14 Feb 2008
It is an understatement to say that what is happening to regular citizens of Somalia is shameful. As usual, African politicians and the elite are manipulating civilians to implement their destructive economic and political ambitions. The people of Somalia, (like those in Congo, Kenya and in volatile frontiers of Nigeria, Sudan and Ethiopia) are tired of endless civil wars, insurgency and counter insurgency.
The 17 years of civil war in Somalia has not persuaded the Somali elites to change their mind about demonizing neighboring Ethiopia and seeking to change boundaries for “Greater Somalia.” Instead of Africa uniting and OPENING its borders back to what it used to be before Europeans drew up the current boundary lines, we are alll stuck sustaining them at the expense of the blood of the innocents who deserve better. Keeping the restrictive and un-African idea of penciled sovereignty alive, here we are again, fighting endless wars to defend our countries mapped by Europeans. Ironically, any one of today’s provinces in “our country” can become another sorereign independent country after a successful separatist movement “liberates” “their country” thus perpetuating the bloodshed until another separatist movement liberates “their country.” A good example of this cycle has been the Eritrean liberation movement that “liberated” what used to be the Eritrean province inside Ethiopia, but now, new separatist groups inside the "liberated" Eritrea (Kunama and Afar) are trying to “liberate” “their country” from Eritrea. The Ogaden and Oromia regions are also other similar examples of this African crisis. When will all this end?
Unfortunately, the bloodshed and separatist movements will never end in this part of Africa unless present sovereign nations respect borders and stop both separatist & irredentist ideologies like “Greater Somalia” or end Ethiopian ambitions for Eritrea’s Assab coast. If none of the Horn of Africa countries respect each other’s boundaries, then each will support the separatist of another country just like Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea have been manipulating separatist movements of another country like a chess game waiting for a check mate at the expense of civilians. At this time, if egos are not buried and if Eritrea & Ethiopia don’t find a solution to their border problem, then there will never be peace in the region, especially in Somalia.
14 months ago, the opponents of the Somalia transitional federal government (TFG) going to Eritrea when Ethiopia entered Mogadishu was a projected move. Unfortunately, that move was also the END of Somali reconciliation, not its beginning. For Eritrea, the radical Islamists are only a tool against Ethiopia. In fact, before helping the islamist, the Eritrean government was helping some of the warlord leaders of the now TFG for many years since 1993. So ideologically, the Eritrean government has no similarity with the radical islamists. Eritrea is just acting opportunist and supporting any group until it check mates Ethiopia. The same way, the Eritrean government was forced to help ethnic liberation movements like OLF and ONLF but it doesn’t share the ideology of ethnic liberation movements (just like Eritrea worked with TPLF temporarily to defeat Mengistu regime, but Eritrea never shared the ethnic politics of TPLF.) Eritrea’s survival depends on the failure of ethnic movements like OLF and ONLF because Eritrea’s multi-ethnic society will be in danger if ethnic states bloom in the horn of Africa.
Similarly, the Ethiopian government has no ideological similarity with TFG since the TFG does not support Somaliland’s independence. Many Ethiopians prefer Somaliland independence in order to weaken the “Greater Somalia” ambitions. So both Ethiopia and Eritrea are supporting all these groups they never even liked, in order to jab at each other because of the unresolved border dispute between Eritrea & Ethiopia. Therefore, the first step to solve regional crisis is to solve the boundary disputes between Eritrea and Ethiopia. Otherwise it is useless. The Islamist Somali opposition in Eritrea is the tool of the Eritrean government. It is unrealistic to imagine that the Eritrean government will give up its precious tool, free of charge, by allowing reconciliation to happen between the Somali opposition in Eritrea and the TFG in Mogadishu. Thus, the pre-condition for a successful reconciliation of Somalis is the Somali opposition exiting Eritrea as soon as possible and going to neutral countries in Africa or Europe. After finding a neutral location and after starting reconciliation, the second step for a successful Somali reconciliation is the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops.
However, the next question will be; what will happen if there is a stable Somalia government? Once again, the current horn of Africa political doctrine will not bring peace even if Somalis reconcile to create a stable government. Even if the Somali opposition reconciles with the TFG to establish a stable government in Mogadishu, Ethiopia should be ready for a Somalia invasion (just like 1977) because both the Islamists and the TFG want “Greater Somalia” sooner or later. Maybe in one year, maybe in ten years – sooner or later another Somali invasion for “Greater Somalia” is inevitable. This is the dismal reality of this region. As soon as stability is established, un-African, non-indigenous political ambitions will bring more chaos once again. On one side, Somalia wants to eventually annex eastern Ethiopia and eastern Kenyan regions because these regions are inhabited by Somali speaking people. On the other side, Ethiopia and Kenya want to keep their “sovereign” territories closed off, including those inhabited by Somali speaking people. The clash of these two contradicting ideas can never bring peace in this region.
These boundary disputes and dilemmas exist in many others corners of the horn of Africa. They are dilemmas created by the forced carving out of multi-ethnic nations all around Africa by the European powers of the past as much as they are dilemmas created by ethnocentric groups who want to create ethnic Republics. Even if the TFG miraculously reconciles with the Islamist opposition, the underlying or the FUNDAMENTAL problems of this region will not be solved. The only way to solve them is by dropping imported ideologies of territories being “sovereign” & closed, by opening up borders, by putting economic advancement over political ambitions and by going back to traditional remedies at the grassroots local level.
Source: Jimma Times