Ethiopia was never colonized and along with China has a long imperial history. China’s imperial period came to an end with the fall of the Qing dynasty and formation of the Republic of China as a constitutional republic in 1912. The overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974 by a left-wing military junta ended Ethiopia’s empire. In 1970, four years before the end of Ethiopia’s empire, the People’s Republic of China established formal diplomatic relations with Haile Selassie’s imperial government.
Tag Archives | Meles Zenawi
“It is useless for the sheep to pass resolutions in favour of vegetarianism while the wolf remains of a different opinion.” – William Ralph Inge
On January 22nd, Ethiopian troops officially joined the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), contributing about four thousand soldiers. If past experience is anything to go by, when troops from Somalia’s neighbouring countries have joined the peacekeeping effort in Somalia, this has damaged the credibility of AMISOM as a neutral force. Furthermore, the presence of Ethiopian troops as part of AMISOM will probably fuel factional fighting in Somalia, and strengthen Al-Shabaab in the process.
There are three main reasons why Ethiopian troops should not be part of AMISOM. First, their is a long and bloody history between Somalia and Ethiopia and unresolved land disputes that should be settled first. For example, it would be inconceivable to contemplate sending Indian troops to Pakistan for peacekeeping purposes, or Iranian troops to Iraq for the same reason. Immediately after Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia in 2007 to combat the Islamic Courts Union, after being encouraged by the United States to do so, the United Nations reported, “Public sentiment of the continued presence of Ethiopian troops in Somalia has created a volatile situation, which has seriously constrained humanitarian delivery and emerging operations in the centre and south of the country.”
A crowdsourced consulting company, Wikistrat, asked me to respond to several questions concerning China-Africa relations and the stability of Ethiopia. The three China-Africa questions deal with special economic zones in Africa, a possible African backlash to China’s growing presence in Africa, and possible Chinese military intervention in Africa related to post-Arab Spring security threats.
Just as the temperature of a ‘security threat’ slowly declines in Somalia, it increases in other parts of East Africa. Elements of political, religious, and clan/ethnic nature continue to shift and create new volatile conditions. Though not entirely interdependent these conditions could create a ripple effect across different borders. Depending on one’s perspective, there is anxiety in the Horn of Africa—especially in the area that I would refer to as the triangle of threat - Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya. These three countries are bound by complex web of history, geopolitics, and kinship which became the foundation of transnational fault lines which snake through them. Though the same could be argued in relation to Djibouti, the absence of certain clan dynamics and any flammable residual mistrust (active or dormant) makes it an anomaly.
Positive Momentum after a Vicious Anarchy
For the past sixteen months, there has been a momentum of positive developments in Somalia following two decades of senseless violence, political turmoil and famine. Several months ago the seemingly unfathomable task of reducing the parliament to 275 from 550 during the transitional period and the Council of Ministers to 10 from 18 during that same period came to pass. This, of course, would never have happened without improved security emanating from the ousting of al-Shabaab from Mogadishu and other major cities.
Al-Shabaab has been suffering successive defeats, though some may say the last chapter of that saga is not yet written. In the meantime, as they leopard-crawl on the quicksand of history, we are reminded that the natural fate of violent extremists suffer nothing but a short lifespan and a bloody end. Throughout history, various religious and secular extremist groups have emerged and established one brutal system propelled by draconian laws or another only to watch them self-destruct by falling on their own swords. Their myopic vision takes for granted the innate human tendency to rise against and resist despotism, tyranny, and all other form of oppression.
The setting up of local public administrations in the regions of Gedo, Lower Jubba and Middle Jubba which have yet to be entirely liberated from the Al Qaeda affiliated Al Shabaab has generated passionate debate for four reasons.
First, as result of clan based federalism, it stirred up the majority and minority struggles between communities in those regions at village, district and regional levels. Second, it brought to the front the divergent interests and goals of the multiple foreign, national and local actors claiming stakes in the process. Third, it represented a special significance for the federal government since it defines the values and meaning of the post-transition political dispensation and implementation of the Provisional Constitution (PC) on territorial jurisdiction and citizenship supremacy. Fourth, the ban by the UN Security Council on the export of charcoal in the area adversely affected the local economy.
Concomitantly, the debate has reignited clan grievances and repudiation of past reconciliation. Lies, clan scapegoating and foreign praise over fellow citizens filled the opinion articles published by certain respected Somali websites like Wardheernews (WDN). In some gatherings of the Somali Diaspora, there was a call for clarification and an appeal for a reality check.
Some projects are so destructive that no reputable actors want to get involved with them. Think of the oil wells in Sudan’s conflict zones, China’s Three Gorges Dam, and the gas pipelines in Burma. If the price is right, however, some will still be tempted to do business on such projects through the back door. The World Bank is currently taking such an approach with a big credit for Ethiopia’s power sector. The Gibe III Dam, now under construction in Southwest Ethiopia, will devastate ecosystems that support 500,000 indigenous people in the Lower Omo Valley and around Kenya’s Lake Turkana. The UN’s World Heritage Committee called on the Ethiopian government to “immediately halt all construction” on the project, which will impact several sites of universal cultural and ecological value. In August 2011, the Kenyan parliament passed a resolution asking for the suspension of dam construction pending further studies.
Ethiopia is one of the world’s highest recipients of foreign aid, and in spite of a poor record on human rights, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is one of the darlings of the international community. The World Bank, the African Development Bank and the European Investment Bank all considered funding for the Gibe III Dam in 2009/10. In the end, none of them got involved in a project that caused an international outcry and clearly violated their social and environmental safeguard policies.
The 23 March 2012 death of Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed – former president of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFG) – sparked an intense debate about his political legacy. President Yusuf left an indelible mark on the history of Somalia. Some present him as a national hero and honest broker; others see him as a dictator, a corrupt politician, and a tribalist. These diametrically opposing views were the result of President Yusuf seeking military support from Ethiopia to establish his rule in south central Somalia. As a result, Ethiopia dominated the internal and external affairs of Somalia.
In a 2011 interview with Voice of America, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed stated he regretted requesting military support from Ethiopia. He unambiguously said that he decided to resign from the presidency of the TFG because he did not want to be a stooge of Ethiopia. President Abdulahi Yusuf articulated his views of Ethiopia before his death, when he wrote: “I retired from the Somali politics but two major issues that need urgent actions are still outstanding. The First one is the Ethiopian’s concern [obstruction] about the Somali unity and the revival of effective State of Somalia. The second issue is the tragic domestic situation of Somalia without hopeful solution in the horizon.”
However, with his public regret, the allegiance to and the public defense of Ethiopia by Somali politicians and intellectuals did not die. Loyalty to Ethiopia became a publicly-claimed quality for gaining political power in Somalia.