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Ethiopia’s AFD expresses concern over Somali developments

AFD Statement on the Development Unfolding in Somalia

July 5, 2005 — The Alliance for Freedom and Democracy (AFD) wishes to express its deep concerns regarding the developments currently unfolding in Somalia. These developments are of particular interest to our Alliance first of all because one of our member organizations, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), struggles for the rights of the Somali people in Ethiopia. Although what is happening in Somalia could much more directly affect our Somali compatriots, they could also have important implications for all of us because of one historical reality in the Horn of Africa. Political developments in any corner of the Horn have historically reverberated throughout the sub-region raising the hopes of some and dashing those of others. Much more importantly, many of the region’s authoritarian rulers have time and again manipulated international perceptions of such incidents in order to dash the hopes of those working for freedom, democracy, and friendly relations among communities and states.

Somalia’s tragedy and the suffering of many other societies in the Horn of Africa can be traced back to the Cold War era practice by the region’s authoritarian rulers of muzzling their internal critics by designating them as the agents of the opposing camp and thereby gaining the backing and endorsement of their international sponsors for their repressive policies. We are observing with increasing concern how current international concerns about the spread of global terrorism are increasingly being manipulated by some repressive regimes to continue this destructive practice.

The AFD and all its member organizations would like to make it perfectly clear that we stand united in opposition to the practice of terrorizing society whether it is perpetrated by state or non-state actors. Furthermore, we neither engage in nor condone indiscriminate acts that endanger the safety and security of the populace, as we also stand united in opposition to extremism and intolerance in all their manifestations. Our call for an inclusive process of dialogue not only demonstrates our opposition to fanaticism, the worst pretext for exclusion, but also constitutes the only reliable antidote to the dissemination of such sentiments. On the contrary, the desperation fanned by the behaviours and acts of exclusive authoritarian regimes, the absence of legitimate structures of governance and the prolonged breakdown of law and order create the most conducive breeding grounds for the birth and dissemination of fanaticism.

We are currently observing the glee with which Ethiopia’s ruling party has received the news of what is unfolding in Somalia. In addition to deflecting attention from the deteriorating situation at home, the Ethiopian regime is desperate to regain the support of the international community, which has been put into serious question lately, by incriminating and silencing its domestic and legitimate political opposition. That is why the ruling party and its international backers are already trying to implicate our member organizations, separately or collectively, in the events unfolding in Somalia. We categorically reject any involvement in the purely intra-Somalia power struggles. The constituents of all our member organizations have been victims of the Cold War era rivalry that pitied Somalia and Ethiopia in a bloody war, the price of which all the people in the Horn of African region are still paying dearly. The world has enough experience of dictators projecting enmities across borders in order to divert attention from internal wrongdoings.

AFD and its member organizations have every reason neither to involve themselves in the affairs of Somalia nor to allow any group in Somalia to interfere in their internal affairs. Nor does AFD want the re-ignition of another cycle of contests and violent confrontation between Somalia and Ethiopia whatever the pretext.

The Alliance would wholeheartedly welcome the re-emergence of a stable democratic Somalia when this becomes a reality. Because we are convinced that an inclusive process is the only way of forging a stable and democratic order in Ethiopia, we appeal to all Somali groups to follow the same course. That is the only way out of the conflict that has blighted Somalia for years and condemned the people to unparalleled misery and mayhem. We also call upon regional and global powers to concentrate on bringing all groups in Somalia together and seek a comprehensive solution instead of sensationalizing the situation out of proportion and trying to find hasty fixes that may exacerbate the already muddled situation in Somalia, with its dire consequences for the entire Horn of Africa region. The time calls for a sober analysis of the situation and the acceptance of dialogue as the only way out of the quagmire. The Alliance believes to do otherwise in the current circumstances is a sure recipe for disaster.

We would like to warn the international community that unwarranted interference in the affairs of Somalia by the Ethiopian regime could easily revive deep-seated historical memories of rivalry and should thus be avoided. Similarly we would like to warn all groups in Somalia that they have neither the mandate nor right to speak on behalf of our Somali compatriots.

We wish to contribute to the promotion of partnership within Ethiopia as well as between it and all the other states of the Horn of Africa. And for this to occur, the establishment of a just, representative, and democratic order within each state is absolutely essential. Ethiopia, being the most populace and centrally located state in the Horn of Africa, the course towards regional peace and stability can be paved only by putting Ethiopia’s political life on an increasingly democratic footing.