Special Commentary |
Meles, out of Somalia!
Ethiomedia | May 27, 2008
Let’s get our facts straight! Ethiopia never invaded Somalia. Meles Zenawi did! Without public debate or discussion. On his own initiative, and by is own diktat. Last year, the former Ethiopian president Dr. Negasso Giddada expressed his bewilderment over Meles’ invasion: “Somalia is not a threat to Ethiopia. The Somalis didn’t attack us, so why are we fighting them?” Since December 2006, Ethiopians have been asking one simple question: Why did Meles invade and continues to occupy Somalia in the name of Ethiopia?
This past week, Meles imperiously boasted to his rubber-stamp parliament, “When we exit from Somalia, it will be at the time when we are convinced that there is no imminent danger to our country.” He declared with his usual dismissive arrogance, mendacity and trademark warped logic, that his “forces did not enter Somalia to control the country, but to make sure that extremist forces will not be in power in that country.” Of course, back in 2006, he told us he was “invited by the Somali government” and will be out of Somalia in a jiffy after he flushes out the “terrorists”, two weeks max. Now the self-appointed Cop of the Horn of Africa says he wants to “make sure extremist forces will not be in power” in Somalia. Obviously, he has cleaned out all of the terrorists.
The reason seems obvious. Meles is hoping that if he talks his usual nonsense about Somalia, Ethiopians will somehow be distracted and not ask questions (and hopefully forget) about the dire economic situation in the country, the galloping inflation that has reduced even middle class people to poverty and the completely depleted public treasury. Meles is trying to drape over what is shaping to be a famine of apocalyptic proportions in Ethiopia. On May 21, CNN reported, under the photograph of a 3-year-old child who weighs only 10 (ten) pounds1:
Drought is especially disastrous in Ethiopia because more than 80 percent of people live off the land, and agriculture drives the economy, accounting for half of all domestic production and 85 percent of exports. But many also go hungry because of government policies. Ethiopia's government buys all crops from farmers at fixed low prices. And the government owns all the land, so it cannot be used as collateral for loans. (Emphasis added.)
Back to Somalia. Meles said he will not get out of Somalia until he is “convinced” there is no “imminent danger to our country”. What in the world is he talking about? “Imminent danger” is a principle of international law used to justify state action under Article 51 of the U.N. Charter, which sanctions the “inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs” or is imminently likely to occur. Simply stated, when a country is actually attacked or an attack upon it is objectively “imminent”, it can act “preemptively” (preventively) in (anticipatory) self-defense. Meles’ claim of “imminent danger” has no basis in international law. The principle of “imminent danger” has been in use since 1837 when British troops attacked the American ship Caroline. Accordingly, “imminent danger” as a basis for a justified self-defense requires the existence of objective danger to a nation that is “instant, overwhelming, and leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation.”
The fact of the matter is that Somalia as a “failed state” in December 2006, or since the downfall of the Barré regime in 1991, posed a danger only to itself through internecine clan warfare. No Somali troops attacked Ethiopia or occupied Ethiopian territory. Somali clan leaders were too busy fighting each other to be concerned about waging war on Ethiopia. Meles has presented no evidence whatsoever to support his raison d’etre in Somalia: Not a single one of the alleged 8,000 plus Al-Qaeda terrorists was ever apprehended and brought to justice.
But if we follow the Meles Doctrine of Imminent Danger to its logical conclusion, it will mean two things: 1) Meles can claim a legal right to impose perpetual occupation on Somalia since he is the sole determiner of what constitutes “extremist forces” and the “imminent danger” they pose to Ethiopia, and 2) he is legally entitled to defend against “imminent danger” by means of indiscriminate killings and use of violence against the civilian population, torture, rape, pillage, displacement of civilian population. Under the Meles doctrine, the war crimes documented by the U.N Secretary General's new representative for Somalia including “killing of civilians, which are arbitrary and disproportionate, arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial executions, and disappearance of civilians” would all be legally justified tools of self-defense for as long as the Somali occupation continues. Phrase-mongering and legal platitudes offer no defense to a legally indefensible and morally repugnant policy of intervention, occupation and destruction of a neighboring country.
Ironically and unwittingly, Meles has made the perfect case of self-defense for Somali leaders such as Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, the head of the Islamic Courts, who recently told the Guardian newspaper:
“Our plan is to continue the struggle. It is important to expel the enemy from all areas. We don't want a fight to the death. We don't want to kill all the Ethiopian soldiers. We want to save them. We want them to leave.”
Aweys is arguing a classic case of self-defense under international law and the U.N Charter. He does “not want to kill Ethiopian soldiers”, or have a war without end with Ethiopia. He does not want to cross into Ethiopian territory and attack Ethiopians. He just “wants Ethiopian troops to leave” Somalia. By far a superior and convincing self-defense argument under international law than Meles’ ludicrous claim of permanent occupation of a sovereign country by a contrived doctrine of “imminent danger."
No Exit Strategy, No Victory Strategy
What is Meles’ policy goal in Somalia (assuming he has one)? Disarming and pacifying the Islamic Courts? Catching the invisible Al Qaeda terrorists? Does he realize there is a growing and well-organized insurgency against his occupation forces?
The fact of the matter is that Meles is in Somalia because he does not have an exit or victory strategy for his private war. What he is really saying in his hollow “imminent danger” argument is simply this: “I don’t have an exit strategy. I ‘miscalculated’ in invading Somalia. Now, I don’t know how to get out. I don’t know what to do, and the war keeps dragging on. I am stuck. Nothing is working. But my big ego does not allow me to admit I made a colossal blunder, and just get out. I am incapable of admitting wrong because that would be a sign of weakness, my opposition will exploit to the hilt. So, I will continue to sacrifice the lives of Ethiopia’s young men and waste its precious resources for a war and occupation that will have no end as long as I remain in power.”
Meles does not have a victory strategy either. There are no Al-Qaeda terrorists to defeat. Only a homegrown insurgency (that strikes against its occupiers on a daily basis) against occupation, and millions of defenseless civilians gripped by famine, war and disease. Now after a year and a half, Meles is looking for victory by defeating the whole of the Somali people. That victory could only come through the destruction and subjugation of the Somali people and the reduction of Somalia to a client state of Meles, Inc. But that is pure fantasy! Meles will never be able to subjugate the Somali people. NEVER! They will fight for liberation from occupation. In the end, they will win.
Meles’ End Game
Meles knows he is deep doo-doo. In Somalia and in Ethiopia. He miscalculated badly in Somalia. He thought he could outfox the cunning Somali clan leaders. He could not. His blitzkrieg into Somalia may have satisfied his ego initially, but it has not secured victory or stability in Somalia. In his war against imaginary terrorists and extremists, he has managed to displace over one half of the Somali population creating an unspeakable humanitarian crises in the Horn of Africa. His military policy has ignited Somali nationalism and a growing insurgency, and his troops control and maintain a presence in just a few areas. His “diplomacy” has failed to produce any political progress as no Somali believes his “transitional government” stooges have any credibility.
If Meles wants to win in Somalia, he can do it very easily: Just get the hell out! Let the Somalis solve their own problems. Only Somalis can solve the problems of Somalis. If he gets out, it may open the way for international mediation and peacekeeping efforts in Somalia under the auspices of the African Union, the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Conference, the United Nations or some other regional entity and stabilize the country and control the long-simmering clan conflict. But it's abundantly clear that Meles can not dictate or impose a Pax Meles on the Somali people.
Meles’ dark vision of a military commitment and victory in Somalia based on a ridiculous doctrine of “imminent danger” is self-delusion. The Somali war was lost on the first day of Meles’ invasion of Somalia. Prolonging the war and occupation for another two, five or ten years will not bring Meles victory or reginal stability, only certain defeat at the hands of a unified Somali nationalist insurgency. It will also mean more young Ethiopian lives lost, more precious resources wasted and chronic regional instability.
We believe Meles’ insistence on continuing his private war and occupation of Somalia is the height of depraved irresponsibility and a criminal and immoral sacrifice of Ethiopian and Somali lives in pursuit of unachievable and fanciful goals. There is no doubt that one day Meles will atone for his illegal invasion of Somalia, and for the humanitarian catastrophe his invasion and continued occupation has caused in that poor country. Meles’ occupation of Somalia must end NOW. We believe that a complete withdrawal of Meles’ troops, carried out as quickly as possible, is the best course of action for Ethiopia, and in its highest national interest. As to Meles, he is the only “imminent danger” to Somalia and Ethiopia. Meles, out of Somalia! Meles, out of Ethiopia!
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