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Ethiopian unwarranted interference in Somali’s internal affairs

Somali Version::: Read Here.....
Abdirizak Haji Hussen | May 19, 2002

Abdirizak Haji Hussen [Somalia PM 1964-67]
In the past five to six years, Meles Zenawi’s regime in Ethiopia has made no secret of its intentions to pursue Ethiopia’s centuries-old penchant for aggrandizement at the expense of its neighbors such as Somalia. Preceding Ethiopia emperors, such as Menelik II and Haile Selassie, lobbied European powers of the time to help them realize that dream. Owning to its religious affinity with the Christian Europe, those Ethiopian leaders felt that they could rightly expect and obtain such help.

In support of this argument, it might be pertinent to quote from the famous Circular letter dated April 10, 1891 that late Emperor Menelik II addressed to the European powers, more specifically to Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Russia. In this letter Menelik stated, inter-alia, “Ethiopia has been for fourteen centuries a Christian island in a sea of pagans”. Elsewhere in the same circular letter, Menelik had this to say “…. formerly the boundary of Ethiopia was the sea and having lacked strength sufficient, and having received no help from Christian powers our frontiers on the sea fell into the power of the Mussusulman”. This is not only the claim and ambition of Menelik/ Haile Selassie’s Ethiopia and designing plots and intrigues to accomplish the “ unfinished work”, namely territorial aggrandizement and access to sea at the expense of the Somali nation.

Pursuing this Ethiopian dream, Meles Zenawi is attempting to play the game with a more subtle and disguised approach in the belief that in doing so he could deftly execute his scheme of grabbing/absorbing Somalia or parts thereof. With that “ road-map” in view and taking advantage of Somalia’s current political crisis and given its long borders with Ethiopia, Mr. Zenawi’s new tactic is to, first, make sure that Somalia be seen, by foreign powers, as being in a sphere of Ethiopia’s influence, following in the classic foot-steps of old colonialist technique of playing- off one clan or group of clans against the others and, thereafter, easily penetrating, manipulating and, hence, laying the ground-work for the next decisive action, exactly as the European colonizers did during the “scramble for Africa” in late 19th century. “ The next decisive action” means; military occupation and annexation of part(s), if not the whole, of Somalia to the Ethiopian “ Empire”.

If that is not the case, why is the leader of Ethiopia so determined since 1996 to abort any efforts of reconciling Somali rival factions by taking hostage of some of these warlords, who are more often staying in Addis Ababa rather than in Somalia, and who obsequiously obey Meles Zenawi’s orders? This is one way for Zenawi to demonstrate and make foreign powers understand/appreciate that today’s Somalia is bound to be seen as an adjunct to being in Today’s Ethiopia.


Apart from this brief account of historical perspective, there are two fundamental issues that are still unsettled between Ethiopia and Somalia nation. One of these is the question of Somali irredentism in the Somali-inhabited region of Ogaden, which is under Ethiopian control. The destiny of the inhabitants of the region has been the bone of contention between the two countries. The demand by the people of this territory for the right to self-determination and the denial of this inalienable right by Ethiopia had been a source of constant uneasiness in the relations between Ethiopian and Somalia Republic, the latter, naturally, supporting that legitimate aspirations of their kith and kin in that region. This tension resulted in two wars in the 1960 and 1970s.


Maxamad Xaji Ibrahim Cigaal
26 Jun 1960 - 12 Jul 1960
Cabdirashiid Cali Sharmaarke
12 Jul 1960 - 14 Jun 1964
Cabdulrasaaq Xaji Xuseen
14 Jun 1964 - 15 Jul 1967
Maxamad Xaji Ibrahim Cigaal
15 Jul 1967 - 1 Nov 1969
Maxamad Siyaad Barre
1 Nov 1969 - Mar 1970
Maxamad Cali Samatar
1 Feb 1987 - 3 Sep 1990
Maxamad Xawaadle Madar
3 Sep 1990 - 24 Jan 1991
Cumar Carte Qaalib
24 Jan 1991 - 3 Jan 1997


As result of the present federal system of the Meles Zenawi’s Ethiopia, this Somali inhabited region is now said, on paper, to have become an “autonomous and self-ruling” entity. The actual reality on the ground is entirely a different story, as briefly recounted elsewhere in this paper. Because of this shrewdly planned and executed strategy of the myth of “regionalism and self ruling autonomy”, the inhabitants of this region (Ogaden) seem to have ingenuously been lured into this sugar-coated entrapment and thus neutralized at least for the moment. And thus the “irredentist issue” is nothing but a past history. In the course of struggle for the natural right and legitimate aspiration of the arbitrarily dismembered Somali nation to self-determination and independence, the future torch-bearers of the struggle will doubtless continue sustaining further set-backs and defeats in battle but, determined to fight for this just cause to the end, they will ultimately succeed in winning the final war.

The other issue is the unsettled boundaries between the two countries. This problem was the primary of the Italo-Ethiopian war of 1935-36, which culminated in the occupation of Ethiopian by Italy.

When the former Italian Somalia was placed under the U.N.’s Trusteeship System, with Italy as administering authority, in late 1949, the U.N. was fully ware of this unsettled border problem and urged those directly concerned- chiefly Italy and Ethiopia – to have it resolved well before this territory achieved independence.

Despite all the efforts made both by Italy and U.N., Somalia was to attain its independence in mid 1960s without having defined and secured borders with Ethiopia. This failure was due to Ethiopia’s obstructionist and filibustering tactics and her unwillingness for a compromise. So, the “provisional line” that the then out going British administration had drawn in late 1948-49 as ad-hoc measure is still what separates the two countries.

The British, having felt a pinch of quilt conscience by unjustly spearheading the partition of the Somali nation (one of the most homogenous people in the whole of Africa) in the late 19th century, began to half-heartedly advocate soon after the world war II the need for reuniting this divided-nation (under the designation: Great Somalia). But, due to change in administration as well as other expediencies, Britain had changed its mind in favor of the status –quo. Taking advantage of the absence of an internationally recognized Somali Voice, the then Ethiopia-leaning British government had drawn the provisional line exactly where Ethiopia wanted it.

In the light of Somalia’s decade-old political crisis and the fact that the Somalia have amply demonstrated their inability to overcome or resolve their internal problems, even with all the goodwill and support of international community, it seems that Meles Zenawi’s Ethiopia has identified an opportunity – that is, the onset of an appropriate time to take advantage of the Somalia who have become feuding clan-based enclaves, with no spirit or consciousness of patriotism and/or nationalism, and knowing that the international community, which is sick and tired of Somalia’s solution-resistant problems, has already abandoned it to its fate. This would make Ethiopia the sole power to be reckoned with in the whole of the horn of Africa, with its long coastal-line and relatively modern deep-sea ports.

In a nutshell, it seems that Ethiopia is now determined not only to make Somalia as well as international community understand that those two “trumped-up” issue of Ogaden” and unsettled borders” no longer exist as unsettled problems, but it would now be more that ready to go on the offensive for dismantling whatever remained of the Somali nation/state. Viewing this scenario from another angle, it seems that the Zenawi’s Ethiopia may have two alternating but complementary objectives. One would be more urgent than the other. The first and foremost would be to see to it that the questions of Somali irredentist aspiration and the border disputes should be considered a closed page of history forever. The surest way of making this happen would be to work, it should be re-emphasized, on undermining of – to the point of complete disintegration- the Somalia state- the source, according to Ethiopia, of agitation and challenge. Having achieved this goal, the other objective, the old dream of annexing whole of Somalia to Ethiopia, would easily fall its place.


Taking advantage of the post Sept. 11’s tragedy and the highly charged emotions that resulted worldwide from this horrible catastrophe, the Ethiopian regime lost no time in re-energizing its sinister involvement in Somalia’s affairs. Thus, Ethiopia is not only persisting in but has lately intensified its decade-old violations of Somali’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. There have been continues incursions by Ethiopian troops into different parts of Somalia, and particularly in the regions of Gedo, Bay and Bakool as well as Northeast (Puntland), without any fact-based justifications, other than the now over emotionalized slogans of “Al-itihaad and Terrorism”. The scary epithet of “terrorism” has since become an effective vehicle for anyone, like Ethiopia, who might have an objective to achieve, with no fear of censure by those who matter, particularly the world’s most powerful nation – United States of America. Anyone who misses out on taking advantage of such a “propitious opportunity” would be a sleeping block-head and Meles Zenawi is far from being one.

Meles Zenawi [Ethio. PM]

For all the foregoing reasons, Zenawi’s Ethiopia has, since 1996, been the stumbling-block to all and any attempts leading to Somalia’s national reconciliation efforts by aiding and abetting a number of warlords who, though most of them are in the doldrums and thus no longer having followers, do still manage – thanks to Ethiopia’s assistance – to make news media headlines and to live and horse-trade on this now infamous designation – warlord.

Ethiopia has also succeeded in cajoling and enlisting support from some Somali traditional chiefs (Isimo and/or Maakhyo) in the Gedo, Bay and Bakool regions in western Somalia, as well as in Northeast (Puntland) and in Northwest regions to enter Somali Republic’s territory as Ethiopia may deem it necessary in the name of “national security”. Even though the legal validity of these traditional chief’s authority to legitimize Ethiopia’s violation of the Somali state’s territorial integrity is obviously questionable, the fact that Ethiopia sought such an authorization is clearly revealing of what, under the counter, Zenawi’s Ethiopia is up to towards the Somali Republic.

It should be noted that for more than two years, Ethiopian troops have been quasi-permanently stationed in most of the Bay, Bakool and Gedo regions, including main urban centers such as Biadoa (Baydhowa), Lugh (Luuq), Huddur (Xuddur) andBulo Hawo (Buulo Xaawo). Anyone who tried to raise a dissenting voice against such an occupation force is branded”Al-ithihad” member and hence a “terrorist”, and the fate of such victim is anyone’s guess.

There have also been well publicized reports (see for example The Washington Post of November 4, 2001) that Ethiopia, in this newly intensified Ethiopian interference in Somali’s internal affairs, in the aftermath of Sept. 11, may now be citing more as a “proxy” for the United States. The U.S., according to the Washington Post, “will work out a joint arrangement” with Ethiopia “under which the United States will provide intelligence and training, and perhaps equipment and transportation…” if such reports were to be believed, then may God help Somalis!

The U.S. may thus have chosen an ill-advised path, with far reaching consequences. Anyone who knows well the centuries-old Somali-Ethiopia history would have thought more than twice before deciding to try achieve given “targeted objectives” in Somalia by way of using Ethiopia. The only way that can be done is direct Ethiopian military occupation – with U.S. blessing/support!

During the highly emotional charged post-Sept. 11 weeks, a U.S.-Ethiopian “joint arrangement” had reportedly been set in motion by a collaborative intelligence mission to various parts of the Somali Republic investigating the extent of the influence of the highly publicized Al itihad existence in Somalia. This development was given impetus by the declaration by senior officials that Somalia was identified as the next “target” after Afghanistan. It now appears that the result of the US-intelligence probe on the ground found no evidence of the much-orchestrated Al-itihad “dominating influence” in Somalia, as Ethiopian and other ill-informed sources made the world believe. As result, the US government may have found it futile to continue investing resources and energy in the reportedly planned US-Ethiopian “Joint arrangement”. If so, these development are a real blow to Prime Minister Zenawi’s hope of getting US government entangled in his sinister manipulation of Somalia’s internal affairs.

When Meles Zenawi’s liberation movement was campaigning against the Mengistu Haile Merriams’s dictatorial regime, their platform promised to transform Ethiopia’s autocratic and communist system of government into a true representative democracy. This would mean, in real terms, that the new regime would immediately establish a new constitutional structure in the form of “federal state” in which s of the ethnic nationalities will be fully protected under the law, so that every ethnic national group in a defined geographical area would have an autonomous self-rule. The only powers reserved for the federal government being: national defense, finance and foreign policy. Sounds good, but, as it were, the taste of the budding is in the eating.

Immediately after assuming power in May-June 1991, Meles Zenawi was quick to dismantle Mengistu Haile Merriams’s Soviet-modeled communist system. In its place, the new regime introduced the promised federalist constitutional structure, dividing the country into several federal, autonomous regions based on ethnicity. The whole idea of dismantling Amhara – dominated centralized system in Ethiopia may not have stemmed from a genuine and humanistic feeling or motive of delivering the wretched masses from the yoke of a centuries –old oppressive system of government. The real reason for the decentralization and establishment of a federal structure was to serve two objectives: (1) to use such a loose federal system as a strong barricade against possible return of the ousted Amharas to power, and (2) to use it as a spring-board for recreating, consolidating and perpetuating a Tigrinyan-dominated reign. The rest of the show has been, and remains, a sheer window-dressing.

As the ten-plus years’ experience clearly shows. There have been no meaningful benefits of any kind – including the much-publicized freedom of statement – for the non-Tigrinyan. The so –called autonomous regions, which should have under the “constitution” extensive legislative powers of self-rule, do in actual fact exist in the name only. It is Zenawi’s Central government, which, by way of systematic intrigues and manipulations, chooses the leaders, and as such they are no more than mere puppets. In other words, the extent of Meles Zenawi’s crafty machinations, including his legion of ubiquitous and heavily armed Tigrinyan troops, in the internal affairs of the supposedly “autonomous and self-rule” regions are of such a nature and on such a scale that calling and or considering those regions “autonomous and self –ruling” is deceptive. The real project is to build a Tigrinyan-dominated rule in Ethiopia. So far, the scheme seems to be working. How long will it continue this way is an open question? However, symptoms of disenchantment and jadedness in the Ethiopian general public are discernible.

In addition to the reasons/objectives explained above, Ethiopia’s continuing muscle flexing along the Somali Republic’s borders may have something to do with the mounting internal problems. In the face of such domestic restlessness, inventing an external threat, in this case “ Al-Itihad” and “terrorism” for diversion is as old an expediency as the hills.

With alternating attitudes of ambivalence and indifference on the part of international organizations, such as United Nations, Organization of Africa Unity, Arab League and Organization of Islamic Conference etc. as well as international news media, to the Somalia’s prolonged civil disorders, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia has found Somalia a free-for-all country by continuously meddling in the internal affairs of this “damned” country. Without fear/concern of censure, let alone of challenge, he (Prime Minister Zenawi) seems to regard, what I still call Somali Republic, as being an adjunct to his Ethiopian domain. And yet, Mr. Meles Zenawi has the audacity of trying to fool the world by presenting himself as a saint who has the trust of the Somali people and, therefore, willing to play a constructive and leading role in the badly needed Somali reconciliation efforts! All he really schemes for is the fragmentization of the Somali nation/statehood into several mini entities each one headed by a puppet warlord installed by him through use of force. Such miniscule vassals would look at Addis Ababa as their “ “Metropolitan Capital”. This would be the end of Somali nation/state, and the beginning of the final stage of annexation.

How long will the conscience of world community continue to condone or keep looking the other way in the face of such flagrant enchroachments?

Previous Letter from Abdirizak haji to Zenawi 

By: Abdirizak Haji Hussen
Former Prime Minister of Somali Republic (1964-67)
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA


Somali Version::: Read Here.....  

ELDORET: Taxanaha Wararka  


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