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After Somalia, Who is next?
17 February 2007
By Tekie Fessehatzion *
Feb 16, 2007 — The US funded proxy Ethiopian invasion of Somalia has yielded meager results for the US but substantial misery for the people of Somalia. The only gainer from the misadventure has been Meles Zenawi’ Ethiopia. It has achieved its primary mission of scuttling any chance of a stable and cohesive Somalia; it has destroyed camps used by the Oromo and Ogaden Liberation Fronts. The US went in thinking that there were al-Queda camps to be destroyed and high value terrorists to be captured based on information the Ethiopians had provided. None were found. Thanks to the misadventure, the warlords, Somalia’s curse, are back.
We know the invasion brought nothing but chaos and misery to the Somalis. And what did the US get out of the invasion it financed and blessed? It received nothing but blame for the ensuing chaos. In his February 6, 2007 testimony before the US Senate Africa Subcommittee on Foreign Relations, Professor Ken Menkhaus, described the mood in post-invasion Mogadishu as “weary, sullen, and angry. Anti-American sentiment is high. Rightly or wrongly, the US is held indirectly responsible for the collapse of public order in Mogadishu.” Although the American population at large is not aware because the major media has not said much about it, eleven American soldiers have been captured by UIC elements in southern Somalia immediately after the invasion.
US diplomats worked around the clock to negotiate the soldiers’ release directly with one of the key leaders of the Union of Islamic Council (UIC), Sheik Sherif Sheik Ahmed, a man the Americans call moderate and with whom they said they can negotiate but still collaborated with Ethiopia to engineer his ouster from power. There is irony here. The US is in the curious position of seeking help to release detained American soldiers captured on Somali soiI, based on faulty intelligence the Ethiopians had provided.
The US and Ethiopia do not have the same agenda for Somalia. The US wants to put together a unified government in Somalia; Meles wants anything but a unified government in Somalia. The US is working hard at reconciliation between the Transitional Government through “moderate” elements of the UIC, as represented by Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed. Meles is working behind the scenes to make sure the reconciliation does not take place. For Meles, Sheik Sharif is .unacceptable because the Sheik is a strong nationalist with a wide following in the country. Given a choice between anarchic and fragmented Somalia and one that is united, Meles chooses the former. The US wants to see a stable Somalia; Meles prefers an anarchic one. What he really wants is an ungovernable entity with diminished sovereignty, something he wanted to do to Eritrea in 2000 but could not. Now he wants the US to give him another chance to do to Eritrea what he has done to Somalia. Washington should not acquiesce to another adventure. Congress should stay firm in its request that a special envoy be appointed for Somalia since Dr. Frazer, hopelessly beholden to Meles, does not seem up to the job.
The ill-conceived Somalia misadventure was based on false intelligence of the composition of the Union of Islamic Council and its relationship to al-Qaeda. Even at a time when John Negroponte, the head of the National Intelligence Agency doubted the existence of al-Queda figures in Smalia, the case for the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia was based on the assertion that Somalia was a haven for terrorists. Regardless of the pre-invasion intelligence no al-Qaeda leader or member has been caught, dead or alive. May be they were never there in the first place, something neither the Ethiopians nor the US wish to acknowledge. But we have seen this type of disconnect between intelligence and prudent actions before in Iraq.
Like the folks who believed the WMD labs were moved to Syria when nothing could be found in Iraq, Dr. Frazer now believes the al-Qaeda types she could not find in Somalia are regrouping in Eritrea. Obviously she wants to punish Eritrea under Washington’s Doctrine of Pre-emption, the right of the US to respond by force to any perceived threat to US interest anywhere in the world before the perception becomes a reality. It does not matter if the basis of the perception was fabricated intelligence, as this surely is; as surely as the intelligence on WMD was. By no stretch of the imagination does Eritrea pose a threat to US interest. As for Eritrea harboring terrorists, it is unthinkable. Yet in a one-two punch Dr. Frazer and the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs made statements that accused Eritrea of a planned terrorist activity (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) or abetting terrorists (Dr. Frazer).
According to newswire account (AFP, February 1, 2007)), Dr. Frazer reportedly expressed concern because, elements of the defeated Islamists were "trying to reconstitute themselves either out of Saudi Arabia or Eritrea." Echoing one of Meles’ favorite characterization of Eritrea, she claimed that Eritrea was a "source of regional instability." While handling Saudi Arabia gingerly, Frazer vowed that eventually “Eritrea will see the limits of its actions to destabilise the Horn of Africa.” Parenthetically we have to note that while Dr. Frazer is flexing the mighty US muscle on small and resource poor Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, accused of the same charge is being handled with a lot of deference. Not exactly an act of courage.
How did the American diplomat know Eritrea was a destabilizing force? Of course the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia told her. Juan William of NPR is right: Meles is Africa’s Ahmed Chalabi, the purveyor of self-serving intelligence to a gullible Washington establishment. Read in disbelief this gem of a statement that was issued by the Ministry the day after Frazer made her charges against Eritrea. This time the target of disinformation is the new UN Secretary General, to implant in his mind the canard that Eritrea is a terrorist state, and to convince the rest of the world that Eritrea is an outlaw. The Secretary General may be new to this sort of crude games, but it is unlikely the other participants of the 8th African Summit, the EU officials or those representing the Arab League were surprised by the mendacity of the charges. Perfecting the Chalabi art of disinformation, this is what the statement said, in part:
“An attempt by the Eritrean regime, to mastermind terrorist attacks have successfully been foiled, the National Intelligence and Security Service and the Anti-terrorism Taskforce under the Federal Police Commission said. The terrorist attacks had been planned to be carried out during the 8th African Union Summit in which several African leaders, the UN Secretary General, senior officials of the European Union the Arab League as well as various countries from across the world were taking part, the statement said. “—Source: Ministry?
Eritrea harboring terrorists? Highly unlikely. There might be lots of unflattering things that one can say about the Eritrean Government but it would be totally off-base to pin crude and stupid terrorist activity on its leaders. So what explains the campaign to demonize Eritrea? Could it be that we are witnessing the emergence of a pretext for invading Eritrea?
There are personal and professional reasons that explain Dr. Frazer’s antipathy towards Eritrea. Firstly, it has to do with Eritrea’s refusal to budge from the “final and binding” ruling of the Ethippian Eritrean Border Commission to comply with Ethiopia’s demand that the ruling be revised to suit Ethiopia. The American diplomat adopted Ethiopia’s position, an unusual step for someone who came in as an honest broker.
In particular, Dr.Frazer reinterpreted a crucial clause in the Agreement “no authority to decide on ex aequo et bono” to say that delimitation should be on what’s good and fair to the current squatters at Badme. Either she had not read the Agreement or she was willfully irresponsible in her interpretation. At the last African Studies Association Meeting she suggested that the a referendum should take place in Badme to ask the residents whether Badme should be given to Ethiopia or Eritrea, an incredible suggestion given the original residents have been ethnically cleansed out of Badme and as the Commission’s findings of August 2002 indicated have been replaced by Ethiopians while the Eritrean inhabitants are currently rotting at a refugee camp. She did not suggest whether the original residents of Badme should be given the same opportunity to express their wishes through the referendum.
Dr. Frazer interpreted Eritrea’s refusal to budge from the border ruling as a personal affront. Once she had determined that Ethiopia was a principal ally of the US in the “war on terror, Dr. Frazer felt that Eritrea had to comply with Ethiopia’s wishes as a reward for Addis Ababa for agreeing to do America’s bidding in Somalia.. She pressured the Border Commission to hire as a consultant an American General with no discernable experience with border issues or cartography of any kind. She compromised her neutrality when she started advocating Ethiopia’s positions. Worse, in Eritrea’s eyes was her attempt to emasculate the heart of the border ruling by suggesting that the delimitation decision should be revised to conform to Ethiopia’s request. Her open advocacy of Ethiopia’s unlawful position on the ruling, made it impossible for the Border Commission to complete its task.
Subsequently, Eritrea lost faith in Dr. Frazer’s professionalism and even handedness. And when the American diplomat started making wild allegation about Eritrea harboring terrorists, it appears that she was looking for a pretext to nudge Meles to invade, to make Eritrea the first victim of the Washington Doctrine on Preemption. The campaign against Eritrea can only mean that the proxy invaders of Somalia have cast their eyes towards Eritrea. Meles, of course, needs very little nudging. An invasion of Eritrea would do wonders for his sagging domestic support. As he did with Somalia with the creation of the Transitional government of Somalia, Meles has created a rump group of Eritreans with hardly any support from the Eritrean public to buy into his designs on Eritrea. The three-member “coalition of the willing” has been formed. The rationale for invasion, as dubious as it is, has been made. The question is, When would they pull the trigger ?
We don’t know for certain if and when an invasion is coming. Washington, at least to the extent Dr. Frazer speaks for her government, is threatening to teach Eritrea a lesson. As for Meles he needs very little incentive. He has been etching for the right moment to invade. What about the collaborating Eritreans, the ones advocating a “strategic relationship “with Ethiopia? Do they know what they are getting into? One has to question the state of mind of those who confuse the occupation of Eritrea with the liberation of its people.
Those who think a campaign from the south even when blessed from Washington would bring the “peace, prosperity and democracy,” don’t know what is coming. Once they bargain away Eritrea’s sovereignty, nothing good would follow: no peace, no prosperity. Democracy? Don’t even think about it. There is no such thing as democracy without sovereignty. To have a fighting chance to build democracy first you have to have a State of your own. But may be that does not matter. They are there for themselves. If their mentors succeed, a big if by itself, the hitch-hikers may get a chance to don the trappings of power, but it will be a hollow one, as it will always be controlled from outside, and sadly, to the long lasting detriment of Eritrea and its people.
* The author is a professor of Economics based in the USA.Source: Sudan Tribune