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Ethiopian “Mirages” In The Horn Of Africa”

Reprinted: Ogaden Online Published this Article on Dec 08, 2001

The desert plains of the Horn of Africa are full of instances where nomadic peoples traveling in long caravans see an oasis in the distance and rush toward it only to realize it was a mere desert vision, a trick on the eyes caused by the interaction of rising heat from the ground with the cooler air above.

So real are these visions that from a distance thinks he can see ripples on the water surface increasing the anticipation of cool water just waiting to be leaped into.

The dry lands of politics also has it’s own visions which appear so real from a distance but disappear upon further inspection. The difference in politics is that these visions are not naturally occurring, but man made.

Case in point: Ethiopia as partner in the War on Terrorism.

From a distance Addis is a staunch ally, a dependable one. From a distance, Ethiopia is a front line state in the war on terrorism. From a distance, Ethiopia has implemented a crack down on terrorist financial networks. From a distance, Ethiopia started several years ago it’s own war on terrorism.

But only at a distance.

Approach the pleasant vision of a genuinely eager ally and further scrutiny will reveal some interesting truths.

The war on terrorism could not have come at a better time for the beleaguered EPRDF/TPLF regime in Addis Ababa. Like a drowning swimmer tossed a life preserver, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister did not hesitate to leap towards this floating ring in the hopes that it will prevent his regime from going under and being covered by the waves of history.

But this swimmer is not only concerned with staying alive. Even as he paddles his feet towards the raft he sees an opportunity.

Put simply, in one blow, EPRDF/TPLF wishes not only to survive, but to emerge the dominant force in the Horn of Africa.

Quick thinking on the part of the ruling clique in Addis hatches a simple plan in which the EPRDF/TPLF seeks to do the following

  1. Portray Ethiopia as Indispensable to counter terrorism efforts in the Horn of Africa
  2. Paint Ethiopia’s neighbor’s (Somalia most of all) as zest pools of terrorist activity.
  3. Ensure resulting actions (preferably military) coincide exactly with Ethiopian strategic interest’s in the region.
  4. While this is going on, use additional foreign military and economic assistance, which is sure to come, to eliminate internal dissent within the EPRDF and systematically crack down on free political expression.

When we consider what is at stake for Ethiopia, it is no surprise that the Zenawi clique has fallen over themselves trying to recast the Horn of Africa as the world next battle front on terrorism (with Ethiopia being the favorite prize fighter in this match).

In doing so Melez Zenaawi is making the age old mistake that dictators and tyrants have made since the beginnings of an organized state structure. He is relying on the often tried remedies of focusing the his people’s attention on external events (war with Eritrea, Military operations against Al-Itihaad in Somalia) and relying on outside assistance as a reward for enthusiastically supporting the war on terrorism.

This formula of directing public attention outward and relying on external support to stay in power seems to be what Melez Zenaawi views as his ticket to longevity.

While some western capitals may be content with this for now, others will be sure to realize that their best defense against evils of terrorism is not by propping up a secular terrorist to fight religious zealots, but rather by promoting democracy, which history has proven, is always the best option to defeat fascism and extremism of any sort.

What the Horn of Africa needs is not more powerful propped up government’s in support of the war on terrorism because those government’s will simply not be sustainable.

What the Horn of Africa needs instead is more powerful people who by virtue of democracy, really do have something to lose if a free society anywhere is threatened by terrorism.

While the world should seek the fullest cooperation possible with nation states in the war on terrorism and the countries in the Horn of Africa are no exception. We must realize that at the end of the day, Melez Zenaawi is still a dictator and his continued rule guarantees that the Ethiopian people will continue to worry more about his security forces knocking on their door, than they will about Al-Qaeda and their mass murdering foot soldiers.

Its up to policy makers from democratic nations to recognize that this picture can not serve their interest’s to spread freedom and free markets in the Horn of Africa.

In a recent interview with AL-Zaman newspaper, Prime Minster Melez Zenaawi said “Terrorism is the ideology of frustration and a by-product of poverty, repression or any other similar circumstances”

Assuming we agree wholeheartedly with the Prime Minister, what is our best tool to eliminate” poverty, repression and other similar circumstances” in Ethiopia. The EPRDF/TPLF or genuine Democracy ???. And if we choose Democracy, then what logic is there in embracing partnering with the EPRDF/TPLF.

At the end of the day, the peoples of the Horn will not just remember that this war on terrorism was fought, but they will remember HOW it was fought.

Let those of us who love liberty and are united in combating terrorism, speak out against the welcoming to our coalition of those who, not only do not share our respect for freedom, but actively seek to stifle free expression and democratic governance at every opportunity.

To do less than that, would be to betray the memory of the victims of terrorism the world over.

Ogaden Online Editorial
Dec 08, 2001

OGADEN: Ethiopia’s Hidden Shame


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