Somalia: The Ethiopian Factor III

Greater Somalia

Continued from: ‘Somalia: The Ethiopian Factor II

The Nationalists:

The wave of nationalism that had engulfed the Somali population during the 1977-78 Ogaden war has now somewhat diminished. Despondency and the inability to regain the Western Somalia have, to some extent, extinguished the flame of pan-Somalism. Vicious clan rivalries paved the way towards the speedy erosion of unity and peace. Tribalism, cronyism, nepotism and all sorts of ill-feelings engendered by the poor performance of the Somali regime soon brought about the implosion of the government. Now decades later, that flame has been rekindled. The notion of a Greater Somalia that had remained dormant over the years has now been resuscitated back to life with the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in 2006. As in the Ogaden war, almost three decades earlier, hundreds of thousands of Somalis contributed men and money in order to expel the invading forces. Sentiments ran high in the capital city and even many estranged Somali youth in the Diaspora returned home to take part in the battle for the liberation of Somalia.

The nationalists harbour a profound dislike for the Ethiopian government because of the latter’s repeated incursions into the Somali territory. The nationalists wish to wage war against the Ethiopians, provided that they have the means and a leader strong enough to muster popular support, in order to liberate the Western regions of Somalia. But despite their vehemence and zeal, the young Nationalists often lack the political profundity and the abstruse knowledge that defines the dynamics of the centuries-old Somali-Ethiopian conflict. In addition to that, they are not yet fully prepared to sacrifice their lives for the cause, or a handful of them are – and this is the differentiating factor between them and the Islamists. And where the Nationalists are propelled by patriotic sentiments, the Islamists march forth with a spiritual strength and are obliged by a religious conviction – that the Islamic Caliphate must dominate the land.

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Somalia: The Ethiopian Factor II

The Ogaden

Continued from ‘Somalia: The Ethiopian Factor’

The Geographical Dispute:

There is a deep wound in the heart of the Somalis that continues to bleed profusely and nourishes the long-held distrust in Ethiopia and her policies. That the North Eastern Province (NFD) and the Ogaden regions are part and parcel of the Somali state is a notion deeply ingrained in the mind of the Somali population in its entirety. And as the years slowly roll by, under the shackles of black colonialism, the lingering hopes of the Somalis imprisoned in those regions also continues to fade. Prompted by foreign meddling and proxy wars that, to this day, continue to shape the political decisions of the region, the protracted cross-border raids between Somalia and Ethiopia have existed for a very long time. There have been several explosive skirmishes at the border between the years of 1960-64 and the flames of the conflict that erupted in the region at that time were doused with a ceasefire between the two countries. But this did not kill the lingering notion of pan-Somalism and the Somali man’s persistent struggle for Greater Somalia.

In the run up to the 1977-78 Ogaden war, the Soviets, having given up on the Somalis, deemed that the ground was fertile enough in Addis Ababa for the establishment of a Marxist-Lenin state and thus transferred their interests to Ethiopia, immediately ordering them to expel the Americans who have been at the time giving substantial military aid and advice to the Ethiopians. Soon the Soviets began pouring in state-of-the-art weapons into the Ethiopian capital. As a result, Somalia withdrew from the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation with the Soviet Union and soon after that, expelled all Soviet personnel from the country. To take advantage of the situation, the United States, having been expelled from Ethiopia, decided to weigh in on the other side and offered support to Somalia, though it soon withdrew the offer shortly after that.

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Somalia: The Ethiopian Factor

Some of the Somali regions that share a border with Ethiopia have been in a state of turmoil over the past few days. In the shifting patterns of this prolonged war in Somalia, the escalation of violence in the regions of Galguduud, Hiiran, Gedo and Bakool has illuminated some of the underlying geo-political dynamics that are at play in the volatile region of the Horn of Africa. More than 400 Transitional Federal Government (TFG) soldiers, accompanied by up to 300 Ethiopian forces, raided the town of Baladweyn, Hiiran, in order to bring an end to the Islamists’ rule in the region; in Galgudud, hundreds of Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama (ASWJ) rebels attacked Cadaado, the region’s business hub which is governed by a tribal administration, with military equipment and reinforcements readily supplied by the Ethiopian government; in the border towns of Yeed and Ceel Berde, Bakool region, the Islamists are fending off the Ethiopian troops’ aggressive incursions; in the South-Western region of Gedo, TFG troops buttressed by the Ethiopian might and men wrestled the region’s capital, Beledxaawo, from the iron grip of the Islamists. But while the Transitional Federal Government has its own reasons for driving out the Islamists from the region, what are the motives that underpin the Ethiopian involvement?

The Ethiopian regime presents itself as though it had been tirelessly working to restore peace and stability to the troubled Horn. Since the fall of the Siyad Barre regime in the early 90s, Ethiopian involvement in Somali politics had become even more overt; helping Abdullahi Yusuf defeat the Al Ittihad Al Islami, led by Hasan Dahir Aweys in 1994 and then helping him reclaim the Puntland administration from Jama Ali Jama during the mid-90’ or actively being engaged in all the national reconciliation programs and the establishment of the Transitional Federal Institutions to date.

But when Ethiopia, Somalia’s archenemy, states that its policy geared towards Somalia is one which is enveloped in altruism and mutual goodwill for both countries, this raises a plethora of questions and many Somalia remain convinced that there are ulterior motives to Ethiopia’s ‘neighbourly’ gestures. The statement that Ethiopia is working with a benevolent intent – safeguarding the interests of the Somali populations – is, in the Somali mind, oxymoronic and the theory that Ethiopia, whose efforts is cleverly masqueraded as being philanthropic, is preventing – rather than helping – Somalia to stand on her own feet is highly tenable.

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Roobow: Relationship with Al-Shabab Still Robust

Sheikh Mukhtar Roobow ‘Abu Mansoor’

In a country where the media is as much a weapon of war as the gun, Somalia’s airwaves are rife with rumours; so the news over the last few weeks of an Al-Shabab split was sort of expected. But despite this, the news, reported by anonymous sources, rocked the country, filling the cities with gossip and the public houses with debate. The locals here were deeply divided on the issue but those attuned to the political circles in Mogadishu, however, understood that Somali politics was a messy business – labyrinths of deception and treachery – so they tend to regard every statement with some level of skepticism. I adhere to their wisdom. But as the rumour gained momentum and traveled beyond the city’s limits and into the villages, saturating the airwaves with the news, anxiety soon replaced the frivolous whispers.

If the news was true, then it meant that the predominant influence of Al-Shabab in the Southern/Central regions of Somalia was coming to a rather disgraceful end, particularly, since the Islamists were deemed to have transcended the customary commitment to tribal allegiances with their calls for the implementation of Sharia Law. It also meant that the prevailing sense of safety and stablity in the areas under Al-Shabab administration would soon be jeopardized. But was it true?

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Najma: The Abduction Case

As Mogadishu mourned the death of more than twenty civilians in the last two days, another depressing tale hit the airwaves today. But in a country afflicted with endless woes and suffering, the story of this young girl is not very unusual.

When a bus was stopped at the city control in Xudur, Bakool region, for a random check by Al-Shabaab administration, the shocking details of dreadful deed came to the surface. In the back of the bus was a woman holding a child in her lap; the child seemed to be fast asleep and, from the outward appearance, peaceful. But when the search was prolonged for some time, the annoyed passenger turned around to the screams of a panic-stricken child in the back. The ‘mother’ tried hopelessly to smother the child with kisses and soothing words, gently rocking her back and forth in her lap, as a mother would, to silence her but to no avail.

And when the child’s screams intensified and she began screaming ‘help! Help! The plot quickly unfolded. Najma Maxamad Shire, as the child identified herself, was a 12-year-old girl abducted from Bosaaso, more than a thousand kilometres away from where she was.

A Tanzanian man, who said his name was Ramadan Abdallah, and sat at the front of the bus was caught at the checkpoint, about 90 KM away from the Ethiopian border, accompanied by a Somali woman, Faduma Qasim Abdullahi, who claimed to be the mother of the child. And though this worrying trend of abduction has long been talked about here in Somalia, its hideous face has rarely been seen this clear and brazen. Travelling on land, it is thought that, throughout the journey, the couple administered a constant dose of sedatives to tranquilise the girl. The effects wore off just at the right time.

Najma’s father, an elderly man whose feeble voice was heard on the airwaves, broken up by bouts of silences and coughs, spoke to the journalists profusely thanking the Islamists:

‘we sent her to the shop to buy groceries…but…she never returned. Some people told us…that…a woman placed something on her nose…and led her away. We haven’t heard from her for 15 days. May Allah reward you!’

Najma is among the hundreds of children kidnapped from the streets of Somalia every month. The family of the child also confirmed that similar stories have been circulating widely in the North Eastern port city of Bosaaso. It is only a wonder how they managed to cross thousands of kilometres through Puntland without being noticed by the authorities; not to mention the infamous Puntland Intelligence Service (or rather Puntland Intelligence Agency)

Nonetheless, Al-Shabaab, who govern by a strict Sharia code, have vowed to sentence them according to the Shariah Law. And if thieves are getting their hands chopped off, one can only wonder what sentence awaits these child abductors?

I have personally heard of several stories of young children abducted from Somalia. These children, as legend has it, were either sold into slavery or taken to Europe where their organs were sold. Almost all of the kidnappers were Somali women luring the children with money or promises of taking them abroad. Though I usually dismissed such tales, only today have I come to realise the gravity of the situation!

How many more children, I wonder, have gone missing without a trace!

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