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On Somalia's Latest Drama - Gedi's Political Demise
By Abukar Arman
For almost two decades, the Somali political theater has been marked by random, tragicomic episodes that have frustrated the average observer and fatigued donor countries, who have funded numerous failed projects to solve the Somali conundrum.
The drama generated by these "episodes" has routinely blurred the vision of the average Somali activist (especially in the Diaspora), analysts from around the world and, indeed, stakeholders, keeping them from clearly identifying and dealing with the real issues of this Horn of Africa state.
The latest Somali drama has been the sensationalized political demise of a man who, in 10 short months, managed to leave behind a legacy of infamy, earning his unenviable place in the country's history: the Transitional Federal Government's (TFG's) former prime minister, Ali Mohamed Gedi.
This dramatic development became an even greater story than the relentless brutality of the Ethiopian occupation, the systematic ethnic-cleansing, the targeted assassination of vocal media figures, the rampant piracy, and the senseless violence and strategically self-destructive insurgent tactics, not to mention the horrific humanitarian crises that have caused the starvation and displacement of hundreds of thousands of Somali civilians, mainly women and children.
So, how did a prime minister who had perfected the marketable image of the Global War on Terrorism age get dragged off his horse anyway? After all, Gedi had all the necessary credentials to keep him in his post: the lack of vision, the pelican throat for greed and corruption, the shallow mind and the quixotic view of world politics, the right frown, the right lingo that labeled all his oppositions with the dreaded T-word and, of course, the lapel pin to shield him with an artificial air of patriotism.
More importantly, how can an action of this magnitude - sacking the "ideal" figure at the most critical hour - be associated with a cardboard president who, reportedly, cannot even call a private meeting in his own presidential palace without first getting clearance from representatives of the Ethiopian occupation forces.
Granted, there was a rift between President Abdillahi Yusuf Ahmed and his former prime minister over the usual business: who stole the lion's share of the donation dollars, and who was hoarding essential posts for his closest of kin and clan. But these are hardly the kind of factors to have got Gedi kicked out. And anyone who simply focuses on connecting the dots will conclude that this latest twist was, in actuality, the settling of an issue far greater than "Abdillahi and Gedi's" myopic political claptrap.
While in pursuit of their respective "strategic interests," the most battle-tested army in Africa, Ethiopia, and the sole superpower of the world, the US, partnered, almost a year ago, to dismantle the Islamic Courts Union - a defunct entity that brought six months of peace and order in Mogadishu that many now mourn - and establish the TFG in Mogadishu.
Both Abdillahi and Gedi were handpicked by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, who has micromanaged Somalia's political affairs for over a decade; they also had Washington's blessing.
But Gedi's fortunes dramatically changed once he publicly criticized the secret contract deal his president signed with China, as exposed by London's Financial Times.
He had felt left out of the deal and decided to air his frustration publicly. Oblivious to how his declared position would place Meles, who had his own deal with China to protect, on the spot, Gedi threatened to pronounce the contract null-and-void. Overnight he became politically radioactive, so to speak.
And once Gedi sensed he was being ganged up against, he played his clan card, doing what many thought was unthinkable: he reached out to the self-same clan leaders he had once labeled with the T-word, and urged them to continue their struggle to free Somalia from the Ethiopian occupation - a move that proved to be the straw that broke the camel's back.
With Gedi now gone, the question is whether or not opportunities remain for the salivating American oil companies to win contracts in either Somalia or Ethiopia. For his part, Meles is mindful that he cannot be seen to be the man who conned the US out of its economic and hegemonic interest in the region, as this would be the beginning of the end for the US-Ethiopian partnership in the Horn of Africa.
But before continuing this line of argument, let us take a necessary detour for a moment.
Most of us know what a red herring is. Traditionally, it was a piece of smoked fish used by fugitives to lure bloodhounds off their scent. And in the metaphorical sense, it is anything used to divert attention from the real issue.
Meles is determined to compete with neighboring Sudan, even at the expense of his relations with Washington. Because as a result of Khartoum's high profit margin China oil deals, Sudan's economy has been growing at an incredible rate and, as such, is fast emerging as the Horn's undisputed economic giant.
And having learnt the ABCs of influencing the US political apparatus, Meles has built a strong lobby led by former high-ranking Texas congressman Dick Armey.
In early October, even as HR 2003, the Ethiopia Democracy and Accountability Act of 2007 passed the House with bipartisan support (a bill that, among other things, called for accountability regarding Meles' brutal human rights abuses in dealing with the people of Ogadenia, Oromia, and the Amhara), the Ethiopian ambassador in Washington had enough confidence to publicly rebuke those members who had supported the bill.
Meanwhile, the Senate is considering imposing some form of economic sanctions on the Meles' regime for its dealings with China. This, of course, is a far cry from the cozy relationship that led to the joint operation resulting in the Iraqization of Somalia.
And as the end of US President George W. Bush's second term approaches, the political pressure to avoid another failed enterprise ever increases.
From Washington's perspective: the Bush Doctrine cannot face history with three failed regime-change initiatives ( Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia). In other words: diversionary tactics aside, Bush will either have Somalia as one success story to highlight in his exit speech, or the US and Ethiopian interests will collide head-on.
Abukar Arman is a US-based freelance Writer who lives in Ohio.
Source: Middle East Times