Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Ethiopian Foreign Policy: An Out-dated, Misguided, Narrow, and Counterproductive Policy

Whenever the question of Somaliland’s recognition arises or is put forward to the government of the brotherly and neighbourly Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, their leaders particularly H.E. Ato Seyoum Mesfin, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, is known to become a bit uncomfortable, defensive, and beats about the bush in order to circumvent, deflect, and diminish the question in hand in the bid to wash off blame from his government and himself for dragging their feet or reluctance by throwing in, on every occasions, the usual inadequate; well rehearsed, repetitive, and a terse one sentence statement answer such as: Ethiopia will not be the first or the last to recognize Somaliland—meaning, if another country first recognizes Somaliland then, Ethiopia will probably be the second country to follow suit, which in essence does not clarify anything except to further obscures the issue and to hide the real position of their government. Obviously, if another country first recognizes Somaliland, Ethiopia’s recognition will not have much weight or impact since many other countries such as United Kingdom, US, South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, Sudan, Djibouti, Eritrea, Somalia, etc. will certainly follow suit and recognize Somaliland.

In fact, what H.E. Ato Seyoum Mesfin and his landlocked country/government have not given much thought or fails to understand is the simple fact that the first country who recognizes Somaliland will greatly win the hearts and minds of the people of Somaliland. And that this courageous and pragmatic country to be will certainly become the closest friend and ally of the people and state of Somaliland and the real winner in terms of securing some of the lucrative economic and reconstruction contracts. This also means that if another country first recognizes Somaliland then, Ethiopia will not continue to enjoy the existing imbalance of trade, the lopsided deals, and the current rock-bottom tariffs in place particularly on the use of the Berbera Port.

So why then, is Ethiopia failing to understand the benefits of becoming the first country to recognize the peaceful and democratic Somaliland? And why is Ethiopia failing to capitalize on the enormous political, economic, and social rewards that comes with the recognition of Somaliland—an over due, simple, noble, and just deed?

Likewise, whenever Ethiopia is confronted with the question as to why it covertly and overtly supports, arms, and hosts the various factions of the anarchic Somalia particularly the Puntland regional administration, a provocative tribal entity that is known to perpetuate hate, war, and instability in both Somalia and Somaliland and known to be a close ally of the ONLF Terrorists who are trained in Eritrea who currently operate in Ethiopia, which illegally occupies some parts of Sanaag and Sool regions of Somaliland simply on the basis that the inhabitants of these regions happen to be of Harti/Darood clan and that since they are tribally affiliated, they are better off to be with Puntland rather than with Somaliland, again, the usual line of the Ethiopian answer on this issue is: We maintain a neutral foreign policy with both Somaliland and Somalia including Puntland!! Apparently, this also includes the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), a Warlord infested paper government, which controls no land or represent no one, which was concocted by IGAD in Mbagathi, Kenya in 2004, which Ethiopia staunchly supports claims sovereignty over Somaliland as it is evident in its so-called Charter as well as statements by their Warlords/leaders!!

Is this not clear evidence of a disingenuous, double standard, and self-defeating foreign policy? And if this means that ‘what is good for the goose is good for the gender’ and that it is free to forge a close relations with the rival Somaliland and Somalia, what will stop Somaliland to forge a close relations with the rival Ethiopia and Eritrea? I think it is about time for Somaliland to reciprocate Ethiopia’s unfavourable and dangerous policies and begin to forge a close relations with Eritrea.

For Ethiopia to, on one hand, use the Somaliland-Somalia predicament as an opportunity to create further instability and bloodshed in the region and to create a never ending political and military quagmire for its perceived “age-old enemies” and to take advantage of the prevailing anarchy in Somalia and the lack of recognition of Somaliland and to use these brotherly peoples and countries as a pawn to advance its hidden agenda and to recklessly plunge its country as well as the entire region into unnecessary hostilities, unjustifiable war footing, and to wage a never ending phantom “War On Terrorism”, while it covertly and overtly supports and arms extremists and moderates on both sides of the isle at the expense of the innocent civilians of Somalia for the purposes of a narrow political objectives and meager financial gains is unacceptable and deplorable. Whether Ethiopia playing these dirty politics in the Horn of Africa region out of sheer ignorance or it is intentional so as to mislead and distract its citizenry from the ever mounting domestic problems, disenfranchisements, and loss of public confidence with the Addis Ababa administration remains to be seen.

And for Ethiopia to, on the other hand, be in cahoots with the same backward forces of irredentism, instability, insecurity, and extremism in the Horn of Africa region such as the TFG, remnants of the deposed fascist and tyrannical military regime of the deposed Dictator Siad Bare, criminal Warlords, the Court of Islamic Council (CIC) formerly known as the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), Al-Itihad Al-Islamia Terrorist group, ONLF terrorists operating in Ethiopia that is also backed by the rival Eritrea, etc., signifies that the Ethiopian foreign policy is an out-dated, misguided, narrow, and counterproductive policy. And the following are some examples of its dark and unhelpful policies:

Ethiopia has one way or the other supported, armed, hosted, and bankrolled some of the most extremist factions and leaders of ICU who were then, under the umbrella of the defunct and so-called Somali Reconciliation and Restoration Council (SRRC) faction such as Warlord Col. Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys who is the former leader of Al-Itihad Al-Islami Terrorist group and current leader of the ICU, Warlord Sheikh Yusuf Mohamed Siyad (Indho Ade) who occupies the Lower Shabelle region, Warlord Col. Bare Adan Shire (Bare Hiraale) who occupies the Lower Juba Region, and others all of whom are against the TFG, which Ethiopia staunchly supports!! Is this not clear evidence that Ethiopia is shooting itself on the foot?

Ethiopia has previously bolstered the late irredentist, over ambitious, and power hungry Warlord Gen. Mohamed Farah Aydid who was the leader of the SRRC faction who was appointed as the president of Somalia at the Sodare Conference in Ethiopia in 1993, propped up Warlord Hussein Mohamed Aydid, the son of the former and member of the defunct SRRC, member the defeated Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counterterrorism (ARPCT), and the current Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Interior of TFG. Despite all the pampering and good will showered on this criminal family by Ethiopia, isn’t it now clear that they were all along backing the wrong horses?

Ethiopia has greatly shored-up the old and waning Warlord Col. Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed—an old and lame vulture that can’t fly who is the most hated Warlord in Somalia who was and still is the leader of the defunct tribal SSDF guerillas, a member of the defunct SRRC faction, and the current TFG president, and others. Apparently this Warlord is the founder of the Puntland regional administration, Somalia—the tribal entity that claims parts of Sanaag and Sool regions of the Republic of Somaliland!! Again, is this not clear evidence that Ethiopia is backing the wrong horse and the staunchest enemy of the cause and existence of Somaliland? Is this also not clear evidence that Ethiopia is using double standard policies in regards to the Somaliland-Somalia predicament?

Ethiopia has promoted, armed, and financed most of the notorious Mogadishu Warlords such as Warlord Mohamed Qanyare Afrah, Warlord Col. Mohamed Omar Habeb (Mohamed Dhere), Warlord Muse Suudi Yalahow, Warlord Bashir Raghe, Warlord Abdi Hassan Awale (Abdi Qaybdiid), and others who formed the so-called Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counterterrorism (ARPCT) coalition. Apparently these Warlords who were holed in Mogadishu were the ones who were holding hostage the people and the anarchic state of Somalia and known to be against the existence of the TFG, which Ethiopia help create and arms and supports staunchly. Is this not evidence of a rudderless foreign policy?

Today, the defunct Al-Itihad Al-Islamia Terrorist group, the Warlords under the umbrella of the defunct SSRC faction—an Ethiopia supported coalition of Warlords, Restoration of Alliance for the Peace and Counterterrorism (ARPCT)—a coalition of US-backed Warlords, which Ethiopia also supports and the many other tribal factions have mutated into the following three main factions:

1) The TFG—a coalition of the remnants of the fascist and tyrannical military regime of the deposed Dictator Gen. Siad Bare, TNG, SSDF, SSRC, ARPCT, and others.
2) The CIC—a coalition of former Al-Itihad Al-Islamia Terrorist group and other religious extremists, some members of the former Transitional National Government (TNG)—led by Warlord Abdiqasim Salad Hassan, some members of the SRRC Warlords, and others.
3) The Puntland regional administration—the tribal and hatemonger entity that propels the Daroodism ideology an equivalent of Nazism who endeavours to install a Darood clan rule or dynasty over Somalia, Somaliland, and the Somali State of federal Ethiopia!!

As a result, it is not known who is benefiting from the dubious Ethiopian foreign policy and actions in the Horn of Africa region, and why this country that should have known better continues to, time and again, cry foul of “Terrorism” existing or happening here and there, while it provides political, military, and financial support to most of the criminal Warlords, tribal factions, religious extremists, and their tribal militias in Somalia or what is in it for maintaining such a naked double standard stance towards the intrepid people and democratic Republic of Somaliland by supporting the forces of irredentism who are closely aligned with the ONLF who even claim parts of Ethiopia, let alone Somaliland who continue to perpetuate the long dead illogical dream of “Greater Somalia!!

On the same token, it is not known whether its undesirable conduct as well as its current political, military, economic, and social actions in the horn of Africa region serves its genuine national interests or whether its policies had been purposefully tailored to serve only the narrow, tribal, individual, and regional interests of the former Tigre Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) or whether it is actually acting as conduit to serve and protect the interests of some foreign powers.

But what is known for sure is that Ethiopia endeavours to become the sole regional power in the Horn of Africa region even though it wants to attain these on the cheap and at the expense of both Somaliland and Somalia and by way of a rudderless foreign policy, that is, out-dated, misguided, narrow, and a counterproductive policy. In fact, most of the arms and ammunitions supplied to the various tribal entities such as Puntland, factions, Warlords and their tribal militias, ARPCT, and the TFG are believed to be in the hands of the CIC!!

Whatever the case, it is about time that Ethiopia reconsiders its counterproductive policies and understands that it can not have both ways unscathed and that the recognition of Somaliland is indeed in its best public and national interest. Let those who understand take heed.

Farah Ali Jama,
Ottawa, Canada.

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