Sunday, November 19, 2006

Somalia and Ethiopia

I've mentioned Somalia a number of times here before (see here, here and here). I don't know that much about the country but I've done some reading trying to understand more about the current situation, in particular reading the Crisis Group's reports on this "failed state". The rise of the Islamist Islamic Courts Union (ICU) has brought the country back into the international media, but it seems difficult for at least the English language media, and the US press in particular, to get far beyond their "Islamism/terrorism" paradigm. As any undergrad student of international relations or security studies should know there is the concept of "security complexes": groups of states whose actions tend to have greater security implications for each other. These are generally regional, the Middle East, South Asia etc., but don't have to be in the modern world. Somalia is in the Horn of Africa security complex - it is joined by history, ethnicity, enviromental competition, un-finished conflicts and many other issues to the countries that suround it. To look at what is happening in Somalia now only in the light of the professed ideology of the ICU and their various militias, is to miss probably 90% of what is happening. Of course that 10% is probably the only reason why the US government probably cares at all.

I mentioned the earliest reports of the Ethiopian troops in the country back in July, and now there is extensive evidence from the UN that Eritrea (amongst others) is supplying arms to the Courts' militias. There seems to be little reason for this beyond the fact that Ethiopia has picked the other side. For those who don't know, Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a particularly bloody and pointless war from 1998 to 2000 over their border, in which tens of thousands were killed and hundreds of thousands displaced. The fighting deteriorated into trench warfare reminiscent of the first world war. It is one of those wars that has just completely escaped the attention of the west: as US secretary of state James Baker said of Yugoslavia as it collapsed into a bloody warfare and slaughter - "we don't have a dog in this fight". The same was true about Ethiopia-Eritrea; none of the rich world particularly cared either way. It was left for underfunded UN mission to try and enforce the ceasefire and stop the two countries from going back to war. But the other great sadness of the war is that it worsened the freedom and human rights situation in both countries. Ironically, the leaders of both before Eritrean independence from Ethiopia had fought together against the oppressive Ethiopian communist regime that ruled during the Cold War. Yet neither set of leaders seem to have been able to avoid the African leaders' disease of coming to resemble those you overthrow, like the pigs of Animal Farm.

The Eritrean regime went down this path steadily after independence in 1991, and with seemingly little care about what the rest of the world thought about them. Ethiopia has been different and the government has done good things for its people leading to much support from the aid community and in particular the British Government. But as Prime Minister Meles Zenawi felt power slipping away, he has become increasingly oppressive. As the Economist puts it (subscribers only I think):
"An instinct for self-preservation may explain the former rebel fighters' return to Soviet methods. Things began to fall apart last year when a disorganised opposition disputed the results of a general election. Street protests followed in the capital in June and again in November. Around 80 people were believed to have been killed, including some police, after which opposition leaders, journalists, human-rights activists and businessmen were arrested. Many have since been charged with treason and genocide.

The government promised a speedy trial but has reneged, dragging out the process while keeping it far from view. Most of those arrested are still languishing in Kaliti prison in Addis Ababa. The cells there are baking hot by day, freezing by night, infested with roaches and mice, and thick with mud in the rainy season. The government has so far used a mix of spin and harassment of journalists (local more than foreign) to avoid international condemnation. But that may be changing.

An independent commission into the June and November killings has become an embarrassment. The government had stacked the commission with its supporters but eight out of ten of them still decided that the government had used excessive force. The commission members claim Mr Zenawi tried to get them to reverse their decision earlier this year; when that failed the government sought to bury the findings. The head of the commission and his deputy fled to Europe, fearing for their safety. Their investigation says at least 193 people were killed, nearly all by the security forces, including 40 teenagers, some shot at close range, others strangled. Some 20,000 young Ethiopians were said to be imprisoned in labour camps, though a government spokesman calls this “absolute rubbish”.

The government is spending more on its secret police as well as on state media. Well-placed sources claim an Israeli-trained unit now monitors e-mail and blocks opposition websites. Yet there is also disloyalty in the security apparatus. Berhanu Nega, the imprisoned mayor-elect of Addis Ababa, managed to write a book in Kaliti entitled “Dawn of Freedom” that is now being widely distributed in samizdat. Some people say 200,000 of the opposition calendars have been sold, often for several times their cover price."

On the other hand the Somali Islamist seems to be running on a law and order ticket! In the past few days they have used their forces to retake a ship seized by pirates, freeing the crew (the seas off Somalia have in the last decade and a half become notorious for pirates), and cracking down on drugs - in this case Khat, an incredibly common substance in those regions. Yet from the American self-styled 'anti-Jihadist' right, such as in this case the widely read and quoted Jawa Report, we are still getting this sort of 'advanced analysis':
"...the Ethiopia (and U.S.) backed Somalian interim government (which controls very little actual territory) has rejected a peace deal with the African Taliban [he means the ICU]. To whatever extent we are arming the opposition[he means the 'oppostion to the ICU', which is confusingly the interim government], we need to step up our efforts.

Some in the Ethiopian ex-patriot community have reminded me in the past that the Ethiopian government isn't exactly immune from charges of corruption and doesn't have the greatest human rights record itself. Maybe not, but in war you look for help from nations with mutual interests and not ones that are perfect.

The U.S. has plenty of experience fighting proxy wars from our experience with the Cold War. It's high time we began to use that experience in the Horn of Africa."

Mr. Jawa should listen to his Ethiopian friends a bit more. As likely refugees from political oppression they might have a bit more perspective on his "my enemy's enemy is my friend" logic. The premises of his argument are a mixture of the sickening and the laughable; firstly that the US should arm any old warlord or totalitarian regime who says they are fighting Islamists ('cos Islamist are, like, all bad and terrorists and stuff don't ya know?). And then the second - that the US experience of fighting proxy wars during Cold War suggests they should try the same again! Can anyone say "Daniel Ortega"?

1 comment:

Mohamed yassien said...

Islamic Court leaders declared Jihads against Transitional federal Governments (TFG) officials includes the president Abdullah Yusuf, prime ministry Prof Gedi and Mr Hussein Adeed and some ministerial officials will be named later.

Islamic court leaders say its Islamic duty to eliminate the puppet government and urged fellow Muslim to rise against this puppet regime.
Islamic Court is willing to informing that any innocent parliamentary personals must leave the Baidoa region within 48 hours. The innocent civilian’s population avoid any contacts between government’s places and military bases if not we are not responsible their safety. Islamic court officials confirmed that 20 mujahideen personnel went a suicidal mission into Ethiopian targets without given any specific cities.

Islamic courts leaders specific Dahir Aweys and Sheekh Yuusuf Indhacade both man mention that If US governments doesn’t stop meddling our internal affairs or not stopping reconnaissance flight within our sovereign right. US government will pay a heavy price within East Africa regions and around globe. Islamic Union Court leaders and militias are well determining to defeat the enemy of God and Somalia as they putted and blamed the US administration.

Islamic Union Court leaders declares the peace initiatives is a failure no longer be valid our party. The fighting will be continuances until our objective are met.
1. To drive out all Ethiopian military personals within Somali tertiary includes Ogaden region and any other foreign troops in our soil
2. Overthrow puppet governments
3. United all Somalia includes Somaliland and Puntland
4. Law must be a Sharia law ( Islamic Law)
5. Held direct election within 2 years “all Somali region “

Islamic Courts leaders say that above points are not negotiable.

Transitional federal Governments (TFG) officials cannot comment above points, the threat given their officials. The Prime Minister Prof Gedi we cannot negotiation with the terrorism groups based in Mogadishu. Its matter of time they will bring full control, law and order and justices in that region.

Somalia peace process and nation building effort are distant future. Both sides are unimaginable position.