Monday, June 2, 2008

The battle of the big cats and the hovering of the eagle


Once upon a time, Ethiopia’s older flag was represented by the mighty crowned lion carrying a cross and that is why it was referred to as ‘the Lion of Judah’ though lately depicted as ‘the Lion of Africa’. To Rastafarians, ‘Lion of Judah’ represents Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia (1892-1975), who ruled from 1930 to1974 as the “conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, King of Kings of Ethiopia, and Elect of God”. Haile Selassie was born from parents of the three main Ethiopian ethnicities of Oromo, Amhara, and Gurage. ‘For over 3,000 years, Ethiopia, formerly known as Abyssinia in antiquity, has never been colonized with the exception of a five-year occupation by the forces of Benito Mussolini of Italy at the height of WWII at the battle of Adwa. Thus, the lion has endured all odds.

On the other hand, Ethiopia’s immediate southern neighbor, Somalia, is represented by two graceful spotted African jungle leopards on its Coat of Arms which was adopted October 10, 1956. The leopards were also adopted by the Italian colonial administration. Perhaps, Somalis chose the leopard because of its adaptability, behavior, magnificence, and profusion in the wild. In Somali myths and verse, it is a much talked about carnivore that is preferred over the devastating lion known for homestead invasion and livestock devouring. A much celebrated theatrical drama received with wide enthusiastic response is ‘shabeel naagood’, translated in to English by Professor B.W. Andrzejewski, a Polish immigrant. The elegant leopard is ready to devour an animal twice its size; and because it has a spotted skin, it can hide from other predators and also it can climb up a tree with its kill far from the menace of the lion and the eagle.

Somalia’s southern neighbor, the Republic of Kenya, has its two vicious lions and a ‘jogoo’ or the crowing rooster on its Coat of Arms elegantly holding two Maasai spears. Despite having a border dispute with Somalia over the former Northern Frontier Districts (NFD), the cockerel has been more peaceful than the cunning lion that is Ethiopia. It shelters hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees who have injected the Kenyan economy with millions of dollars from the land of the eagle (USA). Unfortunately, there has been insecurity last spring for a while in the land of ‘jogoo’ over election irregularities almost entangling poor Somali refugees in a political quagmire and social unrest.

In contrast, the United States, the only remaining super power in the world, has to its credit the brilliantly hovering eagle symbolic of peace and representing the inimitable US air force. Squadrons of complicated aircraft assisted by sophisticated sonar and reconnaissance radars unsuspectingly catapult from far in the Pacific Ocean and in Germany and from near distances in Djibouti, and from warships in the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, and even on the shores of Somalia and Kenya unleashing devastating precision guided bombs that are hard to spot and evade. Such expensive military endeavors by the US will be hard to maintain given the state of its declining economy and skyrocketing of gas prices. Also, the uncertainty of the United States’ political transition in 2009 after President Bush’s term expires is another option that is open for debate now that the Democratic Party is seemingly favored in the political spectrum. Once the wingspan of the endangered bald eagle fails to catapult due to lack of energy (oil), its net consequence will be to nest until further harvest (oil) is found. Such is the dilemma faced by the ferocious eagle that wrecked havoc on Somalia’s life and property since its collapse in 199.

The people of Eritrea, known for their resolve and courage, and having fought Ethiopia for 30 years, must have the muscle to sustain the Ethiopian opposition through their dromedary that has been described as the ‘ship of the desert’. This is an animal that can nourish its breeder for almost a month without water as long as a few acacia trees are around and if all hell broke loose, the water content in its abdomen can be sacrificed to quench the thirst of a group of fighters while its enormous size become sufficient to feed a village.

The UN, Arab Union, and the African Union are no more than toothless domesticated tigers with lowly agendas. The Arabs and the UN may play the role of providing humanitarian relief assistance to the thousands of refugees and the rest displaced by the rivalry here and there. If these three forces were of any significance, their decrees, communiqués, and legal redresses would have been enough to bring the chaos to an end. Having changed camouflage from OAU to AU, the current African Union, according to Somalis struggling to liberate their land from foreign occupation and political meddling, is nothing but a replica of the old guard wearing the same detested paraphernalia, treading the same route, and dwelling in the same house-Addis Ababa, the home of the lion they wish to slay.

As for the United Nations, the departure of Kofi Anan has brought in a tiger in dentures. At least, to put it right, Kofi Anan did intervene in Somalia by ordering massive humanitarian relief operations and directed the deployment of multinational forces.

Today, in volatile Somalia, what we are seeing is the fight of the big fissiparous cats, a dromedary, a few toothless tigers, and a viciously hovering eagle all replicating audaciously in the form of rebel movements, occupation forces, democratic governance, Islamic Sheria, and dissimilar confusing ideological foundations that sprang from miscalculated illusionary necromancy and rapaciously weird oneiromancy. Actually, Somalia has become a battle ground for nine conflicting forces: Ethiopia, the African Union, Al-shabaab, the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, Eritrea, The U.S., the U.N., Arab Union, and the Asmara group. Since too many cooks are negligently simmering the much desired political hot pot, the right taste of the potential culinary recipe will be pretty hard to weigh up. The solution to the long standing conflict lies squarely with the rightful owners of the land in dispute. Somalia should be left to the Somali people.

The current Somali struggle for the re-liberation of their motherland from Ethiopian occupation began in earnest in 2007 when rebel parliamentarians who were previously part of the broader Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) broke away and assembled in Asmara, Eritrea, at the behest of President Issaias Afewerki, a man known to be a bitter rival of the current Ethiopian leadership headed by his maternal cousin, Atto Meles Zenawi. Likewise, members representing the scattered forces of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) re-appeared in Asmara-this time standing shoulder to shoulder with the rebel parliamentarians while subsequently declaring the formation of a larger group identified as the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS). Since then, several conferences meant to reconcile the ARS and the TFG have been held in various locations most notably in Djibouti and Yemen. The UN has Ould Abdullah as its diplomat, representative, and peace maker for volatile Somalia though nothing has changed for the better since his appointment as new skirmishes and human displacements continue unabated especially in the south of the country.

Ironically, Issaias Afewerki of Eritrea long thought by many Somalis as a man who has them at heart, has amassed troops along the Djibouti-Eritrean border suddenly transforming in to an alarming screw driver in the Horn of African conflict. Those who know him well, regard him as the genesis of all wars and political division. His malevolent proposal of dividing the Asmara group in to two splinter groups has taken many Somalis and their sympathizers by surprise. Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed had been quoted lambasting the Eritrean government’s hidden agenda of dividing the Asmara Group. Some within this group, who are pleased with the division, have been heard giving Afewerki the credit he deserves most.

Somali resistance groups are now stronger than ever. Where they get their weapons is a hard nut to crack. Despite an arms embargo on the country, arms proliferation seems to be getting out of control. Neighboring countries are in confusion and politically shaky as their securities deteriorate internally and externally. Members of Al-shabab have been reported to have infiltrated Kenya border yesterday in pursuit of foreign members arrested by the Kenya police. They were able to free them inside Kenya territory and to have escaped with the police vehicles to ferry their freed members in to Somalia without the slightest harm. This must be a worrying trend for the government of Kenya.

Right now, a reconciliation conference has gotten off the ground in Djibouti under the auspices of the UN. There had been some misunderstandings on the agenda with members of the Asmara group storming out of the conference venue though such a snag is to be resolved at the intervention of some powers with a stake in the affairs of Somalia. The President of the TFG, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, escaped unhurt the previous day as he headed for the conference in Djibouti. Members of Al-shabab bombarded his retinue of Ugandan convoys with mortars and rocket propelled grenades as he prepared to leave Mogadishu international airport. Several casualties were reported. In other parts of Somalia, the war between the insurgents and the Ethiopians has gotten to worse. The atmosphere is getting shoddier as the two sides continue to displace millions out of their homes in to desolate refugee camps.

In conclusion, Somalia’s civil protracted war is getting worse everyday and the future of this country is hard to determine. The TFG seems to have lost its grip on to power and that the Ethiopian army is in a delicate balance because the insurgents have become a power to reckon with. The Ethiopian army is desperately searching for a strategic exit. For now, no Western power will bother to assist. The insurgents’ leopards have won with a technical knock out.

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