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Who’s Afraid of General Gabre?

by Heikal I. Kenneded
Wednesday, December 2, 2015

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I am an avid fan of Qeylo-dhaan, the Somali patriotic music band who as of late became to represent the true conscience of most Somalis who are deeply aching to find solutions for their country’s never-ending mayhem. Thus, when I listened recently of their latest indignation song about General Gabre’s unmatched adverse intrusion of Somali politics for the last two decades.

I became interested to dig deep and find out who exactly General Gabre is and what his motives in meddling Somali affairs are. Nevertheless, General Gabre’s record speaks for itself as a war criminal who should be summoned to justice for his wholesale genocide of massacring tens of thousands of innocent civilians in Somalia during the ill-fated Ethiopian invasion between 2007- 2008. Unfortunately, Somalia’s corrupted politicians decided to turn a blind eye of this war-criminal to walk amongst them with impunity as though he was a born-again honest peace-broker.

It was the year 2006, the first time that General Gabre was catapulted into the vortex of Somalia’s messy politics as the top Ethiopian commander in Somalia. This was the darkest era in Somalia’s war trajectory, when Ethiopian forces illegally invaded southern Somalia with the invitation of then warlord President, Abdullahi Yusuf and his rapacious prime minister, Mohamed Ali Ghedi in order to defeat the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) that was then in control in the capital and much of the south of Somalia. General Gabre made his lasting mark during the early days of the invasion after allegedly was confronted by President Abdullahi Yusuf who became rather conflicted with the Ethiopian forces’ indiscriminate use of heavy weapons in civilian neighbors in the capital, where tens of thousands were killed and hundreds of thousands more were forced to flee. Reportedly, General Gabre became so furious of such challenge to his authority that he allegedly slapped the President across the face repeatedly, until he fell to the ground as General Gabre held a pistol on his temple, mind you in front of his security detail who didn’t lift a finger. And as legend has it, that very incident put the fear of God in the heart of every Somali politician to never challenge against the ruthless General Gabre.

General Gabre is notorious of being well-versed with the Somalis’ Achilles’ heel -“tribalism” and he never misses an opportunity to use it in his machinations to manipulate every Somali politician to bid against those of other clans. Indeed, he is ubiquitous in most Somali “reconciliation” conferences in clad with his pistol on his back belt, intimidating anyone who doesn’t kowtow to his divisive agenda to keep the country in line with the Ethiopian interests. According to friends who met with him more than once and closely watched him up close and personal were awestruck at how wicked the General is in his wheeling-dealings with various Somali politicians by pretending to be their best friend and looking out for the country’s best interest while actually behind the scenes he’s working hard to put them in collision course. In fact, he is no less than a fox pretending to be safeguarding the chicken house and those poor Somali politicians who seem to entrust the country’s fate on such figure are no less than traitors, which should be condemned in the strongest terms. Throughout Somalia, it’s now a well-known fact that General Gabre employs numerous spies who work for him to collect classified information from various Somali government institutions, including the parliament, ministerial cabinets, military and the police, as well as the Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency.

Again and again, General Gabre appears in the background of all Somali reconciliation conferences and there’s no doubt that he’s a destabilizing factor because there is no telling what the incorrigible General might contrive and he could be inflaming all reconciliation talks and undermining any peace deals that might propel the country forward. It’s needless to say neither General Gabre nor the Ethiopian government have Somalia’s interest in their deep involvement of Somalia’s reconciliation and development process and only present a dangerous potential that jeopardize any future democratically elected government in the country.  

If Somalia were a stable country, or even relatively stable under a dictatorship like in the past, there would be nothing at all worrisome about the threats and machinations forth from such neocolonial elements, General Gabre. However, by design, Somalia is not a stable country, which worries most of us what’s lurking behind its instability and the major forces that foster such instability. For example, unlike other foreign diplomats in the country who tend to barricade themselves in the Xalane compound, General Gabre surprisingly enough travels around the country with no restrictions on who he conducts business with or what is the end game of him participating in the formation of all Somali regional governments. But above all, travelling nonchalantly to some of the most hostile districts controlled by the Al-Shabab terrorist group, which questions his indirect support or collusion with these extremists who daily target government buildings, major hotels resided by government officials. As a matter of fact, many Somali officials have indirectly accused him of having suspicious links with the terrorists and other destabilizing groups.

Lately, Kenya seems to be copycatting the wrong approach from Ethiopia’s neo-colonial mission in Somalia by crowning their own emissary, Mohamed Abdi Afey as the IGAD Especial Envoy to Somalia whose sole mission is to keep Somalia in a state of perpetual turmoil. Thus, Gabre and Afey have become Somalia’s de jour paternalistic neo-colonial African envoys bent on sawing the bitter seeds of animosity among Somalia’s weak regional states. In fact, both men supposedly have gained large sums of wealth and influence from the conflict and chaos in Somalia. They both exhibit exceptionally the characteristics of neocolonialists by pretending to sympathize with the Somali cause while undermining the federal government in place, despite its flows and weaknesses. Nonetheless, it is now a common knowledge that both Ethiopia and Kenya have no intentions whatsoever to ever see Somalia regain its power and influence in the Horn of Africa.

The abhorrent tactics used by the likes of General Gabre and Amb. Afey open a new window into the hidden and contradictory machinations of regional players like Ethiopia and Kenya use against Somalia for its continued destabilization under the guise of their emissaries’ pretense to support a peaceful solution. As history shows, Somalia had a long history of border disputes with both Ethiopia and Kenya and always considered them as archenemies and therefore it is just too contemptuous and ingenuous for these countries now to send “good will” ambassadors to Somalia anticipating to pacify its relation with the country. Ethiopia having terribly failed to militarily conquer Somalia in its darkest moment, they entrusted General Gabre to work his magic of playing the “divide and conquer” odious game, which rather seems to have worked. Indeed, it’s tragic whenever you see well-educated Somali leaders who seems to be more comfortable conferring with the likes of General Gabre and Amb. Afey, instead of other Somali leaders. Not to mention other regional Somali leaders who seem to have pledged allegiance to these enemies of the State in order to keep their paper tiger power. I just can’t imagine how many Somali freedom fighters must be rolling over in their graves when they realize how their country befell under the likes of Gabre and Afey, enemies of the State.

In the end, Somalia’s long quest to find a lasting peace will remain elusive and unattainable as long as divisive elements like General Gabre and Ambassador Afey are allowed to play the paternalistic neo-colonial power to keep Somalia in the status quo of turmoil and political disenfranchisement in behest of the enemy while the country’s leadership turns a blind eye and act as though they were honest brokers. Thus, the country’s current government, not honestly acknowledging and facing up to the deep underlying roots of the country’s conflict and how neighboring countries of mainly Ethiopia and Kenya as major contributing factors, it is tantamount to a national treason.

I’m not afraid of General Gabre and neither should you be…

Heikal I. Kenneded
[email protected]
Washington, D.C.

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