Sunday, April 29, 2007

Population of Ethiopia in 2050

According to this website, the population of Ethiopia is projected to nearly double its current size by the year 2050, making Ethiopia the 10th most populous country in the world.

Ethiopia's current population is about 77 million according to the Central Statistical Agency of Ethiopia (click on the figure below for details). This means Ethiopia's population has more than tripled in the last 40 years.

I am not sure what the current population growth rate for Ethiopia is. Whatever it is, it is way too high. With the way things are going in Ethiopia (politically/ economically/ socially), one does not have to be a rocket scientist to predict that the country will be in far worse predicament (politically/ economically/ socially) in the year 2050 with a population size that is double its current size. This population explosion is the number one problem that is facing Ethiopia today bar none.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Get out of Somalia! (Reply to Michael)


Good hearing from you once again. In the last conversation we had under the thread "
America's Role in Somalia", in spite of my opposition to Meles' invasion of Somalia, I wished that the invasion will give Somalis the opportunity to start over again and I hoped to be proven wrong in my assessment of post-Meles-invasion Somalia. As it turned out, it did not take Meles too long to prove that my assessment was correct with his arrogant and foolish attempt to impose his will on Somalis through his proxy. I still would not mind to be proven wrong, but I have now concluded that the chance for bringing "stability" in Somalia with Ethiopian troops on Somali territory is slim to none, and the best scenario for Ethiopia at this point is to unilaterally withdraw from Somalia immediately.

There are many reasons why Meles' invasion of Somalia, in his own words, "to protect the sovereignty of the nation and to blunt repeated attacks by Islamic courts terrorists and anti-Ethiopian elements they are supporting" was destined to fail. To start with, it was clear from the pre-invasion period that Ethiopian invasion and the inevitable occupation of Somalia was not a welcome idea by a majority of Somalis. Period.

Secondly, the main motive for orchestrating the invasion by Meles was to distract from his troubles at home and not to deny terrorists a haven in Somalia as the Bush Administration officials desperately wanted to believe. I am sure the Bush people knew what they were getting into, but they were willing to take a chance with Meles and let the local forces in the region do their bidding as the article you suggested back in January articulated well.

And last, but not least, there were and there continue to be external actors in Somalia (the peevish Eritrean regime being a prime example) who are determined to use various Somali factions as proxies to achieve their own objectives in the region.

Your comparison of the consequences of Ethiopian withdrawal from Somalia with the consequences of American withdrawal from Iraq is not an apt comparison in my view. Please allow me to explain.

First of all, the American intervention in Iraq, although world public opinion was against it and a vocal minority in the US opposed it, it was fully debated by democratically elected representatives of the American people in the US Congress and the legislation authorizing the intervention had received a super majority (more than two-thirds) support in both houses of Congress. On the contrary, the Ethiopian government is an illegitimate regime in the eyes of a majority of its own citizens. The illegitimate parliament supposedly conducted a debate on the merits of military intervention in Somalia, but the outcome was never in doubt. But the Ethiopian people, a clear majority of whom were opposed to the military intervention, were never allowed to express their views.

Although there now is a consensus that the American intervention in Iraq was made on a faulty intelligence, the consensus before the war was the opposite. As a matter of fact, the majority view in America and perhaps around the world before the intervention was that WMDs in the possession of a crazy person like Saddam Hussein, who had a history of using them, was something that should not be tolerated in the post-9-11 world. So, unlike the Ethiopian intervention in Somalia, the American intervention in Iraq, although controversial and badly managed after the initial battle victory, was a mission that was carried out with the will of the American people.

Yes, the war in Iraq is going badly at the moment and the calls for American withdrawal are at a fever pitch at this time. For what it's worth, my view in early 2003 was that the Bush Administration was making a strategic blunder by rushing to go to war. But once the war began, I felt that the right thing to do was to support the Iraq mission until it comes to a satisfactory end. I believe politicizing the war in Iraq ad nauseam, as many on the left are doing nowadays is irresponsible and does not serve the interest of the US and the long-term stability of the Middle East. Therefore, I believe a total withdrawal of US military forces from Iraq at this point in time is ill-advised, and, however wrongly framed the mission was before the war, I am of the opinion that the Bush Administration should be given the tools necessary to carry out the mission in Iraq.

For the reasons I mentioned above and the arguments I have made earlier on this blog, the Ethiopian military has no business being in Somalia and I strongly believe that Ethiopia's long term interests are best served if Meles swallows his pride and withdraws Ethiopia’s troops from Somalia immediately. The more time passes with the Ethiopian military staying in Somalia as an occupation force, the stronger the resentment of Somalis will be towards Ethiopians. This definitely is not in Ethiopia’s interests. I am very sure Ethiopian-Somali enmity will not serve US interests in the region as well.

Unilateral and immediate withdrawal of Ethiopian troops will not make the security situation in Somalia any worse than it is now with Ethiopian troops stationed there. Yes, if Ethipian troops immediately and unilaterally withdraw, Meles' ego will be deflated a bit, but so what? Anyways, what is mostly bad for Meles is usually good for Ethiopia! As to terrorists making Somalia a safe haven, I do not believe Ethiopia's invasion has made much difference. In fact, an argument can be made that the intervention may have emboldened the terrorist elements of the Islamists and, in the long-term, may have made things worse than they were before the invasion.


This is a reply to Michael from Germany for the comments he wrote under the posting: "Get out of Somalia".

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Get out of Somalia!

It is now clear that Meles Zenawi's reckless adventure into Somalia has brought more misery to Somalia. Many Ethiopians, including myself, have repeatedly warned (see here and here) the Meles regime about the dire consequences of interference in Somali internal affairs. Obviously, the regime has failed to heed those warnings and, as a result, it now finds itself in a quagmire of its own making.

I take no pleasure in saying "I told you so", but the Meles regime needs to be told so. Still,
however illegitimate the regime might be in the eyes of many Ethiopians, the regime is the sole custodian of Ethiopia's foreign policy at this time and I would like to see the regime correct its arrogant and foolish ways and do the right thing by withdrawing all Ethiopian military personnel out of Somalia immediately and by stopping its interference in Somali internal affairs! Of course, Ethiopia, being Somalia's most important neighbor should keep an eye on developments in Somalia and try to effect changes there in a way which respects the sovereignty of Somalia.

This latest Meles Zenawi's reckless adventure is superbly analyzed by Dr. Michael Weinstein of the PINR. I recommend that you read
his latest analysis of the situation in Somalia. In case you don't have the time to read the whole article, here is an excerpt:
The conflict in Somalia is seized with a tense stasis, as domestic and external actors are trapped in the consequences of decisions that have brought about the present and unintended configuration of power and interest.

Having engineered the conventional military defeat of the I.C.C., Addis Ababa and Washington now face a militant Islamist insurgency, an overt Hawiye opposition and an I.C.C. political wing backed by Eritrea. The T.F.G. remains weak and unpopular, the Europeans are becoming disenchanted with the T.F.G., Uganda is out on a limb, Kenya is out of action, potential contributors to AMISOM are lying back, and the regional and international players are divided on the definition of reconciliation and the advisability of an Ethiopian withdrawal. There are no honest brokers -- every actor is compromised -- and the domestic players will only pursue reconciliation on their respective terms.

That Addis Ababa and the T.F.G. attempted forced disarmament testifies to the deterioration of their positions. That their effort failed reveals both the deep cleavages in Somalia's political community and a broad support of resistance against foreign occupation.

The stasis that has followed the two waves of armed conflict in Mogadishu is tense and precarious. When the actors in a conflict are frozen into hostile positions, one of them eventually makes a move to break out with unforeseen consequences. Although it is impossible to forecast when the next big move will come and who will make it, it is clear that the twin pillars of the Western powers' policy -- "genuine" reconciliation backed by military protection of the T.F.G. by AMISOM -- are crumbling. Yet without those supports, the Western powers -- now more divided than before -- face a policy void, leaving Somalia to continue to devolve and fragment, and regional actors backed into corners of their own making.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The North-South Divide

By Fikru Helebo

In the comments section under the "Ethiopian Naming System" posting a few weeks ago, one of the commentators opined the following regarding the north/south reference I had made in the posting:

...the talk of "north" and "south" is of course imprecise in view of how people over the centuries have settled, inter-married, traded or warred. I am certain Fikru’s caption "A Southern Perspective on Ethiopian Current Affairs" is simply an attempt to enrich our conversation and not to create a superficial distinction.
No, I beg to differ with the gentleman; the reference to "A Southern Perspective" in the caption of this blog is not an attempt to create a superficial distinction between the Ethiopian north and south. I believe the north-south divide in Ethiopia is real and it is one of the main driving forces behind the current political struggle underway in the country. Let me explain.

Ethiopia, like many countries around the world, is made up of dozens of cultural groups who have unique customs of their own and lumping these cultural groups in two groups as I did in the posting mentioned above risks oversimplifying the complex nature of ethnic affiliation and self-identification. Broadly speaking, however, I think it is fair to say that there exists an observable north-south cultural divide in Ethiopia which results primarily from the linguistic groups that dominate the two geographical areas: the north being dominated by speakers of Semitic languages and the south by speakers of Cushitic languages.

In the last century or so, this cultural divide has been roughly matched by a concomitant political divide which has generally made northerners "the rulers" and southerners "the ruled". So, when I use 'north'/'northerner' or 'south'/'southerner' terminologies in a generic sense in the Ethiopian political/cultural context, as I did in the above mentioned posting, it is to reflect this reality.

Often times on this blog I use the term "South" to refer to the region called Southern Nations and Nationalities Peoples Region (SNNPR) of today's Ethiopia and the term "Southerners" to refer to the people who inhabit this region. In this context, "South"/"Southerners" does not include Somalis, Oromos and other people from the south since they have their own separate regions. As I have suggested previously on this blog, the SNNPR is an artificial region that is created by the current regime without the consent of the people of the region, and its viability may not last beyond the life time of the regime. However, the SNNPR is a real place at this moment in time and I will make use of the terminology as long as the region exists.

This brings me to the reason why I chose the caption "A Southern Perspective on Ethiopian Current Affairs" for this blog. The reason is simple: it is to emphasize to the reader that this blog attempts to give a perspective (one among many) on Ethiopian affairs that is authentically Southern/southern, i.e. a perspective from folks who were born and raised in today's Southern Ethiopia. This is not to say that the opinions offered here are uniquely Southern/southern, which in most cases aren't, and that the opinions expressed here are representative of Southern/southern Ethiopia, which is not the claim. It is also not an attempt to suggest that non-Southern views are not entertained on Enset blog (they are most certainly welcome).
I just feel that there is a need to accentuate Southern/southern perspective in the Ethiopian political ideas market place -- thus the caption.

Today's Southern Ethiopia and the greater southern portion of the country is home to diverse people groups and it would be ludicrous on my part to suggest that the perspective offered on Enset blog is anything but a sample among the many Southern/southern perspectives out there. I would like to think, however, that the views expressed here are a more sound and representative sample of Southern/southern perspectives than what one can find else where on the net. I am sure you will understand my bias on this :)

True, like the gentleman I quoted at the top said, people from the north and south have intermingled with one another in different ways for centuries and a simple distinction such as the one I employed may not give a complete or accurate picture of the complex relationships that exist among the diverse groups of today's Ethiopia. It is also worth noting that groups from the north and the south actually have more cultural things in common with one another than they have differences as the similarity of the naming systems they use amply illustrate.

Friday, April 06, 2007

The "Court Ruling"

The "court ruling" from the political trial of the unjustly imprisoned CUD leaders and others a couple of days ago has sent a chilling message to Ethiopians that Meles Zenawi is not interested in sitting down with his political opponents to address the political crisis in the country. I suppose Meles feels pretty good about his track record of locking up his political opponents since he has experienced little or no erosion to his hold on political power that he has convinced himself he has total control to do what he pleases.

Since 1991, Meles has incarcerated many of his opponents with impunity. Just take a look at a very short list of his political opponents that he has incarcerated since 1991: Abera Yemaneab, Asrat Woldeyes, Mekonnen Dori, Taye Woldesemayat, Seye Abraha, Abate Kisho, etc... What price did he pay for allowing these compatriots to rot in his jails? Practically nothing!

So Meles figures he can do more of the same with marginal threat to his hold on power, and he calculates that the end result of incarcerating the CUD leaders will be more or less the same. Meles may wish to continue to delude himself that he can continue in this reckless path he is on without consequence, but I believe he has miscalculated this time around and he needs to consult history books to figure out why he is overplaying his hand.

I am afraid the "court ruling" of two days ago has pushed the country further towards the road of violent confrontation. I have and will always advocate peaceful and gradual ways of bringing about changes in Ethiopia because that is the right thing to do and it is good for the country. Unfortunately, the actions that the Meles regime is taking are making non-violent forms of resistance to the repressive regime an unlikely method of bringing about change in Ethiopia while on the other hand emboldening groups who are inclined to pursuing armed struggle against the regime.