Home | Comment & Analysis    Friday 18 May 2007

Ethiopia preparing the ground for another war against Eritrea

Warning: Another bloodbath in the coming

By Kallacha Dubbi

May 17, 2007 — Serious observers of the Ethiopian political panorama, especially the
homegrown who can also do better reading of the Abyssinian psychic, are
unanimous in that Prime Minister Meles is concocting ‘good’ reasons to wage
another war against Eritrea. Movement of ground troops and political
debates in the doomed Ethiopian parliament suggest that this war is very
likely to follow the coming winter which also comes conveniently after the
Ethiopian millennium, which has captured serious attention of the Prime
Minister. It is unlikely Meles will go to war before such a big party
although the millennium could be left for honeymoon of the postwar victory,
if the victory can be assured. A number of reproach strategies have been
adopted by Meles paving the ground for attack and grooming “logical”
justifications for the possibility of a war.

BLAME 1: AFAR

In 2003, a group associated with the Afar Revolutionary Democratic Unity
Front, (ARDUF) issued a warning to foreigners not to enter the Afar region.
In early March of 2007, ARDUF kidnapped a group of five Europeans and 13
Ethiopians in the Danakil depression, a remote region of the Afar people.
The ARDUF indubitably admitted that it and no one else is responsible for
the kidnapping.

And yet, few days later, Reuter reported that “an Ethiopian administrator
accused Eritrean forces of kidnapping” the group. A British newspaper
followed quoting Ethiopian sources that the kidnapped tourists were taken
“to a military camp near the Eritrean border.” Another reputed newsletter
wrote that “five British citizens who were kidnapped in northern Ethiopia
have been spotted at a military camp across the border in Eritrea, a senior
Ethiopian official said.” By the end of the week it was common to read
about “hostages held in Eritrean rebel camp.” In twisted propaganda notch,
one newsletter went as far as telling its readers, that the Afars are almost
all Sunni Muslims, as if this piece has to matter to rescue the victims.
All of a sudden, the Eritreans were more at the center of the kidnapping
news than the ARDUF, by design of the official Ethiopian media. Few cared
to know the relevant, for example, that the ARDUF had kidnapped some Italian
tourists as far back as in 1995, later releasing them, unharmed. Or the
fact that it seeks freedom and liberty for the Afar people and that an
earlier Afar rebel group, the Afar Liberation Front (ALF), fought against
the Derg for 17 years. The thrust of the news ended with accusing Eritrea
more than about liberating the Afar.

BLAME 2: OGADEN

On December 23, 2006, the Ogaden National Liberation Front, (ONLF) claimed
to have attacked an Ethiopian column near Baraajisale heading to Somalia,
destroying 4 of 20 vehicles, inflicting casualties and driving the convoy
back. It also claimed another attack on Ethiopian soldiers on January 15,
2007 in Qabri-Dahar, Garbo, and Fiiq. Five Ethiopian soldiers and one ONLF
rebel were reported killed. Many ONLF attacks have taken place on Ethiopian
convoys, but the attack which included Chinese citizens is the only one the
Western medias were interested in, inadvertently asking more attacks of
worthy news. The attack on the Chinese camp took place in April, about
seven weeks after the Danakil kidnap. A shoot-out occurred between
Ethiopian soldiers guarding the Chinese exploratory group and the ONLF.
Nine Chinese oil workers and 65 Ethiopians were killed. The front claimed
full responsibility for the “rescue”, not an attack, but stated that the
death of the Chinese or Ethiopians was not intentional.

More of the same complains and charges ensued by the Ethiopian government as
in the Danakil case. A serious Europe-based news media reported: “Ethiopia
accuses neighbors of supporting an ethnic Somali rebel group that attacked a
Chinese-run oil installation this week, killing 74 people.” Then, in a
surprising reverse of the vector, the Christian Science Monitor suggested
“there is a growing realization that Somalia’s increasingly brutal
insurgency is starting to seep across the Horn of Africa”. This offered an
impression, that the Somali insurgency against Ethiopia gave rise to the
Ogaden movement. And yet the ONLF, created in 1984, surely predates the
2006 Ethiopian occupation of Mogadishu.

AFP added the psychological score for Ethiopia reporting “Ethiopia on
Wednesday accused arch-foe Eritrea of supporting the rebels behind an attack
on a remote Chinese-run oil field that killed 74 people, including nine
Chinese workers.” More uninformed commentary followed: “Ethiopian analysts
say the unprecedented scale of the attack, claimed by the ONLF, suggested it
could only have been carried out with support from Islamists in neighboring
Somalia, who were routed by Ethiopian forces in a two-week, Christmas-time
invasion. Some analysts see this as an indication that the battle for
control of Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu is becoming a regional conflict.”
One starts getting the impression that the ONLF is a result of Meles’
struggle against terrorism. What sophistication does it require to
overwhelm badly trained and poorly armed of Ethiopian guards protecting
unarmed Chinese, only the Christian Monitor knows. So again, even though
ONLF seemed to have received more attention than the ARDUF, after all the
West should not terribly dislike an attack against China, but Ethiopia is
still compiling blames against Eritrea.

I just saw a report on the Ogaden online, that the ONLF has captured Qalafe
town in the Godey province of Ogaden. I am certain Meles will blame Eritrea
once again.

BLAME 3: SOMALIA

On April, 24 2007, Jendayi Frazer, the assistant secretary of state for
African affairs, said that “Eritrea was the largest foreign backer of
guerrillas who are fiercely resisting attempts by Ethiopia and the Somali
government to pacify Mogadishu.” This paraphrased Ethiopia’s propaganda,
that “Eritrea is fuelling the insurgency in Somalia in order to wage a proxy
war against Ethiopia”. VOA and AFNEWS also reported that “Addis Ababa
quickly accused Eritrea of starting a proxy war by backing both the ONLF and
insurgents in Mogadishu. The government of Eritrea angrily denied the
Ethiopian and U.S. accusations. By then Prime Minister Meles has
transferred the ‘debate’ to the Ethiopian Parliament where a resolution was
assured by the EPRDF majority, accusing Eritrea and OTHER groups for
supporting Somali insurgents and ‘undermining’ Ethiopia’s peace mission in
Somalia.

The opposition in the doomed parliament debated long to remove the word
“other” from the resolution, a reference to the banned Ethiopian opposition
groups with connections to Eritrea. This is the first test of Meles to the
Ethiopian parliament gauging the reaction to his war plan, and one can bet,
that the vote in the parliament to declare open war against Eritrea would
follow the same vote ratios – those who opposed the inclusion of “others”
will also oppose the war, those who supported will also support the war, so
a majority is guaranteed by the very birth of EPRDF. The test of the
parliament was completed successfully, but then it was sham to start with.

BLAME 4: OROMIA

During a series of debates in the parliament preceding the Ethiopian army
attack of Somalia, Prime Minister Meles listed his justifications for the
attack. One of these justifications was the famous “third point”, the
presence of “other” unfriendly forces in Somalia, a term used to refer to
opposition forces including the OLF. Meles’ has repeatedly proven his
willingness to cross a border hunting for opposition forces, the OLF in
particular. He has crossed to Kenya, to Somalia, and - Eritrea as his next
plan.

On Tuesday this week, the Voice of Oromo Liberation announced that the OLF
army entered and controlled for 3 hrs a small town of Bati in north eastern
Ethiopia. This suggests that there is a growing pressure on the Tigrean
domination of Oromia, a pressure that is sure to culminate on the shoulders
of Meles. Indeed the report also said the OLF chased the regime’s
representatives out of town and gave warnings to corrupted administrators.
I have little doubt that Meles will once again blame Eritrea for the success
of the OLF, even though the OLF’s official media has taken full credit of
the small town mutiny. Alternately, Meles could simply keep quiet about it,
it will not be the business of the international media after all - no
foreigner is involved.

BLAME 5: ERITREA

It is to be recalled that the Boundary Commission delivered a final report
on 21 March 2003 reaffirming its previous decisions, that “the delimitation
decision was final and binding,” and that having made its determination it
“could not receive further representations from the parties, that
demarcation could only proceed on the basis of that decision”. This was
precisely in line with Eritrea’s position and places the fault for the
continued border tension on Ethiopia’s side. And yet the Ethiopian army
still occupies the territory it lost by the Algier’s mediation which it went
in to agreement willfully, signing to abide by the outcome. About 14 years
later, the border is not demarcated, and Ethiopia continues to blame Eritrea
for its own failure to abide by the international law. The Eritrean border
is held hostage to submit Eritrea to Tigrean supremacy, and this alone
provides Meles with his rational for a war against Eritrea, a war that is in
the making.

PRIME ALLY FOR THE WAR: USA

In a recent Foreign Affairs article, John Prendergast and Colin
Thomas-Jensen of the International Crisis Group argue that “Washington’s
obsession with counterterrorism in Africa’s Horn is undermining efforts to
bring stability to the region.” And Meles, a man with one of the worst
human rights records, is now America’s ally in fighting terrorism. Ethiopia
is investing heavily to swing on the “unti-terror” pendulum.

On March 26, 2002, O’Dwyer’s PR Daily reported that "Ethiopia spent a
whopping $5.6 million in lobbying fees/expenses at Verner, Liipfert,
Bernhard, McPherson & Hand during the firm’s recent six-month reporting
period". Just recently, Dick Armey, the Texas Republican and former House
majority leader now works for a lobbying firm DLA Piper. Armey and DLA
Piper registered with the Justice Department in June 2006 as lobbyists for
the government of Ethiopia, at a price tag of $50,000 a month. In a sudden
rise to African politics, a little known university professor named Peter
Pham surprises Africanists and Ethiopiansts with a bold testimony in support
of the Ethiopian regime as an expert, arguing in favor of Meles, on the
grounds that the alternative would awash the Horn with terrorism. Alas, the
extravagant reward for lobbyists paid off in a fashion paid on behalf of
corporate America, scores a point for Ethiopia on the new DC front. The
O’Dwyer’s PR Daily report specifically mentions that the group’s area of
lobbying includes the conflict with Eritrea.

GATHERING DIPLOMACY FOR THE WAR: MIDDLE EAST AND THE SUDAN

In the middle of May, 2007 Prime Minister Meles visited Kuwait. Durig his
visit, he and his Kuwaiti counterparts, Amir Sheikh Al Ahmed Al Jaber Al
Sabah and the Prime Minister Sheikh Naser Mohammed Al Sabah “called for the
unity and independence of Somalia and an end to violence.” The two leaders
also “emphasized the need to resolve disputes between African nations
through peaceful means.” The must be a calculated effort to neutralize the
Arab support for Eritrea. Meles knows full well, that the same countries
that supported and sustained the Eritrean struggle for over 3 decades may
not allow it to fall under Ethiopia’s arms after independence. Sudan’s full
or tacit support, a country that hosted the head-quarters of the Eritrean
movements and transited all supports for the liberation struggle for those
decades, must be critical. So, upon return, Prime Minister Meles also met
with Sudanese Defense Minister, Lieutenant General Abdelrahim Mohamed
Hussein, and jointly declared that “multifarious cooperation between the
governments of Ethiopia and Sudan has been growing.” I have a sense that
the above complains were presented to the Sudan who has its own Darfur ax to
grind, and need not be pressed much to submit.

CONCLUSION

The writing on the wall is clear and in bold. A war is in the making in the
Horn, and it will be a brutal one, a vicious one, in which more than the
previous 70,000 are to be killed. This war in the making in front of the
worlds eyes, including the United States, a country that for now seems to
stand by Ethiopia. US and Ethiopian relationships, especially when such
relationship is sure to cause pain for the millions, should be revisted for
the sake of innocent lives, if not sincere politics. This would be
consistent with the humaniterean obligations of this great country. US has
no business in interrogating “terror suspects in secret Ethiopian prisons”,
when its own country reports reveal gross human rights abuses of Meles. As
the New York Times objectively stated, the US should not look the other way
when Ethiopia violats UN sanctions by purchasing arms from North Korea in
prepartion for agression. Meles must be stopped from making another stupid
and sadistic war.

* The author is based in the USA. He can be reached at kallachadubbi@yahoo.com