Somalia's rebirth validates
Ethiopia's efforts and sacrifices
(Rooble Mohammed Jan 20, 2015)
For the first time in 24 years, last
week, Somalia hosted IGAD's Council of Ministers in what has been applauded as
a clear testimony of the changing political and security landscape in Somalia.
Indeed, the event clearly showed that
Somalia was gradually but surely coming out of the chaos, instability and
violence of the last two decades.
The historic meeting was attended by a
long list of dignitaries from the regions as well as global powers and strategic
partners of IGAD. Besides to the Foreign Ministers of the region, it was joined
by Engineer Mahboub Maalim, Executive Secretary of IGAD; Ms. Lydia Wanyoto,
Deputy Special Representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission; Nicholas
Kay, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General; Ambassador Fabrizio
Marcelli, Italian Ambassador to Somalia, Michele Cervone d'Urso, the Special
Representative of the European Union to Somalia, and delegations from Iran and
As recently as two years ago, there
was cynicism that such a meeting could ever take place in Somalia. However,
Somalia was able to host such a high-profile meeting in Mogadishu without any
incident and demonstrated that Somalia had moved away from its previous status
as a failed state.
As the Special Representative of the
Chairperson of the African Union Commission (SRCC) for Somalia, Ambassador
Maman S. Sidikou noted:
“while we have had both the African
Union Peace and Security Council and the United Nations Security Council as
well as the leadership of both the Commission of the African Union and the
Secretariat of the United Nations visit Somalia in recent times, surely the convening
of this meeting of the IGAD Council of Ministers here in Mogadishu is the icing
on the cake.”
Indeed, the regional countries as
well as the international community played a vital role in the process of
stabilizing Somalia. However, the progress achieved so far are owed to
Ethiopia's faith and commitment in the peace-loving people of Somalia and
Back in the early 2000s, when the
world gave up on Somalia, the government of Ethiopia didn't relent its efforts.
Despite the fact that historically the relation between Ethiopia and Somalia has not been a healthy one.
In the recent historical period, one
major and one lesser war were fought between the two countries. The empty dream
of the so-called "Greater Somalia", an expansionist policy, had
brought to Somalia nothing but hostility and conflicts with all its neighbors,
especially Ethiopia. Moreover, the government of Ziad Barre had always allied
with all groups and countries it believed were anti-Ethiopian and had disturbed
However, the situation had
fundamentally changed in the 1990s and afterwards. The "Greater
Somalia" ideology has been discredited and Somalia has become stateless.
Moreover, since Ethiopia's constitution
guaranteed peoples' rights and Ethiopian Somalis started living in brotherhood
and voluntary unity with other Ethiopians in a newly defined, inclusive
Ethiopian identity in the spirit of equality, democracy, development, Ethiopia's vulnerability to the "Greater Somalia" ideology has been greatly
On the other hand, the disintegration
of Somalia had in itself brought ever-growing danger. The crisis in Somalia
had allowed religious extremism to take hold and it had become a haven and
conduit for terrorists and extremists. Anti-peace elements started using the
country as a base and place of transit in order to threaten Ethiopia's peace.
At the time, several regional and
international efforts to bring peace and reconciliation had failed and many
nations decided to prevent spill-overs from Somalia's crisis rather than seek a
solution to it.
Ethiopia, however, chose a proactive
The government clearly articulated
its direction in the 2002 National Security and Foreign Relations Policy
document as follows:
Our proximity to Somalia would be
beneficial to our development if there were peace and stability in Somalia.
Peace can come to our region if a government committed to fighting disorder,
terrorism and extremism in cooperation with its neighbors is established in
Somalia. Some circles say that the establishment of such a government in
Somalia would once again resuscitate the ideology of "Greater
Somalia" and that peace, democracy and development in Somalia would, in
that case, not benefit Ethiopia.
This view is fundamentally wrong and
dangerous. First, of all, from now onwards, our country safeguards the unity of
its peoples not by denying them options but by helping them recognize and
confirm in practice, the option based on equality, mutual development and
As a result of this, we have created
the condition whereby Ethiopian Somalis, no matter whether the ideology of
"Greater Somalia" is revived or not, would choose to live in equality
and unity with their other Ethiopian brothers and sisters. As our development
and democratization process gains momentum, our vulnerability to the effects of
this and other similar slogans will be much reduced. Furthermore, it should be
underscored that, since it has been the cause of much suffering first and foremost
to the people of Somalia, this slogan of "Greater Somalia" has been
discredited and its chances of revival are indeed very slim. In light of the
encouraging political and economic situation in Ethiopia, the fact that Somalis
live in both countries would actually ensure that they serve as a bridge that
creates strong connections between the two countries, rather than as a factor
On the contrary, Somalia's peace and
democracy was recognized as advantage to Ethiopia. Since such a situation would
make it possible for Ethiopia, in alliance with the new Somalia government, to
stamp out anti-peace activities originating from Somalia. Both countries can
work together to jointly develop river utilization plans. The way would also be
clear to promote strong educational and cultural ties and interdependence in
light of the educational and other related activities that are carried out in
the Somali language within the Somali Region of our country.
By creating strong relations between
the two countries regarding the use of ports and rivers, commerce, culture and
so on, and seeing to it that the two peoples are benefiting from this, one
could be sure that the peoples would resist activities designed to harm the
relations that are proving to be so beneficial to them.
Ethiopia would also gain direct economic advantages from this
situation; in addition, when Ethiopia's eastern border ceases to be a source of
threat, overall economic development would be enhanced.
That is why, Ethiopia's major
objective in Somalia has always been to see the establishment of peace and
democracy, and based on that, the development of strong economic, cultural and
political ties between the two countries.
However, Ethiopia was aware that
despite her wish and policy, peace and democracy cannot be realized through her
efforts only. As the Policy put it:
Although we will do all in our power
to contribute to the peace and stability of Somalia, as it is in our interest
to do so, the responsibility to establish peace in that country principally
rests on the Somali people and the political forces there. In addition to this,
those external forces which can influence events should see to it that they use
their authority to contribute to bringing about peace and democracy in Somalia.
The events of the last ten years in Somalia have not been encouraging, but we should not give up hope that peace and democracy
will eventually come to Somalia. The country has disintegrated into different
areas, and while some are comparatively, calm others are in continuous turmoil.
Those who reap benefits from the absence of authority - a number of Somali
groups, some traders, religious extremists, and their foreign friends - are
bent on sabotaging in one way or another any effort aimed at bringing about
peace in Somalia. Although the Somali people long for peace, they have not been
able to break out of the web of obstruction put in place by those who oppose
peace and change.
Although the international community
wishes to bring about peace in Somalia, it is evidently not ready to exert all
its efforts to realize this. Thus, it appears to us that the condition of
instability in Somalia is likely to persist for some time. Therefore our policy
should not be limited to contributing to the emergence of peace and democracy
only and, based on that, to forging strong ties; rather, it should also address
what we should do if instability and turmoil persist.
Our fundamental policy remains to
persistently work towards the birth of a peaceful and democratic Somalia.....
We have to work in cooperation with
the Somali people in the region, and the international community as a whole, to
weaken and neutralize those forces coming from any part of Somalia to
perpetrate attacks against our country. Obviously the solution to all of this
is the prevalence of democracy, and everything must be done to assist in
reaching this solution.
At the same time, however, we need to
receive the understanding and support of the people of Somalia and the
international community regarding what we are facing. While maintaining the
principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of Somalia, we have to
ensure our right to safeguard our peace and defend ourselves.
In line with the Foreign Policy direction,
Ethiopia made various efforts, sacrifices and played decisive role to stabilize
Somalia both in direct military intervention as well as mobilizing regional and
Ethiopia first entered Somalia in
2006 to remove the now-defunct Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), which had ruled
most of southern Somalia for six months that year.
Islamic Court Union, a cluster of
diverse extremist and terrorist groups was becoming strong enough to threaten
the government and literally hundreds of moderates were assassinated and
murdered in Mogadishu, including many professionals, civilians, former soldiers
The world was watching silently and
almost no one was willing to risk its resources to contain the looming regional
Indeed, the government of Ethiopia
took the decision to intervene in Somalia in 2006 solely in light of national
interests and depending on its own finance from the national treasury. It was
several months after Ethiopia chased UIC from Mogadishu that other nations
became encouraged to join in.
However, there are some who tried at
the time and still try to downplay Ethiopia took the far-sighted decision and
implemented the operation on her own.
However, that was unequivocally
confirmed in the diplomatic telegrams about the confidential meetings between
Ethiopian and United States government officials that had been published by
Wikileaks in 2012. Those telegrams that were written by from US Embassy Addis
Ababa provided minutes of the meetings were held between top level government
officials of Ethiopia and U.S in 2006 regarding Ethiopia’s planned intervention
It would be sufficient to cite two
telegrams to show the circumstances of Ethiopia's decision.
The Oct. 14, 2006 telegram shows that
PM Meles Zenawi was cautious of the reaction of the international community,
which is not one expects from a person allegedly doing the homework of a
The telegram was a report of a meeting
of the Prime Minister with Commander of the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of
Africa (CJTF-HOA) Rear Admiral Richard Hunt, US Business Executives for
National Security (BENS) President and CEO General Charles Boyd, U.S. Air Force
(Ret.), and Bennett McCutcheon Michele Huges from Joint Forces Command.
The telegram says:
Absent of an international solution,
Meles explained that Ethiopia is prepared to do battle with the UIC in Somalia.
Meles indicated that before making a final decision he will wait for the
November United Nation’s Security Council meeting where he hopes a favourable
decision will be made to lift the arms embargo and deploy the IGAD/Ugandan
The telegram shows Meles hoped for an
“international solution” than Ethiopia intervene and was waiting for the Security
Council meeting “before making a final decision”. This statement, if not true,
would have been nonsense to the officials that know who makes the decision.
Similarly, the Nov. 29, 2007 telegram
indicates that Ethiopia did not request financial support from the U.S. The
telegram summarizes a meeting between the Prime Minister and Senator James
Inhofe, a full member of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, Congressmen
Ander Crenshaw, Robert Aderholt, Dan Boren, Tim Walberg, and Mike McIntyre as
well as Congressional staff members, and Ambassador Yamamo.
According to the Telegram:
The Prime Minister emphasized that it
was the fight against terrorism that forced Ethiopia to take military action in
Somalia against the Council of Islamic Courts and affiliated militias last year
and he noted that it was a unilateral decision based on Ethiopia’s interests.
Meles emphasized that Ethiopia
did not request financial support from the U.S. for that endeavour, but noted
that Ethiopia derived adequate satisfaction from the strong U.S.-Ethiopia
cooperation since then as it was evident to Ethiopia that the U.S. "was in
the same trench" as Ethiopia. Ethiopia is fighting terrorism in its own
interests, he stated, "we will do it with or without the U.S., but we
prefer to do it with you."
Meles said to them that the war was “a
unilateral decision based on Ethiopia’s interests” and that “Ethiopia did not
request financial support from the U.S.” and no one objected his statement.
Following Ethiopia's footstep
regional countries and the international community launched massive effort to
stabilize Somalia. Thanks to the joint operations of IGAD and the new Somali
National Army, Al Shabaab had been weakened and the movement of goods and the
population’s access to aid had increased.
The creation of the Interim Jubba and
the South West Administrations showed momentum towards the country’s Vision
2016. He noted that insecurity and economic capacity were still Somalia’s major
problems and integration of security forces remained a major government’s
priority. President Mohamud, who emphasized the need for African solutions to
Africa’s problems, said the session was a milestone as this was the first time
Somali issues were being discussed in Somalia. He invited IGAD to hold an IGAD
Heads of State Summit in Somalia.
Nonetheless, there is still more to
Nonetheless, despite the gains made,
there are several challenges still facing Somalia in terms of peace and
stability, economic and social development, the formation of regional
The current political and security
gains in Somalia would be more meaningful if there is greater support to the
Federal Government of Somalia as well as the regional states and
administrations to provide the much needed social services to the populations
in those areas recently recovered from Al-Shabaab.
The international community should
assist AMISOM troops and the Somalia Security Forces to expand their operations
and immediately recover the remaining areas controlled by Al Shabaab.
Similarly, international partners and organizations need to increase the level
of financial, material and technical assistance to Somalia.
The government of Somalia itself
needs to take several crucial steps including establishing inclusive Interim
Federal Regional Administrations and Assemblies, rapidly develop a roadmap
and engage with federal states and interim administrations to agree the
modalities and timelines for the integration of forces and
establishment of Regional Police, ensuring an all-inclusive electoral process
in 2016, expediting the outstanding legal and administrative processes
required to deliver an electoral process within the mandated
Constitutional timeline, adopting a Final Constitution.