July 27, 2006
Mail & Guardian, the South African newspaper, had an interesting article today on Eritrea’s and Ethiopia’s involvement in Somalia. Eyewitnesses reported that a cargo plane landed in Mogadishu carrying arms. All the players are refusing to comment on what was aboard the plane that was chartered from Kazakhstan.There already are allegations that Ethiopia and Eritrea are using Somalia to fight a proxy war and expand their influence in the Horn of Africa.
The Mail & Guardian article reports that Eritrea on Thursday called for the speedy withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from Somalia, where they have been deployed to protect the country’s fledgling government. Eritrea warned that Ethiopia’s continued stay risked provoking a regional conflict.
I’ve posted other items on Somalia, including last month a response from the Union of Islamic Courts in Somalia addressing fears of extremism in the country. The UIC have stated that they do not want to impose a Taliban-style state, but rather want Somali citizen to decide on the type of representation they want.
Hopefully, without contradicting anything I’ve written in the past, I will attempt to give a play-by-play account of the different players in Somalia:
The Warlords:After 15 years of an absent government in Somalia when Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991, the warlords divided the capital Mogadishu and the southern part of the country into fiefdoms. They then united to form the Anti-Terrorism Alliance to tackle the Islamists, who they accused of sheltering foreign al-Qaeda militants.
The Union of Islamic Courts:The Islamists have denied the allegations of the warlords and the US. They claim they are not a political movement, but are in Mogadishu as a grassroots movement to establish law and order in a city without any judicial system. Because they have attempted to restore order in the capital and its surrounding areas, after so many years of looting, plundering, Killing and kidnapping by the warlords, they’ve received popular support from the Somali people.
The US:Bush’s administration was accused by the new Somali government and the Islamists of backing the warlords recently defeated by the Islamists. The US has denied these reports. But according to eyewitnesses, the US did secretly back an alliance of warlords earlier this year when they tried to defeat the Islamic militia and capture three suspected al-Qaida members who were allegedly hiding out within the group. The warlords were defeated, and the United States now supports the government. Bush has said he will make sure Somalia does not become a safe haven for al-Qaeda. He probably doesn’t want it to become an Islamic state either.
July 24, 2006
The BBC reported today that thousands of Somalis staged a rally in Mogadishu calling on Ethiopian troops to leave their country. Since June, Mogadishu has been run by the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC). The UIC has vowed to expel Ethiopian troops who are deployed to assist the weak transitional Somali government.
Islamic leader Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed addressed the rally that forces loyal to the Islamic courts were ready and would be allowed to fight Ethiopians when appropriate. In May, it was reported that the US government was sending funds to Ethiopia under the guise of their supporting the ‘war on terror’ but Prime Minister Meles Zenawi was funding paramilitary troops to undermine the creation of an Islamist government
“We are talking to the international community to avoid serious bloodshed and we are urging the Ethiopians to withdraw from Somalia. Patience has its own limitations,” Agence France Presse quoted him saying.
Talks held in Sudan between the UIC and the transitional government – which correspondents say has little authority outside Baidoa – have been suspended. Ethiopian troops have amassed at Somalia’s central town, Wajid and in the government’s Baidoa base. Ethiopia and the transitional government have refused to confirm Ethiopian troops are on Somali soil. Ethiopia, a long-term ally of President Abdullahi Yusuf, has warned the Islamic courts not to make any further military advance on Baidoa.
May 14, 2006
There is an interesting press release from the European Chapter of the Network of Ethiopian Scholars, relating to some of things I mentioned yesterday. I’ve excerpted part of their statement below. It’s a strong critique of the Ethiopian government. The Scholars also will address the European Parliament Hearing on Human Rights.
“The current regime does not care about anything except to stay in power. As a minority regime, it fears one person one vote as the apartheid regime in South Africa used to do. The only way democracy can come peacefully is for the international community to take democracy seriously in Ethiopia and support the opposition and the Ethiopian people.”
I’m surprised no one from Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s office has addressed why the government quashes its opposition or the lack of political freedoms in the country required for elections.
The right to participate in choosing a government does not exist for many Ethiopians. Silencing political dissent and pervasive human rights violations have denied Ethiopian citizens the right to form and express their political ideas.
May 13, 2006
Yesterday nine bombs exploded in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, killing four people and wounding dozens. The attacks came three days before the May 15th anniversary of last year’s general election. The election’s ballots have been called seriously flawed by international observers. Opposition politicians also have refused to take up their posts to protest what they called government rigging.
Different sides are blaming each other for the bombings. Government officials said separatist and opposition groups, notably the Oromo Liberation Front, are responsible. The government has previously accused the OLF of trying to stage a coup because of the disputed elections. Meanwhile, the Oromo rebel movement denied involvement in the attacks in and accused government officials of a cover up.
There hasn’t been much mentionin the press about the upcoming European Parliament Hearing on Human Rights in Ethiopia scheduled for early next week. I want to share an item I found to give a fuller view of the human rights and political situation in Ethiopia. Since the elections last May, there has been an increase of government brutality against opposition groups.
There is a radio interview on the Ethiopian Politics blog with Obang Metho, Director of International Advocacy for Anuak Justice Council. It’s a long interview–about 45 minutes. Metho makes interesting points on the work the council has done by forming partnerships with international law and human rights groups on the injustices carried out by the government.
May 8, 2006
I wanted to bring this up last week—but got caught up in the excitement/frenzy of the Sudan peace agreements…will President Omar al-Bashir make concessions or press forward as expected with double-speak? It remains to be seen…
Last week Amnesty released a report on prisoners of conscience in Ethiopia. The statement calls on the government to release opposition members, human rights activists, students and journalists who are on trial for treason. They are charged with “outrages against the Constitution” and armed conspiracy. Almost all charges carry death sentences. Reuters South Africa has a story on the treason trial. Seventy-six individuals were expected to appear in court last Tuesday.
“This very worrying trial has major implications for human rights, media freedom and democratization in Ethiopia. It will be a crucial test of the independence and impartiality of the Ethiopian judiciary.” said Kolawole Olaniyan, Director of Amnesty International’s Africa Programme.
If you’re familiar with the opposition party in Ethiopia–Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD), there’s a heartfelt open-letter to Ms. Birtukan Mideska, the CUD vice president and one of the defendants on trial, posted by blogger Weichegud ET Politics last Friday. It draws a similarity between Birtukan and Rosa Parks at the height of the civil rights movement. She has often been called “a voice of freedom for all Ethiopians.” CarpeDiem Ethiopia has also reprinted Birtukan’s letters from Kaliti prison to U.S. Ambassador Vicki Huddleston.