Home | Comment & Analysis    Monday 25 December 2006

Factors behind Ethiopia’s war against Somalia


By Abukar Sanei

Dec 25, 2006 — Ethiopia’s war against Somalia has just begun as a
crossfire between the two forces has been reported
from the middle regions of Somalia. However, are
Somalis ready for this war? One thing that is for sure
is that the ICU will fight until victory or defeat.
Will this war be limmited to the ICU? I think not. Who
will fight for Zenawi? Of course, the Ethiopian
soldiers, but who will play the leading role?
Ethiopian Generals and Colonels will play the leading
role of this war, but what about Col. Yusuf? Well, he
is too old with a liver that is not his. For that
reason, he will not be in the front-line with the
Ethiopian Generals, but there is one thing that he can
do: to set up the maneuver of the war. What about the
so-called Somali MPs, who had voted for the Ethiopia’s
intrusion on Somalia? They will be cheerful for the
Ethiopian soldiers!

On the other hand, what about Mr. Zenawi? Before his
announcement at his Parliament in Addis Ababa, Mr.
Zenawi used to say that he will only defend the weak
government if it is attacked by the Islamic Courts.
But now he is claiming that the Ethiopian "interest"
is "under attack," and he has to act immediately to
invade Somalia. Having that justification in mind,
however, the following points can be counted as the
main factors that stimulate Ethiopia’s war on Somalia.

The history of Somalo-Ethiopian relationship, however,
was not cordial since Somalia got its independence in
1960. After four years of independence, the hostility
of both countries reached at a lebel of fighting.
Moreover, during the first decade of Siad Barre’s
regime specifically in 1977-8, a bitter war between
Somalia and Ethiopia took place. The claim of Somalis
was to regain the Western region that are called the
Ogaden territory. However, as a result of the war, a
political tension between the two countries was in
place until the Inter Governmental Authority on
Development (IGAD)was founded in 1986. Even though
both former presidents, Siad Barre and Mengistu Haile
Mariam, have discussed for halting their dispute, many
Somalis still hold their conviction that the Western
territories, or the Ogaden region should come back to
their possesion. This is one of the heart of
Somalo-Ethiopian disputes, and it is where the
hostilities of both countries come from. In fact,
Ethiopians will not compromise or relinquish from the
said territory, and Somalis will not abandon from
getting back this land. This is a factor that Ethiopia
uses for its war in order to overcome the Somali’s
claim of the Western territory.

The current dubious UN report is one of the pretext
that the Ethiopian leader uses for his war. The four
authors of this report, from Belgium, US, Kenya and
Colombia, claimed that ten countries violated the
loose UN arms embargo on Somalia. Suprisingly, even
though the most Muslim countries, which are accused
for arming the ICU, have denied any accusation against
them, Ethiopia has not denied nor accepted the report.
However, how Zenawi can use the UN report in order to
justify his incrusion on Somalia? What aggravated
Zenawi, in my opinion, is that he found from the
report that Muslim countries and Hisbulah are
"training" and "arming" the ICU. Therefore, in his war
against the Courts, he assumes that he will gain a
great support from the countries in the region and
other powerful nations as well.

In addition, the expension of the ruling of the ICU in
many places of southern Somalia is a great factor that
Mr. Zenawi is engaging in his intrusion on Somalia.
Since the Islamic Courts came to power in last June,
they gained much support from all Somalis whether
inside the country and Diaspora communities as well.
The reason of this support was that the Courts have
come up with a solution and got rid of the warlords,
who kept the country under their occupation for the
last sixteen years without peace and improvement of
life, but with chaos and lawlessnes. In addition, the
expension of the ICU now reaches to Puntland region,
the region of the TFG president, Mr. Yusuf. Despite
the fact that the head of the regional territory of
Puntland has announced that the Shari’ah will be
applied, it has been reported that there is a
relationship between the Puntland clerics and the
leaders of ICU in Mogadishu. However, for the eyes of
the Ethiopian ruler, this region is a strategic place
for Ethiopia’s economy where they can use cheap Ports.
Therefore, if the Shari’ah is applied in this region,
this "interest" of using Puntland’s resources will be
prevented. In fact, this is not a threat to the
Ethiopians but a peaceful enviornment with strong
system [whatever it might be] that safeguards the
country from any infiltration of foreigners is not
what Mr. Zenawi wants to see in Somalia.

The split of the TFG is another ostensible factor that
Meles uses to launch his war on Somalia. This is not
the first disagreement on political issues that the
TFG faces since it was formed in the late 2004. In mid
2005, there was a disparity from the top leaders of
the TFG. Eventually, this interior tension within the
TFG leaders was resolved by a meeting that was held in
Yemen at the begining of this year. However, another
action that can be considered a new split from Mr.
Yusuf government has come recently after the Speaker
of the Parliament decided by himself to continue the
dialogue between the TFG and the ICU. However, the
current split of the TFG at this time is really
different from the previous one, because there is
another power, and the situation of southern Somalia
has completely changed from chaos and lawlessness to
peace and security. Is this a "threat" to the
Ethiopian "interest?" Of course not, but the continues
weakness of the TFG, which takes orders directly from
the office of Meles in Addis Ababa is what is
considered as a "threat" and an "attack" to Ethiopia’s

In December 2002, Meles Zenawi visited the White
House, and one of the dicussions that Mr. Zenawi had
with Bush was related to "the global war on
terrorism." Obviously, the frame time of this meeting
between Bush and Zenawi came at the early stage of the
"war on terror." For instance, this meeting came after
the terrorist attacks of the hotel in Mombasa. In the
meantime, there was and still are finger points at
some individuals from Somalia, who have been alleged
to be the "masterminds" of the Mombasa attack in 2002.
Therefore, the whole reason of Zenawi’s visit in
Washington, in my opinion, was to sell his idea that
he can be a partner to defeat " the terrorist cells"
that may be found in the Horn of Africa. Nevertheless,
according to an article that is written by Yohannes
Woldemariam in Sudan Tribune, Zenawi receives now $800
million yearly from the US for just his support and
being an ally on the "war on terror."

If these are the factors that pushes the Ethiopia’s
war against Somalia, my conclusion is that war is not
and will not be an option for both Ethiopia and
Somalia respectively. The Ethiopian regime has his own
domestic political and social problems. For instance,
two political parties in Addis Abbaba, United
Ethiopian Democracy Forces [UEDF], Oromo Federalist
Democratic Movement [OFDM], are not in agreement with
the Ethiopian Parliament’s vote to attack Somalia. On
the other hand, the rebel groups, like Ogaden National
Liberation Front [ONLF] and Oromo Liberation Front
[OLF], will get advantage from Zenawi’s war on Somalia
to organize themselves. Instead of waging war, Zenawi
needs to save his people from wild lions. It was
reported that the last two years, 200 Ethiopians in
the southren region were killed by lions.

On the other hand, even though the ICU leaders argue
that Ethiopia invades their country, war is not an
option for Somalis. Somalis have been suffering
lawlessness and instibility since 1991. Therefore,
instead of declaring war against Ethiopia, they should
find ways to improve social lives and create jobs for
those who live under their control. Continuing
negotiations with the TFG is also another step that
should be used to avoid war. In addition, helping the
victims of the current flood disaster with shelter and
other necessities of life should be the priority of
the ICU. However, even though I am not naive that
Ethiopian forces are getting into Somali territories,
and this is why the ICU are calling to defend the
country, I am convinced that war is not an option for
both countries.

* The author is based in Westerville, OH USA. He can be reached at abukar12@yahoo.com

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