Dr Menbere Asfaw
Isaias Afeworki, Mele Zenawi and the late Said Barre - Have these men done any good to war-torn Horn of Africa
Meles Zenawi's recent speech in his house of clapping puppets and clowns that he calls "parliament" was not only funny but also absurd. Ethiopia's much hated dictator told his parliament that the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Ethiopia was threatened by Somali Jihadists with the backing of Isaias Afeworki. With his typical trademark of arrogance, he beat his favourite war drum with a sense of self-adulation as a patriot ready to defend Ethiopia at any cost.
"The trouble with this country is that there are too many politicians who believe, with a conviction based on experience, that they can fool all of the people all of the time," said the American Franklin P. Adams. In our case though, there is a foolish tyrant who believes with a great conviction that he can fool all the people all the time just by changing his masks. But the consequences of his reckless foolishness have already brought numerous tragedies and untold misery to the poor people of Ethiopia for over three decades as a rebel and ruthless tyrant.
Even though the tyrant suffers from short memory, history never forgets. Historical records show that Meles Zenawi, a classic example of a footloose traitor, once made himself available to the service of Ethiopia's worst enemies including the late Somali dictator Siyaad Barre and his former mentor Isaias Afeworki.
In return to his treacherous service, the Somali dictator, who happened to be fond of the extremist Zenawi as a promising foot soldier, supplied him with weapons, money, a hideout in Mogadishu, links to anti-Ethiopian elements and a diplomatic Somali passport that even the most loyalist Somali was not entitled to. In some of his anti-Ethiopian sermons that he used to preach before he came to power, Meles openly declared that "colonial" Ethiopia occupied and exploited not only Eritrea but also Somali territories including the Ogaden region. According to Meles, as well as his narrow minded ethonocenric group coached by Shabia, the 1977 invasion of Ethiopia by Siyaad Barre to annex the Ogaden region was a holy war of liberation. On countless occasions, Meles has condemned Emperor Menelik as a colonialist for unifying the nation and making Ethiopia a much stronger state that could fend off colonial invasions.
Since the fall of Sayaad Barre and Mengistu Hailemariam in 1991, both Somalia and Ethiopia have continued to experience tragic upheavals under clan and ethnic warlords. Both failed states, which cannot even feed their people, continue to face uncertain futures as wars, hunger, floods, abject poverty, clan and ethnic conflicts have cast huge shadows of doubt on their destinies.
Somalia after Barre descended into anarchy as clannish warlords have bitterly fought for domination until the Union of Islamic Courts emerged victories out of the ruins. As a result of decades of senseless wars, millions of Somalis have been displaced and fled their war-torn country. Those who remained in Somalia lost their homes, limbs and lives while the warlords supported by various outside powers competing for a sphere of influence, including Meles, Isaias Afeworki and the United States. The defeat of the corrupt and ruthless warlords and the emergence of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) as a victorious power controlling much of Somalia was a blow to the United States and Mr Zenawi, who has been accused by former Secretary of State for African Affairs Herman Cohen as feeding false intelligence to boost his standing. In spite of accusations of closer links with Al Qaeda and Eritrea, the Islamic Courts were able to restore some sort of stability and order for the first time in decades.
Contrary to positive expectation after the fall of tyrant Mengistu Hailemariam, Ethiopia under Meles has also been suffering great pains in the last 15 years. Since the replacement of the military junta with the ethnocentric tyrannies of Meles and Isaias Afeworki, the country has been leaping from one tragedy to another. The victory of two Tigrigna speaking rebel groups in May 1991 did not bring the promised peace, stability, prosperity and democracy in divided Ethiopia. The country has rather been scrambled by these vicious warlords. In accordance with the pre-victory arrangements, Isaias Afeworki took control of Eritrea with all 1000 km coastlines while his former loyalist and advocate of Eritrean secession from "colonial Ethiopia", Meles Zenawi, entered the grand palace at Arat Kilo. Both warlords, who have a complex mix of Adowan and Eritrean bloodline, became fully fledged tyrants in their own rights.
In accordance with their anti-Ethiopian pact, Meles, without any mandate arranged a bogus referendum and pleaded the UN to recognize Eritrea as an independent state. Blinded by their romance, they even felt no need to demarcate their borders and clearly define the limits of their anti-Ethiopian relationships. Any form of resistance of tyranny in both their empires were crushed by the duo, who continuously sang about liberation and democracy before they came to power. All the bloodshed and destruction in the name of freedom and liberation has brought nothing but slavery and repressions for both Ethiopians and Eritreans.
Since the mid-1990s, cracks emerged in the Meles-Isaias romance and a divorce appeared inevitable by 1997. In 1997, the two tyrants started to trade accusations of expansionist tendencies, though the dispute has a deeper personal as well as economic root than a border dispute.
In 1998 it became even clearer that the romance of the two Tigrian tyrants with two separate empires broke down irreparably. Between May 1998 and June 2000 the two mindless tyrants fought one of the silliest and most senseless wars ever fought in the dark continent of Africa. In the course of the crazy tyrants' war, over 100,000 young men and women perished from both sides, above half a million people were displaced. They spent billions of dollars on such a destructive project and continue to misspend their energy and hard-eared foreign currency on an endless stalemate. What makes this war even more painful is that, the two reckless tyrants responsible for such massive scale crimes against humanity are still in power seeking every opportunity to disturb the peace in the Horn of Africa.
The TPLF and its Eritrean counterpart have now made Somalia a bone of contention. The Union of Islamic Courts, which now controls much of Somalia is supported by the Eritrean tyrant. The Baidoa confined remnant of the collapsed Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism or "ARPCT" "transitional government" of Abdullahi Yusuf is backed by the CIA and Zenawi. Meles Zenawi has already sent troops to prop up the fragile puppet government in Baidoa while the UIC has threatened to disarm Abdullahi Yusuf whose survival can only continue on the back of Zenawi. According to Meles, Mr Yusuf is the legitimate ruler of Somalia even if his "legitimacy" is illegitimate through the eyes of the UIC.
Despite the fact that the rise of radical Islam can pose a threat in the long run, the rug tag army of the UIC is not well organized enough to invade neighboring countries. Somalis have a right to sort out their own problems. Rebuilding war-torn Somalia and reunifying the people of Somalia divided along clan lines are the most challenging tasks facing the UIC. For now religion is a unifying cause that helped them defeat the warlords but putting Somalia back on the world map requires time and energy.
According to Meles, the UIC has already posed a serious threat while he was provoking a war by sending his troops to Baidoa long before the Islamists vowed to defend their country. The man, who was once Sayaad Berre's treacherous cadet and ardent supporter of the Somali invasion against Ethiopia, is now telling us that he is going to war to defend us, our sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ethiopia. Really!
No matter what the treacherous tyrant says here are the facts that he never wishes to confront. He is the one who has jailed Ethiopia's prominent pro-democracy patriots. He is responsible for the massacre of our young sisters, brothers, mums and dads for demanding freedom and fairness. He is responsible for seceding Eritrea without any consultation with the Ethiopian people. He is the one who has handed over all our outlets to the sea making Ethiopia one of the biggest landlocked countries in the world. He is the one who caused the death of over 100,000 young men in the name of Badme and betrayed their sacrifice. He is public enemy number one who has denied the Ethiopian people all their basic freedoms...the rights to speak, write or listen...the rights to form associations, protest or stage demonstrations, go on strike.... He even denied victims of his massacres the right to hear the real findings of an inquiry commission. He is holding the entire nation hostage at gunpoint.... He is the one who has introduced ethnic segregation, discrimination, divide and rule... to sustain his elitist economic and political control. With the backdrop of all his endless crimes, is a Somali Islam or a homegrown tyrant who is threatening the survival of Ethiopia? Somali Muslims just said, "Get out of our land, Mr Meles!"
One must be foolish, by choice or nature, to continue being fooled by a treacherous tyrant who has long been making profits out of bloodbath. "In every tyrant's heart there springs in the end this poison, that he cannot trust a friend," said the ancient Greek dramatist Aeschylus. Why on earth do we have to trust a despot who has betrayed the nation not once, but on countless occasions? May be the hyena and his pack of opportunist bigots! I vividly remember Meles ridiculing anyone with a patriotic feeling. He said let them carry a rug of flag and good luck. I wish him all the best. Ethiopians must live peacefully with their Somali brethren.
Menbere Asfaw, PhD in history, can be reached at [email protected]