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It is time to judge Ethiopia’s invasion

By Mohamed Mukhtar


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At the end of last year, when the Ethiopian troops ousted the Islamic Courts fighters and entered Mogadishu without warfare, many politicians, analysts and reporters euphorically hailed the speedy success of the Ethiopian invading troops. Their exultant judgement was: Ethiopia has won the war; Islamic fighters have been defeated; no save heaven for terrorists; a legitimate government is now in charge. They have conveniently forgotten that Somalia’s affairs are infinitely complicated and ignored how Ethiopia’s invasion would aggravate the matter.


On 27 December 2006, only three days after the Ethiopian government officially admitted for the first time that it has troops in Somalia, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, made a self-congratulatory statement and proposed a toast to Ethiopian supporters. He said: “About half of our mission is done, and the rest shouldn't take long.”


On 7 January 2007, Jack Kelly, a columinst of Post Gazzete, was impressed how Eithopia had dealt with Islamic fighters and wrote an article entitled The Eithiopian Example. In it, he observed: “It's hard to win a war if you quit fighting in the middle. That's the lesson we should learn from Ethiopia's New Year's message to us [Americans].” He went on to say: “Ethiopia won in short order because it unapologetically used force against vicious killers who understand only force. They killed the people they needed to kill without worrying overmuch about collateral damage, and not at all about world opinion.”


On 16 January 2007, the editorial of Los Angeles Times told its readers: “ETHIOPIA HAS DONE its fellow Africans a good turn by ousting the increasingly radical Islamic Courts Union regime in Somalia.” The paper used capital letters for the first part of the sentence to emphasize the victory.


On 18 January 2007, J Pham, director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs, wrote an article entitled Somalia May Save the War on Terrorism. In it, he noted: “Even if the final chapter will not be written for some time, it is nonetheless possible to already draw one significant conclusion: recent developments in Somalia may prove to be salutary reminders which save America's war on terrorism.”


On 28 January 2007, the editorial of Washington Times joined the celebration party: “Ethiopia's intervention in Somalia, and the subsequent routing of the Islamist militias that had held power since last summer in Mogadishu, created what has correctly been called a window of opportunity to end 15 years of clan-based strife in Somalia.”


On 22 February 2007, Ambassador Vicki Huddleston told the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington: “many warned that if Ethiopia intervened on behalf of the transitional government it would fuel a wider war. 


Wrong or right! Let us see who has been proven wrong. Three months on, Mogadishu is now spinning out of control. Somalis, Ethiopian troops, and others are dying in Somalia. People are fleeing from the city. The government is finding the capital too dengerous to operate. Suspected Al-Qaeda operators believed responsible for bombing U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998 are yet to be held accountable. In fact, the risk of attracting freelance Jihadists to Somalia is now greater than any other time. That endangers both Somalia and U.S. interests in the wider region of Horn of Africa.  


On 19 March 2007, Dr Michael Weistein of Power and Interest News Report, made a grim reality assessment and concluded: “the country would continue to experience a devolutionary cycle and drift back to a state of political fragmentation in which power would disperse to regional and local clans and warlords, and the internationally recognized Transitional Federal Government (T.F.G.) would prove unable to restore security and gain legitimacy as a unifying central authority.”


On 22 March 2007, according to UN News Centre, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) reported: “More than 40,000 people reportedly fled Somalia’s strife-torn capital, Mogadishu, last month and growing insecurity has restricted the mobility and access of humanitarian agencies to respond adequately to the situation in the city.”


On 23 March 2007, People’s Daily Online stated: “Washington say the latest deterioration of security in Somalia, which culminated on the killing of at least 20 people on Wednesday, including several Ethiopian soldiers, whose bodies were also dragged in the streets before they were burnt, was a result of a security vacuum.” 


On 23 March 2007, Voice of America said: “Violence Increased this Week in Somalia's Capital, Mogadishu [as] a plane carrying people aiding the peacekeeping force crashed on Friday.”


The foregoing discussion shows that at the beginning of this year, Eithiopian supporters believed invading Somalia could transform the ineffctual Transitional Federal Government (TFG) into a viable government and Somalia would be the first country that the American’s war on terror could claim as a success. Time is proving that Eithiopian supporters have celebrated prematurely. Throughout Somalia’s troubled history solution imposed by outsiders has never worked. On 6 January 2007, Peter Biles, a BBC correspondent, showed a remarkable insight into the Somali affairs: “Ethiopia has quietly meddled in Somalia for years, and now the visible presence of the Ethiopians is both provocative and dangerous. Foreign forces are not welcome.” Three months on, Peter got it right and those who celebrated prematurely got it wrong. 


Mohamed Mukhtar

London, UK

Email: [email protected]

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