Meles Zenawi’s skills in terrorist price gouging, has inflated the value of Al-Shabab, from a small-time unpopular misfits, who are not even capable of controlling Mogadishu, to an international terrorist organization capable of harming US security. He has nickle and dimed Washington for billions in aid, and has been given a free hand to destabilize the entire region.
The real irony is his illegal invasion of Somalia in 2006 caused the birth and growth of Al-Shabab. What ended up happening for Zenawi is a cash-cow of sorts, where he exaggerates Al-Shabab’s threats and capacity, in order to get a steady-stream of greenbacks rolling in. Over the years, Zenawi has made a complete mockery of the situation and is applying terrorism charges on his domestic fronts, charging many journalists, and opposition members, whom he approved of himself, with ridiculous trumped-up terrorism charges.
The following article will present hard facts that make a strong case as to why Eritrea is being unjustly targeted, even at the expense of America’s interest.
Ronald MacMullen and His Cowboy Diplomacy:
A recent Wikileaks cable, which originally had been made in late 2009 by the former US Ambassador to Eritrea, mr. Ronald K. McMullen, candidly describes his frustrations, as western diplomats were telling Eritreans to be “vocally skeptical about Eritrean support to al-Shabab“.
“The Flat Denial, made more plausible by the Isaias regime´s antipathy to Islamic or any other kind of politico-religious activity, has taken root in the Eritrean population and even among some foreign diplomats. A number of ambassadors accredited to Eritrea remain vocally skeptical about Eritrean support to al-Shabaab and its ilk. Should the USG (United States Government) and/or the international community take action against Eritrea or Eritreans for support of radical Somali Islamists, the Flat Denial will have to be punctured for any measures to be effective. If it is not, Isaias will cast himself and Eritrea in the role of innocent victim being picked on yet again by American and Ethiopian bullies. Patriotic Eritreans will rally to the flag and Isaias´ shaky domestic political position will be strengthened.” (Wikileaks of McMullen)
Indeed, Mcmullen desperation in trying to convince western diplomats was met with heavy skepticism, and in some cases, down right ridicule, as one western diplomat had questioned Mcmullen’s allegations against Eritrea with, “Are your claims of Eritrean support for al-Shabab like those of Saddam’s WMD program?” (Wikileaks of McMullen)
Other Wikileaks cables written by Mr. Mcmullen in 2009 states, “Eritrea’s government tried to re-engage with Washington after the election of President Barack Obama” (WoM). Yet despite the Eritrean Government willing to engage with Obama’s administration, the Bush-era diplomat Mcmullen continued to be an obstacle.
Moreover, Mr. Mcmullen went beyond the normal protocols of ambassadors and insulted Eritrean-Americans when he labeled them as the “American Mafia“, after various concerned Eritrean-Americans and Eritrean diplomats invited US officials to a friendly pinic to discuss mutual interests and to strengthening ties, yet Mcmullen stifled any Eritrean attempt of normalizing relations with the United States and continued to play a spoiler role for his own personal vendettas he held for the leadership of Eritrea. This goes without saying, this hostile, chip-on-the-shoulder rhetoric, where even an entire nationality of American citizens are insulted shows how Mcmullen’s cowboy diplomacy played a counter-productive role in serving US interest.
Not only did Mcmullen and other Bush-era diplomats accuse Eritrea of supporting Al-Shabab with no evidence to substantioate their claims, but various Somali factions, in collberation with neighboring states, namely Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti, and Uganda, who are all directly involved in the Somali conflict, have been engaged in fabricating information to monitering groups to their benefit. Perhaps the most stunning fabriction of information came in 2006, when the UN montering group had accused Eritrea of sending 2,000 fully-equiped troops into Somalia.
On August 26, three dhows carrying 2,000 fully equipped combat troops from Eritrea arrived at Warsheikh, north of Mogadishu. On arrival at Warsheikh, the troops were moved to an area in north Mogadishu.” (UN Monitoring Group, p. 15)
Till this day, despite not a single Eritrean soldier ever being found in Somalia, the United Nations Montering Group refuses to apologize for their misinformation, nor acknowledged their information was wrong in anyway. They simply transitioned from that false accusation, to Eritrea financially supporting Al-Shabab, with no evidence to speak of.
The Rise and Fall of the Islamic Courts Union and Ethiopia’s Invasion:
The Islamic Courts Union (ICU) emerged in 2004 out of a judicial system, funded by the local Somali business community to bring law and order to a country that’s been engulfed in anarchy since the collapse of Mohamed Siad Barre’s regime in 1991. After a serious of battles, the ICU had driven out the CIA-backed warlords from Mogadishu, and began to administer as a functioning government. During their brief six months rule over Mogadishu and much of southern Somalia, they banned weapon’s position, Khat (a loccally popular narcotic), began development, stopped piracy, and brought relative security. This made the ICU tremendously popular among their local population, even with the ICU taking away some freedoms. Unfortunately, this changed when the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Jendayi Frazer had convinced her superiors the ICU had links to Al-Qaeda and should be removed from power, despite bringing stability to lawless Somalia.
In 2006, Jendayi Frazer had spearheaded an invasion of Somalia, using Ethiopia as a proxy. In complete violation of the Security Council’s Resolution 1725, and Articles 41 and 42 of the UN Charter, Frazer ordered Ethiopia’s Zenawi to send 8,000 American-trained troops into Baidoa, before the major Ethiopian invasion of 50,000 soldiers were sent in after, with complete disregard for human life, Somalia’s territorial integrity and stability.
As a result of Ethiopia’s invasion and subsequent occupation, over 20,000 Somali civilians were killed, nearly 2 million displaced, and the brief 6 months of stability brought by the ICU dissolved, as the top leadership of the group went into exile into Eritrea and Djibouti, which left a small group called Al-Shabab (Arabic for “The Youth”) to stay on and fight. This group portrayed themselves as patriotic resistance fighters toward’s Ethiopia’s occupation and gained popularity among Somali fighters, and bolstered their membership, despite their fanatical views, which most Somalis tend not to agree with. In essence, Ethiopia’s disastrous invasion and occupation of Somalia caused the birth of Al-Shabab.
Its name stems from its first incarnation as the youth and military wing of a group of Sharia courts who controlled much of southern and central Somalia in 2006. When, at the end of that year, the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) was driven from power by Ethiopian troops supporting Somalia’s weak transitional government, al-Shabab melted away into remote and distant parts of the country… Unlike many UIC leaders, who fled into exile in Eritrea, al-Shabab stayed behind to fight…Al-Shabab has distanced itself from the Somali opposition based in Eritrea, saying it is too secular…
By Mary Harper, March, 28, 2008 – BBC
During Ethiopia’s occupation from 2006-2009, the head European Commission’s delegation to Kenya, mr. Eric van der Linden, had appointed a team to look into several war crime allegations committed by Ethiopian troops, and Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) soldiers against Somali civilians:
In an e-mail message to Mr. van der Linden marked urgent, a security adviser to the commission wrote that there were “strong grounds” to believe that Ethiopian and Somali troops had intentionally attacked civilian areas and that Ugandan peacekeepers, who arrived in the country last month, were complicit for standing by. The message was provided by someone who thought that the issue should become public; its authenticity was confirmed by commission officials. ( By Jeffrey Gettleman, April 6, 2007, NYT)
However, the war crimes investigation against Ethiopia was shut-down and never to be discussed again, after the Bush administration stepped in to protect Zenawi from any war crimes his troops were accused of committing. Zenawi continues to be seen by Washington as a regional puppet that’s at their disposal, which has virtually given Zenawi a free hand to continue playing a spoiler role in the horn of Africa with complete impunity. While the Bush administration made a big deal about the tragedy that took place in the Darfur, and rightfully so, it remained tight-lipped, as has Obama, about the current genocides taking place in Ethiopia’s Ogaden region, as numerous independent videos being smuggled-out continue to show.
As a result of Zenawi’s heavy losses in Somalia and the fierce resistence put up by Somalis fighters, U.S. officials despertaly tried to play down the invasion to media outlets: “The State Department issued internal guidance to staff members, instructing officials to play down the invasion in public statements,” The New York Times uncovered.
“The press must not be allowed to make this about Ethiopia, or Ethiopia violating the territorial integrity of Somalia,” Secret US instructions revealed.
After the Ethiopian regime pulled out of Somalia in 2009, almost in unison with the Bush administration leaving office, Mr. Donald Yamamoto, a State Department spokesperson, stated: “We’ve made a lot of mistakes and Ethiopia’s entry in 2006 was not a really good idea,’” obliquely admitting U.S. responsibility for the invasion.
State Sponsored Terrorism vs Religious Terrorism:
Ethiopia’s illegal invasions of Somalia in 1993, 1996 and 2006-2009 has played a paramount role in destabilizing Somalia and the Horn of Africa as a whole. Zenawi’s state sponcered terrorism has cost the lives of tens of thousands of Somalis, displaced 2 million citizens, and has given birth to a far more radical and militant group of fighters. A payed hitman is no more noble in his cause than a religious fanatic driven by misguided interpretations of a book. Instead of sanctioning Ethiopia for destabilizing Somalia with repeated and destructive invasions, the unpopular regime in Ethiopia is given nearly $4 billion dollars in aid annually.
From a global perspective of things, only US-occupied Iraq and Afghanistan receive more aid than Ethiopia.
So Where Have All the Weapons Been Coming From?
According to Dumisani Kumalo, South Africa’s permanent representaive to the UN, 80% of ammunition reaching Somali factions came from the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and by Ethiopian troops, in complete violation UN Resolution 751 arms embargo that has been placed for Somalia since 1992.
‘Eighty percent of ammunition available at the Somali arms markets was supplied by TFG and Ethiopian troops,’ Kumalo said in the written text of his remarks to the Security Council.
By Louis Charbonneau, May 28, 2008 – Reuters – AlertNet
Kumalo’s fact-finding mission in Somalia reveled that it was Ethiopian troops bringing in military hardware to arm Somali factions.
He said his committee viewed the ‘continued presence of Ethiopian troops on Somali territory as a violation of the arms embargo’ on Somalia, where warlords, Islamist insurgents and Ethiopian-backed Somali government forces clash almost daily.
The monitoring committee received details of some 25 military flights by Ethiopia into Somalia and knew that Ethiopian troops had brought military equipment into the country to arm ‘friendly clans,’ Kumalo said.
By Louis Charbonneau, May 28, 2008 – Reuters – AlertNet
All the evidence clearly showed the primary sources of weapons and ammunition supply illegally entering Somalia came from Ethiopia and Yemen. Even though this became apparent to mr. Kumalo, this information was deliberately ignored by a few rogue junior American diplomats.
The report also found that “arms, ammunition, or dual-use equipment continue to enter Somalia in violation of the general and complete arms embargo imposed in 1992, at a fairly steady rate.”
Primary sources of this supply remained Yemen and Ethiopia, it said.
March 14, 2010 – AFP
Mr. Kumalo continued to point out to the Security Council:
“…The Government of Ethiopia informed the Monitoring Group in October 2008 that it had trained 17,000 Somali security personnel…. Of that total, Ethiopia believes less than 3,000 may still be effective, suggesting an attrition rate of over 80 per cent. Since most soldiers who desert or defect take their weapons and uniforms with them, this represents some 14,000 new weapons entering Somali territory…”
By Dumisani Shadrack Kumalo, Report to Security Council, S/2008/76
Crisis Group’s horn of African analysts, Mr. EJ Hogendoorn pointed out there’s no evidence showing Eritrea supporting Al-Shabab, be it politically, financially, or militarily. He did suggest there was support for Hizbul Islam, a moderate group who were fighting Al-Shabab for dominance after the fall of the ICU. It must be noted, Hizbul Islam no longer exists as a fighting unit and were militarily defeated by Al-Shabab.
“There is very little evidence to suggest that Eritrea has, or is currently, supporting al-Shabab. In the past Eritrea has supported certain insurgencies in Somalia in an effort to continue its proxy war with Ethiopia. The evidence we have seen so far suggests that support for Hizbul Islam, rather than al-Shabab. While we are concerned about the activities of Hizbul Islam, there is no evidence to suggest that Hizbul Islam supports terrorist acts against neighboring states,” said Hogendoorn
Michael Onyiego, July 21, 2010, VOA
Even though the Somali Monitoring Group repeatedly mentioned Ethiopia, Yemen and TFG as the primary sources of weapons entering Somalia, and even with Al-Shabab constantly threatening Eritrea with war , US officials at the UN, frustrated by the lack of evidence against Eritrea, authored a passage in parts of the Monitoring Group’s report, which was published 10 December 2008 about Eritrea’s arming role. In that passage, US officials labled Eritrea as a source of weapons in Somalia, and subsequently used their own story as evidence against Eritrea, as a report by Risk Professionals discovered in 2010, a year after Eritrea was unjustly sanctioned, without any evidence.
The report referred to is UN Security Council document number S/2008/769. Reviewing that document suggests that the relevant part was compiled by US representatives to the UN and is, by implication, credited to the Monitoring Group on Somalia. However, it appears from reading the UN report that, in producing its Somalia document, the USA was highly instrumental in writing the passage which it now quotes, providing what amounts to self-corroboration.
The Risk Professional Thursday 04 November 2010
When Osama Bin Laden moved to the Sudan in 1992, his hatred for America might have been there, but his first terrorist military actions were targeted towards Eritrea. He, along with other Sudanese collberators funded, trained, and armed a radical Islamist rebel group to attack Eritrean civilians and tourists, along the Sudanese-Eritrean border. The Eritrean military quickly routed his forces, and made a stern warning to the Sudanese regime to refrain from harboring extremists such as Osama. Eritrea’s continued military and diplomatic pressure, in collaboration with the Clinton administrations pressure, was the main reason why Osama fled Sudan for Afghanistan, ending his Sudanese training camps. With a strong track record in fighting religious fundamentalist by Eritrea’s secular government, it’s no wonder that one of the leading Horn of Africa experts, Mr. Ted Dagne had this to say about the Red Sea state to the New York Times:
“If there is one country where the fighting of extremists and terrorists was a priority when it mattered, it was Eritrea,” said Ted Dagne, an Africa specialist for the Congressional Research Service. – By Jeffery Gentlemen, Sep, 18, 2007, New York Times
Eritrea and US interest coincide in the horn of Africa, especially in regards to Islamic extremists. The sanctions placed on Eritrea are unjust, illegal, unfounded, and were clearly fabricated by hostile elements of Washington, who even insulted American citizens of Eritrean origins. Eritrea has had an excellent track record of fighting extremist, long before a noun, a verb, and a 9-11 became a US politicians’ how-to-guide manual in gaining votes. US’ policy in the Horn of Africa goes against the United States short and long term interests.
To sanction a nation with no evidence, and go as far as fabricating your own evidence shows how toxic their approach to the political gymnastics of the region was. As guarantors of the final and binding Algiers agreement, Ethiopia should be sanctioned for their destabilizing efforts in Eritrea, Somalia and within their own domestic fronts, particularly the Ogaden, where a silent genocide is taking place. We hope all journalists, analyses, and scholars start bringing attention to this disaster, before it escalates even further, and we read another “mistake” by the same junior diplomats a year from now. These mistakes from Washington are costing tens of thousands of human lives and it’s long over-due western diplomats, scholars, and journalist shed light on this madness.