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Ethiopian Involvement in Somalia
Hiiraan Online
Monday, May 05, 2008

Somalis of all political stripes,
Ethiopia and the international community agree that Ethiopia is heavily involved in the current affairs of Somalia. There are however, diverse views or narratives on the nature, the scope and affect of Ethiopia's involvement in the Somali conflict. In fact, there are three mainly held views; the Ethiopian government version, Somali Transitional Government (TFG) version, and that of the Alliance of Re-Liberation of Somalia.
This editorial piece presents the diverse views surrounding the Ethiopian involvement and the presence of Ethiopian troops in Somalia
The Ethiopian Version
Ethiopia portrays its involvement in Somalia as both altruistic and mutual in nature, where Somalia is a neighboring African country afflicted with a vicious cycle of violent conflict for 18 years and Somalia's instability is risk to Ethiopia’s security and stability.  Ethiopian leaders also argue that they were tirelessly working for eighteen years to bring  peace and stability to Somalia through national reconciliation processes as well as military assistance. Ethiopian leaders state that they are proud of hosting several reconciliation conferences for Somalia by inviting Somali faction leaders and warlords twice in Ethiopia's capital cities (Addis Ababa) and in other cities such as Awasa and Sodere.
The Ethiopians also note that they supported other Somali reconciliation conferences held in neighboring Horn of African countries such as Djibouti and Kenya (Arta and Mbagathi conferences respectively), where Ethiopian leaders including the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister attended the swearing-in ceremonies for transitional Somali Presidents and governments.
The Ethiopians also emphasize the fact that Ethiopia is the only country in the world that Somali citizens could travel in and out without visa or passport requirements. In addition, they talk about that they hosted and still host hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees in their country. As a sign of good neighboring nation, the Ethiopian leaders point out the good relationship they have with the self-declared Republic of Somaliland and the semiautonomous region of Puntland. Similarly, as a proof of their positive role in Somalia, Ethiopia states that they had excellent relationships with almost all Mogadishu based warlords as well as faction leaders based in Bay, Bakool, Hiiraan, Jubba and Gedo regions over the years.
Ethiopian leaders describe their ongoing military involvement in Somalia as the quintessential selfless sacrifice where they risk the lives of Ethiopian troops and drain their limited wealth to assist in stabilizing Somalia eventually building national institutions for Somalia.
The narrative of the Ethiopian leaders is that the sole objective of their recent incursion and ongoing occupation in Somalia is to bolster the beleaguered legitimate government of Somalia and to protect their own national security interests from radical Islamist forces in Somalia.
Alliance of Re-Liberation of Somalia
The liberation groups including a sizable number of Diaspora Somalis vehemently believe the Ethiopian policy towards Somalia is far from altruistic. They argue Ethiopia has agenda in Somalia and it is one driven by ulterior motives. The Asmara based Alliance of the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) as well as some Somali academics articulate this nationalist narrative. The Somali nationalists state that current Ethiopian leaders are obsessed with Somalia and they state that the Ethiopian leaders believe a strong Somali state would be a threat to Ethiopia. Therefore, they set out to destroy and further weaken their fallen archenemy, Somalia.
The pro-nationalist camp argues Somalia and Ethiopia fought two major wars in 1964 and 1977 and they stress the idea of Ethiopia managing Somali peace processes is as odd as the idea of entrusting the security of Israel or the destiny of the Palestinians in the hands of the other side. The anti-Ethiopia forces also state that since 1977, Ethiopia has been the breeding ground and the provider of weapons and political legitimacy to every Somali warlord that wrecked havoc in Somalia. Thus, for them, Ethiopia having good relations with plethora of Somali warlords is an indicative of their "divide and rule" policy rather than a benign or positive Ethiopian role in Somalia.
The nationalist voices use the story behind the creation of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to illustrate what they see as a blatant Ethiopian manipulation of the internal affairs of Somalia and the far-reaching and dangerous consequences of unchecked Ethiopian meddling. They state that Ethiopian leaders sabotaged the Transitional National Government (TNG) by creating the SRRC in 2001, which they term was an exclusive club of Somalia's most notorious warlords.
According to nationalist Somalis, Ethiopia appointed itself, along with what it termed as the "frontline states", the right to manage the Eldoret and Mbaghati conferences and it overtly engineered the exclusion of Somali nationalists and Islamists from the conference. The Ethiopians also enabled the domination of the conference by pro-Ethiopian Somalis who ultimately become the Somali Members Parliament and who subsequently elected a current pro-Ethiopian President, who in turn appointed a pro-Ethiopian Prime Minister.
Therefore, for the nationalist Somalis, the TFG is an Ethiopian-created puppet entity that serves Ethiopian interests and not the interests of the Somali people. The opposition groups argue that the TFG gave the Ethiopians the legal / political cover that allowed it to achieve its century-old aspiration to conquer and dominate Somalia. For these nationalist Somalis, liberation and the dethroning of the TFG is the only answer and that explains why the largest opposition group uses of the name the Alliance of the Re-liberation of Somalia.
Alliance of Re-liberation of Somalia believes that the EFFECT of the Ethiopian involvement in Somalia is crystal-clear to everyone who follows the news: death and destruction. They argue that the international community particularly the UN Security Council, the organ responsible for keeping international peace, has decided to be mum or dance around the questions pertaining to the Ethiopian involvement in Somalia.
The TFG Version
The Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFG) entirely agrees with the Ethiopian interpretation of the nature of the Ethiopian involvement in Somalia—stabilization of Somalia and protection of Horn of Africa region from Radical Islamists. They emphasize that they had authorized Ethiopia to come to the rescue of the TFG from radical Islamists and that they are very grateful for such help. In addition, the TFG leaders argue that the presence of Ethiopian troops in Somalia is a legitimate one because it is backed by IGAD, and UN Security Council and the international community.
In fact, the international community recognizes the TFG as the sole legitimate government of Somalia. Consequently , even the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Conferences who traditionally are sympathetic to the strategic national interests of Somalia were not able to confront politically the Ethiopian narrative—after all the Somali government is screaming out loud that Ethiopia is a real friend and not a foe of Somalia.
Furthermore, the TFG argues that the Ethiopian troop's presence and involvement is a temporary in nature and Ethiopians will be out of Somali politics as soon as UN or AU peacekeeping forces are deployed or TFG is able to protect itself from radical Islamist threats. The TFG leaders believe Somali conflict will never come to end without the help of international community since Somalis were not able to find a lasting solution in their two-decade long conflict.
We objectively tried to present in this editorial the diverse views and concerns surrounding the presence of Ethiopian troops in Somalia as well as Ethiopia's overall involvement in the Somali affairs. We would also like to know what our readers think of this important issue.
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