January 24, 2009
By A/Rasaq H. Nuurre
Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has declared "mission accomplished" in Somalia, and told parliament Ethiopian troops will be home after two years of a military mission to "defuse the plan orchestrated by Eritrea, accompanied by al-Shabab, and anti-peace elements in Ethiopia". His victory speech, however, may be intended to deceive Ethiopian public and to divert the reality on the ground that his troops were hobbled down in Somalia and that he exculpated the defeat and claimed falsely a victory.
Meles's invading army, which had already been occupying force over a decade now in large parts of the southwest regions of Somalia, Gedo, Bay, and Bakool, and indirectly controls the relatively calm self-governing regions in the north, Puntland and Somaliland, for many years, entered Mogadishu at the Christmas eve of 2006. The invasion was facilitated, as might be expected, by some of the major western powers to drive the Islamist out of power and to fulfill, perhaps, many of their uncharted goals. The Holy Grails of this invasion, however, have, among others, both regional and external ambitions; and clearly, as it is intended, gaining successfully one of the two objectives will make the other easy to grasp.
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi misinformed the west, particularly the US, forced them to search someone who is in the region, with capable ground forces to tackle this new challenges, and decisively crush the rising power of the Islamist in Somalia. He immediately galvanized these powers to take an action, persuading them that leaving Somalia which has at least five major see ports and a dozen airports with its strategic location in the hands of the Islamist is an unforgivable mistake. He induced them to either confront with him this danger now before it gets worst or otherwise face the consequences.
On one hand, Meles believed that these major powers, without questioning the credibility of the information he is giving, were keen to hear his argument that Somalia had been a hot spot for terrorism since the collapse of Siyad Barre's military rule earlier 1990s; thus, countless economic and military aid would have poured to his regime during and after this invasion. This is the same argument kept him in power so long that he is fighting terrorism in the Horn of Africa on behave of the free world. He presented Alshabab, formally known Al-Itahad in the 1990s, as a vital factor with such provocative words of hold sway over from Alaska to New Zealand and their continuous appearance on the main world television networks mainly prominent Aljazeera English channel as a potential threat to the region in general and to the Washington's interest in the Horn of Africa in particular.
On the other, he proved to himself that the war on Somalia is a huge opportunity for him; and his regime would extremely benefit economically, militarily, and politically from defeating the Islamist if the go-ahead of the invasion is guaranteed. He also found that he has a good chance to strengthen his relationship with the west, specifically, the US which has been very sensitive to hear the word 'Jihadist' which Meles repeatedly and successfully used behind the microphones prior to the invasion. And in fact, Meles already benefited from his military ties with the US and has "a close working relationship," as Pentagon Spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Joe Carpenter stated before. The ties include intelligence sharing, arms aid, and training that gives the Ethiopians " the capacity to defend their boarders and intercept terrorists and weapons of mass distractions".
After two years of his army's brutality in Somalia, however, Meles has failed to achieve any of his main objectives outlined by his foreign minister Seyoum Mesfin, in an interview back in Dec. 2007. He claimed that there was a lot of transformation in the sort of capability building of the institutions of Somalia, the TFG, the parliament and some other institutions and with no concern of any damage to civilian lives and properties. In contrary, and in reality, the TFG which is widely viewed as an Ethiopian puppet by the vast majority of the Somali people is failed not only to sustain its power on a few streets of Mugadishu but also to overcome the differences and the power struggle between its top leaders; an argument that he later acceded. The president resigned over a disagreement with his prime minister, and again the sign of another dispute between the two remaining leaders---the acting president and the acting prime minister---is on the horizon.
In contrary of what Nur Adde called peace making forces, Ethiopian army killed and displaced tens of thousands of Somali civilians, looting their properties, including hospitals, and committed war crimes which Zenawi has no fear of any international inquiry in to what degree of damage inflicted on the innocent civilians during the invasion and the subsequent Ethiopian occupation. The Somali public, precisely those in the south, had been subject to collective reprisal by the Ethiopian army since and before the invasion. This army which is suppose to leave Somalia completely by now re-entered the country from bordering regions, mainly Gedo, Galgaduud, Hiiraan, Bakool, and Bay, embarrassing the advocates of the Djibouti Peace Initiative who, as many views, wished to have political advantage for the withdrawal of the Ethiopian army.
Moreover, the biggest proof of his mission's failure in Somalia is that Al-Shabaab--which the United States has designated a terror organization--numbering 200 before the invasion gained 2000-3000 more after; and now they are together with the other Islamist forcing his army vacate its military bases in Mogadishu. What ever you name it, it is the resistance, and the refusal of the Somali people to this foreign body that removed physically Ethiopian occupation, at least, in the capital, and not the Djibouti Peace Agreement as Prime Minister Nur Adde claims.
The Americans resisted the British occupation, France did the same against Germany, and the Algerians gave one million lives for their freedom. It is the path and the dream for every resistance until the last day of the occupier is over. In no doubt, Meles had another agenda in his mind before the invasion that, he was later forced to swallow it: Had the Somali people not to unite against his agenda, Mogadishu would have been another Harar.
Finally, Ethiopia will stay in Mogadishu, at least in the near future, spiritually through the warlords and its collaborators and will occupy in other parts of Somalia both physically and spiritually through its repressive military machine. However, though Meles may proudly view the product of his invasion to Somalia as a victory of his own, his country, and his allies; in fact, his army was broke and depleted to even withdraw from Mogadishu, and his objectives were not met as he expected except "to dismantle Somalia to the extent possible by taking the war to it and, along the way, aggravating the contradiction between the Somali clans".
A/Rasaq can be reached for suggestions and criticism at: Alldalka@Alldalka.com