Tuesday, December 26, 2006

A Reckless War Borne of Bad Choices

By Fikru Helebo

Here we go again. Ethiopia is engaged in a war for the second time in less than a decade. The last time Ethiopia went to war in 1998 it was on a false premise: Ethiopians were told that their territory has been invaded by Eritrea, a former province of Ethiopia, and they were called to defend the motherland from an aggressor. Surely, the Eritreans were the aggressors, but the real reason for the war was the fall out between the Tigrean ruling elites who rule on both sides of the border, not the ill-defined border between the two countries.

If the Ethio-Eritrean war of 1998-2000 was a senseless war, then this war between the radical Somali Islamist and the illegitimate Meles-led regime of Ethiopia is a reckless one for all involved. This time around Ethiopians are told by Meles Zenawi that the nation's "defense forces were forced to enter into war to protect the sovereignty of the nation and to blunt repeated attacks by Islamic courts terrorists and anti-Ethiopian elements they are supporting." This is hogwash!

The truth of the matter is that Ethiopia was not forced to enter this war; rather, it is the bad policy choices that the Meles regime has made with regard to Somalia and domestically combined with the reckless decision of the lunatic Eritrean regime to engage in a proxy war with Ethiopia that has made this war inevitable. The United States Government should also bear the responsibility for this war since it is the CIA's botched attempt to support a group of Somali warlords early this year that led to the rise of the radical Islamists and this Ethiopian adventure into Somalia could not have taken place without a tacit approval from the US.

It was also reckless of the radical Islamists to refuse to talk to the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia at the Khartoum talks where they had the most to gain through negotiations. But they blew it believing that the TFG based in the town of Baidoa would crumble under their military might. Is continued war making the way to bring peace and security to clan-crazy Somalia? I seriously doubt it. Somalis who support the Islamists should also not delude themselves into thinking that it is Ethiopia that is preventing them from having peace and security. The facts on the ground point otherwise -- the Somali regions of Somaliland and Puntland, which are allied with the Ethiopian regime, have been the ones that are relatively more stable over the last decade.

As I have attempted to argue in a previous posting, the ascendant Islamist forces clearly pose a tangible threat to the coexistence of the people of the Horn of Africa region and they should be held in check. However, from the evidence that is available to us, the threat they pose is not an imminent one as far as Ethiopian sovereignty is concerned at this particular time, and going to war with the Islamists under these conditions will only play into the hands of the Islamists and their Eritrean sponsors. Some have argued that waiting any longer to fight the Islamists will make it more difficult to contain them later. There is some logic to this argument, but I believe it is a short-sighted argument that fails to appreciate the supremacy of clan-based politics in Somalia.

In the months following the rise of the Islamist forces, the Meles regime could have invested some of the resources it committed to preparing for war to reaching out to the Somali community both in Somalia and abroad. But there is no evidence that it has done this other than propping up the weak TFG. The Meles regime could also have gone on a diplomatic offensive to isolate the Islamists and their Eritrean allies, but there is very little evidence to suggest that this is the case. Sadly, the reverse is true -- the Islamists were the ones who carried out a diplomatic offensive and succeeded for the most part in isolating the Meles regime. Meles now has fewer allies in the region than when the Islamists took over in June of 2006.

Having said all that, I wish the Ethiopian defense forces that have been sent into harms way good luck in accomplishing their mission, and I hope they will be withdrawn from Somalia as soon as possible. The Islamists must be pressured by the International community to return to the Khartoum talks without any preconditions, and the Ethiopians and the Eritreans should be pressured to withdraw their troops from Somalia as well. In the end, it is not the Ethiopian military that can bring peace and security to Somalia, it is the Somali people themselves!

PS: Some readers have asked me why I have the comments feature on this blog turned off. My reasoning for turning it off is that some people tend to abuse this feature by engaging in out right insults and character assassinations and I am also not a fan of writing anonymously which totally removes accountability from the author of the comment. I have turned on the comments feature on an experimental basis a couple of days ago to see if it serves a useful purpose.


enset said...

The Washington Post had an editorial on Somalia today (12/27/2006) to which I added this comment:
One must understand what the reaction of the ruler of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, to the terrorist acts on September 11, 2001 was to correctly analyze the current Ethiopian intervention in Somalia. Back then when 9/11 happened, the new Bush administration was in the process of reviewing US policy towards Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa region in the aftermath of the Ethio-Eritrean war of 1998-2000, two countries whose leaders the Clinton administration was foolish enough to anoint as the new breed of African leaders. At that time, the new policy of the US administration was more likely to have been very tough on Meles Zenawis if 9/11 did not happen. But, as luck would have it, 9/11 happened and the new US administration scrapped whatever review it had conducted in its 8 months in office in favor of recruiting support for its War on Terrorism. Of course, Meles Zenawi was ecstatic when 9/11 happened since he knew that this was the perfect opportunity he needed to consolidate his tenuous position within his ruling party who blamed him for the Eritrean debacle. Meles grabbed this opportunity by the balls by offering full cooperation to the US in its prosecution of terrorists in the Horn region. The US in turn has made a deal with a devil by giving a blind eye to the atrocities that are being committed by the Meles regime on a daily basis. This is a very naive and myopic way to fight terrorism.

ben said...

What happens When Civilized people are under uncivilized leaders?

This is my first time i am posting my comments on this web site,and i am doing so because of the latest devolopement in Ethiopia with regards to Somalia .

As we all know Zenawi's Rigime is out to serve himself and his circle of his cronies.Nothing can be further from the truth as to why he sent our Ethiopian troops in Somalia to fight.
Is it because he feels the obligation out of his good heart to help Somalia from the Courts ?
I am not apologist for the couts.Thier leadership includes extremists with dangerous intentions and connections.But let us not fool ourselves, because for six months they achieved the near- impossible feat of restoring order to a country that appeared ungovernable.The Government who is backed by our Ethiopian troops appeal for Somalis to hand in their vast arsenal of guns has failed and is continueing to to fail.They court's miltiamen has melted back into the population much as Sadam's army did after the US invasion of Iraq.Somalis will not tolarate the presence of our troops for long.Washington backed military itervention by Zenawi's unsauvoury rigime because it regards the courts as new "TALEBAN" and accusing them harbouring Al-Qaeda terrorist.It is very nobel and civilized cause ,but in this case this is been issued by uncivilzed person who calles him self "THE PRIME MINSTER" of our great nation Ethiopia.
Gambela province has been the killing field of this rigime.At leat 20,000 have been systematicaly vanished(killed) and some was forced to flee their town in order to save thier family.Not to mention all the prisioners who are held without due process in court.We can go on and on about this regime who is trying to paint a different picture to the Western Nations so he can save his neck.
My guess ,however ,is that our troops are in Somalia for a long hole. because the rigime will need to continue on this course to avert from all domestic poletical foes,another words, the longer they stay the better it is for Zenawi.
Zenawi can only survive bye "divide and rule" policy, and we need to root out this elements of his Agame Clique`s that are doing bye far more damage than the Derge Rigime.Let's all strive for a free and civilized Ethiopia!