Abdi Ismail Samatar
Department of Geography
University of Minnesota
The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) has declared that the war in Somalia has produced, since the beginning of the year, more refugees than any other country including conflicts in Sudan and Iraq. Such a terrible statistic is the product of the Ethiopian occupation of Somalia and warlord terror. Unfortunately, the international community continues to endorse a government of warlords and its Ethiopian supporters responsible for the mayhem in Mogadishu.
Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) is deeply sectarian and its president has for many years condemned large genealogical groups as the “opposition to be dealt with”. Despite the TFG president’s violent statements and Ethiopia’s brutal occupation of Somalia, the international community led by the United States has been trying to impose a warlord-government on the Somali people during the past five years, having facilitated the formation of a warlord-government beholden to the regime in Addis Ababa. Unsuspecting Somali public initially welcomed this development despite their misgivings about the poor quality of its leaders and their loyalty to the Ethiopian regime rather than to the Somali people. After two long years of waiting for the TFG to articulate a national agenda, the public turned against the TFG and the population’s reaction intensified the hostility of the Ethiopian dictatorship who considers the TFG as its client. Subsequently, the public gave its support to a new Somali force, the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), which for the first time in 16 years restored peace to the capital and two-thirds of the country. Unfortunately elements of the UIC played into the hands of the American/Ethiopian alliance through the irresponsible rhetoric and rash actions of a few of their members. These developments gave the United States the pretext it desired to support and endorse Ethiopia’s massive invasion of Somalia and that led to the defeat of the Islamic Courts. The United Nations, the African Union, and other international bodies failed to condemn Ethiopia’s illegal occupation of Somalia despite the Security Council Resolution 1725 which prohibited Somalia’s neighbors from interfering in Somali affairs. This silence gave Ethiopia and its allies some cover and they claim that the troops will withdraw from Somalia once an African Union (AU) force is in Mogadishu. Uganda’s AU contingent is on location in the Somali capital but the Ethiopian troops continue to call the shots in the country. Further, the Ethiopian commanders have sidelined the TFG and are behaving and acting as if Somalia is their colony. For instances, they instruct the TFG leaders what to do and what to say and often bypass them to call for meetings with “tribal leaders” and sign ceasefires with them. Further, the Ethiopian regime fuels the sectarian project evidenced by Prime Minister Zenawi’s recent claim that a particular genealogical group is resisting his country’s occupation of Somalia. This is the clearest manifestation that the TFG is an Ethiopian Trojan horse. Ethiopia’s violent military occupation of the country and the vicious activities of its Somali client have created pandemonium in Mogadishu.
Despite all of this evidence the international community refuses to confront the fact that Ethiopia is illegally occupying Somalia. As if to add insult to injury, the American Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs went to the TFG base in Baidoa, after the massacre of over a thousand innocent civilians in Mogadishu, to reinforce America’s support for the Ethiopian occupation and their murderous deeds in Somalia. Further, the “democratic West” and the AU continue to insist that the TFG is the legitimate government of Somalia, and have also called for and endorsed a reconciliation process which is virtually controlled by the chief warlord and the Ethiopian regime. Despite this the international community continues to insist that genuine reconciliation is possible under the gaze of the Ethiopian occupiers and sectarian militias. Carnage in Mogadishu over the last month demonstrated beyond the shadow of doubt that reconciliation in this environment is an illusion and that claims to the contrary are disingenuous. In addition, the TFG leadership has neither the confidence of the population nor the capacity to manage such a project. Given these conditions, it is paramount that Ethiopian forces unconditionally withdraw from Somalia and a neutral African Union force takes control of the capital to lay the grounds for a genuine reconciliation to occur.
The death toll of civilians killed by Ethiopian forces and allied sectarian militias over the past few weeks, estimated at 1600 and mounting, is grave admonition of the violence that is unfolding. The EU has noted that war crimes might have been committed and “there are strong grounds to believe that the Ethiopian government and the transitional federal government of Somalia and the AMISOM force commander...have through commission or omission violated the Rome statute of the international criminal court [ICC]." Similarly, human rights groups have indicated that the Ethiopian forces might have perpetrated war crimes. Reports of these events suggest that endorsing the Ethiopian occupations and the TFG and its militia is tantamount to supporting the murderous Interahamwe of Rwanda, the Hutu radicals which perpetrated Rwanda’s genocide. One of the features of the Rwandan Hutu radicals was the categorical demonization of moderate Hutus and all Tutsis. This is exactly the language used by the TFG president and his prime minister. Mr. Yusuf has often repeated that certain genealogical groups oppose his sectarian and clanistic agenda. Among those he singles out are those population groups who constitute the majority in certain regions. In one instance, he refers to taking revenge in such a way that some of the victims of the 1991/2 killing fields becoming today’s killers. This threat has materialized as the destruction of neighborhoods in the capital over the past few weeks demonstrates. In addition to Mr. Yusuf’s call for revenge, the TFG’s prime minister and the deputy minister of defense have subsequently convened a meeting in which they called on “their clan” to assist the Ethiopian troops in cleansing the city of the opposition genealogical groups. This language is quite similar to those of the radical Hutus before the Rwanda genocide ensued. Lastly, the combination of this rhetoric, the destruction of health facilities, the closure of the seaport in order to cut off new food shipments to the city, and the denial for humanitarian agencies access to nearly half a million people who fled the city points to a calculated strategy to decimate all opposition, even if this is the whole population.
Sectarian rhetoric by TFG leaders has been aired through all channels which has thoroughly poisoned the political climate and completely destroyed whatever shred of legitimacy the TFG had with Somalis except a small fringe of tribal chauvinists. Condemning entire communities is the hallmark of fascist regimes (as was the case in the latter years of Somalia’s military regime). Thus, the international community can no longer insist that the TFG is the legitimate government (because it is recognized by the UN) and attempt to impose it on the population. Such an action could only exacerbate the unfolding human catastrophe. In light of the massacres of the past few weeks by the Ethiopian forces and the unfolding genocidal tribal rhetoric, it is paramount that the international community seriously reconsiders its role in Somalia, and heeds the judgment rendered by the Somali people that the leadership of the TFG is criminal. Since the Ethiopian regime and the TFG are so dependent on the support of the West, pressure from these quarters could produce results that are inline with genuine peace, reconciliation and democratic principles.
Finally, the US government in particular and other Western states in general have condemned Mugabe’s persecution of the opposition in Zimbabwe. Mugabe’s deeds pale in comparison with the continuing horrific carnage Ethiopian troops and TFG militia have committed in Mogadishu and what might be in the offing. In addition, the murderous ranting of the TFG leader and the criminally sectarian maneuverings of the prime minister and deputy minister of defense, and the Ethiopian support for them is the stuff that produces genocides. These developments should send a chilling reminder to all who were deeply disturbed by the Rwandan genocide in 1994. The United States which is militarily and materially supporting the Ethiopian occupation of Somalia should either take responsibility for the carnage committed in its name or put political expedience aside and act to short-circuit another African catastrophe in which Western countries and their African clients are totally implicated.
Prof. Abdi Ismail Samatar
E-mail: [email protected]
 Given the TFG’s subservience to the Ethiopian regime there might be another shocking surprise soon when the country could be fragmented into independent Bantustans. The British representative at the UN is allegedly working on a proposal to the Security Council which will “discuss the status of northern Somalia.” Not surprisingly the TFG is not even aware of this matter and it is unlikely that the latter will challenge it. Ethiopia which has tirelessly worked for Somalia’s fragmentation since the 1940s will attain one of the most strategic objectives in the Horn if this agenda is realized.
 This toll excludes the substantial number of displaced people who died of preventable diseases.