By Henock Abdi
Sunday, February 24, 2008
I am well aware of my country’s contribution to the wanton destruction of Somalia. And if the writer, as an Ethiopian, is expected of an apology to the Somali people I incontestably say sorry. In this note, however, I would like to touch up on two points: the major reason of Ethiopia’s recent involvement in Somalia from our “perspective” and a caution or perhaps a boost of the aura of confidence of the newly groomed PM of Somalia in his reconciliation efforts.
To begin with the Ethiopian engagement in Somalia, I would rather timidly utter that the intervention before the United Islamic Court (UIC) took over Somalia was arguably similar to those of other players such as Egypt, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Djibouti and others. There shouldn’t be a confusion of its nature though. Precisely, it was an unhealthy intrusion. However, my government’s recent direct military intervention took place when Somalia through the UIC showed the world that it can brace itself without even the support of the so-called international community. But one should also know that this invasion took place at a time when Ethiopia was at the cross-roads. The minority TPLF regime in Addis Ababa was in a deep trouble before the incursion. Among other things the Annuak genocide was carried out by the TPLF military, election was stolen and hundreds of innocent civilians were shot to death in a broad day light while thousands were rounded up, Ethiopians of all walks of life inside and outside the country were united to oust the despotic regime through people’s power and there was a growing discontent of western powers with the Males regime on many accounts such as its human rights record to mention one.
It was under these circumstances that the TPLF regime crafted an ideal deal to silence the west and simultaneously deal with the domestic uprising. Thus, Males played the anti-terrorism card and invaded Somalia on behalf of the US and western powers. For this invasion the only assent he had was the ayes of the rubber stamp parliament without logrolling or any sort of lobbying. Males killed two birds with one stone. He not only silenced the western criticism with the blat but also bought the pass to crack down the domestic opposition in the usual TPLF style, crush to curb. That is why the oppression of the Oromo and Sidamo people, the detention and harassment of CUD supporters and the outcry in Ogaden are not more than just an African drum beat to the ears of the US administration. However, challenges also present opportunities. In the case of Somalia it has twisted the face of Somalia politics which was based on clan structure to one of ideology. To me that is a very positive development for Somalia. For the first time the peace that remained manna from heaven seems within reach now than ever as there are two major political “blocks “ as one analyst put it , UIC and TFG. In both blocks though there are those who seriously want to bring peace to Somalia and those who don’t and that is the caution the writer wants to bring to the PM’s attention.
In the UIC you have Sharif and others who are sincere about their desire and search for peace; and the radical elements like Al-Shebab who pose a challenge to this desire. The Al-shabab group has even claimed that they are no longer in the UIC. Hence, it seems unlikely that they will be part of any deal as it is difficult to persuade them to join the peace efforts while Ethiopia is still in Somalia. The only way they can pose a threat though is to continue small-scale insurgency activities in few parts of the country because any deal between the UIC and the TFG will surely address the Ethiopian presence and role in future Somalia and therefore the Al-shabab may not enjoy public support and will be inept to pose a great threat if the UIC and TFG find a common ground on the Ethiopian factor and form a government of national unity. So, I would suggest to the PM that while you keep your open attitude of talking to everybody in the political divide don’t be taken aback if your call for peace falls to the deaf ears of Al-shabab. It is also an open secret that Eritrea will want to continue its proxy war through Al-shabab. But I am less worried in this camp than I am in the TFG block.
In the TFG camp you have the newly appointed PM who wants to weld Somalia and its people where as the TPLF oligarchy is a real threat to any peace deal between the two camps. TPLF unlike the Al-shabab has myriad of ways to foil any deal. While TPLF will “diplomatically” as smoke screen support the initiative of the PM since it largely has the backing of the international community it will use its nominal leader Yusuf to dethrone the PM. And Yusuf has persistently displayed that his wishes are the command of his masters in Addis Ababa. TPLF can also use other black sheeps (warlords in the TFG) to create an internal fury within the TFG to prevent any deal. The third way of course is to eliminate the PM. Yes, I mean elimination for it is well-known that the Woyane has assassinated former speaker of the TFG parliament Mr Deraw and others who stood its way in the past. So, I won’t be jiggered if they employ the same dirty ploy against PM Nur.
Woyane’s tatty and time-worn tactics are neither new to the Somali people nor to their PM but I want the PM to grid up his loins to confront with these likely scenarios. Mr PM, you will be provoked to quit by “anti-peace elements”, to borrow the TPLF’s jargon, in both camps. You will be bombarded and attacked by them and they may even try to blackmail you into agreeing to their terms once they get you spooked through terror. But since you are the repository of hope not only for your country but also for the greater horn of Africa we want you to continue the kind of leadership you have shown the brief period you have been the PM and you ought to be vigilant as this is a daunting task with scores of enemies. I also want you to know that bringing the peace that Somalis yearned for for about two decades to your homeland will as well mean a lot to us in Ethiopia. We will have the chance to confront the TPLF oligarchy once it loses its US anti-terrorism cartel because of a peaceful Somalia.
We all hope and pray that Somalia will regain its place in the world under your stewardship while we continue our struggle to create a government of the people in Ethiopia. A government that will never wage an unjust war against any nation.
Henock Abdi is an Ethiopian who grew up in Somalia and who cares about the plight of the Somali people
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