Hardline ideologists were introducing a tyrannical regime. Ethiopia had to act, says Berhanu Kebede
Thursday May 3, 2007
A Guardian article last week appeared to represent the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) in Somalia as a government of national consensus and a "popular" democratic organisation (Thousands flee as shelling by Ethiopian tanks kills hundreds of civilians in Somali capital, April 27).
|Berhanu Kebede, Ethiopian Ambassador to the UK |
It stated: "The Islamic Courts government was popular in Mogadishu after bringing relative order." This glorification of the UIC, and claim that they represent Somali society, is highly misleading. The UIC leadership is one sub-clan, bent on protecting its own interests. The leadership can in no way bring peace, as it has never provided a political framework for doing so. In fact, it preached a hardline ideology committed to promoting extremism. Its ultimate objective was to establish a fundamentalist government in Somalia.
The UIC introduced a crude form of punishment, including floggings and executions, and restrictions on people's liberties such as banning music and TV and radio programmes. The article also says that the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) was "far less popular than the Islamic Courts administration", yet the TFG is made up of a wide range of Somalia clans and is the internationally recognised government of Somalia.
Stating that Ethiopia went to Somalia "at the 'invitation' of Somalia's interim national government" implies that the author does not believe the TFG welcomed Ethiopia's intervention. Ethiopia is cooperating with the TFG at the latter's invitation, a fact fully recognised by the international community. The UIC declared an open jihad war against Ethiopia last December, to which Ethiopia responded with a proportionate counter-offensive. The UIC had for many months trained and armed insurgents to commit assassinations and destroy schools, clinics and other development infrastructure in Ethiopia.
Between December and March, while we were engaged in political dialogue with clans and sub-clans in Mogadishu, the insurgents reorganised themselves to create havoc in Mogadishu. Of 16 zones in the city, they entrenched themselves in two zones where the Ayr sub-clan militia, who do not want to see the fair distribution of property, operate.
The main perpetrator of the humanitarian crisis that we have witnessed over the past four weeks in Mogadishu is the Ayr-insurgents alliance, not the Ethiopian military. The insurgents have shot down two planes - one serving the Africa peacekeeping forces and the other bringing humanitarian aid.
Exaggerated human rights reports, published by an organisation closely linked to the UIC, have been used as an authentic source by many media outlets without independent scrutiny. It is regrettable that these reports have been used to defame Ethiopia and the TFG. Mogadishu is now peaceful, as the rest of Somalia has been for the past six months.
It is time for the international community to address the humanitarian crisis and support the National Reconciliation Conference of Somalia, which can bring lasting peace.
· Berhanu Kebede is Ethiopian Ambassador to the UK [email protected]