Friday, May 16, 2008

Regime changes in the making in the African Horn

By Adan Makina
January 01 , 2008
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"A soldier without political knowledge is a virtual criminal."
Thomas Sankara, former President of Burkina Faso.

Somalia’s President, Colonel Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, the world’s oldest surviving liver transplant patient, is in a London hospital and is said to be in bad health while the administration of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia is getting exceedingly nervous for fear that should president Yusuf expire, the entire occupation process will collapse and that his own government may well fall to pieces.

Ethiopian forces entered Somalia in December of 2006 to counter threats from the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) and also at the invitation of Somalia’s fragile Transitional Federal Government (TFG). The UIC, a blend of 11 autonomous religious courts, routed the US funded warlords who held Somalia hostage since 1991. They brought six months of relative peace to Somalia in 2006 only to cave in at the invasion of Ethiopia.

Emerging information indicate that the Ethiopians were deceived by Yusuf in the initial master plan when he bragged to Meles in Addis Ababa that he had a well equipped force to fight along the Ethiopians to respond to the UIC Militia threat. Meles should not regret for he failed to read Yusuf’s unpredictable monodramatic leadership. Should Meles be ousted as the leader of Ethiopia, rest assured he will point fingers at Yusuf as the major cause of his downfall.

History is replete with Prophets and Messengers who brought divine scriptures and marvelous laws; it documents conquerors who left behind historical artifacts and golden mausoleums; it shades light on pioneers who shepherded the world from darkness to civilization through innovations; it has catalogued reprobates, philanderers, plunderers and barbarians in its dark pages as the worst the world has ever seen departing humiliated and crestfallen with nothing to their compliments except unmarked graves and paradoxical illustrations-the last category being where Somali warlords, Somali President, and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister belong.

Unfortunately, for the last sixteen years or so, the atmosphere in the Horn of Africa has been and is up till now, one immersed in implacable miasma and mendacity due to the emergence of a dozen avaricious, supercilious, coldhearted, clannish and discriminatory men who continue to hold close to a 100 million people hostage denying them the basic inalienable rights enshrined in their constitutions and that of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) adopted in 1948 by the General Assembly of the United Nations. This is an assembly of cold-blooded hard core criminals who reside in fortified dwellings in complete primordial pomposity; they are men who evade the use of legally binding rationalistic approaches to expand the rule of law; they thrust aside scholarly and philosophical thoughts without justification; they borrow blasphemous and outdated dogmas aimed at intoxicating the feeble minds of their war-weakened subjects. They dine on French gourmet, wine on expensive champagne, and walk on red carpets in broad daylight surrounded by a retinue of barefaced dignitaries with 21 gun salutes to their honor.

Satan, the greatest perpetrator and harbinger of all wars, through his deceitful tactics and unmatched vigor, has definitely emerged the exclusive beneficiary of the Horn’s protracted instability. Heads collide at his command by surreptitiously irritating; weakening and impairing psychomotor activities of feeble minds leaving their cerebral arteries dissolve in an ocean of spontaneity leading to an overall cave-in of the brain’s hardware in time initiating eternal irreversibility.

To make matters worse for Ethiopia, PM Zenawi has horns locked with the UN over the deteriorating political and humanitarian situation in Somalia. The UN claims things are getting worse in Somalia due to the presence of Ethiopian forces while Meles claims the situation has been exaggerated and blown out of proportion. How dare he deceive a world full of hovering satellites relaying messages from the galaxies light years away?
Paradoxically, the African Union (AU) which is party to the anarchy in Somalia because of her reluctance and failure to provide the essential logistics and required peacekeeping force to stabilize the country, sensing how the situation is getting out of control and seeing the nature of death and destruction caused by opposing sides, has, as if abiding by the old adage “better late than never”, recently, after much deliberation, issued this concise mythical statement, saying:”(We) call on the Somalis and the international community to explore new avenues, to muster the required political will and resources to bring to a definite end the conflict that has afflicted Somalia and its people” Somalis should not anticipate anything good from the AU as long it has its headquarters in Addis Ababa. Is this not the same organization that had been beating the drums of war when Ethiopian Forces were pouring into Somalia to kill and maim innocent peace loving civilians?

The armed wing of the Islamists, Al-shabab, has flexed its muscles and is in full swing gaining ground day after day. So far they have captured large swathes of land by claiming victory in areas previously occupied by the Ethiopians and forces of the TFG. Their latest victory is the capture of Galgaduud region.

Many important TFG figures have been executed by Al-shabab, others have gone into hiding, and others are holed up in Baidoa, while others have left the country either to seek asylum or join the opposition in Asmara, giving Isaiah Affewerki of Eritrea a big burst of political laughter from a far distance.

For now, Al-shabab is eyeing near victory as the Ethiopian forces in Somalia have been bogged down disgracefully and PM Meles Zenawi is contemplating a quick exit. Meles has sought to down play the death of his soldiers as if they are made of steel though the contents of refrigerated trucks and transport planes leaving Somalia for Ethiopia reveal the contrary. Thus, the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia and the TPLF regime of Ethiopia are both on the verge of collapse and that regime changes are in the making which may surprise many in the West and those nations with a stake in the Horn of Africa. For now, the fate of Somalia and Ethiopia will depend on how quickly Al-shabab of Somalia and the opposition in Ethiopia make gargantuan leaps into the international political arena. For PM Meles Zenawi, the closure of the precipitous border with Eritrea, the subsequent drought that has hit his homeland and the weakening state of the economy must be deeply worrying and a hard pill to swallow. While he denies the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Somalia, many wonder how he will respond to the unfolding devastation in his landlocked birthplace. Eritrean soldiers on the other side of the border have less to worry knowing they have an outlet to the sea. Despite sanctions, President Isaiah Affewerki of Eritrea will have to overcome all odds to ensure the survival of his people and stand up to Ethiopia over the disputed border.

Ironically, for Somalia, the recuperation and return of President Yusuf to the helm will pioneer nothing new to the political landscape but rather incite more violence for he is an inexperienced octogenarian whose desired goal is to revenge against entities and tribes opposed to his fiefdom. Should he expire and be succeeded by someone in this current TFG administration, presumably, the bloodshed will still continue unabated.

Ethiopia is fighting proxy wars almost everywhere in the Horn of Africa. Besides the conflicts in Somalia and the border dispute with Eritrea, factors that may bring down the current regime in Ethiopia include: the willingness of the opposition to open old wounds to counter the irregularities and rigging of the elections in 2005 by the ruling party under PM Meles Zenawi, international outcry at the detention without trial of opposition heavyweights, and the accelerated armed struggle of the liberation movements in several regions occupied by ethnic groups seeking to break away from the rest of Ethiopia.
The arrival of African Union peacekeepers will bring no change except renewed war, new humanitarian crises, and shoddy peace deals that will not hold long. The 1,500 Uganda People’s Defense Force has not been immune from attacks by Al-shabab and for now their movements in Mogadishu are restricted to a few defined areas. Leaders of Al-shabab had earlier warned that the Uganda Forces and any other alien army that sets camp in Somalia without their backing will be targeted and treated like any other occupying force.

Burundians who wrapped up refresher courses and interdisciplinary counterterrorism procedures continue to pour in to the Somali capital to replace the weakened and cruel Ethiopians who have failed to restore peace and order for a complete year. Captain Paddy Akunda, a spokesman for the AU and a member of the Uganda Armed Force had this to say upon the arrival of the Burundi dispatch:” One hundred peacekeepers from Burundi have just landed here”. In Bujumbura, Colonel Adolphe Manirakiza told Reuters that “the team went to prepare the ground for the rest of the troops”.

The ethnic composition of the Burundian Army and the way civil strife is dealt with between the majority Hutu and minority Tutsi pre-and-post independence may be a leaf to borrow for warring Somalis. The current President of Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza, a Hutu, one of Africa’s youngest leaders, is a born-again Christian, was born in Ngozi province in 1964, trained as a sports teacher before plunging into politics to head the Force for the Defense of Democracy (FDD). His father, a former Member of Parliament, was killed in ethnic violence in 1972.

Obviously, Ethiopians will pack up and leave Somalia sooner or later. What to expect from the hypocritical and untested AU is not easy to prognosticate. Also, the position of the West towards the Horn of Africa is hard to decipher. The role of Ethiopia in Somalia and the policy of Somalia towards Ethiopia after Yusuf is gone will depend on the succeeding Somali administration. PM Meles’ regime will face stiff internal and external hostility when his forces return home, when his parliament debates the fate of soldiers missing in action (MIA), and when unaccounted for body bags emerge from the mortuaries. For Al-shabab, the flight of enemy number one (Ethiopia), the collapse of the TFG and the presence of a less hostile uninvited guest (AU Forces) should open a path for dialogue.

Adan Makina

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