Eritrea’s response to the UN Monitoring Group’s Report
Kenya’s role in Somalia clarified as the two Prime Ministers meet
Last weekend, Somalia’s Prime Minister, Dr. Abdiweli Mohamed Ali led a TFG delegation to Nairobi. Accompanying him were the Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister, Hussein Arab Isse; Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Industry and Commerce, Abdiwahab Ugas Khalif Ugas Hussein; the Minister of Interior and National Security, Abdisamad Moalin Mohamud; and the commander of TFG forces, General Abdukadir Dini. The delegation met and held talks with Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who was accompanied by the Minister of State for Defence, Yusuf Haji; the Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs, Richard Onyonka; the Chief of Defence Forces, General Julius Karangi, and other officials including the Director-General of the National Security Intelligence Service and the Police Commissioner.
The meeting was a follow up to the deliberations agreed upon in Mogadishu on October 18th as part of the creation of a Joint Mechanism to manage security operations in Southern Somalia. It also followed the concerns expressed last week by President Sheikh Sharif on the developments following the start of Kenya’s security activities in pursuit of Al-Shabaab.
The meeting agreed that Kenya’s “security operation” inside Somalia was aimed at eliminating the threat posed by Al-Shabaab to Kenya and it is based on the legitimate right to self-determination under Article 51 of the UN Charter. Al-Shabaab is a threat to both countries and must be fought jointly with support from the international community. The current operations are being led by the TFG forces with support of the Kenyan Defence Forces and activities are being fully coordinated. A joint high level committee has been established to maintain continuous sharing of intelligence and information. A joint diplomatic campaign is to be launched to galvanize international support.
The two sides also agreed on the need for the international community to assist in providing immediate humanitarian assistance in liberated areas. As most of the agencies are based in Nairobi this would be an area in which Kenya could have considerable impact. The two sides agreed that AMISOM troops should move into liberated areas to safeguard peace and security and assist the establishment of local administration under the guidance of the TFG, and called upon the international community to support a blockade of Kismayo until Al-Shabaab leaves the port. The TFG indicated that it was going to ask assistance from the International Criminal Court to investigate Al-Shabaab crimes against humanity. The agreement notes that the Kenyan Government itself will not try to negotiate with Al-Shabaab, but allows for the TFG to be free to negotiate with any armed opposition groups within the framework of the Djibouti Peace Process and the Kampala Accord.
As Kenyan and TFG forces, including the Ras Kamboni and other pro-TFG militias, continue their build-up in preparation for attacking Al-Shabaab centers at Afmadow and Bardera, and their advance along the coast towards Kismayo, the aim of the joint campaign is becoming clearer: to remove Al-Shabaab from Middle and Lower Juba regions and drive it from Kismayo. Once this is achieved, the combined forces will ask AMISOM to take over control of Kismayo, underlining the prospect of the Security Council to reconsider re-hatting AMISOM as a proper UN peacekeeping force and upgrading its numbers to the required 20,000. It would make obvious sense to hand matters over to the UN as soon as AMISOM can provide some real degree of stabilization outside Mogadishu. President Farole of Puntland recently suggested he would like to see AMISOM in Garowe as well. Any expansion AMISOM activities would also speed up the deployment of the promised contingents from Djibouti and Sierra Leone to bring AMISOM close to its mandated 12,000 strength.
Somaliland’s President visits Addis Ababa
Somaliland’s President Ahmed Mohamed ‘Silanyo’ was in Addis Ababa this week en route to the United Kingdom. He held talks with Prime Minister Meles on bilateral and regional concerns on Monday. Discussions covered issues of peace and security and the issue of piracy in the Indian Ocean. Prime Minister Meles praised Somaliland’s commitment to fight piracy and terrorism and said Ethiopia was determined to work with Somaliland to ensure peace and stability in their border areas. President Silanyo said Somaliland was working to enhance its relations with Ethiopia which he described as “in good shape”. He also told journalists after the meeting that his government had arrested dozens of suspected pirates and terrorists. Indeed, according to Somaliland’s Minister for Mining and Energy, Hussein Abdi Dualeh, talking about Somaliland’s hydrocarbon potential at the Africa Oil Week series of conferences in South Africa, there are over a hundred pirates in Somaliland’s prisons.
Pirates, together with drought, famine refugees, violence and terrorism, are the images that spring to most people’s minds in considering the Horn of Africa. But, as President Silanyo said in an article entitled “The Other Horn of Africa” last month, “such perceptions are not only tragically one-sided; they are short-sighted and dangerous.” President Silanyo noted that behind the stock images of a region trapped in chaos and despair, economies were growing; reform was expanding and governance improving. He pointed out that Somaliland had now had three consecutive fair, free and contested presidential elections, and that Ethiopia had emerged as “one of the world’s fastest growing economies, with GDP up 10.9% year on year in 2010-2011, rivalling China and leading Africa.” He also noted that things were looking up in the wider region with South Sudan’s independence through the ballot box, and Uganda’s oil and gas discoveries would help to lift its economy. President Silanyo said all this reflected the fact that the people of the region were no longer willing to be passive victims of fate and a harsh environment. They were determined to shape their destinies through modernization, investment and improved governance. They were also learning to cooperate and align their interests.
President Silanyo made it clear that the region still needed to benefit from international assistance. This might involve food and medicine for victims of drought or famine, but more important in the longer-term were pro-growth investments to provide jobs and products and resources for the world. It was necessary to focus on promoting market economies and stable government. In this respect, he underlined the claims of Somaliland to international recognition. Somaliland was certainly steadily deepening its democracy but despite this it was getting only a fraction of the aid and development assistance of Somalia because of the lack of recognition. He added that its successful democratic experiment was being ignored because of an outdated ruling about colonial boundaries – and President Silanyo referred to the 2005 report by Patrick Mazimhaka, a former deputy chairman of the African Union which cast serious doubt on the application of this rule to Somaliland. He suggested three basic principles for allowing a people be able to declare their independence and gain international recognition: secession should not result from foreign intervention, and the barriers for recognizing secession must be high; independence should be recognized only if a clear majority (well over 50%-plus-one of the voters) freely choose such an option in an unbiased referendum; and that all minorities must be guaranteed decent treatment. Somaliland, he said, fulfilled all these as well as other criteria.
President Silanyo emphasized that the national interest of most of the world’s powers required a Somaliland that was prepared and able to provide security along its borders and off shore. Somaliland was willing to do this, he pointed out, but it needed “the tools and the international recognition so that we can finish the job.”
A Sudanese donation for Ethiopian development
A high-level Ethiopian delegation, led by the Minister of Water and Energy, Ato Alemayehu Tegenu, was in Sudan last week. During a three day working visit, the minister had an audience with President Omar Al Bashir and held talks with Sudan’s Minister of Electricity and Dams, Osama Abdullah, and visited the Meroe Dam as well as State and Atbara dams and the Roseiris Dam on the Nile. President Omar Al Bashir stressed the importance of co-ordination between Sudan and Ethiopia in order to boost development and the minister’s visit was marked by Sudan’s support for development efforts in Ethiopia with the donation of about 170 million birr worth of machinery to assist hydropower projects in Ethiopia. Minister Alemayheu welcomed the gift and said Ethiopia was looking forward to launch regional cooperation serving the interests of Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt. Sudan’s Minister of Electricity and Dams welcomed the start of joint cooperation and noted that the 100MW power network link between Ethiopia and Sudan should be completed by the end of the year.
The visit of Minister Alemayheu is an important step paving the way for the establishment of a Tripartite Technical Committee to look into concerns over the Grand Renaissance Dam on the Nile. The Committee will comprise experts from Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan as well as others from well known international institutions to evaluate the impact of the dam whose construction has already started a few months ago. Egypt and Ethiopia agreed in September to convene the committee.
Ethiopia has made clear from the start that the Renaissance Dam is purely to generate electricity. It has also given its assurance that the dam will not be used to irrigate agricultural land or be used for projects that could cause any harm to the lower riparian countries that share the Nile River. This visit and discussions between the officials of the two countries as well as the commitment of the government of Sudan to assist development projects underway in Ethiopia underlines the maturity of the relationship. The establishment of the Tripartite Committee will provide a clear vision of the benefits of the dam. It will increase trust among the states involved and contribute to understanding of the fundamental principle of Ethiopia’s policy – mutual benefit for all the riparian countries.
The relationship between Ethiopia and Sudan demonstrates a significant degree of interdependence and could be seen as exemplary for the Horn of Africa region and more widely. Understanding the huge potential for joint natural resource management and agricultural investment projects as well as for the free exchange of goods and services along the more than thousand kilometre-long border, both countries are steadily working to strengthen their relationship to provide mutual benefit.
One aspect of this has been recognition of the indispensable role that peace and security in the region has for harnessing the potential of both states and in many different sectors. Ethiopia strongly supports the need for peace in Sudan and following the conclusion of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, it intensified its effort to maintain cordial relationships with both the Sudan and South Sudan. This commitment has been manifested through the deployment of a peace keeping force in the Abyei Region of Sudan. The Government of Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan signed the Addis Ababa Agreement on Abyei, on June 20th. The main objective of this was to ensure that the area should be free from any military activity until properly demarcated, and it called for the deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping mission with troops from Ethiopia, as a country trusted by both parties.
Ethiopia quickly started to deploy the peacekeeping force; this is expected to reach its total of 4,500 troops shortly. Ethiopia’s commitment to the peace, security and development of Sudan is not restricted to the deployment of peacekeeping troops to Sudan. The two countries have close people-to-people relations, and as they share so long a border there are huge opportunities to share socio-economic developments. There is a mutually beneficial relationship in terms of trade and investment, communication and transport. Sudan is the leading African destination for Ethiopian exports. The road links between the two countries have been greatly improved and Ethiopia imports its petrol from the Sudan. Sudan also supplies various other industrial products to Ethiopia. The completion of the power networking project at the end of the year will underline these links.
Eritrea’s response to the UN Monitoring Group’s Report
The Government of Eritrea is currently involved in a considerable campaign to try to distract attention from its long-term behaviour and avoid the imposition of further sanctions by the United Nations Security Council. President Isaias has been on a diplomatic offensive for several months now, even asking to address the UN Security Council which he normally excoriates as a US puppet.
One of the latest chapters in this effort is the more than fifty pages described as Eritrea’s Response to the Report of the Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group. That report, of course, detailed Eritrea’s involvement in a wide array of activities aimed at destabilizing the Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu and in support of terrorists and extremists in Somalia, as well as other actions aimed against Ethiopia and Djibouti. However, the Eritrean response is not just an attempt to rebut the UN report point by point, as the Eritrean regime's foreign ministry promises; it is also an attempt to produce an image of Eritrea entirely different from the one of which most people are aware. It is not a picture that other states in the region can easily recognize.
Indeed, in this document the Government of Eritrea portrays itself as the only power in the Horn of Africa (and indeed more widely) that has been working for peace and stability in the region, consistently prepared “to go against the international current to publicly pronounce its views and opinions with honesty and candour”. Its regional policy has been “squarely and firmly rooted on promoting a conducive environment of good neighbourliness and cooperation.” It identifies Eritrea's politics as the envy of the world. Its economic system is the most effective and efficient, lifting Eritreans out of poverty and setting them on the path to development and prosperity. The claimed policy of self-reliance has more than proved its value, but it has also brought about the antagonism of the world’s major powers towards the government and people of Eritrea.
All this is detailed without any sign of irony or cynicism, and at the same time the Eritrean penchant for the superlative is given full rein in the part of the response defining what the statement calls the fundamental pillars of Eritrea's foreign policy. Without even the faintest satirical indication these are defined as the cultivation of peaceful relations with all its neighbors; the promotion of development at home; and the pursuit of peace and stability throughout the region. It seems the government in Asmara is seriously trying to pretend that it hasn’t heard any of the numerous, and factually accurate, reports that have been levelled against it in the last few years, and against which this response is supposed to be directed. This is, after all, a regime that has literally gone to war with all its neighbors at various times and which has consistently armed, trained and supported opposition forces in Sudan, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Somalia. It suggests a quite extraordinary degree of self-delusion from a regime that has embroiled itself in conflict throughout the region.
It also underlines the point that this Response to the Report of the Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group is less an attempt to provide a detailed critique of the report than in detailing its own claims about the right paths and choices taken and made in apparently trying to bring about peace throughout the region despite the contrary efforts of all the other countries around. It becomes rather a game of trading allegations and recriminations.
The response does also make some effort to address some of the specific charges made by the UN Monitoring Group, but one example is essentially sufficient to demonstrate the style of the replies. Addressing the Monitoring Group’s detailed evidence for the plot to bomb Addis Ababa during the AU Summit in January, the statement claims, correctly, that one of the officers identified as Eritrean was in fact a member of the Oromo Liberation Front. It then adds that this was ample proof that the plot could not be the work of the Eritrean regime. In fact, it hardly proves anything of the kind if only because that officer was feted in Asmara for his efforts to destabilize the government of Ethiopia. Nor does the point address the fact that the Monitoring Group also produced specific details of training in Eritrea and of direct phone links between those involved in the plot and Eritrean intelligence officers. These same intelligence officers were also involved in training of other opposition groups in Ethiopia, Somalia and Djibouti.
The technique involved in this response is the one usually employed by the Eritrean government. It concentrates on minor possible inconsistencies or exaggerations to try to create the impression that the report as a whole should be dismissed as implausible. It did this of course with an earlier Monitoring Group Report, picking up on the claim that there were 2,000 Eritrean troops in Somalia in 2006. These, in fact, included several hundred OLF and over a thousand ONLF fighters who had been trained in Eritrea and who had been sent down to Somalia during the year. There they joined numbers of Eritrean military involved in training of the ICU. The intention was that they should be infiltrated into Ethiopia by arrangement with the Islamic Courts Union.
Being able to pick up on a minor error or two doesn’t, of course, negate the details of all the numerous other charges nor does it weaken the details of the convincing evidence provided or the overall conclusions. The other approach that the Eritrean regime adopts, and has again done so here, is either to simply ignore anything to which it cannot find a response or alternatively just repeatedly deny the evidence. Neither actually amounts to a credible response. The evidence, as we have noted before, is quite simply so irrefutable that no acrobatic semantics can detract from its veracity.
One other point might be made. The Response claims that if December 2009, when the Security Council Resolution 1907 was adopted, is taken as the reference, then “the conclusion that Eritrea is not in any violation of Resolution 1907 is starkly clear.” By this it means that much of the evidence produced by the Monitoring Group pre-dates December 2009 and therefore Eritrea should not be classified as violating 1907. Given that some of these details actually involve payments made through the Eritrean embassy in Nairobi to people affiliated to Al-Shabaab, this appears to be somewhat specious. More relevant, of course, is the fact that much of the Monitoring Group evidence does actually post-date December 2009.
In one seemingly innocuous remark, the Response claims that Eritrea is not in violation of Resolution 1907, and adds that “much that is positive has taken place since then”, including Eritrea’s acceptance of Qatar mediation for its problem with Djibouti and Eritrea’s agreement to redeploy its troops. One might add that for most of the last two years Eritrea has resolutely denied it has had any problem with Djibouti or that its troops ever crossed the Djibouti border. Now, it seems that there was a problem and that Eritrea has acknowledged it. Equally, one might note that if there has been significant and positive progress since Resolution 1907 was passed, then logically it appears there had been earlier problems. It would be rash to assume that this is an admission though it certainly appears to be one. Equally, it underlines the fact that the Government of Eritrea does appear to respond to firmness when action is finally taken. We would suggest that is a lesson of which the international community should take note.
Ethiopia and Djibouti Joint Border Committee meets
The 17th session of the Ethiopia-Djibouti Joint Border Administrators and Commissioners Committee took place in Dikhil, Djibouti, from 27th-29th October. The Ethiopian delegation was led by Ato Mulugeta Mekonnen, Director of the Main Department for Immigration and Nationality Affairs; and Djibouti’s delegation by Mr. Ibrahim Soubaneh, acting Secretary-General of the Ministry of Interior. Opening the meeting, Mr. Soubaneh emphasized the excellent relations between the two countries and hoped the deliberations of the meeting would contribute to these. He noted that President Ismail Omar Guelleh, and Prime Minister Meles had laid the foundation for a strong and solid relationship based on mutual benefit and respect. Ato Mulugeta emphasized the existing excellent relations and the commitment of the Ethiopian delegation to work together successfully with its Djiboutian counterpart.
Discussions covered the activities of the joint border sub-committees dealing with the areas of Galafi-Hawili and Galile-Dewale, border security, the movement of people across the border including both pastoralists and tourists, the transport of goods, illegal migration and human trafficking, both contraband and official cross-border trade, human and animal health and other areas. Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to support and encourage the activities of the joint border sub-committees in order to make the common border area a place of peace. Both parties expressed concern about illegal cross-border migration and human trafficking. The Ethiopian delegation explained the measures taken in collaboration with the security forces to control and prevent illegal migration. It noted that several Ethiopians had been turned back while trying to enter Djibouti illegally, and a number of human traffickers had been brought to justice. A national committee, made up of the relevant federal and regional bodies had also been set up to work to prevent the movement of illegal cross-border migrants. Both sides agreed to redouble their efforts to solve the problem in collaboration with other partners.
Underlining concern of the effect of contraband trade and smuggling on the national economy of both Ethiopia and Djibouti, the two delegations agreed to finalize the pending draft border trade protocol. The objective of this is to facilitate the availability of consumer goods for the people residing on both sides of the border and minimize the effect of smuggling.
The meeting also discussed a range of additional issues of common interest including human and animal health and cross-border bus transport as well as agriculture and livestock. It was agreed that the next meeting of the committee should be held in Dire Dawa, in Ethiopia, in six months. During their visit, the Ethiopian delegation also went to the port area of Djibouti and the site of the future port of Tadjourah.
The Joint Border Administrators and Commissioners’ Committee was established in July 1985. It has responsibility for evaluating and settling issues related to border security, the smooth movement of people and goods across the border and covers such additional issues as animal and plant health and immigration with the aim of encouraging the levels of cooperation between Ethiopia and Djibouti.
Second annual meeting of the African Leadership Network
Under the theme of “Powering Africa’s Prosperity”, three hundred members of the African Leadership Network (ALN) reconvened in the Sheraton Hotel, Addis Ababa, October 26th-29th. Those present included ALN fellows, new members and invited guests. The African Leadership Network was officially inaugurated last year in Addis Ababa and during the year it has attracted an additional one hundred members, nearly a third of them women, from some 35 countries. Ethiopians make up about four percent of the membership. The African Leadership Network has its main offices in South Africa and a significant number of its members come from the southern part of the continent.
The African Leadership Network was co-founded by Acha Leke, from Cameroon, and Fred Swaniker, from Ghana. Both successful young entrepreneurs, they came up with the visionary idea of creating a platform for the influential and dynamic men and women who are poised to lead a positive transformation of the continent. The African Leadership Network, in fact, aims to engage the collective influence of Africa’s new generation of leaders to drive prosperity throughout Africa. It was in this spirit that a number of topical issues that concern the continent were raised and debated in an atmosphere of solidarity last week. The conference was also accompanied by a series of innovative artistic examples of African music and entertainment.
The sessions covered a variety of subjects ranging from a show case of “Investment Opportunities in Ethiopia” to “Presentation of IMF Sub-Saharan Africa Economic Outlook”, “China in Africa”, “Powerful Ideas for Transforming Africa” and “Capturing Opportunities in Africa”. A keynote speech was given by Dr. Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank, focusing on critical issues in Africa’s development, including economic growth, governance and leadership, and stressing the need for functional institutional building as the main manifestation of good leadership. An important element of the conference was the provision of opportunities for networking, allowing entrepreneurs from all over the continent not only to share ideas but also to forge new partnerships that will play a major role in driving the future prosperity of Africa. It was a gathering that demonstrated the vigour of renewed optimism for the continent and it was symptomatic that it was held in Addis Ababa, the seat of the African Union Headquarters and the diplomatic center of Africa.
At a dinner held in the National Palace to honour the members of African Leadership Network, Ato Hailemariam Desalegn, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, spoke of the elements on which Ethiopia’s Growth and Transformation Plan is based, in the context of the global environment and the plans to increase the country’s industry and infrastructural development. The recently launched Ethiopia-Djibouti hydro-power interconnection was mentioned as an encouraging beginning, demonstrating Ethiopia’s commitment and its actual and potential contributions to larger regional economic integration.
It is clear that new initiatives like the African Leadership Network have an important role to play in facilitating the interaction of African skills and knowledge to solve the common problems and challenges of the continent. Proven leaders from all walks of life and in every domain can readily engage with each other and provide the necessary leverage for collective influence and action. It is a valuable mechanism to strengthen pan-African relationships as well as cross-sector and cross-industry links. The African Leadership Network concluded its successful four day deliberations on cooperation for a common agenda – “Powering Africa’s Prosperity” on Saturday. Its next meeting will take place in Accra, Ghana, in 2012.
Ms. Bruton: now its “earned engagement” not “constructive disengagement”
Two years ago Ms. Bronwyn Bruton, an International Affairs Fellow of the Council of Foreign Relations, and previously at the National Endowment for Democracy, came up with a nice catchy, if essentially meaningless phrase to provide a solution to resolve supposed US policy dilemmas towards the problems of Somalia: “constructive disengagement”. Ms. Bruton defined this as a strategy in which the international community would extricate itself from Somali politics but continue to provide development and humanitarian aid and conduct the occasional Special Forces raid against terrorists. This hardly helpful and certainly impractical suggestion was later glossed to suggest that the US might pursue development efforts in Somalia without any regard to governance, co-operating pragmatically with any group that promised to peacefully deliver benefits to the public – virtually redefining the suggestion as one of “constructive re-engagement”.
Undaunted by the lack of response, and now apparently feeling it might even be impolitic, Ms. Bruton has made another effort, this time, together with Dr. Peter Pham, coming up with “earned engagement’. Ms. Bruton is currently the deputy director of the Michael S. Ansari Africa Center of the Atlantic Council, of which Dr. Peter Pham is the Director. She is also a fellow at the One Earth Future Foundation. “Earned engagement” is defined as allowing “the United States [to] engage Somali leaders instrumentally, agnostic in regard to the identity of the potential winners and losers. The various Somali actors – governmental entities, regional authorities, clans and civil society organizations – would be accorded equal access to international resources, but only to the extent that they prove themselves capable of meeting defined benchmarks and of absorbing the assistance that would be provided for relief and development.” This would allow for anyone, including Al-Shabaab leaders who renounced Al Qaeda, in effect “to earn aid by proving their legitimacy with constituents.” Ms. Bruton and Dr. Pham apparently believe this differs from the previous “building block”, “bottom-up” approaches, claiming that it would put the onus on Somalis themselves to create the sort of structures that would suit them without US, or other, pressure.
Ms. Bruton has also just produced another paper, “Twenty Years of Collapse and Counting: The Cost of Failure in Somalia”, this time co-authored with John Norris, from the Center for American Progress and previously with the Enough Project directed by John Prendergast. Enough, a part of the CAP, is an advocacy organization which concentrates on attracting celebrity support for its activities on Darfur, South Sudan, Eastern Congo, northern Uganda and Somalia. “Twenty Years of Collapse” is an attempt to provide estimates of the costs of the problems of Somalia in the last twenty years. Overall these are put at up to1.5 million lives and a cost of $55 billion, a figure which includes an international bill for piracy at $22 billion, humanitarian and development aid at $13 billion, $800 million for the cost of AMISOM deployment, and another $444 million for the cost of the military involvement of neighboring countries.
We haven’t the time or space to question how these figures were reached though Ms. Bruton and Mr. Norris do say that they use “a variety of official and unofficial sources and some educated guesswork”. They also refer to “the profound lack of reliable data”. This in fact is underlined by their figures for AMISOM casualties. They estimate that Uganda and Burundi troops have suffered 750 fatalities since the start of AMISOM. The real figure, as of August this year, was 335. In this context, the authors also conflated figures from Somaliland with the estimates from the rest of the former Somali state. This, for example, has the effect of obscuring the virtual absence of development funding from southern Somalia by incorporating recent increases in such funding in Somaliland. Indeed, overall, the figures suggested by Ms. Bruton and Mr. Norris should be treated with great care. They must remain no more than ‘guesswork”, educated or not. In fact, they are all-too-often assertions rather than reliable estimates.
Their conclusion, not surprisingly, is that conflicts in Somalia must be approached through “sensible long-term strategies rather than knee-jerk responses.” No one would surely disagree but the question remains: can either “constructive disengagement” or “earned engagement’ be classified as sensible long-tern strategies. Indeed, whatever strategies the experts and analysts come up with (and what about Somalis themselves?), the central point is surely that they must be based on accurate information and factual analysis of recent events and the current situation. Analysts, for example, often put forward suggestions for “talking to moderate elements in Al-Shabaab” as if they are offering something new or unique. They appear unaware of the fact that this is something that the TFG has frequently tried to initiate only to come against the intransigence of the international elements of Al-Shabaab. Ethiopia before it intervened in Somalia (at the TFG’s request in 2006) made serious efforts to talk to the Islamic Courts Union to pre-empt the ICU’s stated attempts to reactivate Somali irredentism and involvement in Ethiopia’s Somali Regional State. It encouraged the TFG and the ICU to hold talks in Khartoum, and itself had eight meetings with the ICU to try and avoid conflict. The first meetings with the ICU made considerable progress but after Sheikh Hassan Dahir ‘Aweys’ and other hardliners seized control of the ICU in June 2006 it became steadily clearer that no accommodation was possible, either between the TFG and the ICU or between the ICU and Ethiopia. This has some relevance in light of Kenya’s current involvement in the trans-Juba regions.
In one of her papers, Ms. Bruton notes that it is important “to understand the motivations and interests of those actors who benefit from Somalia’s continuing misery and statelessness.” She lists arms traders, smugglers, local warlords, and others. Others, of course, include the leaders of Al-Shabaab and other extremist organizations, political leaders, clan and religious elders, businessmen, and humanitarian and advocacy organizations as well as regional states whose interests vary from Eritrea’s deliberate and continued efforts to use extremism in Somalia to destabilize Ethiopia to Ethiopia’s own interests in seeing a functional Somali state which might put an end to cross border incursions and the influx of refugees. It would, for example, certainly help if analysts could make a realistic effort to understand the policies of both Ethiopia and Eritrea towards Somalia, and refrain, as Ms. Bruton does, from parroting claims that Ethiopia “invaded” Somalia in December 2006 at the instigation of the US, destroying the stability that the ICU had established over much of the country, that Ethiopian involvement was primarily responsible for the appearance of Al-Shabaab, and that Al-Shabaab drove the Ethiopian forces out in 2009.
Equally misleading and unhelpful is Ms. Burton’s view that Eritrea and Ethiopia “are mired in a long-standing border dispute” and that Somalia has served as a “proxy battlefield” for the two countries. It is true that the war between Eritrea and Ethiopia broke out in 1998 when Eritrea invaded Ethiopia to seize the border town of Badme and that Eritrea has subsequently repeatedly claimed that all its efforts at destabilizing Ethiopia (and other countries in the region) are related to its claims that Ethiopia refuses to accept the border demarcation. Ms. Bruton, however, should certainly be aware of the fact that Ethiopia has accepted the border demarcation (in November 2004), and Eritrea’s continued refusal to hold a dialogue with Ethiopia to normalize relations makes it clear that the border is not the issue. It has become very obvious that the core of the problem lies in the continued aggression of Eritrea against Sudan, Yemen, Djibouti and Ethiopia and its repeated efforts to destabilize the whole region of the Horn of Africa.
Currently, the humanitarian situation remains the overriding issue, but Somalia also remains a matter of major long-term concern for both the international community and the IGAD states. Ms. Bruton is quite right to underline the critical need for a realistic response. But we would return to one central point. Whatever is suggested needs to be based on accurate perception of events in the region. When talking at Chatham House a year and a half ago, Ms. Bruton said analysts and experts as well as governments should be aware that they had the power to do harm. This is a thought that has considerable resonance. Analysts and commentators in the US and Europe all too often seem to forget that Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda have long been in the front line against terrorist activity emanating from Somalia. All have suffered severely from terrorist activity. They have better reasons than most for wanting to put an end to this scourge and to put a stop to the support Al-Shabaab has been receiving externally. With Al-Shabaab in disarray, the TFG now has the opportunity to demonstrate it can govern effectively. Others can do no more than help and advise, they cannot dictate. It is Somalis who have to come up with the options and the will to provide solutions and structures to resolve the fragmentation into which Somalia has descended. Any engagement or disengagement – earned or constructive - should bear that in mind.
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