December 25, 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 "interest."

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

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

very informative