Cameron Duodu / The Guardian – 2007-01-09 00:43:17
Ethiopia: America’s New Puppet
Cameron Duodu / The Guardian
(January 4, 2007) — If the 20th century taught us anything, it was that powerful armies can be brought to their knees by small groups of fighters who are not afraid to die. Small Vietnam humiliated mighty America, and the “stone-age” mujahideen of Afghanistan sent the Soviet army packing. With all this so apparent, why has the Ethiopian prime minister, Meles Zenawi, sent his army into Somalia?
The transitional government had been fighting a civil war against the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC). Meles may think the former has the people’s backing, but that poses the question: if it’s so popular, why does it need the Ethiopian army to fight for it?
Ethiopia fought a war against the Somali government in the late 1970s and early 80s, but there has been peace on the border for over a decade. So Ethiopia cannot point to internal safety concerns in allowing itself to be drawn into invading its neighbour.
The crisis has now escalated sharply with the deployment of US naval forces to prevent UIC fighters from fleeing, the US claiming that some have ties to terrorist organisations, including al-Qaida.
The Ethiopian invasion will certainly be resisted by Somali patriots. It will initially be classified as “successful” because it will establish a semblance of law and order. But the routed UIC, although weakened by internal squabbles, will seek safe havens nearby, regroup and woo back its supporters.
The UIC knows that when faced with a conventional army backed by an airforce, the best option is to disappear into the undergrowth or behind the desert dunes. The Somalis have been “disappearing” like that for centuries, always coming back to harass those who claim to have defeated them.
The danger this time is that the resistance will draw in other countries. Eritrea, which fought its own costly war with Ethiopia, does not need an invitation to help its enemy’s enemy. The UIC is also said to be receiving financial assistance from rich leaders of sympathetic Islamic sects, drawn from such countries as Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the Gulf sheikhdoms.
And the most explosive fuel will be the involvement of the US on the side of Ethiopia. General John Abizaid, commander for the US central command, is reported to have visited Ethiopia last month, after which Ethiopia moved from providing the Somali government with “military advice” to open armed intervention.
The US objective is to safeguard access to the Red Sea for its oil tankers, and to prevent al-Qaida cells being nurtured in Somalia or in Ethiopia, which has a sizeable Muslim minority. Now, by allowing the US to persuade it to invade, Ethiopia has signalled to the Islamic world that it is willing to join the US in its “war on terror”.
Can Ethiopia afford to be universally regarded as a US puppet? In the African Union (AU) – which has its headquarters in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa – US policy is already causing enormous confusion. For months the AU has been trying, unsuccessfully, to persuade the UN security council to bolster the AU force in Darfur, Sudan.
Yet within days of Ethiopia’s invasion, the security council, under US instigation, was able to pass a resolution asking for an AU force to be sent to Somalia. Clearly, the US wants to legitimise the invasion by placing it under the umbrella of the very AU that it has humiliated for months.
As one of the poorest countries on earth, Ethiopia needs to have the solidarity of the “wretched of the earth”. In allowing itself to be associated with George Bush’s foreign policy, it is placing itself on the wrong side of the struggle between the weak and the strong.
Cameron Duodu is a Ghanaian novelist and journalist firstname.lastname@example.org
US Navy Deployed to Block Somali Militants
Ships aim to stop al-Qaida operatives, jihadists from getting away
WASHINGTON (January 4, 2007) — US Navy vessels are deployed off the coast of Somalia to make sure al-Qaida or allied jihadists don’t escape the country by sea now that the once-dominant Islamist forces there are in retreat, the State Department said Wednesday.
Of particular concern is the fate of three al-Qaida militants who were believed by US officials to be under the protection of the Islamic Courts Union in Mogadishu until Ethiopian forces drove the Courts from power in recent days.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the missions off the coast are being carried out by a US task force based in the Horn of Africa.
The al-Qaida militants are believed to have had a role in the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and in the 2002 bombing of a hotel in Kenya.
Kenya sent extra troops to its border with Somalia on Wednesday to keep Islamic militants from entering the country after Ethiopian helicopters attacked a Kenyan border post by mistake while pursuing suspected fighters.
Four Ethiopian helicopters apparently mistook a Kenyan border post at Harehare for the Somali town of Dhobley on Tuesday and fired rockets at several small buildings, a security officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. There were no reports of casualties, but Kenyan tanks were sent to the area early Wednesday, the officer added.
McCormack said the administration is planning to provide food to Somalia, adding that US officials will take part in a donors conference soon to determine further needs and how they can be met.
Also planned is a meeting of US, European and African countries, along with international institutions on Friday in Kenya for a discussion of humanitarian and security issues.
McCormack said the United States continues to support the creation of an all-Africa force to help out the transitional government as it seeks to consolidate its authority in Mogadishu. Until the Islamic Courts were forced out, the government had been confined to the western town of Baidoa, unable to assert its authority nationwide despite U.N. and United States backing.
US Efforts Part of Global Initiative
The US efforts on the humanitarian and peacekeeping fronts are part of an overall international initiative “to move Somalia out of the category of a failed state,” McCormack said.
The spokesman stopped short of an outright endorsement of an Ethiopian attack last week but said it was apparent that the Islamic Courts had fallen under the control “of those that had links to al-Qaida and other terrorist groups.”
These groups, he said, “quite clearly were interested in imposing draconian types of interpretations” of Islamic law on Somalia in contravention of the polices of the transitional government.
Before Ethiopian troops launched their offensive last week, “we certainly would have hoped that there could have been a negotiated, political dialogue,” McCormack said.
“But it became apparent over time, and certainly very apparent in the recent weeks, that that wasn’t going to happen and that the Islamic Courts were intent upon trying to seize control over all of Somalia through use of arms,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni flew to the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, to meet with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to discuss the framework of a regional peacekeeping mission to Somalia, said Okello Oryem, the Ugandan minister of state of foreign affairs.
Somalia’s government forces, backed by Ethiopian troops, have been pursuing the remnants of the Islamic militia that until two weeks ago controlled most of southern Somalia.
© 2006 The Associated Press
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