May 20, 2012 ·23 Comments
Overpowering Gratitude Vs Vexing Misgivings
By Ahmed I. Hassan
This is the chapter on Somaliland-Ethiopia Relationship in a book titled “Somaliland: The Legacies of Non-Recognition” which is still in the works. I thought a preview of this chapter would not be out of place in contributing to endeavors towards examining and understanding a highly complex subject—AIH
Somalilanders will, in all likelihood, always be grateful to Ethiopians.
This is because once upon a time, Somalilanders, thoroughly attrited, were fleeing in mass on foot for dear life. And Ethiopia happened to be the only country where they found the safe havens which saved them from almost complete genocide.
Why did the Ethiopians do it? Was it a manifestation of their core humanity and decency? Was it because the influx was so massive and the border so long and porous that the Ethiopians could not effectively stop the Somalilanders from crossing into their country? Was it the implementation of an Ethiopian well-thought of policy that had been meant to achieve certain ulterior objectives? Was it that the arrival of the Somalilanders took the Ethiopians unawares and that they were simply faced with the fait accompli of the Somalilanders being in their country after the fact?
For the Somalilanders, the answers to these questions are purely academic.
Furthermore, the gratitude somewhat subdues whatever misgivings or disappointments that Somalilanders may harbor about Ethiopia’s real or apparent policies on the issue of Somaliland’s reclamation of its independence. Or, for that matter, whatever misgivings or disappointments that Somalilanders may harbor about Ethiopia’s real or apparent policies towards Somalia.
Indeed, there is a great deal of unease and disenchantment which many Somalilanders feel about their current relationship with Ethiopia. In the spirit of free and candid debate, I intend to express my musings on that subject later in this paper. But in the meantime first, I would like to elaborate on why the gratitude is so overpowering.
For the Somalilanders, an immensely weighty consideration in the matter is that, at their hour of most dire need, they found the indispensible safe havens they so sorely needed in Ethiopia. And for that happenstance alone, the Somalilanders are and will be grateful to the Ethiopians. Short of an Ethiopian act that would call for or lead to an assault on Somalilanders’ existence or freedom, the gratitude should and will endure.
An Unlikeliest Silver Lining In The Darkest of Clouds
nce upon a time Somalilanders, thoroughly attrited, were fleeing in mass on foot for dear life. The Somali armed forces—supposedly their very own; supposedly instituted to protect them—was using every weapon on the book in bombarding them from the rear and above. They were desperately looking for any direction to escape from the merciless army on their hot pursuit.
Unfortunately, on one side laid the Gulf Aden. Deep Blue Sea! Only in biblical times, specifically in Moses’, with his magic rod that allegedly had dried up a passage in Red Sea, was a whole nation known to have crossed a sea. The fleeing Somalilanders could certainly not count on divinely empowered Mosesian benefits. So no dice there!
And neither was another optional getaway route: the Djibouti border. The Northerners had not been able to elude the reach of the Somali regime’s long and suffocating tentacles in Djibouti even at better times and even when their fleeing numbers had been a countable few rather than the masses on the move now. It had not been lost to them that the Djibouti government had been, to all intents and purposes, a subservient puppet of the Somali regime in as far as the regime’s policies towards the Northerners were concerned. Had not Djibouti, they reminded themselves, been enforcing a longstanding policy of handing over—on demand despite international law or plain old decency if nothing else—any Northerner to the regime on request or whim? Besides, not only was this border too far away, too short in length and too heavily guarded on both sides, it also had other impediments such as electrified fences and mine fields—relics from the colonial times.
The only remaining alternative was towards the border with Ethiopia. But that option, too, offered the Somalilanders running away from imminent danger nothing but great apprehension. They were all too acutely aware, historically speaking, that there had been no love lost between the Ethiopians and the Somalis. From the times of Ahmed Gurey in the fifteenth century, the Somali-Ethiopian relationship had been one of conflicts, hatred, rivalries and mistrust. The two countries had gone to war twice since the inception of the Somali Republic in 1960. Though Ethiopia eventually prevailed, the last war in 1977 had been especially ferocious and costly to both nations.
The Ethiopians, certainly, could not be expected to forget that the causes of these conflicts had been the pursuit of one or the other people to dominate the other on either religious or ethnic grounds. In more modern times, the ugly legacies of colonialism and Somalis’ post-independence quest for “Pan-Somalism” had been intractable issues of contention. The Northern Somalis—the very ones now in flight from fellow Somalis’ brutality—were that quest’s most ardent promoters as they had amiably demonstrated when they had sacrificed their own independence in 1960 in order to set the ball rolling towards the achievement of this goal.
On every fleeing Somalilander’s mind swirled a dreaded question: Would the Ethiopians be indifferent or even be gleeful at the spectacle of the slaughter that had been taking place amongst the theoretically hated Somalis by refusing refuge to those of them fleeing from it?
t did not help the wretched and hunted masses’ sense of helplessness that the governments of Ethiopia and Somalia had, just months earlier, reached the most unlikely of agreements. For years, the Somali National Movement (the SNM), a rebel group consisting mostly of Northern Somalis and with rear bases in Ethiopia, had been waging an effective guerrilla war against the Siad Barre regime. Siad’s extraordinarily brutal counterinsurgency measures had been proving counterproductive. These countermeasures had succeeded only in inadvertently swelling the ranks and coffers of the SNM thus making it even more formidable and threatening.
To make matter worse, other rebellions were coming on steam in other parts of the country, especially in South/ Central Somalia and around the nation’s capital, Mogadishu, the docility of whose residents the regime had been in the habit of foolishly talking for granted .
By this time, the regime had felt so threatened that its only concern became its own preservation. Acutely aware of the failure of its hitherto applied counterinsurgency measures, it realized that as long as SNM rebels were enjoying their sanctuaries in Ethiopia, it would have been impossible to defeat or contain them. Throwing to the wind all pretenses of national responsibilities, national interests and principles, the regime made Ethiopia an offer it could not refuse.
Somalia would forfeit all territorial claims on Ethiopia and would officially recognize the inviolability of the hitherto disputed borders between the two countries . As a sweetener, Somalia would additionally expel all anti-Ethiopian rebels that had been operating from within Somalia and would deny them any further sanctuaries and assistance.
In return, Ethiopia should expel the SNM and all other opponents, whether armed or unarmed, of the Somali regime from its territories and cease all assistance, in any form or shape, that Ethiopia had been awarding them.
As mentioned earlier, the regime already had under its belt a rewardingly (for the regime) operative and reciprocal no-opponent-in-either-country pact with Djibouti . Now, if cemented and rounded with this far more comprehensive and watertight treaty with Ethiopia, Siad Barre confidently calculated, it would mean the inescapably certain annihilation of not only the stubborn SNM insurgency in particular, but also the final solution of what he had perceived as the Northerners’ inherent irritations and threats to his regime in general.
Such an agreement with Ethiopia would furthermore flush out the SNM combat troops out of their Ethiopian hideouts and into the open. With their superior firepower and resources—in fact the resources of an entire country arrayed against an essentially ragtag, though motivated, rebels—all that the regime’s army had to do was finishing off defenseless sitting ducks. The regime only had to pull the noose, which it had ingeniously custom-made for SNM’s exposed neck.
All that remained for Siad Barre was to sign the dotted line with his Ethiopian counterpart, Mengistu Haile Mariam and how eager was the Somali dictator to do exactly that without wasting another moment or allowing trivial matters like national interests, principles, honor or simple human decency or suchlike to be on the way.
The Ethiopians could not believe their stroke of luck. To them, Siad Barre’s proposal amounted to all their wishes and dreams served to them on a silver platter. They had everything to gain and nothing to lose by agreeing to the Somali dictator’s offer without delay. Why would they care if the deal would essentially mean the near certain slaughter of the Somali rebels both governments had been hosting—i.e. the SNM in Ethiopia and the anti-Ethiopian Western Somali Liberation Front (WSLF) Somali-Ethiopian rebels operating from bases in Somalia? The slaughtering would befall on Somalis alone and no harm would come to a single Ethiopian. And would such a treaty not be the merciful end, at long last, of the sharp and painful Somali thorn that had been pricking their sides for so long. Of course, Ethiopia readily accepted the offer. Subsequently, much to both dictators’ unimaginable jubilation and somewhat relief a formal treaty was duly signed and sealed by Siad Barre and Mengistu Haile Mariam in Djibouti in June 1988.
Now, so confident the was Siad Barre of the validity and ingeniousness of his final solution, that he felt no need to offer amnesty to the SNM and other opponents or consider alternative ways to promote reconciliation with them. To him, the safest SNM insurgent or, for that matter, any opponent was simply a dead one.
Common sense was all the fleeing Northerners had needed to assume that if the Ethiopians were to take sides between the Somali regime that had just recently delivered the absolute abandonment of the “Greater Somalia” dream to them on the one hand and that dream’s most devoted sponsors-now-turned-victims on the other, the choice would be a piece of cake. Mr. Common Sense would more than likely have placed his bet on the side of the regime.
Sure, Ethiopia had rendered safe haven and material assistance to the SNM, but that was prior to the regime’s capitulation. At any rate, it was widely suspected that the Ethiopian support for the SNM had not been based on genuine sympathy with SNM’s cause. Rather, it had been but one dimension of an Ethiopian government’s multifaceted strategy to weaken or better still topple the Siad regime, which Ethiopia had considered the biggest of devils. This suspicion gained credence, if any were needed, when Ethiopia promptly kept its part of the deal with the regime by expelling the SNM from its territory—the very act that had directly precipitated the Northerners’ ongoing mass exodus from their homes.
For the SNM, surrender to the regime was not an option as a matter of principle as well as for practical reasons, regardless the absence or availability of amnesty. Nor did the SNM, to the regime’s dismay, become sitting ducks as it had expected. Unbeknownst to both the Ethiopian and Somali governments, the SNM reacted to this Ethiopian-Somali immoral conspiracy in a manner that was entirely unpredictable as much as it was seemingly reckless.
Instead of becoming sitting ducks, the SNM turned out to be fearsome eagles. Understandably, they had decided that since the Somali regime had proposed, Ethiopian government had acquiesced and in the event that God had disposed on their ultimate demise, they would rather die standing and fighting.
Somehow, the freedom fighters evaded the amply reinforced and heavily armed regiments that the regime had deployed all along the border, with the mission of either killing off or taking the expelled SNM fighters prisoners. With those unexpected elements of surprise and daring, the fighters attacked and overran the regime’s main military garrisons in Hargeisa and Burao, the two main cities in the North. Only Hargeisa airport-cum-airbase escaped the SNM assault.
With the regime’s army and other cohorts cleared of these cities, their residents breathed some refreshing air of freedom for a long time. adly, it turned out to be a short-lived air of freedom. The Somali military had been considered Africa’s most powerful army in black Africa just a decade earlier. Its ignominious defeat—some would say total rout—during the Somali-Ethiopia war of 1977; the SNM’s attritional guerilla warfare in the eights; the all too numerous purges of professional officers and their replacements with others whose only qualifications happened to be their tribal affiliation and loyalty to Siad Barre —all these factors undoubtedly had collaboratively weakened and demoralized the army.
Yet, it had been still a formidable force. The West, true to their Cold War era tendency to sleep with the devil as long as it was anti-Soviet, had replaced the entire regime’s lost weaponry and then some. For its part, the regime had dedicated nearly all the national resources and treasury to the army.
Furthermore, as former General Mohamed Ali Samatar—politburo member, vice-president, prime minister, minister of defense, the nation’s top military among his numerous titles during the regime’s tenure and arguably its most capable military strategist—publicly and on not entirely infrequent occasions lamented, Siad had, against better judgments and counsels including Samatar’s, degreed the deployment of nearly 90% of the army’s personnel and materiel in the Northern Regions (Somaliland) solely against the SNM.
This lopsided deployment enabled the regime to rush reinforcements and replacements to the overrun cities. Like the SNM, the army also unexpectedly (or was it too naïve on Somailanders’ part not to expect it?) changed its tactics. It is now known that the regime had a well-thought of and comprehensive strategy for such an eventuality. The only mishap was that the eventuality occurred before the regime’s scheduled timeline.
Contrary to expectations and to the principles of a fair battlefield dual, the regime’s army did not engage the SNM fighters in close frontal combat or in street fighting. Instead, it lined up–in the case of Hargeisa–thousands of artillery pieces and hundreds of tanks, shoulder-to-shoulder, one to the rear of another, on the hills to the South of the city. In unison, on around the clock, days on end, these killing machines shelled directly into the heavily populated city, neighborhood by neighborhood, block by block. For good measure, from above, waves after waves of fighter jets and bombers, ironically flying from the airbase just five miles to the south, incessantly bombed the city.
It hardly bothered the bombardiers’ and certainly not their commanders’ consciences that the residents of the city were trapped within the walls of their homes as the barrages rained on them.
Nor was any incongruity discernible in the fact that the upkeep of the regime that was committing such mayhem and the lethal assets it was using to perpetuate it were being financed through their victims’ tax treasury.
Moreover, Burao, the second biggest Northern city, was suffering the same fate. The army was carrying out similar and simultaneous shelling bombardments and aerial bombings on other Northern cities, towns and villages, even on some which had no SNM presence.
It was evident that the regime’s strategy had been not simply to defeat the SNM. Rather theirs had been plain scorched-earth mission. The objective had been to cause as much casualties as possible and for good measure to utterly destroy and depopulate the Northern cities, towns, villages, and countryside settlements. The killing, the maiming, the raping, the displacing and what not of their residents would continue for as long as necessary.
The strategy allotted same fate for those who were fortunate enough to survive the initial overwhelming shock and awe. Attrition through aerial strafing and by pursing ground forces awaited those who had managed to flee from the devastatingly opening assaults. The strategy had been a very comprehensive, mind you. Like all well-thought of strategies, it had been designed to be proactive, not reactive.
With all borders closed to the damned Somalilanders as escape routes—on the strength of signed, sealed, and binding bilateral agreements with neighboring countries—and with history devoid of records relating to a whole population that had ever succeeded swimming hundreds of miles across a sea to safety (The Gulf of Aden: no dice there, remember?), the harsh elements of nature and the army’s unrelenting mop up operations would, in due time, conspire in rendering the Northern Somalis’ vexing irritations mercifully no more.
To cap it all, Should some of them somehow manage surviving this collusion of calamities by escaping to where the regime’s iron fist could not crush them to smithereens and for others of their kinship who had been beyond the fist’s spiked reach on account of having been abroad in the first place, there would be nothing for them to aspire ever coming back to their once-upon-a-time homeland.
For the regime’s comprehensive anti-Somalilanders strategy had not been designed to end not only with the killing, the maiming, the raping, the displacing, the dispossessing and/or the destruction of their properties. It had contained another pivotal component: The Depopulation of the North of Its Natives and Its Repopulation with Kindred Tribes!
So meticulously was the strategy’s preliminary phases executed that the Somalilanders could not have had the time and the frame of mind to digest fully its methodical implementation, much less its present and future implications. There were the initial shock, incredulity and disbelief that they had been suffering such unspeakable mayhem at the hands of their supposedly own government and their own fellow Somalis. But as the assault continued unabated, it dawned on them that, whatever the government’s intentions, they had to run for their lives.
Thus, en masse, and with the barest of possessions, they took to the hills and countryside, mostly to the north and west, which the SNM had somewhat cleared of the regime’s army. At first they did not go that much far. They had hoped that they would be able to return to their homes as soon as the fighting between the army and SNM ended one way or another.
The people’s shock and disbelief were redoubled and the government’s intentions became somewhat clearer when low flying warplanes soon continued strafing them and pursuing soldiers made the unmistakable point of relentlessly machine-gunning the feebler and the wounded amongst them; those who could not have made enough progress away from the cities as well as those who had been unfortunate enough to make a late start in fleeing.
These acts left no doubt in their minds that the only safe places were locations where the regime’s army could not reach them. Obviously, such locations could only lie beyond the Somali territory across the borders.
It was a sorry spectacle that was simultaneously playing itself across the major population centers of the North. Thus a great mass of people were on the move while under constant harassment across the plains, hills and other unfamiliar or harsh terrain. They were on the move with no clear idea of where safe locations across the borders would be and whether indeed they would be able reach there or indeed whether they would be welcome there if or when they did. It was under these dark clouds of gloom and expectations of no sympathy at best and hostility at worst from the Ethiopians that the Northerners nervously approached the border. Still, in their desperation-weighted reckonings, they had concluded that Ethiopia held their best hope for at least some respite from the regime’s sadistically unrelenting brutality and the unforgiving elements of nature. Despite the uncertainty of the Ethiopians’ reception, they knew that the border was too long and porous for any government sealing it effectively. The vast areas just beyond the border were the traditional grazing lands of kindred nomadic tribes on whom they could count for help. And any help was so sorely needed. Finally and yet as importantly, the vastness of the country would come in handy for the purposes of concealment and evasion if the Ethiopian government decided on their forceful reparations.
To their pleasant surprise, all their fears turned out mercifully to be unfounded. Not only did the Ethiopians display commendable compassion and humanity by allowing the wretched fleeing masses unfettered safe passage into their country, they also availed them some desperately needed amenities such as nutritional and medical emergency aid, meager as this was due understandably to their limited means.
Soon, crowded refugee tent-city camps, with names such as Harta Sheikh, Dul A’d and Camp Hashem cropped up overnight across the Ethiopian plains barely a few kilometers from its border with Somalia. There were seemingly no end of newly arrived people on the edge of their lives to add to the congestion and the claims on the all too inadequate resources available in the camps. The living conditions, as can be expected in any refugee camp or in any displaced people’s shelter—when they happen to emerge not only in a destitute and third-world country like Ethiopia, but also in an immensely wealthy nation as America (remember Hurricane Catherina and Louisiana?)—well, the living conditions in these camps were certainly no picnic.
Nonetheless, there is no doubt that the Ethiopians rose to the occasion and in the nick of time. In the very least, thanks to them, the desolate Somali people in the Ethiopian camps were now safe from the bullets, the shells, the bombs, the landmines, the pullets, the swords, the machetes, the raping and the mundane, but still humiliating, physical and verbal abuses that had been their misfortune suffering from for so long and strangely from their fellow Somalis.
Furthermore, there were other things that the Ethiopians did that helped matters much for the Somalilanders. Amongst these, they officially designated refugee status to everyone who had crossed the border. This designation accorded the Northerners legal protection under international law and paved the way for more substantial humanitarian assistance from both Ethiopian and international organizations and governments.
It was truly an unlikeliest silver lining in the darkest of clouds.
That silver lining was what singularly foiled the wholesale genocide and irreversible ethnic cleansing of Somalilanders that the Siad Barre regime had so cynically contrived for them; so hard had striven to perpetuate and achieve as well as had pulled off to a not so inconsiderable degree. This, for the information of anyone in bafflement or in derision of it, is the source of Somalilanders’ overpowering gratitude to Ethiopians.
Death, Depopulation and Babylonian Ruins
In the meantime that almost the population of the North was streaming into Ethiopia, the regime’s extensive bombardments of cities, towns, and villages were still in full swing. Mass executions of rounded civilians in their hundreds (whose remains were latter discovered in countless mass graves all over the country; new ones are being exposed to this day after almost every seasonal torrential rain) were being carried out. The aerial strafing of the still fleeing civilians was continuing with unabated zest.
The SNM fought on. However, as mentioned earlier, the army had denied the fighters close frontal combat, SNM’s forte. Lacking logistical support and re-supplies, they run out of ammunition for their long-range weaponry and of other necessary combat provisions. For lack of shells and fuel, they abandoned the heavy weaponry that they had earlier captured from the army. This weaponry had been their sole answer to the army’s ceaseless barrages on their positions besides on cities’ proper. Further, the SNM, to their disadvantage, as to the bombed cities’ residents’ disaster, was defenseless against the constant aerial bombardments for lack of anti-aircraft defenses.
Eventually, the SNM had to withdraw from their captured positions in the cities. Its fighters, to a considerable extent, as intact as they had come, dispersed into mountains and countryside to regroup and refurbish their supplies as best as they could. The regime’s fear, reluctance or failure in engaging SNM directly—rather than shelling and bombing defenseless city dwellers—was, as General Samatar had feared, certainly one of Siad Barre’s many militarily senseless shortcomings . But that understandably offered little solace to the city dwellers.
Soon, the SNM were able to resume their previously deadly and affective guerilla attacks on the army’s positions; biting interceptions on its convoys and disruptions of its supply lines—battle-tried tactics that had proved highly costly to the regime’s army in both men and materiel.
When the regime’s monomaniac atrocities finally had abated for want of meaningful targets, those be humans or infrastructures, the results were unspeakably gruesome. In Hargeisa alone, which took the brunt of the regime’s rage and wrath; figures of 50,000 to seventy five thousand dead are knowledgeably cited. In all, no less than 200,000 people died by conservative estimates across the North. Those wounded or maimed were countless.
Moreover, most of the major cities’ buildings were either fully destroyed or irreparably damaged. The once teeming urban centers became ghost towns populated only by roving dogs and hyenas satiating on a feast of the abundant human remains.
Before long, another feast of a different kind kicked off earnestly in the depopulated cities. It was time the victors helped themselves to the riches of the vanquished. And what a treasure trove was in store for these singularly moral-deficient vanquishers!
The surviving residents, stricken with shock, surprise, terror, and disgust with the sudden heavy onslaught, had fled with nothing more than the rags on their backs. All other worldly possessions and assets, whether liquid or fixed, had been left behind. It had been one of those rare occasions, when one’s sense of well-being is that one is still clinging to one’s dear life and one is so grateful to God Almighty for that gift alone! As the second largest city of the erstwhile Somali Republic, Hargesia had been appropriately and expectedly the depository of the nation’s second largest concentration of its wealth. Unlike Mogadishu, the capital, and other economically favored cities of the South, Hargeisa’s wealth had been almost entirely privately owned.
For decades, successive Southern-dominated governments had, as a matter of course, been shutting the Northerners out of their fair shares of governmental jobs and contracts. The North, additionally, had been disfavored where developmental policies and programs were concerned. This concerted disenfranchisement had impelled relatively more Northerners to seek their livelihoods from other avenues that had not been overly dependent on government patronages—mainly trade and service industries. The officialdom, though, had still paradoxically not been amused at the rewarding successes that had become the inadvertent and inverse consequences of its own policies of deprivation.
At any rate, great and abandoned wealth of every kind had awaited the looters. Whole depots, factories, warehouses, stores, shops and kiosks holding, every commodity, equipment, product, and merchandise under the sun; safes and boxes containing jewelry and cash in currencies some of which unheard off; homes full of all sorts of belongings—cars, personal effects, furniture, household utensils, electronics and, yes, more and much more; even live animals such as goats and cows that many households used to keep—well all these riches and much more had been in store to be taken.
And eagerly as well as systemically taken these treasures certainly were.
Daily for months on stretch, convoy after convoy of loot-laden trucks left Hargeisa eastwards and some westwards. So intense was the pillaging, that the robbers, who were mostly the regime’s soldiers, officers and regime-affiliated tribesmen who had come for the purpose, often got into deadly infightings over the booty.
As soon as denuding the buildings of every separately removable item had been done with, the plunderers turned their energies to dismantling the buildings themselves thoroughly and methodically. First to come out were single or double unit components of the buildings—gates, doors, windows etc. Next to go where every other possibly removable building material—the roofing; the ceilings; the wooden beams, panels, linings; the plumbing including underground pipes; the electrical pits and pieces including the wirings; you mention it! Nor were the street utility infrastructures spared. Gone were the water mains and pipes; electric transmission lines and poles; everything!
When the looters had, at last, accomplished this monumental scavenging, an odd section of a stone or masonry wall of an odd building in an odd block was the only thing left standing. From above, every major city of the North looked like mile after mile of Babylonian ruins.
Though the world cared not to watch this great urban robbery as well as its preceding preparatory monstrosities or if it did, could not be bothered nonetheless, those double back-to-back colossal atrocities would arguably qualify not only as one of most vicious butcheries of humans but also as one of the greatest wanton destructions as well as one the most utmost illegitimate confiscations of wealth.
And Then the Chickens Came Home To Roast
At any rate, the long and painful North-South saga that had begun at independence in 1960 was entering its final stages or at least the final stages of one of its last chapter. The persistent entanglement of Somaliland- Somalia affairs, at least in the eyes of the International Community (IC), and of the citizens of Somalia—though not of Somalilanders—indicates that the end of the final chapter is perhaps yet to come.
One the one hand, the survivors of the aforementioned multiple carnages, now mostly domiciled in the Ethiopian refugee camps, were steadily and determinatively getting on with their lives as best as they could. Their habitual spirit and resourcefulness had not abandoned them. Many proceeded from the camps to other lands where they could be economically more productive and capable of assistance to their kith and kin back at the camps. Other started businesses in Ethiopia itself and did well by. The Ethiopians to their considerate credit did not place undue restrictions and debarments on their refugee guests and on their activities.
Furthermore, they definitely did not forget their homeland. The horrendous experience of longstanding persecution at the hands of their fellow Somalis that had culminated in their harrowing exodus from their land only redoubled their unshakable determination to reclaim it, but at this time around, under conditions that would be devoid of Southern direct and decisive impact or influence on their future lives and destiny.
Towards that goal, it seemed that every able-bodied and levelheaded Somalilander, regardless of where one was and under whatever conceivable circumstances, has made the same reflexive and solemn vow: to leave no stone unturned; to spare no effort or endeavor; to shun no sacrifice in life, limb or riches; to endure any hardship or deprivation; to contemplate any deed or any thought in the pursuit of turning the tables on the regime to its ultimate and speediest utter downfall.
Without any persuasion or the slightest of coercion, every Somalilander became a SNM active member in some role or another. The insurgency’s ranks and resources swelled exponentially beyond its widest dreams.
On the other hand meanwhile, the feeble seams that had been holding the army and other mainstays of the regime’s terror apparatus together started their falling-apart process, as eventually they were bound to do. Many of the rank and file began to wander why almost all the officers and so few of the foot soldiers dodging the bullets in the front lines were from a particular tribe.
Nor was their morale much helped by the intensified deadly SNM guerrilla attacks. Why, they began asking themselves, did they have to fight the SNM anyway? Their endless combat tours, without relief, replacements, and rotations as they, all the while, were away from homes, families, and friends raised in their minds certain obvious questions.
The answers to those questions instigated a steady and escalating trend of desertions, defections or surrenders to the SNM. To further encourage and facilitate these trends, the SNM policy had been to provide safe passages and other assistance to all who had chosen on taking this course of action.
In the South, in the meantime, the regime’s disintegration was also gaining momentum. There too, the tribalism demagoguery of the regime was, at last, being challenged in the only way the regime could understand i.e. through armed resistance. Gen. Samatar’s prophesy of the fallacy of the regime’s earlier knee-jerk decision of deploying the bulk of its army in the North at the expense of weakening its nerve center’s defenses started playing like a horror movie on the regime. Within weeks of the inception of the Southern insurgency campaigns, the rebels were at the gates of Mogadishu, the nation’s capital and seat of the regime. For the regime, the chickens finally came home to roast.
In January 1991, coordinated SNM/USC offensives in both North and South, finally and decisively defeated the regime’s army. Siad Barre along with his cohorts fled his palace and Mogadishu in tanks and armored vehicles and later into exile. The fascist regime was no more.
And with that, an ignominious era of infamy met at long last an equally shameful end. Equally at long last, Siad Barre regime’s grisly propositions for Somalilanders also came to its conclusion in a way which, despite its best efforts, was contrary to the regime’s expectations, hopes and wishes, but rather in a manner that was thankfully more in conformity with Almighty’s much more charitable dispositions.
So Irrefutable and Yet So Unexplainable Facts
Nonetheless, one or two facts render the above detailed epic carnages visited on Somalilanders so uniquely unfathomable, so grotesquely brazen; so singularly unjustifiable as well as so understandably unforgettable even if possibly forgivable.
It was not another race; it was not another people of the same race; it was not alien colonizers (as happened to the Red Indians in America or to the aborigines in Australia); it was not imperialists; it was not crusaders—well, it was none of the above who saw fit perpetuating these calamities.
Rather, the victimizers and the victims were of the same race; of the same people; of the same ethnicity; of the same culture; of the same language; of the same religion and of the same country. It was a Somali-on-fellow-Somali carnage and expropriation!
It was not in olden and more primitive times; it was not only in the dead of nights; it was not in concealed and intricate labyrinths; it was not in cobwebs of secretive underground bunkers and tunnels; it was not in a far off, godforsaken and inaccessible corner of the world; it was not in the absence of fellow human beings in that world—well it was in none of these times, places and conditions in which these calamities took place.
Rather, it was in the twilight of the just ended century; it was in broad daylights as well as at nights; it was in open, easily visible land; it was in a geopolitically prominent country; it was on foreign diplomats’ and intelligence services’ watch; it was under the glare of spy satellites; it was in the knowledge of the world media and human rights groups—well, it was in these times, places and conditions in which these calamities took place!
The Ethiopians never killed, maimed or wounded the tiniest fraction of the Somalilanders who were thus victimized at the hands of their fellow Somalis! Fellow Somalis never saved the lives of the tiniest fraction of the Somalilanders who owed their lives to the compassion of the Ethiopians! The Ethiopians never relieved of Somalilanders the tiniest fraction of the wealth that they lost to fellow Somalis! Moreover, fellow Somalis continue posing the greatest threat and opposition to Somalilanders’ right to self-determination and to be the sole drivers of their own destiny in the way they see fit while Ethiopia renders Somalilanders—if not absolute but at least—some tangible and practical assistance in their endeavor to exercise these rights! It is not that these cataclysms occurred; what happened had happened and obviously cannot be undone. After all, though the Siad Barre regime strived so hard to assign Somalilanders to history, at the end of the day, the matter ended in the other way round—the Siad Barre regime is history.
Besides, after they eventually prevailed over the regime, Somalilanders have decided not to be overly obsessed on their recent sufferings and misfortunes as incalculably crippling and undeserved as these were. They have chosen on looking hopefully forward rather than staring listlessly backward. That Somalilanders have opted on a course of communal peace and reconciliation as opposed to that of retribution against their past tormentors—some of them fellow Somalilanders and, as tables turned, the joke could have been on them—would, if honesty is to be valued, be distinguished as nothing less than virtuous if not saintly.
In as so far as practical matters are concerned, Somalilanders have demonstrated remarkable resilience and stamina in rebuilding their lives at the both personal and public levels. Cities, towns and villages have not only been rebuilt but have grown beyond imaginations. The Hargeisa that looked like Babylonian ruins in 1991, when its surviving residents returned to it, is now a teeming and prosperous metropolis of 1.2 million people. Schools, universities, hospitals, health centers, roads, factories and farms have appeared where they had never been. True to their legendary entrepreneurial flair, all sorts of successful businesses proliferate.
On the political front, Somalilanders have not entirely forgotten their unenviable past in mapping out for their future. Soon after Siad Barre’s fall, they consensually decided to withdraw from the union with Somalia that had brought them only untold misery. Then they set out to build the perquisite solid foundations, sturdy pillars and appropriate symbols of a viable state. Today, Somaliland credibly boasts all the fundamental tenets of statehood: established and known borders and essential control over them; essentially cohesive population; own flag; own national anthem and emblem; own referendum-approved constitution; own currency; own passport; every conventional national institution and, last but least, a democratically elected government with built-in appropriate checks and balances.
There is no doubt that all above facts are irrefutable. There is no question that Somalilanders have chosen to deal with these facts in ways which have been typified by levelheaded rationality and pragmatism. No malice or vengeance has figured in the selection of their choices and actions thereof.
Yet there is one more fact that continues to be particularly and persistently worrisome and unexplainable to Somalilanders. It seems that, amongst the Somalis, it is themselves alone who have a reasonable idea of the horrors through which they underwent. It appears that the best most other Somalis could come up with is the pretension of no, or just a vague, idea of the magnitude of these tragedies.
But all Somalis especially the sectors thereof who were essentially responsible for these mayhems through their almost exclusive roles in leaderships, commands, formulation of strategies and tactics, setting out core objectives, participation in the policy- and decision-making processes certainly know better. It is nothing less than unconvincing theatrics that are childishly amazing but supremely not amusing if and when particularly the more culpable Somalis plead ignorance or, worse still, denial of their own crimes as well as if and when generally the less liable Somalis assume that the offenses were entirely none of their business since they had not been involved in the conceptualizations of, and the leadership behind, these offenses. It was agonizing enough that, as they were at the receiving end of these atrocities, Somalilanders have been comforted by no or precious little fellow Somali display of inclinations, or of courage or of efforts of mentioning, of examining, of questioning, of acknowledging, of expressing sympathy or regret, of decrying, of condemning, of visibly opposing, of mitigating the effects of, of appealing for forgiveness due to—these unspeakable events.
It is doubly heartbreaking and certainly more polarizing that, after twenty one years of hindsight and meditation, Somalilanders could discern from Somalians not only the an obstinately continued laissez-faire or straight-faced denial of that recent ugly history but also consistently and steadily hardening Somalian attitudes and intrigues against Somaliland and its achievements even as Somalilanders’ dispositions towards Somalians were trendily getting more amenable in their favor.
For Somalilanders, the first national priority is ensuring the avoidance of a situation in which the catastrophes of yesteryear could replay on them. They have been striving and will continue to strive achieving that objective in a manner that would not be detrimental to Somalians. Somalilanders cannot fathom how their withdrawal from the Union could be so unacceptably nocuous to their brethren to the South. Of course, the Union had been a desirable Ideal for all and Somalilanders had been in the forth front of its promotion. Nonetheless, the Ideal had been mismanaged in a way that only brought woes, of various severities, on all concerned. The primary culprits in the grand mess-up of that Ideal had been those who had held the political reins in the Union and whose principal mission had been to make the Ideal work for benefit of all concerned. No one can arguably blame the Somalilanders to have been the said culprits.
Thus, since the Ideal turned out to be disastrous, common sense dictates that other less desirable but, at very least, less harmful avenues of inter-Somali relationships should be explored and considered. It was in that vein that Somalilanders saw fit to reclaim their independence by withdrawing from the Union. As indicated earlier, that Act could not be credibly portrayed as gravely deleterious to Somalia. Furthermore, it would have been more in line with common sense and in the spirit of goodwill were the reactions of the Somalians to the Act contained even the mere semblances of understanding and consideration rather than their now familiar, condescending and counterproductively polarizing “No-no-you-can’t-secede” wails. The wails sound particularly delusional and bizarre since the Somalians could not tangibly do much to prevent or negate the Act.
At any rate, Somalilanders harbor goodwill or, in the very no malice, towards Somalians even as the apparent lack of reciprocity on their part, at times, runs the risk of rekindling or aggravating some past resentments and, at other times, of calling the very wisdom and the deservedness of the goodwill itself into question. The intractable and multifaceted tribulations through which Somalians have been undergoing for the past 21 years have been nothing but a source of pain and dismay to most Somalilanders. A manifestation of their benevolence was abundant, if any were needed, in the manner they have responded to the famine that ravaged Southern Somalia last year. Themselves destitute and suffering from nature’s near similar unforgiving harshness, Somalilanders went deep into their pockets in contributing towards the famine relief efforts and did better than many countries of easier means.
Nevertheless, the establishment of any genuine, comprehensive, solid and lasting reconciliation, amity and fraternity between Somalilanders and Somalians should address certain issues that have, hitherto and unwisely, been swept under the carpet, or been glossed over or been entirely ignored. On the onset and before commencing any exercise in that direction, it should be clear to all concerned that the overriding purpose in addressing these issues is knowledge above all. No one should contemplate or entertain any hope or expectation that once these issues had been addressed, any of the outcomes would grant anyone the right to—or anyone else the fear of— retribution. None of the possible outcomes would entitle anyone to additional—or deprive anyone else’s of one’s fair share of—rights and obligations within the Somali societies.
Let go through one possible course the process could follow. It could first start by undertaking an objective, incisive and broad examination of the post-1960 Somali history. The second is to chronicle all whatever events, facts and conditions which transpired from such historical study—the good, the bad and ugly. The third is to identify exactly where and with whom the responsibilities thereof lay without the intention of bestowing rewards for good deeds or administering punishments for bad as would have been appropriate under normal circumstances. The fourth is for all concerned to acknowledge, accept, publicize and preserve for posterity the findings as part of the Somali people’s history and heritage.
Only then and then only could the process of inter-Somali healing start in earnest. Only then could genuine and heartfelt goodwill and trust between Somalilanders and Somalian have a chance of starting a renewal. Only then could an atmosphere conducive for meaningful and level-headed dialogue between Somalilanders and Somalian on their present and future statuses and destinies exist.
The earlier that is done the better for all Somalis. But if there one sector of them who is more capable of waiting, it is the Somalilanders. Somalilanders are used to waiting for quite one or two things in their times. They waited for genuine freedom until they laid their rightful claim to it on May 18, 1991. They have been waiting for the IC’s acknowledgement of their freedom since then. They are willing to wait for as long as necessary for the day the Somalians or, for that matter, the IC come to their senses.
A Lifeline for An Otherwise Ignored Infancy
Somalilanders’ gratitude and goodwill to Ethiopia received further somewhat subdued boost, relatively speaking, that is, after Somaliland reinstated its independence.
Since then, Ethiopia has been serving a role of unique and vital importance for Somaliland. While it officially tows IC’s non-recognition line, it is the only country in the world that, to all purposes and intents, treats Somaliland as a de facto sovereign nation. Government officials are accorded full diplomatic status, when in Addis Ababa. The Ethiopian capital is also their main gateway to other capitals of the world when they travel on official business. It is one of only finger countable countries which, however reluctantly, accept Somaliland’s passport as a legal travel document.
Almost alone amongst the nations of the world, Ethiopia has been providing (and still provides), literally, the lifeline that has been facilitating Somaliland’s external relations in the delicate infancy of its nationhood—an infancy which almost every other nation chose to ignore or, worse still, muffle.
In the foregoing, it is understandable that Somalilanders would always have a soft spot for the Ethiopians. Somalilanders would not wish to have anything but best of fraternal and neighborly relationship with Ethiopia. Somalilanders could have found much harder to reclaim their land without the benefit of Ethiopian assistance. Besides following Somaliland’s re-independence, as every other nation in the world slammed its doors in the infant country’s face, Ethiopia proved to be Somaliland’s most sympathetic and active state in all spheres of nation-to-nation intercourse. Returned to Stone Age circumstances by Siad Barre regime’s thorough destruction of their country, Somalilanders needed every helping hand; they certainly needed no further aggravation of their already dire predicaments. The Ethiopians stand to be commended for refraining from applying such undue and further destabilizing interferences on Somalilanders as they painfully strove to mend their much broken society back to a civilized condition.
To Require a Hare to Acquire a Fox’s Consent
Despite the foregoing overpowering gratitude, Ethiopia’s policies towards Somaliland after its re-independence should, in all fairness, to be subjected to as much scrutiny as the policies of other nations. The obvious questions here pertain, like to any other countries, to whether Ethiopia’s professed intentions of its policies can be taken at their face value or to whether there are hidden agendas behind these policies’ facades.
The Ethiopian publicly stated policy position on Somaliland’s withdrawal from its Union with Somalia and reinstatement of its sovereignty is that it is an internal Somali matter (read, a matter for the nation that was known as Somali Republic). Lest it would be blamed of interference or worse in the internal affairs of the failed Somali Republic, Ethiopia would not be the first country to recognized Somaliland.
However, if other nations or pertinent organizations such as the AU and UN granted Somaliland recognition, Ethiopia would be amongst the first countries to fellow suit. Beyond that, Ethiopia, like any nation, has legitimate security and economic interests in its neighboring countries. Ethiopia, of course, like (again) any nation, would safeguard these interests as best as it deems fit. And Somaliland recognized or not, is one of Ethiopia’s neighbors.
However, there is no shortage of accusations of Ethiopian ulterior motives behind its policies on Somaliland and Somalia. There are those, especially the Somalis of Somalia and the Arabs, who say that Ethiopia is bent on fragmenting the erstwhile Somali Republic into client and weak mini-states that would serve its interests in accordance with its directions. Others allege that, while Ethiopia might not work towards the direct dismemberment of the Somali Republic, it would frustrate the establishment of any effective government that is—in reality or, at the very least, in the eyes of the Somalis—genuinely representative, legitimate and free of undue foreign manipulation or sponsorship. Both of these distracter schools of thought invariably always point to the Ethiopia-Somaliland unconventional relationship as an amble case in point of Ethiopian malice towards the Somalis.
For their part, many Somalilanders themselves definitely harbor serious misgiving about Ethiopia’s policies and sometimes lack thereof towards their country. Some suspect that Ethiopia sees Somaliland mainly through the prism of Pan-Somalism or, at a minimum, in the context of the erstwhile Somali Republic. They fear Ethiopia connives that neither the erstwhile Somali Republic nor any part of it that opted to stand alone from it (read Somaliland) becomes a viable entity in its own right and with the full rights of a state within the comity of nations and therefore to which International Law and Conventions fully apply.
In this regard, the continuing chaos in Somalia, which much diminishes that country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, suits Ethiopia just fine. This would give Ethiopia the leeway and the cover of legitimacy it needs to meddle in Somalia’s internal affairs under the ruse of safeguarding its legitimate national interests.
And Somaliland’s non-recognition status—with all its attendant political, economic and social deprivations for Somalilanders—serves Ethiopia’s purpose just as fine. Weak, destitute, unrecognized and therefore bereft of legal protection under International Law, Somaliland could not ever afford to be anywhere but on the side of Ethiopia’s good graces. The situation literally leaves Somaliland with preciously little choice but to submit unquestionably to Ethiopia’s biddings even when Somalilanders’ hearts and minds lie elsewhere.
If indeed these are Ethiopia real purposes (and, think of it, they are not far-fetched scenarios) then it makes perfect sense that all Ethiopia wishes and strives for is a fictional existence of the erstwhile Somali Republic, which retains its territorial integrity and unitary status (ostensibly including Somaliland) nominally intact, but which is wholly and perpetually ungovernable and its regions fragmented and rebellious. Thus Somaliland is just one piece of these wider chessboard pieces of an ungovernable erstwhile Somali Republic.
In this regard, Somaliland should best be left and kept rotting in its non-recognition status for as long as it remained sufficiently capable of being rebellious and a contributor to the Somali Republic’s state of un-governability.
There is quite deeply held consensus amongst knowledgeable Somalilanders that if Ethiopia’s goodwill towards Somaliland extended to its political recognition, Ethiopia possessed enough power, influence and rationale to do so and get away with it.
Ethiopia is the regional powerhouse in Eastern and Horn of Africa. It possesses a credible military muscle. It is arguably the most influential country in sub-Saharan Africa save, perhaps, South Africa and Nigeria. The seat of the AU is in Addis Ababa. Ethiopia has always had sub-Saharan Africa’s unquestioned support in its past struggles with Somalia. The Western Powers consider Ethiopia a natural, kindred and reliable ally through which to advance their interests and especially so after 9/11 and its ensuing Wars on Terror.
Besides, Ethiopia is no stranger to parts of a same country parting ways. In 1993, it acceded to Eretria’s, hitherto an integral part of Ethiopia, independence and sovereignty as a separate nation.
Even if Ethiopia insisted on not gaining a possibly naughty and reproachable distinction of happening to be the first country to recognize Somaliland but nonetheless really wanted to assist Somaliland in attaining its rightful aspirations, it has other ways to go about it. Ethiopia possesses enough wherewithals and influence to egg one or two kindred African countries to break the ice on the issue and take the first plunge. It has enough considerable weight and sway in the AU and IGAD to make these organizations more favorably disposed towards Somaliland’s recognition quest. It can lobby its Western friends to be more forthcoming on the issue as well. Once any of these endeavors bore some fruit, Ethiopia will have, well deservedly, eaten it with nothing but bon appetite the only reasonable remark in order from any observer’s lips if, indeed, there were observers prying after all.
If Ethiopia took on that course, it could perhaps have attained the unique distinction of being the first country that never, beyond any reasonable doubt, did what, as a matter of fact, it did beyond (again) any reasonable doubt! It would have been a stroke of political ingenuity. It would have accorded the Ethiopians the required cover of plausible deniability and the capability allowing her credible deflections of blame if necessary. How would even those in the know accuse Ethiopia of misbehavior of any kind when the record clearly showed, for all to see, that the country had, indeed, not been the first country which had recognized Somaliland?
That Ethiopia is unlikely to have contemplated above or any other alternative policy with the same purpose, only lends credence to the strong suspicion that all Ethiopia really desires is that Somaliland should best be left and kept rotting in its non-recognition status for as long as it remained sufficiently capable of being rebellious and a contributor to the Somali Republic’s state of un-governability.. That, in essence, is the crux of Ethiopia’s policies, and then a related question naturally begs for an answer: What could possibly be Ethiopia’s motive for consistently adhering to these uncharitable policy lines for the twenty-one years since Siad Barre’s fall and with no apparent change of heart, at least in the foreseeable future, remotely discernible?
For possible answers, enter the following fictional interview which a fictional high-ranking Ethiopian official granted to two fictional journalists of a fictional American newsmagazine. There are those who suspect that the essence of the interview could not be perfunctorily dismissed as entirely fictional though.
The World Chronicler’s (in Somali, Waayo Sheegaha Aduunka), Roving Editor, Mr. Truce Digger (In Somali, Md. Mashqac Ku-Baadhe) and Investigative Reporter, Mr. Blunt Bothersome (in Somali, Md. Meel Xun Abaare) recently caught up with a senior official of the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry in Addis Ababa. TWC agreed to the official’s condition of remaining anonymous in granting this interview—The Managing Editor
Somalis are Somalis. Never mind whether they are Somalians or Somalilanders or those residing in my country or in fraternal Kenya or in that hellish place called Djibouti—it is the name of their capital city too—or in wherever. As such, Somalis are our eternal enemies.
Listen guys, this ‘eternal enemies’ thing is strictly confidential; like what you journalists call it in your particular lingo—yes, that is right, you call it “off the record”, don’t you? I know we agreed that I’ll stay anonymous in this interview and presumably that would be enough to protect me, but still this bit about eternal enemies is off the record. You see, I’m a diplomat and diplomats don’t talk about eternal enemies. They, by the nature of their profession, talk about eternal friendships and friends, even as they’re designing your demise. This eternal enemies bit is off the record; it that clear, guys?
I see you’re silent about my little request regarding this little eternal-enemies thing. But wasn’t silence said to denote consent? Thus, I take your silence means your consent to my little request.
I was saying as our eternal enemies, a safe Somali is a …… I wouldn’t go as far as to say a dead one—no, no, that wouldn’t be a decent and humane thing to say; though, come to think of it, if a Somali died, I wouldn’t be the first or even the second person to shed tears on account of his misfortune. If I did, Somalis would characterize my tears as crocodile tears anyway! See, neither Somalis nor we don’t appreciate shedding tears on account of each other’s demises or other misfortunes.
No, no, I wouldn’t go as far as to say that, but I’d say that a safe Somali is a weak one. One who is eternally under our mercy; a Somali who is always under our peck and call; one into whose land and home we can always have an easy excess, nay, we can always invade whether or not he likes that.
How any Somali would possibly like us to invade his country, you asking me? You say that my last statement alluded to as much. Well, well, looks like you guys don’t know a great deal about Somalis! I can’t blame you, since you haven’t been living as their neighbor as we Ethiopians, by no choice of ours—if it were our choice, we’d have said “Thanks, but no thanks”—well by no choice of ours have been destined to live as their neighbors.
So I wouldn’t blame you for your ignorance of the Somali ways, but to answer your question, yes, definitely yes, some Somalis really like us invading their country. As a matter of fact their governments officially beseech us to invade their country now and then. Remember their first real ‘president’, that old sage, Abdillahi Yusuf, now deceased, I believe—well, remember that good ‘president’ of theirs, no less, literally begged us to invade his country back in late 2006! And we obliged him (what else could we have done; we’d literally feared for the old sage’s sanity if we didn’t oblige him?). From then on, the beseeching from their governments to invade their country never stopped.
To be honest with you, it sometimes gets rather tedious, the beseeching from the Somali leaders’ to invade their country, that is. But we do what we can to oblige them in consideration of the leaders’ sanity and even, at times, their very survival. As a matter of fact, as I speak now, our army is heavily involved in several different operations deep inside their country and only praise is what we’re getting from their leaders as well as others.
You saying that we routinely have a heavy hand in molding their leaderships and governments and therefore they could do no less than beseeching us to invade their country now and then and praise us when we oblige them? Listen guys! That is a preposterous thing to say to me! “A heavy hand”?! “A heavy hand”, you say?! That is entirely not true. We categorically deny it. I’m telling you that, guys.
You see, guys, as the Somalis’ best neighbors and African brethren; and as the Somalis amongst themselves couldn’t agree on constituting their own effective governments and good leaders for decades; and as an effective government with good leaders is to the best interests of all concerned i.e. to them as no country cannot be without an effective government for so long; to us as their best neighbors and African brethren; to you as your country is so concerned of terrorism and piracy and what not; to Dick, to Harry, to all and sundry for whatever reason—well, in light of all the foregoing, we have an obligation to do what we can to help them in establishing an effective government with good leaders in their country, haven’t we?
In this regard, we might have had a lithe finger or, at a maximum, an easy touch or a slow hand in their governmental and leadership selection efforts, but never, ever a heavy hand as you have so impertinently and disrespectfully accused us. And one more thing: It is not only Ethiopia that lends the Somalis a lithe finger or an easy touch or a slow hand in such matters. Other caring countries such as Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, and Djibouti … do it. I suspect even you guys’, own country, the US, and do it in a kind of roundabout way. Even some Arab countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and suchlike do it, though the Arabs, true to their inherent awkwardness and incompetence, aren’t as good at it as others are. Organizations like the UN, the AU, the IGAD and others do it.
So what is the problem if we, Ethiopians, likewise do it? I can even say, without naming names, that some of the others use poking fingers or rough touches or clumsy hands, which we never do and I never heard anybody blaming them. So I’m puzzled why Ethiopia is blamed when we so discreetly use only the lithest of fingers or the easiest of touches or the slowest of hands of them all!
But, speaking of blame apportioning and name calling, where you journalists are concerned, it is always ‘damn if you do and damn if you don’t! I’m certain that you’d have still blamed us if we—as their best neighbors and African brethren—didn’t do the right thing by the Somalis and failed to employ occasionally as well as discreetly a lithe finger or an easy touch or a slow hand on their good behalf.
Anyway, before you popped your annoying question, I was in the midst of an important thing. Jesus! Where was I? I thought that in this interview I’d just read from my well prepared and well thought over notes and that’d be that. But you somehow derail me and I blab-blab about things I didn’t prepare well or thought over properly prior to the blab-blabbing.
Anyway, where was I? Yes, yes, now I remember, Thank Heavens! I was talking about who a good Somali should be, wasn’t I? I was saying that a good Somali is a weak Somali, one whose assets are ours; one who would never collude with a fellow Somali to ever put up any meaningful resistance to whatever we’d like to do to him or with him. Is that clear, guys?
You’re saying ‘Yes’? Thank you, guys. Good that for once you’d understand rather than derail me from my course. You should be smart enough to know how to treat a Somali. Of course we expect no less from you, Americans, who are our eternal friends and who always see things our way as far as matters pertaining to Somalis are concerned.
So I was saying this Somali should be kept in perpetual turmoil and, when we are extraordinarily nice to him, in timeless limbo. I’ll explain what I mean by ‘timeless limbo’ later; but let me first elaborate a bit on the ‘perpetual turmoil’ part.
For this ‘perpetual turmoil’ purpose, it’s fine with us that the Somalians (meaning those from Somalia) continue to slaughter each other. If an effective government, in the conventional sense of government as understood by everybody else save a Somalian, has eluded them for so long, well, that too is, eerie … fine with us as long as it is fine with them. And twenty years on, who doubts that this situation is perfectly fine with them? Some say that we are behind this “no-effective-government” business, but then, isn’t everybody entitled to his opinion?! Suffices to say that any “president” in Villa Somalia is a brother and should behave like a brother. If he isn’t a brother and doesn’t behave like one, then all we can say is to wish good luck. But whatever happens to him after that is none of our business.
We’ve been exceptionally nice to them. Remember, our army has been to their very capital and beyond—all the way to Kismayo and the Kenyan border. And didn’t we withdraw our troops after we helped them liberate themselves of that ignoble Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) terrorist gang and in its place installed their astute “president” Abdillahi Yusuf in Villa Somalia? Others might’ve colonized Somalia and kept their occupation forces in their country for centuries, but we’re not others; we’re their best neighbors and African brethren.
Of course, we’d not expect Somalians, being Somalis after all, to be grateful to us for all that trouble we’d gone through on their behalf. Can you imagine that they turned against that old sage Abdillahi Yusuf? We knew they’d never get a better “president” but when they rejected him, and since we still wanted to be nice to them, we helped rehabilitate and install Sheikh Sharif as their new “president”. That Sheikh Sharif was the very “president” of the UIC terrorist gang whom we’d chased out of the town (Mogadishu, that is) earlier at the behest of their astute late ‘president’ Abdillahi Yusuf, but whom (witness their contradictions!) most ordinary Somalians and other Somalis and even many non-Somalis had chastised us for doing so. That Sheikh Sharif was the one who’d (can there be a worse crime?) made Asmara his base for anti-Ethiopian activities after we’d chased him out of town, Mogadishu, that is. That he’d been all such things and worse and still we helped in installing him as their new ‘president’, is an amble testament of our being their best neighbors and African brethren; of us being exceptionally nice to them as no one else possibly could. I can bet on that!
Nonetheless, you can never expect the Somalians to be appreciative however exceptionally nice you’re to them! Can you imagine that, guys?
We hear that the Somalians, being … well, Somalis, have turned against the Sharif himself as well, can you believe it? What, in Heaven’s Name, do they really want? They ask for one particular “president” and as soon as they get him, they say “No, no, we don’t want him!” without even the merest of thanks for the efforts of getting him when they asked for him.
They not only say “We don’t want him”, they also propose doggedly and in a manner of unbecoming physical composition (usually in small pieces rather than in one piece as, at the very least, in decency is proper) sending him (their ‘president’, that is) to his grave somewhat earlier than God disposes. Of course, we and other good Samaritans view such a proposition as uncalled for or as inhumane even if it were. Therefore we helped the AU in deploying 10,000 “peacekeepers” (AMISOM we call them) solely to protect the Somalian “presidents” in the Villa Somalia.
Appropriately, the “peacekeepers” take their job rather seriously. Count on woe to befall to anyone who as much as contemplates harming the “presidents”. Whenever Villa Somalia is shot at with even as small a weapon as a handgun, AMISOM naturally responds with a barrage of artillery shells in the direction from which the offending fire has come. What else could they do, we want to know? Is there any other way to deal with people who are bent on sending their “presidents” to their early graves—and not even in one piece—without first consulting God Almighty, Who Alone manages such things?
If in the all-important task of protecting the Somalian ‘presidents’, innocent civilians are killed, maimed, wounded or displaced by the AMISOM barrages—well, that’s an unfortunate and unintentional consequence of the game. In Americanize, it’s called “Collateral Damage”, remember?
Anyway, in the spirit of best neighborliness and African brotherhood, we’ll continue to be nice to Somalians in spite of their characteristic ingratitude. We can do no less, can we? Others and even some Ethiopians say why don’t we just say good riddance of a bad apple and simply wash our hands of Somalia’s intractable problems? Good question. But nobody answers the other equally good question: If we, Ethiopians, who’re supernaturally (and through no choice of ours) fated to be their best neighbors and African brethren don’t lend them a helping hand in their hours of need, who else, pray tell me, would do it?
So, we’ll continue to be nice to them, the great expense to us notwithstanding. We’ll continue to send our troops across the border into their territory whenever we feel their effective and legitimate “governments” are under threat from one or other of their myriad and unfathomable armed groups. In fact, we’ll continue to activate our lithe fingers or easy touches or slow hands in helping them set up their effective “governments” and “presidents” whenever the need for them arises. We’ll continue to help protecting their legitimate “governments” and “presidents”. We know that–given the Somalians’ knack for disliking their effective and legitimate “governments” and “presidents” as soon as they’re installed for them–well, we know that all that is a tall order, but one’s got to do what one’s got to do, hasn’t one?
As for the Somalilanders, and here the ‘timeless limbo’ part comes into play—well, as for the Somalilanders, they’re Somalis likewise, aren’t they? As such they too are our internal enemies, aren’t they? So, let them stay in their timeless non-recognition limbo to infinity. That is what I meant by the ‘timeless limbo’ thing.
“Why?!” “Why?!” “Why?!” We, all three of us, asking the same question in unison! So amazing, isn’t it, guys? Believe me, guys, my asking “Why?!” was, I admit, a bit rhetorical but, certainly, not entirely outside the course of clarifying my narration while I suspect your exclaiming “Whys?!” were more due to your tendencies of derailing me from my normal lines of thought. One way or another and since I unintentionally shared in the asking of the question, let me give the answer right away.
See, Somalilanders are a naïve people. They think it was a change of heart on our part when we saved them from extermination at the hands of their fellow Somalis some two decades ago by allowing them into our country in droves. No, that was not our real intention, stupid! Our real intention was to topple the fascist Siad Barre regime that had the temerity of attacking Ethiopia and nearly succeeded in dismantling our state. Only dismantling his own state, no less, could have done as punishment for Siad Barre’s cardinal crime–talk about giving one a dose of his own medicine. See what I mean?
We’d to sleep with quite a lot of devils to achieve this all-important objective, and Somalilanders happened to be some of those devils. That this devilish bed fellowship made incumbent on us saving the Somalilanders from genocide at the hands of their Fascist tyrant Siad Barre was just one of those inexplicable ironies of this topsy-turvy world. But believe you me, we were just after toppling Siad Barre’s regime and not after saving the Somalilanders from genocide. That just happened to be an unintentional consequence in the perusal of our core objective. But, like I said it was and still is a topsy-turvy world, don’t you agree, guys?
Now, Somalilanders may be naïve, but strangely for being ethnically Somalis, they seem to have still some sense left in their heads. Unexpectedly, they pacified and restored the rule of law in their country. They established effective and legitimate governments (no need to put inverted commas on the word governments in their case). Amazingly they did all this all by themselves and well before they grabbed our—or anybody else’s—attention.
See, the little scamps stealthily held all their peacemaking and state-building conferences squatting in dusty squares in their little dusty towns and sustaining themselves with unpalatable camel’s meat and other unsavory nutrients. This is so unlike their Southern brethren who demand five star accommodation and the lifestyles of the rich and famous in foreign capitals (at enormous cost to the IC) before they agree even to hold a conference. So don’t blame us or the world at large if the Somaliland peace and reconciliation gatherings eluded our attention and consequently lacked any input from foreigners including from us, their dear best neighbors and African brethren.
The damn rascals—Alas! They duped us all, didn’t they?!!!
Worse still, this colossal deception didn’t end there. The Somalilanders went on to meet all the prerequisite parameters of a sovereign nation–borders, currency, constitution …, you name it–in reclaiming the sovereignty they had enjoyed for just five days way back in 1960 before they merged with Somalia. Thus, they presented us and the world at large, still unawares, with a treacherous fait accompli: They said to all and sundry, “We’re called Somaliland. We’re independent. We meet all the conditions of statehood, including the moral ones. So recognize us!” That was the worst part of this colossal deception.
This is because, between you and me, if they were not Somalis and therefore not our eternal enemies, we’d have said that they’ve had a valid point. If they were not Somalis, believe me, we’d have extended them our political recognition right away. In point of fact, if objectivity were heeded, they merit recognition, all sorts of assistance, admiration and what not, if simply they were not Somalis and therefore not our eternal enemies!
But since it was too late to avert this paradox–damn it, the Somalilanders duped us as well as everybody else–we and the world at large were left to being reactive instead of being proactive when dealing with Somaliland. Of course, we’d have preferred to have been proactive, but our being reactive, though not as effective, isn’t without its consequences, thank Heavens!
Why I say thank Heavens, you asking? You see, you young man, you’re the junior of the two of you. Isn’t this your senior Editor as you’ve introduced yourselves to me at the beginning of this conversation? You saying ‘Yes’? Then how come you’re always asking me very bothersome questions? How come you’re asking me any questions at all when somebody senior to you is present and he’s so mute, though he’s furiously scribing on his notepad? Don’t you have respect for seniority and rank? For the life of me, I can’t understand the Western Mentality and Attitudes—even after I’ve been to their places so many times in line of my work! It must be due to deficiencies of my mental faculties or something else—whatever it is!
See, guys, in my Ethiopia and Ethiopian culture, such behavior is unacceptable, thank Heavens. We’ve respect for seniority and rank, so we don’t talk or ask questions if we’re junior in both.
But, Oh! I understand your behavior now—stupid of me to have missed it at the onset of this conversation. Your very name, Blunt Bothersome, explains it, doesn’t it? Certainly, you’re blunt and no doubt you’re bothersome. Aha! And him, so-called Senior Editor’s name, Mr. Truce Digger! That’s why he’s been furiously scribing on his notepad all the time, like he was not wanting to miss nothing I say and how I say it! His name, Truce Digger, is very much telling on his behavior and demeanor too, though he slightly played with its spelling. He’s seriously into finding the truth as if I myself ain’t into keeping the truth out in the open anyway!
So, guys, your names are telling on you. I used to hear the refrain, “What is a name?”And people used to say in return, “Nothing!” Obviously, these people never met you, guys. I think for their own good, they shouldn’t either.
Shall we go back to the subject, you say OK? We agree? Thanks, guys. In answer to last question, forget why I said ‘Thank Heavens’ because that’s neither here nor there. Rather, hear this information which carries more substance.
See, our nation, Ethiopia, is the Grand Old Man of Black Africa. Other African countries look up to us for guidance on what they should do and how should they do it. We’re an old civilization that was never colonized. The seat of the African Union (AU), the Pan-African organization with a capital name and as likewise capital ideals, but in point of fact just a talking shop nonetheless; this ‘talking shop’ bit, like the ‘eternal enemies’ bit earlier, is likewise off the record, understand, guys? Silence again? Thanks anyway, guys. I was saying the AU Head Quarters is in Addis Ababa, our own Capital city here. We’re America’s and Europe’s major ally in Black Africa. What we say or do carries as much weight as what we don’t say or don’t do. If we recognized Somaliland today, we’re sure a dozen other African countries and the US and Europe would fellow suit within hours. The Somalians and Arabs would cry and hue and proclaim that the world has presently come to an end as the result of our recognition of Somaliland. But, then, when was the last time anybody paid much attention to Arab or Somalian sentiments, sensitivities and opinions? They’re of no consequences. Their barks are loader than their bites; wasn’t that always the case? No, a guy, that isn’t definitely the reason why we don’t want to recognize Somaliland.
The answer to the question of why we shouldn’t recognize Somaliland is the question itself: Why should we? What’s the benefit to us in doing so? Get it straight from me, guys, we won’t do it. First, they’re ethnic Somalis and therefore our eternal enemies. Never forget the big picture, mind you! Second, it’s easier to manage and manipulate them in their non-recognition status than in otherwise. If they were recognized, they’d be able to interact with the world directly instead of through us as they presently do, wouldn’t they? Their Presidents and government officials would be able travel to foreign capitals without transiting through Addis Ababa as they presently do, wouldn’t they?
We know some trouble- and rumor-mongers allege that this transiting through Addis Ababa involves a little more than the transiting per se. Maliciously, they say the transiting involves a certain briefing sessions for the Somaliland leaders on their way out to foreign capitals and another some debriefing sessions of the Somaliland leaders on their way back from foreign capitals.
If you asked me point blankly if we, in point of fact, do such briefings and debriefings with the Somalilander leaders, I’d say “No comment”. Only that the trouble-mongers don’t appreciate our role as Somaliland’s best neighbors and African brethren by mentioning even the briefings and debriefings per se. I’m afraid they’re fond of defamations directed towards good countries like Ethiopia and good people such as the Somaliland leaders who transit through here on their worthless sojourns to other world capitals.
But come to think of it, unlike these trouble-mongers, and between you and me-like, I don’t see what wrong there’s with a little briefing to and a little debriefing of foreign leaders if one can do it without too much cost or effort. Tell me, guys, of any country in the world that wouldn’t have seized the same opportunity if it presented itself. In fact, most countries spend fortunes to avail themselves of the same advantages. It’s called espionage, if my recollection isn’t failing me as it sometimes does; but I don’t think my recollection would be so uncharitable right now, Thank Heavens! I think you realize by now that my lips love saying ‘Thank Heavens’ but don’t worry; it’s neither here nor there.
Lest we be diverted by the grumblings of the trouble-mongers, let us continue with the subject, shall we? Where were we? Anyway, we’re afraid that if Somaliland got political recognition, Somalilanders would put on airs. These people who, in contravention to conventional wisdom, were able to accomplish so much and all that much without rattling any feathers, could theoretically act and behave like a real sovereign nation, couldn’t they? Example: They could stand up for their national rights. They might resist some of our requests, mostly of the security kind, that they presently submit to without too much persuasion. Specifically, we’re afraid that they might forget or, worse still, ignore that we’re their best neighbors and African brethren.
If such a scenario materializes, we might reluctantly be compelled to take some remedial actions. Such actions might look like entirely neither neighborly nor brotherly. These (i.e. such actions) might not be entirely compatible with international laws. Therefore, there’d be hues and cries and condemnations and such-like from many quarters on account of such remedial actions that we’d have been reluctantly compelled to take on account of Somalilanders forgetting or, worse still, ignoring that we’re their best neighbors and African brethren.
You see what we mean now? I see you’re nodding your heads and I think that means that you see what we mean. Thank you for seeing what we mean, guys. If Somaliland is recognized, international laws and regulations would apply with regards to our relationships with Somaliland. Our hands would be tied and we’d find it difficult to exercise as much influence on them as we do now or as we would like to or as we deem it as necessary for the sake of our national interests or for the sake of continuing to be their best neighbors and African brethren.
So we’ll see to it that Somaliland rots in its unrecognized never-never land.
Don’t lose sight of the big picture. Somalis are Somalis. Never mind whether they are Somalilanders or Somalians or Djiboutian or Somali-Kenyans or Somali-Ethio…………. Somalis are our eternal erne…….Sorry, we said this bit at the beginning of this conversation and this bit is highly confidential and therefore off the record.
Thank you, you guys with amazing, though not amusing names. Thank you.
Note: TWC believes that the anonymity of the Ethiopian Senior Foreign Ministry Official is enough to protect him and therefore we opted to carry the interview in its entirety in spite of his request to keep certain parts of it off the record—The Managing Editor
There is another school of opinion as to what Ethiopia’s real intention on the question of Somaliland’s political recognition is about. It is more down to earth, if for Somaliland it is no less ominous. Its essence is that Ethiopia prefers, for good or bad, to deal with just one central and all powerful entity or authority in erstwhile Somali Republic. To this purpose, Ethiopia, like most other countries and political organizations (the UN, AU, AL etc), is just bidding its time until such central and all powerful entity or authority is firmly and irrevocably established in Mogadishu.
When that objective is achieved, Somaliland will be railroaded to rejoin Somalia. Period!
It is quite obvious that all above rationales are detrimental to Somaliland.
In general, other Ethiopian policies and actions, especially those pertaining to Somalia, cause Somalilanders’ honest disagreement or discomfort. It is no secret to Somalilanders that any government in Mogadishu which lacked Ethiopian express approval and/or sponsorship could not expect but bite the dust. The Transitional National Government (TNG), constituted in Djibouti in 2001, could not take a step forward or even a step or two sideways in large part because Ethiopia it did not enjoy Ethiopian good graces. The Transitional Federal Government (TFG)), formed in Nairobi in 2004, was much luckier since, as the ‘Ethiopian official’ have been reminded by ‘Messrs Digger and Bothersome’ in the above ‘Interview’, Ethiopia have had a “heavy hand” in its creation. Yet, Ethiopia has been in the thick of the tragicomic tribulations that have been the only characteristic of the TFG since its inception. The crux of the matter is that the opinions, wishes and consent of the Somalians are not factors which Ethiopia grants any respect or considerations in as far as Somalian governments are concerned.
It was lost to Somalilanders that many of the warlords that had been bedeviling Somalia, before their utter defeat in battle with the United Islamic Courts (UIC) in early 2006, had been under the sponsorship of Ethiopia. Ethiopian patronage of Somali armed groups sometimes defies conventional wisdom. While it is understandably diehard anti-Al Shabab, it is strangely highly supportive of Ahli Sunna Wa Jama’ah (ASWJ). Though the former are admittedly dangerous Al Qaeda affliated Islamists, the latter’s use of the Islamic Religion as a means towards their political objectives makes even many Somalis rather uncomfortable. Ethiopia must be privy to something that Somalis are unaware of in accepting the ASWJ as bedfellows. At any rate, the analogy of the Western support for Al Qaeda during the Anti-Soviet war in Afganistan in the Seventies and Eighties simply because the enemy of your enemy is your friend seems to have escaped Ethiopian logic.
Most Somalilanders did not approve of—and were immensely dismayed by—Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia in 2006/2007. If Ethiopia were ever honest with its proclamations of noninterference in the affairs of Somalia, there could have been no convincing justification for that invasion.
In early 2006, the UIC had taken over power in Mogadishu and most regions of Southern Somalia after years of warlord mayhem. Not only had the long suffering denizens of Mogadishu and Southern Somalia for the first time in a decade and a half, become blessed with a semblance of peace, tranquility, and rule of law (any law), but the UIC was the closest thing to a Somali-owned governance that emerged in Somalia and which could claim somewhat the consent of its subjects.
Ethiopia, the United States and other major western countries were stricken by what seemed to be nothing less than fright and panic at this development. The trigger of their instantaneous and almost kneejerk anxiety was one adjective and one acronym: Islamic and TFG.
Though the adjective was part of their name and notwithstanding that caution and a monitoring regime on them were on order (for any use of religion for political purpose is an abuse of religion), there was no indisputable proof that the UIC was fundamentalist Islamists. In spite of the amateurishness of some of its members in their rhetoric and pronouncements, especially as directed at Ethiopia, there was very little likelihood that the UIC had any other agenda save pacifying and returning the rule of law to Somalia. The UIC neither possessed the wherewithal nor displayed manifest intentions that could have posed a credible threat to any foreign country, Ethiopia included.
As for the acronym, the TFG, let us first decode it. It stood and still does for the Transitional Federal Government. At the time headed by ‘president’ Abdillahi Yusuf, it was holed up in Baidoa under the protection of thousands of thousands of Ethiopian troops. This presence of the Ethiopian army units must have been the direct cause of the UIC’s previously mentioned careless and pompous rhetoric and statements against Ethiopia; but even in this case, who was the real provocateur—the government which informally, though quite openly, deployed its forces in another country or one of that country’s major political contenders which decried such illegal deployment?
However, there was one supremely fundamental factor in the TFG/UIC/Ethiopian saga. It was a factor that was being (and still is being) ignored; a factor which if or when necessary was forcefully being (and still is forcefully) negated; a factor that was never (and continues not to be) given its rightful consideration.
That factor is this: Since its inception, if the Somalians’ popular opinion, preferences, wishes and/or consent counted in a reasonable measure to the foreigners with fingers in Somalia’s political pie, the TFG would never have seen the light of the day in the first place. If it did, it would have perished long before the advent of the UIC. Provided it, as unlikely as it would have been, survived to the UIC era, it would have taken the UIC mere hours to sweep the TFG aside.
The Basic reason the TFG would not have come into being, or would not have endured for days if it did, had nothing to with UIC or any other Somalian armed group. The real reason was and still is that, in the eyes of Somalians, it never remotely enjoyed or earned the prerequisite attributes of a viable government: Indigenousness, Principles, Legitimacy, Competence—Nothing that would qualify it as a government in the real sense of the word.
But, as things were at the time of UIC’s emergence, the TFG could count on the crucial and decisive advantage of its original sponsors’ protection and sustenance. Ethiopia, Kenya, the UN, the AU, and the IGAD directly and the US and its Western allies indirectly were exclusively the backers of the TFG. Now they realized that their baby faced the most credible and imminent danger of the long suppressed Somalian wishes getting their way in the embodiment of the UIC. Having taken over all over South/Central Somalia including the all important Mogadishu (which they couldn’t have without Somalian popular support and consent), Baidoa remained the major urban center for the UIC to overrun and the TFG to be assigned to history.
As it turned out, the TFG backers, spearheaded by Ethiopia, could stomach to see all their hard won achievements and creations going down the drain. Since when was any consideration given to Somalians’ wishes or aspirations? Nor was it now (then) the time to loosen the reins on the Somalian aspirations and certainly not under the leadership of an organization whose name carried a frightening adjective. Thus the invasion!
Regardless of whether or not the Ethiopian invasion—with at best the US and other Western countries’ acquiescence—was uncalled for, its consequences was incalculable. It was extremely disastrous for the already blighted Somalians in life, limb and livelihoods. The greatest displacement of the Somalians since the fall of Siad Barre’ dictatorial regime in 1991 and the ensuing civil wars was another lingering outcome of that invasion.
Worst of all, the occupation and the understandable resistance that it inevitably stirred in countering it also motivated the birth of the phenomenon of Al-Shababism. Today, not only is Al-Shababism the biggest menace that all Somalis and all their entities face, but also it poses a credible threat to the security of many other nations; not least of which is Ethiopia and other countries that either overtly or covertly colluded with the invader in its ignoble enterprise on Somalia.
The cost to Ethiopia, though lesser in extent, was very high nonetheless. In the end, Ethiopia could not long sustain its occupation. It dawned on that country, fairly soon enough, that it had bitten more than it could chew. Moreover, it is much too uncertain that Ethiopia achieved any of the objectives, whatever they were, for which it had sustained—and to Somalians had inflicted—immense sacrifices.
Quite on the contrary, Ethiopia might have lost more than it gained from its Somalia misadventure. Certainly it weakened whatever mutually beneficial rapport and goodwill that had been in the making between the Somalis and the Ethiopians after ages of senseless enmity and mistrust between the two peoples. Besides, the emergence of inherently violent groups, such as the Al-Shabab, in particular and the continuation of the turmoil in Somalia in general, proved that the ultimate outcome of the Ethiopian fiasco turned out to be decidedly counterproductive for all concerned
On another front, furthermore, the serious allegations of human rights abuses that were repeatedly reported by international humanitarian organizations and media to have been perpetuated by Ethiopian security forces against civilian ethnic Somali-Ethiopians in retaliation of rebel insurgency have invoked the revulsion of many in Somaliland who remember only too well the horrors and ultimately the fallacies of such collective punishments or atrocities.
Nor are Somalilanders amused by Ethiopian security agents’ not so infrequent and not entirely concealed incursions to Somaliland’s urban centers to carry out illegal missions. Kidnappings and/or assassinations of alleged anti-Ethiopian suspects (mostly Ethiopian ethnic Somalis or Oromo) within Somaliland’s territory have not been unheard off. It is also known that the Ethiopian government sometimes presents Somaliland authority with names and simply demand their handover. At other times, entire units of Ethiopian forces have crossed into Somaliland ostensibly to conduct operations against, what the Ethiopians claim to be, anti-Ethiopian rebels.
Somalilanders usually learn about such occurrences after they took place. It is clear that Ethiopia’s respect for international law and conventions or their applicability where Somaliland is concerned do not register with Ethiopia. It is equally obvious Ethiopia expects no reproach from any quarter as a consequence of this disrespect.
In conclusion, there is no doubt that Somalilanders feel many vexing disappointments at what they see as Ethiopia’s less than forthcoming attitude, coyness and ambiguities on their independence and recognition issues. Specifically, they are frankly incensed that Ethiopia ties its current and potential recognition issue positions to the goodwill and consent of entities and people who, for various though unjustifiable reasons are unlikely to endow neither.
To them, this condition is tantamount to require a hare to acquire a fox’s consent to graze in the same enclosed field in which the fox hunts.
It is but one of the legacies of its non-recognition status that has condemned Somaliland with so little room for maneuver, if any at all, or without any meaningful leverage which could enable her to impress on Ethiopia to adapt more equitable policies and relationships with Somaliland in particular with Somalis at large in general.
The hope here is that the causes of these vexing misgivings will not continue to the limit—or cross the line—where they could seriously diminish the overpowering gratitude that Ethiopians had previously earned from Somalilanders in so good measure and on so undeniably commendable grounds.
Ahmed I. Hassan
By goth Mohamed