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In Somalia, Presence of Ethiopian Troops Fuels Insurgency, Humanitarian Crisis
By Alisha Ryu (VOA News)
19 December 2007
Listen to Ryu report audio clip
The end of 2007 will mark the one-year anniversary of an Ethiopia-led offensive that ousted Somalia's Islamist movement from power and helped install a secular interim government in its place. As VOA Correspondent Alisha Ryu in our East Africa Bureau in Nairobi reports, the military action sparked a proxy war and an Iraq-style insurgency that have plunged Somalia into what the United Nations now calls the worst humanitarian crisis in Africa.
Following Ethiopia's swift military victory over militiamen from Somalia's Islamic Courts Union in late December 2006, western nations urged Somalia's transitional federal government to initiate a genuine, broad-based national reconciliation process that could help end 16 years of war and lawlessness.
The United States, eager to keep radicals within the Islamic courts from making a political comeback, was especially vocal in calling for Somalia's internationally recognized-but-weak interim government to quickly work toward establishing grassroots support.
During a January press conference in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer said the United States expected Somalia's transitional federal government leaders to do their best to heal and unite the country.
"We have made clear that we see a role in Somalia for all who renounce violence and extremism," said Jendayi Frazer. "Over the course of the last few days, I have encouraged the leadership to make clear through statements and actions their commitment to an inclusive process of dialogue and reconciliation. They should start with reconciliation amongst themselves."
Somalia's transitional federal government was formed in 2004, largely among rival factional leaders who had kept the country without a functioning government since 1991. By 2006, the transitional government was isolated in the provincial town of Baidoa, with the Islamic Courts Union having taken over most of south and central Somalia.
Many ordinary Somalis agreed that the transitional government, installed in the Somali capital Mogadishu in January 2007, would have to show unity and an ability to work together to gain public trust and confidence.
But soon after top government leaders took power in Mogadishu, clan divisions worsened as officials jockeyed for power and control over Somalia's finances, resources, and infrastructure.
At the same time, some of the ousted Islamic Courts leaders and other Somalis opposed to Ethiopia's intervention moved to Eritrea, Ethiopia's arch-rival in the region. In the Eritrean capital Asmara, they began forming an opposition with the backing of Eritrean President Issaias Afeworki.
The Asmara opposition group joined militant Somali Islamists in denouncing the transitional government and its chief backer, Ethiopia, which left tens of thousands of troops in Somalia to protect the fragile government.
The opposition vowed to fight the interim government until all Ethiopian troops leave Somalia.
In an interview with VOA earlier this year, a Somali political consultant working with the transitional government, Ali Abdullahi, said he was concerned that the Ethiopian presence in Somalia was damaging the credibility of the government.
"The biggest challenge is the Ethiopian presence in Somalia," said Ali Abdullahi. "They need to be replaced constructively by African Union forces. The time frame should be as quickly as possible."
The Ethiopian government in Addis Ababa had pledged to withdraw its troops once a full contingent of 8,000 peacekeepers from the African Union arrived in Somalia to take over security duties.
But by March, only 1,500 soldiers from Uganda were deployed. Meanwhile, a full-blown, Iraq-style insurgency against the government and Ethiopia ignited in Mogadishu.
The rising insecurity deterred other African Union members from contributing troops to the peacekeeping mission.
Militant Islamic fighters supported by disgruntled members of Mogadishu's most dominant clan, the Hawiye, targeted Somali government officials, security forces and Ethiopian troops almost daily with mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, roadside bombs, and suicide attacks.
In response, the Ethiopian army conducted house-to-house searches for insurgents and weapons, and counter-attacked with tank fire on insurgent strongholds in heavily populated areas of the city.
Somali security forces made mass arrests and shut down businesses with clan ties to Islamists. They harassed journalists and media organizations, accusing them of siding with insurgents.
Meanwhile, a report issued in July by a U.N. monitoring group fueled fears that Somalia had become an Ethiopia-Eritrea war by proxy. The report accused Eritrea of secretly shipping weapons, including surface-to-air missiles, to radical Islamists in Somalia. Eritrea denied the report.
In a July interview with VOA, a Mogadishu resident, who identified himself as Nur, said many in the capital blamed the interim government and Ethiopia, not Eritrea, for causing chaos and suffering.
"Most of the people see the insurgents as freedom fighters," said Nur. "The problem of the government is that they might want to secure peace. But, on the other hand, they are creating more problems, more insecurity."
The violence in Mogadishu has killed and wounded thousands of civilians, and by November, more than one million Somalis had fled their homes.
The United Nations now believes that the conflict, combined with severe droughts and floods in other regions of the country, has created a humanitarian crisis that surpasses the disaster in the war-torn Darfur region of Sudan.
A Horn of Africa researcher for the London-based Amnesty International human rights group, Martin Hill, adds that the situation in Somalia has something in common with Darfur: allegations of widespread human rights violations by all sides in the conflict.
"The question of war crimes was documented by Human Rights Watch," said Martin Hill. "But very recently, the U.N. Secretary General's new representative for Somalia mentioned that these were crimes that could be investigated by the International Criminal Courts. The crimes we are talking about are killing of civilians, which are arbitrary and disproportionate, arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial executions, and disappearance of civilians."
The Washington Post newspaper reported earlier this month that a debate is taking place among decision makers in the Bush administration about whether to remain committed to Somalia's transitional federal government or to find another way to stabilize Somalia and the region.
May be it is better to withdraw and secure the border as good as possible. Let the Somali’s fight it out themselves. If LFs continue to use Somalia as their base, they can be dealt with as Turkey is doing it with the Kurd rebels in North Iraq. I am no military man, just a thought of a concerned citizen who does not wish to see his brethren killed for nothing.
My worry is, Ato Meles can not order the pool out without uncle Sam’s consent, which he does not get right now.
Hey keep this trash report out… Mogadishu is more in peace today thanks to the brave Ethiopian military who is working hard to bring peace in Somalia. Somalians now have a freedom they have never seen before and the few who want the peace to fail are not going to see it happened. Eritrea has failed in all area and UIC will not see Somalia again. Somalians are supporting the ethiopian military and asking them not to live because they have realized Ethiopian military has done great job in bring safety to thier counrty. PEOPLE DON’T BELIEVE THR B/S FROM SOME OF THIS LIES… talk to some of the military person who has return from Mogadishu and they will tell you the truth…
You are right!
It is time to let those crazy cousins of ours go their own way. Secure the border. If they get too crazy or become the hotspot for Al Queada, let Meles’ Uncle Bush drop a bomb on them like he did Iraq. The Bush administration likes to fight long drawn out wars against crazy terrorists.
It was obvious from the get go. Fool Jendai Frazer and Zenawi celebrated “Mission accomplished” last year. But they created another Darfur in Africa. Zenawi managed to decive some clawens at the state department that he can stabilize (destabilize) Somalia within two weeks. It has been a year since Zenawi declared victory but he is cought in a bloody quagmire that he can not escape easily. People at the State department who authorized this foolish game must be held responsible. Zenawi must pull out his troops and the Somalis should be left to sort out thier differenec by themselves. As the UN representative said on Monday to the security council “I am convinced that, when left alone, Somalis are ready to join ranks and efforts to get their country back on its feet in the next few months.”
Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, Special Representative of the Secretary-General.
death to woyane.
peace to the ppl of africa.
somalia, eritrea and the oppressed ppl of ethiopia will win.
meles stop killing the poor ppl of somalia, abide by the decicion of eebc, ……. and stop being the proxy of jendai frazer
ur days are numberd.
when isaias afeweriki starts the war you will be finised with a matter of days.
The real story–the great unfolding humanitarian disaster–continued. For the Somali people, Zenawi’s invasion of December of 2006 could not have started at a worse time. Defeating the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) and propping up the TFG; this was Zenawi’s immediate rationale for violating Somalia. The larger goal? Forging a partnership between Washington and Zenawi in order to execute “war on terror". A year later, this mission has not been accomplished. Instead, the “war on terror” has become the terror of war being visited on the Somali people.
In Shell-Shocked, Human Rights Watch’s August 2007 reports “our investigation of the March-April hostilities, we documented many of the most serious patterns of abuse by Ethiopian troops, such as indiscriminate attacks on civilians, summary executions and repeated targeting of hospitals,” wrote Tom Malinowski, Washington Advocacy Director for Human Rights Watch, in an open letter to Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates.
What kind of freedom are you talking about Z-Mike? Think about it just 4 a second. You are saying that because you are Weyane or ” Ethiopian” . What about if you are Somalian. What are you going to say?
This is what i am saying “kesew bate meleakt yebate seytan yesalale”
mesfin wedi adwa,
to me you sound more like wedi Eri than wedi Adwa.
It is a contradiction Somalis to govern Somali, they did not for the last 17 years and they can’t do it any time soon. It is a clan based society where there are not schools to produce rationality. It is a tyrannical dictator or a barbaric fanatics who will take all his freedom even to shave his beard or watch movie. What did if for the dictator was hanging the Sheiks and Clan leaders in public at the center of the business district. It is better to let them find what ever suit them and Ethiopia could hold any one who assumes any power responsible for any hostile action, with a devastating consequence. It is survival of the fittest like the animal kingdom in a country where one clan eats another. If it is not for the zero sum game of clanism, there is no country in Africa, where the peoples language, religion and nationality is the same to love one another and to live in peace. It should have been the most harmonious and peaceful land in the world, not of lawlessness and degeneration into a state less society of anarchists, where the people don’t see a government they like, unless they are subjected by force and cruelty.
Z-Mike, I am wondering you are writing comments almost on all articles, do you have any thing to do except this? Have you ever been to Somalia? It looks like from your words you have been, that you are saying it is nice and peace in somalia. I Saw your comment about Ethiopian economy that it is blooming and people are living very good. May be that only for you, what about working people who didn’t got even a single cent raise for the past 17 years? Is that waht you say people are happy? when you say some thing say just about you don’t try to represent Ethiopian people.
Meles is boged down on Somalia, there is no moving out of Mogadischo. He does not have the guts to accept failer! He will wind up perishing in Mogadisho. Mogadisho is a night mare for the Americans, and it will be no different for Meles. Jenday Frezer may give him money but she will not save his ass, he should learn to do the LEGAL and CORRECT before it is too late. He knows oppresed people will never kneel down, no matter how strong the oppressor is. There will be time when Meles and his people will have no where to hide!! Take my word for it.
i support the back up plan. which is give somaliland statehood, then suround mogadishu with semiautonomous and stable ,secular regions like baidoa and puntland.
i am worried about ONLF using somalia, but my question is if mogadishu is surrounded by pro-ethiopia baidoa and puntland, even if ONLF uses mogadishu/central somalia, how can it attack ethiopia??
i don’t think so.
so my advice is a 7 point plan
1- give somaliland statehood
2- strengthen baidoa, puntland and all surounding regions.
3- withdraw from mogadishu
4- destroy separatist ONLF backbone in ogaden and keep borders secure with pro-ethiopia somali regions
5- utilize secular somali diaspora and economically choke mogadishu/central somali
6- meanwhile, go to eritrea and take back asseb, change eritrean government and put pro-ethiopia, pro-TFG democratic eritrean government
7- then an allied eritrea/ethiopia/somaliland help the secular and by then economically stable baidoa and puntland take back mogadishu
This is not a true report. It is an opinion of Alisha and Jeffery somewhere in kenya that in coffee room or probably in bed.
Mefin wedi adwa,
Are you Eritreans claiming Adwa as well like badime as part of Eritrea or what? You are a high blown (lost in identity) Eritrean and here you are trying to sound a concerned Ethiopian. You can’t fool us, may be you are good at fooling your self. Look where you, and your beloved Eritrea is at now. you guys are a laughing stock. Dengay ras
maybe its for good to leave the so called somali alone. it dont matter whats the cause should respect one another. let them deal with their problem since more hate
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