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Zenawi is bad news for the people of Horn of Africa

By Mohamed Mukhtar


Nasir, an old friend of mine, phoned me early in the morning of December 24 and told me that Ethiopian aircrafts had bombarded several towns in Somalia. At the time, a book entitled the Shackled Continent was laying on my table open. There is a paragraph that reads: “Mugabe governs like the guerrilla commander he once was. The details of how his people earn their daily bowl of maize porridge do not interest him in the slightest. Now, substitute ‘Zenawi’ to ‘Mugabi’ and this gives you a good picture of Ethiopia’s prime minister. 


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Zenawi is bad news for the people of Horn of Africa and his first victims are the Ethiopians. In 2005, a report which details the human rights abuses committed by his regime was complied by the U.S. Department of State. The report says: “The following human rights problems were reported: unlawful killings, including alleged political killings, and beating, abuse, and mistreatment of detainees and opposition supporters by security forces; detention of thousands without charge, and lengthy pre-trial detention and government restrictions on freedom of the press; arrest, detention, and harassment of journalists for publishing articles critical of the government; self‑censorship by journalists.” Human Rights Watch also observed this concern: “Since the May 15 parliamentary elections in which opposition parties made massive gains in their share of seats, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has used repression, intimidation and violence to punish real or perceived opposition supporters and eliminate dissent in both urban centres and rural areas.”  


Zenawi has been a threat to the peace of Horn of Africa. In May 1998, Eritrea and Zenawi went to war and between May 1998 and June 2000, that senseless war claimed over 100,000 lives and millions of dollars were diverted from desperately needed development into military activities and weapons procurements. Dan Connell commented how Zenawi misuses the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea: “Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi uses the crisis and its emotive appeal to Ethiopian nationalists to shore up his narrowly based regime, even as the country confronts widespread famine due both to a persistent drought and to the redirection of scarce resources to the war effort.”


Zenawi has been covertly meddling Somalia’s internal affairs for more than a decade, however, December 24, he declared his intentions and admitted for the first time that his troops are fighting in Somalia and began attacking on the Islamic Courts. Zenawi gave an inane explanation for his actions and said, “Ethiopia was forced to defend its sovereignty against "terrorists" and anti-Ethiopians.” Strangely, Zenawi used to say that he wanted to protect Somalia’s fragile transitional government and now it seems that he wants to tell Ethiopians that he is invading Somalia for their own sake.


Zenawi claims to be at the ‘epicentre of terrorism’ and is at war with the Islamic Courts. Tadesse Tadele, an Ethiopian college teacher analysed dispassionately the reckless actions of Zenawi: “The PM of Ethiopia also accuses the ICU of having links with terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda, therefore, it poses a threat to Ethiopia’s national security and international peace. If Meles proceed with his current madness and send [troops] to Somalia without the mandate of the Ethiopian people and the international community, the Horn of Africa will be

embroiled in a crisis much worse than the one we are witnessing in Iraq now.”


The following day, December 25, every city in Somalia became a potential bombing target. Ethiopian fighter jets bombed the international airport in the capital, Mogadishu, and another at Balidogle, in the south of the country. Zenawi has been flagrantly violating the arms embargo on Somalia and is now pushing Somalia further into the void. There might be a short term gain for Zenawi but a long and ugly lose for the people of Horn of Africa. 


Mohamed Mukhtar
London, UK
Email: [email protected]

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