was launched, the extremist
group was forced to pull out of 16 towns. International media also
reported that in some areas the Somali people which badly needed peace
for years welcomed the Ethiopian
defence forces and the transitional government troops by slaughtering
their animals. The transitional government and Ethiopian national
defence forces headed towards Mogadishu defeating the UIC. Satisfied by
victory of the government and Ethiopian defence forces the residents of
Mogadishu took to the streets and expressed
their happiness with jubilation and clapping. The extremist forces who
considered itself as a government and attempted to impose Islamic law
in its administration left the city.
Since the extremist leadership had controlled Mogadishu
last June, apart from issuing laws prohibiting the people from watching
TV and forcing women to veil their faces and banning the people from
buying western products, were quick enough to demonstrate its
anti-democratic and inhuman nature.
The clan politics in Somalia made the attempts 14 times
to establish central government worthless. Prime Minister of the
transitional federal government Mohammed Ali Geddi began discussions in
Mogadishu with the elders on how to bring peace in the city. According
to the Prime Minister, the transitional
government will do its level best to restore peace in the city and it
is expected to collect illegal weapons owned by individuals. President
of the transitional government, Abdulahi Yusuf said that the government
forces will be deployed to protect Mogadishu residents from any attacks.
President Abdullahi Yusuf also announced to the people
that his government is committed to resolve any problems that may come
up through peaceful means. Meanwhile Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles
Zenawi noted that the national defence force will pull out after the
Islamic Courts Union and its
allies are completely routed and the forces accomplish their mission.
He said that the troops will not be withdrawn unless the government
believes that the terrorist groups are crushed and will not reorganize
themselves to disrupt again peace in the region. He also said that it
would take weeks to do this. Extremist
forces estimated to reach from 2,000 to 3,000 were killed and from 4,
000 to 5,000 were injured, according to the Prime Minister. The
extremist forces being unable to resist the counter-attacks launched
against them by the Ethiopian and transitional government forces fled
to the southern port town, Kismayou.
According to a United Nations report the extremist
leadership sent teenagers aged 12 years to the war. Residents told
Associated Press that Islamic Courts Union leader Dahir Awes was seen
in Kismayo along with hundreds of foreign troops and 45 vehicles
carrying anti-aircraft weapons.
The Islamic Courts Union which laid a siege in
Mogadishu, was forced to flee after ten days they had started to attack
Bidoa, the seat of the transitional federal government. As one UIC
soldier told Reuters the extremist forces were severely attacked.
He told the journalist that he was forced to
put his clothes off and join the civilians. Many of the leaders of the
UIC joined the civilian people. He also said that many of the extremist
fighters fled to other areas.
Analysts say that for the Somali transitional government
to become strong, it is essential to make diplomatic efforts apart from
the victory gained over the military intervention.
Many of the Mogadishu residents said that they don't
want to slip back into violence. They are tired of anarchy and
conflict. So they want to see the transitional federal government to
get stronger as quickly as possible and bring about sustainable peace
to the country.
The Prime Minister of the transitional federal
government of Somalia after discussing with the elders authorized a
state of emergency in the capital.
It requires the relentless efforts of the transitional
government, the African Union, the United Nations and that of the
international community as a whole to rebuild Somalia. As part of the
effort to ensure peace and stability in the country and its neighbours,
the transitional government has planned to
disarm privately owned weapons. This measure will have significant
contribution to deny the remnant terrorist forces the chance to disrupt
again the peace of the country.
Somali Ambassador to Ethiopia Abdul Karin Farah noted
that the African Union is preparing to send peacekeeping forces, which
will be drawn from countries which are willing. He also said that the
AU would request the United Nations to support the peacekeeping forces
financially. Such efforts will
no doubt help the task of ensuring stability and peace in the country
until the transitional government forms a strong security force.
Aspects of Terrorism in Somalia
The Union of Islamic Courts' association with terrorism
is crucial to Ethiopia's internal security, and that of the Horn at
large, as the greatest threat to the country from al-Qaeda lies in
Somalia due to the lack of an effective government.
Al-Ittihaad al-Islami, a fundamental Islamic group which
has been responsible for terrorist activities in the Horn has
functioned primarily out of Somalia, although small enclaves are
believed to still exist within Ethiopia and Kenya.
In August 1998, car bombs exploded outside the American
embassies, in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, and Dar es Salaam in
Tanzania killing hundreds and injuring thousands.
Osama bin Laden has also claimed that his fighters were
involved in the killing of 18 U.S. troops in Mogadishu in 1993, when a
U.S. Black Hawk helicopter was shot down. Sheikh Hassan Aweys was among
extremist Islamic leaders who formed the Courts.
The call from the al-Qaeda number two, Ayman
al-Zawahiri, urging Islamists to join the fight against the Somali
government and its Ethiopian allies confirms this threat of terrorism.
Al-Ittihaad al-Islami (AIAI) group's initial objective
was to overthrow dictator Siad Barre. After Barre's toppling in 1991,
the organisation enlarged its scope of operations and began
cross-border raids into Ethiopia.
The main objective behind these attacks was to gain
control of the disputed Ogaden region which is predominately inhabited
by Ethiopian Somalis, allowing AIAI to tap into Somali nationalism by
arguing for Somali control of the region.
In recent years, Somalia and Ethiopia have fought over
control of Ogaden, and Somali Islamists also declared their desire to
include the province in a Greater Somalia. Currently, the area
experiences a low-profile armed conflict between the
Mogadishu-supported Ogaden National Liberation Front and
the Ethiopian army. Somalia can therefore be seen as a danger to
While the UIC has been given a human face by many, there
should be concerns over their ideologies and policies, especially as
strict standards of religion and discipline had been introduced.
During the short-lived reign of the Courts, security and
freedom of residents to go about their daily lives without fear came at
the expense of personal freedoms.
While some Mogadishu residents' gratitude for the former
made up for loss of the latter, others fled to refugee camps, citing
persecution and loss of business.
The implementation of strict Shari'a law lacked official
guidelines on social and religious conduct, and was, instead used for
punishment and propaganda.
While it is quite true that the UIC was popular at one
point in Mogadishu, this emerged mainly out of desperation for a sense
of order and security.
However, this situation changed overnight. Although the
level of acceptance of the Courts among the population of Somalia
remains hard to gauge, many residents were unhappy with the new rules.
For instance, prior to Ethiopian intervention, the
Courts in Bulo Burde district imposed a curfew on the town following
protests staged against the Islamists who had closed down cinemas.
The use of the extreme form of punishment, public
executions without proper legal procedures cast a shadow over the
Hussien Saneo Muahir was accused of adultery and two of
his limbs (right hand and left leg) cut off. It later emerged that he
had not commited the act.
The dress code imposed by the UIC also led to
consternation. So did the banning of khat
(miraa) which met a lot of
resistance from Mogadishu residents.
All these things do not mean that the Courts have no
legitimacy and should not have an important role to play in the future
If the dream of a peaceful Somalia is to become a
reality, reconciliation should be encouraged. Kenya, in its role as
chair of Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and in
light of its past involvement in regional peace processes, should
create a platform for negotiations between the UIC
and the TFG. Through a series of negotiated forums, issues leading to
and having triggered the conflict should be addressed to find a lasting
solution to the situation.
Misfortune of Eritrea 's Proxy Wars
Eritrea's inundation into the Somali conflict, by aiding
and abetting the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) including and up to
sending combat troops, was a fact repeatedly reported by the UN
Monitoring Group. Eritrea does not have a probable cause to militarily
get involved in Somalia. It does not have a contiguous
border, nor does it have any cultural, trade or ideological tie with
Somalia. As has been written by this author about six months ago,
Eritrea's lunge into the Somali crises was a much-deliberated strategy
of a Proxy War against Ethiopia that many observers of the Horn of
Africa did not quite grasp.
The Prelude: Lobbying USA
As an overture to the Somali conflict, there was an
anti-Ethiopia lobbying scheme that was highly visible right after the
November U.S. mid term election. Various fronts were lined up, right
after the election in a concert of many lobbying efforts.
The Eritrean Embassy was out with full force visiting
staffers in Congress in an attempt to reeducate them about the gentle
and U.S.-friendly side of Eritrea. Ceasing this opportunity, the
Eritrean Embassy was bringing the border issue to the forefront by
releasing press statements. The lobby was fusing
the Somali crisis with the Ethio-Eritrean border impasse and portraying
Ethiopia as a flagrant neighbor in the Horn.
The Eritrean lobby was coming out with some good talking
points. An Eritrean-American Republican candidate for Congress from
Minnesota, who lost the election to Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN), was
actively lobbying on behalf of Eritrea. After his loss he came out
openly and said, "Eritrea is
a country of half Muslims and half Christians, with a secular
government. Why in the world would it get cozy with an Islamist
government?" This argument was read aloud to the Eritrean Diaspora all
over Washington and was being used as a come back line.
The Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) lobby in Washington
also became active and emphatically claimed that OLF is not being
sponsored by the Union of Islamic Courts. The lobby argued that the
last time OLF was in Somalia was in 1999 and they are not operating
armed struggle from Somali bases.
They also wanted the USA to know that the Islamic agenda was not in
with the objectives of OLF because they said they are an organization
of Muslims and Christians.
At the same time, in an attempt to resurrect the inert
bill HR5860, some groups affiliated with CUDP-Diaspora (Coalition of
Unity and Democracy Party) carried out petition campaigns and lobbying
efforts. Mixing the bill with the Somali crisis, this group typified
Ethiopia 's military readiness as an
attempt to divert attention from their cause. Some CUDP-Diaspora
affiliated weblogs were on the record that Ethiopia should not fight
the emergence of the UIC, even after the UIC declared Jihad on
Ethiopia. All sorts of political gurus, anesthesiologists turned
and attorneys turned political activists went on
a ferocious campaign against the Ethiopian Government's position
The Coalition of Odium
Since its inception the UIC was being armed and trained
by the Eritrean military and financed by many Arab countries. This was
planned, albeit not quite carefully, to submerge Ethiopia in a lengthy
and bloody conflict in Somalia, while instigating internal ethnic and
civil war, towards an eventual disintegration of Ethiopia.
Coincidentally or not, the time of creation of the
Alliance for Democracy (AFD), sponsored by the Eritrean regime, as an
amalgam of OLF, Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), CUDP-Diaspora
and Ethiopian People's Patriotic Front (EPPF), overlaps with the
emergence of the UIC as a political
force in Somalia. The plan by Eritrea to engross the CUDP-Diaspora in
the AFD mix was nothing but to perpetuate the election-related urban
unrest in tandem with the military plans of OLF, ONF and EPPF. If all
went well, conflict in Somalia, ethnic and liberation war with OLF,
ONLF and EPPF election-related
urban unrest with CUDP supporters, would have heaved Ethiopia into
The CUDP-Diaspora that got snug with the various ethnic
liberation fronts was none other than a small entity with no
organizational, social or political structure in Ethiopia. Before a
practical strategy to employ CUDP-Diaspora as a partner in the proxy
war was drawn by Eritrea, CUDP-Diaspora [un]fortunately got into an
due to financial impropriety
of money collected from many people in America.
The Military Misfortune
A pro-Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) writer
once upon a time wrote, "The road to peace in the Horn of Africa goes
through Asmara." This writer has a point, in a way. With the whim of
the regime in Asmara, there may always be trouble in the Horn. Eritrea
will always try to sponsor armed insurgents against all its neighbors
The overall Proxy War strategy of Eritrea was quite
startling, except the Ethiopian military had a lethal and a surprise
military plan. All along, Eritrea was planning to move into the
disputed border zone by taking advantage of Ethiopia's distraction with
the conflict in Somalia.
About ten days before the Ethiopian forces engaged in
combat against the UIC, in the middle of the night, a continuous
gunfire broke out near Tsorona on the Central Mereb front of the
border. The gunfire however was only from the Eritrean side without any
response from Ethiopia and subsided
by daybreak. Military observers, aware of the all night gunfire, were
probably worried that a new battlefront was about to open on the north.
The Eritrean regime also dispatched about two companies
of a ragtag band of "Kefagn" (composed of dissidents from Wolkait)
across the Tekeze River in the Humera area of northern Ethiopia.
On a different front, a battalion of OLF fighters were
deployed, half of them through Western Ethiopia's Gambella Region and
half of them through Kenya's border of Southern Ethiopia to the Borena
Military observers say that the various guerrilla forces
dispatched in the north, west and south were all "contained" (for lack
of a better word) before they coordinated attacks in concert with the
war in Somalia.
The ONLF however had already been in action ten days
before Ethiopian forces resumed actual combat with the UIC. Armed
confrontations and some ambushes were carried out in the Ogaden region.
These incidents were openly reported by the ONLF press releases and web
sites. These operations
of the ONLF were broadcasted on EriTV on a daily basis.
Notwithstanding the presence of Ethiopian soldiers
alongside the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), the UN Monitoring
and the Somali Contact Group have time and again ascertained the
presence of Eritrean soldiers alongside the Somali Islamists. However,
there are some think tanks
and analysts who refuse to believe that Eritrea had combat troops in
Somalia. This [dis] belief has more to do with the analysts' sympathy
for Eritrea's border row with Ethiopia, than the current Somali crisis.
In a bemused logic, Sally Healy of the British-based think-tank Chatham
House wrote, "the fact there wasn't
any sort of confrontation seems to support Eritrea's case. There might
not have been the Eritrean presence (in Somalia) that was alleged."
Other analysts say a new Ethiopian-Eritrean flare-up may
still break out if the Islamists can muster a powerful insurgency in
Somalia like that seen in Iraq, and internal dissent inside Ethiopia
increases. This is a plausible conjecture, but one should not base any
analysis solely on inputs from Eritrea
or by drawing conclusions from United States experience in Iraq. It
would be prudent and highly intellectual to study the whole situation
in Somalia including the clan, religious and political base of the
contending parties. At the same time it would help to enlighten oneself
about the historical, military, political and strategic
plinth of Ethiopia.
The presence of foreign forces, Eritrean army, OLF, ONLF
fighters and Al-Qaeda elements in Somalia, is an undisputed fact.
Journalists and independent observers in the war front have confirmed
this reality. Yemen and Kenya have apprehended many of these foreign
fighters. After the swift rout
of the UIC from most of Somalia, survivors of the foreign forces are
cornered in the southern tip of Somalia. U.S. helicopters and
airplanes, in a hunt for the Al-Qaeda elements, are bombing these
forces. Logic would dictate that the USA is in overt combat with the
foreign forces (Eritrean army, OLF, ONLF and Al-Qaeda)
and by extension whoever is in alliance with them. We will probably
know soon, whom the USA will categorize in the terrorist and enemy
One anonymous analyst from Asmara said Eritrea's posture
was not as aggressive as many believed, "I don't see the Eritreans
making an offensive maneuver unless there's opposition-backed
disintegration of Ethiopia. They'd only get involved if they thought it
needed a push." This analyst is on the mark
about the motives of the maneuver but not about the futile combats
waged by Eritrea, because it indeed engaged in both direct as well as
Eritrea's maneuver of proxy wars against Ethiopia has
been an ongoing obsession. It is not because Eritrea does not maneuver
for a military push all the time, but it is rather because it always
faces failures and misfortunes. This time, it was because the Ethiopian
strike was dramatic and with a lightening
speed, that broke the backbone of the UIC, that mortified Eritrea's
plan and more over that stunned the whole world. The aggressive posture
of Eritrea is always eminent, but it failed to execute it this time and
once again. As a Western diplomat in Nairobi said: "It was the dog that
didn't bite -- for now."
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