Red herring in the Horn: Somalia�s latest drama
By Abukar Arman
Online Journal Contributing Writer
Nov 5, 2007, 00:55
For almost two decades, the Somali political theatre was
inundated with random episodes of tragic comedies that frustrated the average
observer and fatigued donor countries that funded numerous failed projects
to solve the Somali conundrum.
The drama generated by these episodes routinely blurred the
vision of the average Somali activist (especially in the Diaspora), analysts
around the world, and indeed stakeholders from seeing with clarity and dealing
with the real issues.
Recently the entertaining drama has been the sensationalized
departure of a man who in 10 short months left a legacy of infamy and earned
his unenviable place in Somali history: Transitional Federal Government (TFG)
Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi.
This sensationalized drama became a bigger story than the
relentless brutality of the Ethiopian occupation, the systematic
ethnic-cleansing, the targeted assassinations of vocal media figures, the
rampant piracy, the senseless violence and strategically self-destructive
insurgent tactics, and the horrific humanitarian crises causing starvation and
displacement of hundreds of thousands of civilians, mainly children and women.
So how did a prime minister who perfected the marketable
image of the GWT age (Global War on Terrorism) get pulled off his horse any
way? After all, Gedi had all the necessary credentials to keep him in his post:
the lack of vision, the pelican throat for greed and corruption, the shallow
mind and the quixotic view of world politics, the right frown, the right lingo
that labeled all his oppositions with the dreaded T-word, and, of course, the
lapel pin to shield him with artificial air of patriotism.
More importantly, how can an action of this magnitude --
sacking the ideal figure at the most critical hour -- be credited to a
cardboard president who reportedly cannot even call a private meeting in his
own presidential palace without first getting clearance from representatives of
the Ethiopian occupation forces.
Of course, there was a rift between President Abdullahi
Yusuf Ahmed and his former prime minister over the usual business: who stole
the most donation dollars, and who was hoarding essential posts for his closest
of kin and clan; but, that is hardly the force that kicked Gedi out. And any
one who simply focuses on connecting the dots will conclude that this latest
drama was settling an issue much bigger than �Abdullahi and Gedi�s� myopic
While in pursuit of their respective �strategic interests,�
the most battle-tested army in Africa and the sole superpower of the world have
partnered almost a year ago to dismantle the Islamic Courts Union -- a defunct
entity that brought six months of peace and order in Mogadishu that many now
lament --.and establish the TFG in Mogadishu.
Both Abullahi and Gedi were handpicked by Prime Minister
Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia who micromanaged the Somali political affairs for over
a decade, they also had Washington�s blessings.
But, Gedi�s fortunes would dramatically change once he
publicly criticized the secret contract deal his president signed with China
that was exposed by the Financial Times of London. He felt left out of the deal
and aired his frustration publicly. Oblivious to how his declared position
would put Meles, who had his own deal with China to protect, in the spotlight,
Gedi threatened to pronounce the contract null and void. Over night he became
politically radioactive, so to speak.
And once Gedi sensed he was being ganged up on, he pulled
his clan card, and did what many thought was unthinkable: he reached out to the
same clan leaders that he once labeled with the T-word. He urged them to
continue their struggle to free Somalia from the Ethiopian occupation . . . Something
that proved to be the final straw that broke the camel�s back.
With Gedi gone, so is any opportunity for the salivating
American oil companies to win contracts in either Somalia or Ethiopia. And
Meles is mindful that he cannot be seen as the man who conned the US out of its
economic and hegemonic interest in the region, because this will be the
beginning of an end for the US/Ethiopian partnership in the Horn. But, before
continuing this line of argument, let us take a necessary detour for a moment.
Most of us know what a red herring is. It is smoked fish used by fugitives to lure bloodhounds off the
scent track. And in the metaphorical sense, it is anything used to divert
attention from the real issue.
Meles is determined to compete with neighboring Sudan, even
at the expense of his relations with Washington. Because, as a result of its
high profit margin China oil deals, Sudan�s economy has been growing at an
incredible rate; and as such, is fast emerging as the Horn�s undisputed
And having learnt the ABCs of influencing the American
political apparatus, Meles has built a strong lobby led by former high-ranking
Congressman Dick Army of Texas.
In early October, even as HR 2003, the Ethiopia Democracy
and Accountability Act of 2007 (a bill that, among other things, called for
accountability regarding Meles� brutal human rights abuses in dealing with the
people of Ogadenia, Oromia, and the Amhara) passed the House with bipartisan
support, the Ethiopian ambassador in Washington had enough confidence to
publicly rebuke those members who supported the bill.
In the meantime, the Senate is considering imposing some
measure of economic sanctions on the Meles� regime for its dealings with China.
This, of course, is a long departure from that cozy relationship that led to
the joint operation that led to the Iraqization
of Somalia. And as the end of Bush�s second term approaches, the political
pressure to avoid another failed enterprise increases.
From Washington�s perspective: the Bush Doctrine cannot face
history with three failed regime-change initiatives (Afghanistan, Iraq, and
Somalia). In other words: diversionary tactics aside, Bush will either have
Somalia as one success story to highlight in his exit speech or US
and Ethiopian interests will collide head-on.
Arman is a freelance writer who lives in Ohio.
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