|Rethink US policy perhaps, but forget the analysts
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Rethink US policy perhaps, but forget the analysts-Continued
Saturday, 22 August 2009
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) in its weekly statement issued on August 21, 2009 raised issues on Eritrea’s aggression, Somalia, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, visit of Togo's Foreign Minister, the Ethio-Turkey Industrial Zone, World Humanitarian Day, continued failure of balanced analysis and about US policy perhaps.
Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission: Eritrea’s aggression exposed again
This week the Eritrea Ethiopia Claims Commission issued final damage awards in its complex and detailed arbitration of the claims submitted after the conflict which followed Eritrea's illegal invasion of Ethiopia in May 1998. The Commission, which said it took into account regional poverty in making its awards, ruled Eritrea would have to end up paying Ethiopia some ten million dollars in compensation. As a Government press statement this week noted this amount of compensation was scarcely commensurate with the damages Ethiopia sustained from being dragged into war by Eritrea’s illegal use of force. Equally, the fact that the amount of the monetary award to Ethiopia did not significantly exceed that awarded to Eritrea should not detract from the Commission's finding that Eritrea violated Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter when it invaded Ethiopia in May 1998. It ahs to be emphasized that Eritrea’s alleged acceptance of these awards and its related pronouncements provide a very clear admission that it now accepts the Commission's decision that Eritrea did indeed start the war. We welcome this admission which stands in stark contrast to all the propaganda that Eritrea and its supporters have been making ever since the onset of its aggression against Ethiopia in May 1998. In the event, it is worth repeating the exact words of the Commission’s finding against Eritrea on this critical point:
The Respondent (Eritrea) violated Article 2, paragraph 4, of the Charter of the United Nations by resorting to armed force on May 12, 1998 and the immediately following days to attack and occupy the town of Badme, then under peaceful administration by the Claimant,(Ethiopia) as well as other territory in the Claimant’s Tahtay Adiabo and Laelay Adiabo Weredas.
Eritrea raised a number of excuses to justify its unprovoked aggression and try to dissuade the Commission from arriving at this unambiguous decision. The Commission rejected them. In explaining its finding, the Commission specifically rejected Eritrean arguments that it was entitled to use force simply because it had a claim on some of the territory concerned. The Commission said “…the practice of States and the writings of eminent publicists show that self-defense cannot be invoked to settle territorial disputes.”
In what is a historic decision of liability, the Commission elaborated: “The evidence showed that, at about 5:30 a.m. on May 12, 1998, Eritrean armed forces, comprised of at least two brigades of regular soldiers, supported by tanks and artillery, attacked the town of Badme and several other border areas in Ethiopia’s Tahtay Adiabo Wereda, as well as at least two places in its neighboring Laelay Adiabo Wereda. On that day and in the days immediately following, Eritrean armed forces then pushed across the flat Badme plain to higher ground in the east. Although the evidence regarding the nature of Ethiopian armed forces in the area conflicted, the weight of the evidence indicated that the Ethiopian defenders were composed merely of militia and some police, who were quickly forced to retreat by the invading Eritrean forces. Given the absence of an armed attack against Eritrea, the attack that began on May 12 cannot be justified as lawful self-defense under the UN Charter….”
Tellingly, this point has had to be repeated to Eritrea in almost all its other disputes with neighboring countries. In the border dispute between Djibouti and Eritrea, the United Nations Security Council in its resolution 1862 (2009) adopted on 14 January 2009 used similar language demanding Eritrea “(i) Withdraw its forces and all their equipment to the positions of the status quo ante, and ensure that no military presence or activity is being pursued in the area where the conflict occurred in Ras Doumeira and Doumeira Island in June 2008, and (ii) Acknowledge its border dispute with Djibouti in Ras Doumeira and Doumeira Island, engage actively in dialogue to defuse the tension and engage also in diplomatic efforts leading to a mutually acceptable settlement of the border issue, and (iii) Abide by its international obligations as a Member of the United Nations, respect the principles mentioned in article 2, paragraphs 3, 4, and 5, and article 33 of the Charter, and cooperate fully with the Secretary-General, in particular through his proposal of good offices mentioned in paragraph 3...” Eritrea immediately rejected this resolution as it has all other such criticisms.
Despite Eritrea’s attempts at obfuscation, it has now become clear that its illegal actions are intrinsic in the nature of the regime itself. It cannot externalize its own repeated crimes of aggression by simply blaming the condemnations of its actions against international peace and security. The international community is not asking Eritrea to abide by a new set of rules made to isolate or punish Eritrea for whatever it has done. The rules apply to all peace loving nations; the Eritrean regime simply has to follow them like all other nations. It cannot be held to different standards simply because it is a regime with a disposition to shoot first, deny there is a problem and then blame the other party for starting the crisis. Ethiopia's view of Eritrea is indeed vindicated by the Commission's exposure of the Asmara regime's breaches of international law and made clear its responsibilities. The monetary compensation cannot suffice, and will never be sufficient in such cases where cluster bombs were dropped on a school, but the assignment of guilt is some consolation for all those who sustained loss and injury.
Though the finding of the Commission that Eritrea violated international law by its illegal use of force is a significant achievement in terms of setting the record straight and exposing the real nature of the Eritrean regime, many other aspects of the Commission's awards, both at the liability and damages phases of the proceedings, are equally important. The Commission recognized the immense loss and suffering inflicted by conflict on civilian populations and prisoners of war. The entire Claims Commission process demonstrated the devastating consequences of war on populations and their economies. It has shown how communities were torn apart simply because the regime in Asmara merely felt that it had some claim coupled with over-sized ambition. The predatory policies of the Eritrean regime have been the source of much pain and suffering to its own people as well as to the peoples of the Horn of Africa. It is now time that the international community put a stop to it.
Somalia: increasing TFG's momentum
The Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFG), Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama'ah and other allies, have continued to score significant advances against extremist Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam forces. Operations started last week have continued this week with the TFG and Ahlu Sunna capturing the towns of Wabho in Central Somalia and Bluebirte in South Hiran as well as Luuq and Bulahawo in Gedo region. It appears government forces and Ahlu Sunna are now preparing to challenge Al-Shabaab in Bay/Bokol regions. While the overall military situation still remains fluid, the momentum that appears to have favoured the extremists since the arrival of Sheikh Hassan Dahir 'Aweys', and arms supplies, from Eritrea in April, has effectively been stopped. In the last two weeks, the TFG and allied forces have begun the process of reversing Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam's control of towns in Central Somalia, Hiran and Gedo regions. It is significant that this trend coincides with the international community's first real indications of alarm over the negative role of the Eritrean Government and consideration of the need to action unless Eritrea halted its destabilization efforts. Irrespective of whether this did produce dividends on the ground, the current trend certainly needs to be supported by sustained pressure by the international community in general, and the UN Security Council in particular, against any “spoilers” of the peace process, inside or outside Somalia. It might be noted that the Government of Australia today formally listed Al-Shabaab as a terrorist organization following the discovery of a plot for a suicide assault on an Australian army barracks earlier this month.
In another development this week, TFG Prime Minister Omar Abdureshid Shermarke, who has just reshuffled his cabinet, visited Puntland. The Puntland administration had indicated reservations over the power-sharing arrangements during the formation of the TFG at the Djibouti peace process. Now, as part of ongoing discussions on outstanding issues, an understanding has been reached for the TFG and the Puntland administration to establish joint political, security and economic committees. Both welcomed this development, a positive trend which needs to be encouraged by the international community.
This week, an Ethiopian delegation, led by Dr. Tekeda Alemu, State Minister for Foreign Affairs, visited Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland. Somaliland is due to hold its next presidential election on September 27. There has been concern over some disagreements between the ruling party and opposition parties over the results of voter registration, funding, finger prints and other technical issues. Such disputes, if ignored, have the potential to lead to conflicts that Somaliland cannot afford. They also raise the possibility of further destabilization of the sub-region. Somaliland has held successive presidential and parliamentary elections since 1991. These have been peaceful, democratic and transparent. Indeed, they have been central to the peace and stability of Somaliland and the sub-region. Ethiopia, like other neighbours, has certainly benefited from the continued stability of Somaliland. It strongly believes the next election, at the end of September, must be peaceful for the sake of Somaliland, and of stability in the sub-region.
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) considers Ethiopia’s periodic reports
Ethiopia presented its combined 7th to 16th periodic reports under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination during the 75th Session of the committee mandated to monitor the implementation of the convention. In a two day session held to consider Ethiopia’s reports, the Ethiopian delegation participated in the discussion with members of the Committee. The Ethiopian delegation was led by Ambassador Fisseha Yimer and it included representatives from the House of Federation, Ministry of Federal Affairs, Ministry of Justice and members of the Ethiopian Permanent Mission in Geneva. Also present was the Deputy Commissioner of the National Human Rights Commission who participated in the meeting as an observer.
In his introductory remarks, Ambassador Fisseha Yimer explained Ethiopia’s constitutional and political system and the various legislative reforms undertaken in the country. He stated at length how Ethiopia’s unique form of federalism is designed by the people of Ethiopia to rectify old political wounds and repression in the country. It was also pointed out that the human rights dividend of the continuous economic growth the country is registering is both profound and far-reaching. The Ambassador also expressed his appreciation for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights particularly its regional office for East Africa for the generous assistance it provided in facilitating Ethiopia’s compliance with its reporting obligation. It was further noted that Ethiopia’s report under ICERD is one among a series of national human rights reports finalized and submitted for the various human rights treaty bodies for consideration.
Members of the Committee welcomed Ethiopia’s resumption of dialogue with the Committee; noted the Government’s determination to promote and protect human rights; expressed their appreciation to Ethiopia’s historical contribution to the fight against racism and apartheid; expressed admiration for the profound political and economic reform undertaken in the country; and lauded the quality of the report presented. They expressed keen appreciation for Ethiopia’s effort to recognize and give effect to rights of peoples under its unique form of federalism, and the concrete economic gains achieved over the last several years. They encouraged Ethiopia to continue its dialogue with the Committee. The Committee also raised questions which touched upon numerous issues such as protection of minorities; the relationship between human rights and customary laws; the protection and assistance to refugees and internally displaced persons; the spread and impact of traditional harmful practices; the ratification and implementation of international human rights instruments; methods of resolving ethnic conflicts and tensions; and implementation and interpretation of the Constitution. The Ethiopian delegation adequately replied to the queries raised by the Committee. The Committee is expected to deliberate upon the report and provide its concluding observation to the State Party.
It is to be recalled that the Government of Ethiopia has also submitted its implementation reports to other United Nations treaties bodies: Human Rights Committee; Economic, Social and Cultural Committee, Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, Committee Against Torture. Ethiopia’s periodic reports to the Committee on the Rights of the Child have been up-to-date. The Government has also submitted implementation report on Human and Peoples’ Rights to the African Commission. Furthermore, the Government of Ethiopia has submitted its Report under Universal Periodic Review of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Togo's Foreign Minister visits Addis
The Foreign Minister of the Republic of Togo, Mr. Koffi Esaw, was in Addis Ababa for official visit from 18-21 August 2009. During his stay, he had the opportunity to meet with President Girma Wolde-Giorgis, Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin and Chief Executive Officer of the Ethiopian Airlines Ato Girma Wake and discussed issues of mutual interest for both countries. It is to be recalled that Mr. Esaw had worked in Ethiopia for five years as Togo’s Ambassador to Ethiopia as well as to the African Union and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa before he became foreign minister of the Republic of Togo.
During their meeting, Foreign Minister Seyoum and his Togolese counterpart exchanged views on bilateral and regional issues of common concern, and agreed to work closely to further enhance the relations and cooperation between the two countries and to continue to have consultations on continental and international issues.
The Togolese Minister also had discussion with senior officials of the Ethiopian Airlines and Ethiopian Civil Aviation on cooperation in aviation sector and airlines service industry between the two countries. The discussion also focused on the issue of using Lome as a hub for the Ethiopian Airlines in expanding its services in Africa, particularly in the Western Africa Region.
It is to be recalled that Ethiopian Airlines has four flights a week to Lome in accordance with the bilateral air service agreement signed between the two countries. To further enhance their cooperation, the Ethiopian Airlines and the Togo Aviation Authority also signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2008 which allows Ethiopian to use Lome as a hub and to give management service to the Asky Airline - a carrier which is under establishment by the Togolese Government. It is, therefore, believed that this kind of arrangement would provide mutual confidence and amicable environment for both countries to strengthen their bilateral relations. It will also allow both carriers to effectively connect Africa to the rest of the world thereby immensely facilitating the business and investment prospect in the continent.
The Ethio-Turkey Industrial Zone agreement signed
The relation between Turkey and Ethiopia is gathering phase from time to time in all fields—political, economic and social. Turkey’s recent decision to move on with an ambitious program to strengthen its relations with Ethiopia in investment of mutual benefit to both countries is a testament to the growing momentum.
Common understanding was thus reached on 19 August, 2009 between the Oromia Regional State and Akgun Group to realize an Ethio-Turkey Industrial Zone at Legetafo area, Oromia Administrative Regional State. The first phase of the Industrial zone is to be built on an area of 1,460 Hectares. According to the Consultant for the Group, the construction of the industrial zone is estimated to cost about two billion USD.
The Industrial zone is expected to embrace over Nine hundred different manufacturing, service rendering and social institutions. Upon completion, the zone will comprise educational institutes ranging from KGs to higher education, pharmaceutical and other factories, hospitals, clinics, theatres and other recreational facilities.
The Ethio-Turkey Industrial Zone is also expected to create substantial amount of employment opportunity that will continue to grow from time to time. More than one million individuals are expected to benefit from the start of the project directly, while close to five million people will become indirect beneficiaries.
It is also believed that the establishment of the Zone will enhance the relations between the peoples and Governments of the two countries; contribute to the transfer of technology; and to improve Ethiopia’s balance of trade.
Ethiopia encourages such investments and is ready to do what it can to facilitate similar activities. The benefit that they bring to the people and the country is enormous. It was with this in mind that Minister of Foreign Affairs Ato Seyoum Mesfin referred to the plan of the Ethio-Turkey Industrial zone as exemplary and "Mother of all Projects”.
Inaugural Commemoration of World Humanitarian Day
The first commemoration of World Humanitarian Day was held here in Addis Ababa at the UNECA compound on August 19, 2009. In December 2008, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution to commemorate, and designated 19 August as, World Humanitarian Day (WHD). The rationale for the WHD is to recognize the importance of humanitarian work and to honour the sacrifice of those who have lost their lives or been injured in the course of their work. In addition, it is intended to increase public awareness of humanitarian assistance needs and response in countries around the world. Six years ago on 19 August 2003, the bombing of the United Nations office in Iraq, located in the Canal Hotel, took the lives of 22 dedicated humanitarians, including Sergio Vieira de Mello, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Iraq. The date of 19 August was thus chosen to commemorate the sacrifices made by humanitarian workers.
Addressing the commemoration, Dr Abera Deressa, State Minister in the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, stated that the ever increasing natural and man-made disasters and the consequences in human suffering and loss of life have prompted the United Nations, Non-Governmental Organizations and other humanitarian agencies to engage in humanitarian activities to save life and give hope to millions of people. In his Commemoration remark, the State Minister expressed Ethiopia’s due recognition of and appreciation to the various humanitarian activities being undertaken in the country. The State Minister honored, on behalf of the government of Ethiopia, those humanitarian workers that scarified their lives and thanked those who are still serving their mission and expressed Ethiopia’s dedication to safeguard the safety and security of humanitarian workers and facilitate their day-to-day working conditions.
The acting Humanitarian Coordinator and UNICEF Country Representative, Mr. Ted Chaiban on his part stated that the decision to have a World Humanitarian Day is a bittersweet one for those who are in the humanitarian community. “While on the one hand we welcome this special recognition of our commitment to the humanitarian cause, we cannot, on the other hand, forget 19th of August was selected because it is the anniversary of the incomprehensible attack on the UN Office in Iraq, which took the lives of 22 of our colleagues." As humanitarians working in Ethiopia, Mr. Chaiban said that they are privileged to enjoy significantly greater security than many of their colleagues in neighboring countries. On his commemoration remark, Mr. Chaiban pointed out the current humanitarian situation in Ethiopia and the need to work together to address the challenges. Furthermore, he emphasized their determination to work jointly with the Government of Ethiopia to make sustainable progress in addressing humanitarian challenges and enhancing the national capacity for risk management, prevention and response where necessary. At the end of the commemoration, a moment of silence was observed to honor all the humanitarian workers especially those who have lost their lives in the line of duty. The World Humanitarian Day commemoration was also held in different Parts of the world.
A continued failure of balanced analysis
Recent events once again underline the necessity of accurate analysis on Somalia to provide a background for realistic international action. This is why the apparently indefatigable efforts of Dr. Weinstein of Purdue University continue to need comment. Not content with detailing his questionable monthly opinions for PINR, now apparently (and fortunately) no longer obtainable on the Internet, and (as we noted in The Week in the Horn last week) getting it largely wrong, he's continued to publicize his equivocal and dubious views on Somalia elsewhere. His latest dysfunctional Internet exertion to dissect Somali matters is entitled “Somalia: Preparing for Battle in Mogadishu and Beyond” (18.8.2009). As an analysis this raises a number of questions, not least the fact that after two and a half pages, Dr. Weinstein concludes by suggesting the situation is “fraught with uncertainty”, noting that it raises questions. To be precise he lists a dozen or so, but makes no attempt to answer any although most should be clear enough: “Will the Youth Mujahideen Movement (Y.M.M.) carry out a well-organized campaign of attrition against AMISOM? Will AMISOM remain a peacekeeping force defending its bases or become a peace enforcement mission taking clear sides in a civil war? Are the Y.M.M. and H.I., or factions within them, susceptible to negotiations? Is the T.F.G. susceptible to negotiations when it is in a weak bargaining position? Will Uganda’s president, Museveni, face increased opposition to the AMISOM commitment? Are the Y.M.M. and H.I. gaining or losing strength? Is there an operational “six-sided” plan to provoke a full-scale civil war? Will the Western military and donor powers support a robust military push or will they continue to be cautious?” It is, to put it mildly, a rather unsatisfactory conclusion for any analyst to put his name to.
As so often with Dr. Weinstein's work, there are in fact other rather more serious issues raised by his approach to analysis both in general and in Somalia, not least his repeated and consistent failure to make any effort to evaluate any of his sources. This is particularly worrying when, as here, he quotes extensively from what he calls “closed” and thus supposedly unidentified sources. In fact, they are clearly identifiable from their views as specific critics even enemies of the TFG and as supporters or sympathizers of Al-Shabaab, an organization which Dr. Weinstein has taken to calling the Youth Mujahideen Movement (YMM), apparently preferring to drop reference to Al-Shabaab as a known and admitted terrorist organization. One of his three “closed” sources “from the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula”, for example, is quoted as claiming there are 15,000 Al-Shabaab fighters in training in Merca for a Ramadan offensive against AMISOM. This is highly implausible given that Al-Shabaab numbers overall are no more than a fraction of this, 2-3,000 in all, and most clashes in Somalia in the last year or two have been between “armies” of no more than a few hundred at most, and often no more than a few dozen fighters.
Nor does Dr. Weinstein make any effort to categorize the public sources he uses, identify their political ties or even the clan allegiance so central to any Somali analysis, giving them all equal weight even when they are, as all-too-often, demonstrably inaccurate. Indeed, even named sources are not identified further. One, quoted by Dr. Weinstein, recently told VOA that 6,000 rifles had found their way from the TFG to Al-Shabaab. It's a claim that hasn't been verified by any other source, nor is it likely to be, but this is a person that Dr. Weinstein quotes approvingly as a “corrective” to Professor Menkhaus's recent claims that Al-Shabaab has been losing support in Somali society. There is, in fact, overwhelming evidence that a majority of Somalis reject Al-Shabaab's extremist versions of Shari'a, and that Al-Shabaab is dependent upon terrorist tactics to keep control in areas it has taken over. Control does not equal support. Similarly, Dr. Weinstein fails to note relations between Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam are not always as good as they might be; the two have clashed on more than one occasion.
In this context, it might be noted that Dr. Weinstein makes no mention of the latest increase in AMISOM strength, or the expected further additions. Nor does Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama'ah get more than minimal mention even though as a leading Sufi organization it can claim to represent the vast majority of Somalis. It took up arms last December after Al-Shabaab declared Sufism heretical, desecrating the graves of Sufi clerics in a number of places. Ahlu Sunna, now allied to the TFG, has proved its strength defeating Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam in several different regions of Somalia, in Gelgadud, in Hiraan and now in Gedo region. Significantly, these victories have demonstrated that Ahlu Sunna is able to draw on both Hawiye and Darod clans for its fighters.
One really has to ask why Dr. Weinstein confines his reading to only one version of events, and why time and again, as in this latest 'analysis', he merely repeats, often word for word with no attempt at evaluation, what can only be seen as the output of Al-Shabaab media outlets. While there is clear evidence that the TFG and Ahlu Sunna are making progress in central regions, and a few weeks after the defeat of Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam's May offensive in Mogadishu, Dr. Weinstein is publishing a piece talking about a stand-off in Mogadishu and no changes in the balance of power. He even manages to ignore the full support of the Arab League and of the Organization of Islamic Conference for the TFG and AMISOM while repeating the claim by one of his “closed” sources that a “preponderance of Arab countries have come to view [Al-Shabaab] as 'their only viable alternative'.” It is not the first time Dr. Weinstein has allowed himself to be carried away on a tide of Al-Shabaab propaganda, and his failure to evaluate the sources he quotes so extensively.
Rethink US policy perhaps, but forget the analysts-Continued
One way any media employs to send a message home while maintaining a semblance of objectivity is to use all the most sublime aspects of language in a manner that hardly betrays an element of bias. Not all the political manipulation of language is done by the media, however. A lot of it also has come—and still does—from people who think of themselves as good and virtuous: Academics and so-called pundits.
"U.S. Policy Shift Needed in the Horn of Africa," an Expert Brief put out by the Council on Foreign Relations and authored by Brunwyn E. Bruton, is an interesting brief commentary, perhaps meant as a contribution to the ongoing debate within the Obama Administration on U.S. policy toward the Horn of Africa.
Experts on Horn politics would not miss the fact that there are, more or less, two broad narratives about the current political situation in the Horn of Africa, particularly as it relates to Somalia and the role of the regional countries such as Ethiopia, in the political situation in that unfortunate country.
One of these two narratives is now subscribed to by almost all regional, continental and international organizations; first of all, by the United Nations that there is little doubt that it has become the dominant interpretation of events in the Horn of Africa. One of the major elements of this narrative is the focus on the growth of extremism in Somalia and the growing involvement of foreign fighters in Mogadishu and other parts of Somalia. Those subscribing to this narrative insist that parties such as Eritrea, whatever the motives might be for their action, have no business supporting extremism in Somalia and impeding the stabilization of the political situation in the country. This is the position taken by IGAD which took the initiative for strong action against Eritrea, requesting the Security Council to impose sanction on Eritrea together with steps with respect to declaring a no-fly zone on specified Somali Airports and a blockade of Somali ports.
No doubt, a given narrative of events does not become more plausible than other competing narratives by the mere fact of being upheld by greater number of observers, commentators or stakeholders. But when virtually all countries whose interests are directly involved in a given event agree unanimously on the nature of the problem they face, as the countries of the Horn do with respect to the challenge the sub-region faces in Somalia, then there must be a rather weighty reason for discounting the value of this interpretation of events and the proposed courses of action based on it.
In fact, it has not been easy for the countries of the Horn to get the international community to show more concern about the role of foreign fighters with extremist religious agenda in Somalia. The role of these groups in Somalia is not of recent vintage. It goes back to the mid-1990s, re-emerging again in a more aggressive way in 2006 after a hiatus of a decade following their defeat as an armed contingent in 1996 and in 1997 in a series of confrontation with Ethiopian defense forces.
The circumstances surrounding the re-emergence of the extremists as the Islamic Court with al-shabaab constituting their extremist fringe in 2006, is a very interesting story with respect to which none of the IGAD countries, including Eritrea, have had any role. Those who remember how the initial IGAD attempt to mount a peace support mission in Somalia was scuttled, and why, would find Bruton's view of how al-shabaab came into being, rather amusing, if not laughable. Either she doesn't know, or she is being disingenuous. If anti-American sentiment in Somalia is pervasive - an assertion which can hardly be taken for granted - the reason has nothing to do with Ethiopia.
At any rate, at present, there is no such thing as an Ethiopian version of events in Somalia, thus an Ethiopian policy on Somalia different from those of IGAD countries and Africa in general.
The IGAD countries - all of them, excepting Eritrea - are convinced that the situation in Somalia is dangerous. They are also convinced removing the danger requires two things: more meaningful support for the TFG by the international community which includes keeping at bay those trying to topple it, on one hand, and encouraging the TFG to continue broadening its base of support by bringing on board all those forces committed to peace, on the other.
This is not an easy project. Part of the difficulty lies in the obstacles to the mobilization of support for an effective response to the extremist challenge in Somalia. Which narrative of events in Somalia Bruton wishes to legitimize becomes all too apparent towards the end of the short, what the Council on Foreign Relations calls, Expert Brief. It merits the rather lengthy citation which follows:
The United States has recently taken positive steps to disaggregate its Somalia policy from that of Ethiopia. These steps include diplomatic outreach to Eritrea and public attempts to restrain Ethiopian military action in response to the escalating violence in Mogadishu. These constructive efforts need to be coupled with more assertive diplomacy in Addis Ababa. Until Ethiopia becomes a credible democracy, the U.S.-Ethiopia partnership will do more harm to U.S. regional standing than good.
This alternate narrative of events in the Horn, of which the quotation above is an expression, contains certain repeated themes which constitute the narrative's signature. Broadly speaking, one of its strands is the quick demonization of Ethiopia and the relentless readiness to give the benefit of the doubt to Ethiopia's real and perceived adversaries. An attempt to embrace dictatorship in Eritrea is encouraged as a response to, among other things, the imagined loss—as the quotation above makes clear—of momentum in the development of democracy, and imagined shrinkage of democratic space, in Ethiopia. The never-ending expectation and hope that somehow the appeasement of Eritrea would produce results—no matter what the Eritrean President does to his own people and outside his country, particularly in the Horn of Africa—has been one feature of this narrative and a foundation for much of the misguided policy that has contributed to complicating Horn politics.
This second narrative of events in the Horn of Africa has yet another interesting feature - its political motivation is more pronounced than in the case of the first narrative in the sense of the pursuit of objectives that have nothing to do with Somalia, as such.
Eritrea, for obvious reason, the major promoter of this narrative, as are its extremist partners, is in Somalia for reasons that have nothing to do with Somalia. Obviously, it would be rather naive to believe that the foreign extremist fighters are in Somalia to fight for the unity of the people of Somalia and to promote their welfare and have no agenda that goes beyond Somalia.
The democratically inclined advocates of this same narrative such as Bruton are also in their own way inclined to use the Somalia situation as a lever for objectives that are related to domestic political issues in Ethiopia. In fact, the thrust of the Bruton piece is a policy recommendation to the new U.S. Administration on the need to dictate terms to the Ethiopian Government to "democratize" with punitive measures to follow, if it did not. This is supposed to be organized with the Europeans with them playing the role that allows them to dangle the carrot in an arrangement between the U.S. and Europeans based on what she says is "a diplomatic version of the 'good cop/bad cop' approach."
Bruton's objective is no doubt to seek ways of promoting U.S. interest in the Horn of Africa. As such, she shouldn't be judged on whether her analysis leaves room for considering the interest of the countries of the region. But judged on the basis of what she sets out to do - propose an approach to advance U.S. interest in the Horn - hers is a total failure. The policy option she proposes, far from promoting Washington's interest, would in fact lead to the marginalization of the U.S. in the Horn in terms of engagement in processes designed to assist sanity prevail in Somalia, and the sub-region as a whole. No doubt, this is not something that the countries of the Horn would gloat over, for the absence of U.S. contribution in the fight against extremism and terrorism in Somalia is extremely damaging to a common objective of all those who want to see stability and security prevail in the sub-region and Somalia stabilized.
As already indicated, the narrative that Bruton subscribes to is the narrative favored by those who, while demonizing Ethiopia, are known to have the readiness to always give the leadership in Eritrea the benefit of the doubt. Bruton does all this in this brief with absolutely no inhibition. She talks about the border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea and makes it sound that herein lies one of the keys to resolving the problem in Somalia, with a clear suggestion that the U.S. should put pressure on Ethiopia. The other key to peace in Somalia, Bruton insists, is measure to "address Ethiopian human rights abuses" in Somalia. It is impossible to be more reckless with the truth and Bruton must have broken all records for lack of objectivity.
Obviously, Bruton must know that her line of argument designed to demonize Ethiopia would not be seen to be plausible by many. After all, as stated earlier Ethiopia's position on Somalia is the common position of almost all those interested in the political situation in Somalia. The Transitional Federal Government is supported by the entire international community and was created with the support of the United Nations. Ethiopia had no role in its creation. AMISOM is a peace support mission with troops from Uganda and Burundi and mounted by the AU with support from all sectors of the international community - the UN, the League of Arab States, the Islamic Conference and NAM. Eritrea is the only country opposed both to the TFG and AMISOM. It has continued to try toppling the TFG and driving AMISOM out of Somalia in partnership with al-shabaab and other extremist fighters, including foreigners. This is confirmed by many, the UN included.
Bruton tries to rebut all this by resorting to a method which she uses in this piece again and again - by distorting facts, by deliberately complicating matters which should otherwise be clear and beyond controversy and by ignoring facts, no matter how important they might be, if they fail to support her thesis.
As already stated, the whole international community now holds Eritrea as one of the responsible parties for the attempts to destabilize and topple the TFG. IGAD and the AU heads of state and government have asked the Security Council to take punitive measures against Eritrea. The AU Summit decision was taken unanimously. It is unprecedented for any inter-national or regional organization to decide to appeal to the Security Council for sanctions against one of its own members. The whole thing becomes less enigmatic when one considers the fact that what is being done by Eritrea in the Horn of Africa is totally unprecedented.
Bruton does not of course mention the Eritrea-Djibouti problem and Security Council Resolution 1862. These are too inconvenient issues which highlight the validity of what the AU has requested the Security Council to do in connection with Eritrea.
Bruton dismisses all this with one brief and meaningless sweeping remark. "Eritrea has denied these charges, and some specific accusations leveled by the United Nations and the African Union against Eritrea have been disproved, "she argues with little concern for her credibility as a writer or a student of politics. But then immediately following this rather strange attempt at exculpating the dictatorship in Asmara, she states the following whose import she does not appear to appreciate at all:
The demand for sanctions on Eritrea is nevertheless growing, and comments by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on a visit to Kenya on August 6 in which she linked Eritrea to Somali militants(sic) suggests efforts by the Obama administration to engage in a constructive political dialogue with Asmara may be dimming.
What is the way out? What does one do when Asmara becomes intransigent about giving peace a chance in Somalia and with respect to the request that they stop cooperating with Al-Shabaab and other extremist groups? Bruton is so blinded by her bias that she does not even realize that her response was a non sequitur:
These factors suggest that U.S. ability to influence events in Somalia will depend in some measure on diplomatic efforts to resolve the border dispute and to address Ethiopian human rights abuses. But perhaps even more important than either is what the United States decides to do in response to the shrinking democratic space in Ethiopia.
Clearly, there isn’t much genius floating behind her piece; in fact, one would have dismissed it off hand as yet another excruciating display of sheer mediocrity being peddled as a work of serious expertise. Poorly argued as it certainly is, however, hers is yet another manifestation of the sloppy anti-Ethiopian analyses that has permeated many other so-called experts’ similar works purportedly aimed at informing successive US administrations’ policies towards the Horn of Africa Region in general and Ethiopia in particular. Far from being a mere lack of academic rigor on her part, it is also typical of the prescriptions too many pundits try shoving down the throats of countries like Ethiopia. Shrinking political space is their enduring mantra. The democratic lingo they often use here and there, and the crocodile tears they shed on account of human rights, is merely meant to add credence to their claim of honorable intentions. As it happens, their misplaced emphasis on totally unrelated issues belies such a claim to good intentions.
So it is with Bruton’s latest piece, albeit the rather amateurish way she broached the subject and the extent to which her work betrayed the blind spot she has to the tin-pot dictatorship in Asmara and her trenchant bias against Ethiopia. That the issue of human rights and political space—albeit the ostentatious claim—does not command even the most lukewarm of her fighting zeal is nowhere more apparent than in her hard-to-conceal sympathy with the leadership in Asmara—which has never been apologetic about its anti-democratic record, by the way!
As stated earlier, the main thrust of Bruton’s expert Brief has little or nothing to do with US Somalia policy. Despite all the circumlocution and the poorly assembled ‘expert’ language, her brief is meant to push through an agenda long on the table to arm-twist the government of Ethiopia to bend to the dictates of the likes of her from the West. Not unlike many of her ilk, Bruton also asserts, quite unabashedly, that aid should be used to achieve whatever end she thinks the US is after. That is not the most worrisome aspect of her paper either.
What is worrisome, however, is the extent to which duplicitous works such as hers may, if left unchecked, contribute to complicating the situation in Somalia and in the entire region. Not only do such efforts mislead policy makers into looking for solutions in the least likely of places thereby watering down the amount of consensus that has been built so far; but they can also help allow recalcitrant parties elude international justice in the ensuing cacophony which is what the leaders in Asmara and their extremist cohorts in Somalia appear to be basking in right now—as long as the international community continues to mull over action, anyhow. As stated earlier, the worst outcome is not that Bruton and Co will sell their misleading narrative; that would require radically reconfiguring the reality on the ground. The trouble lies in the false starts it induces among doubters in the international community, on one hand, and the empty promise it holds for those who are hell bent on their ruinous path, on the other. These two can, between them, mean a delayed action from the stakeholders and a continued suffering for the Somalis. All this because people like Bruton cannot shoot straight.
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