Somalilandsun – Today’s major political conflicts might relate to the Western European powers’ aggressive and rivalry occupation towards other continents of the globe for industrial resources. That systematic migration, which its last foot was Africa’s Scramble of 1880s, was too strange to the occupied people and nations while today’s liberty or freedom through “own state sovereignty” was not in the mind of many of those scrambled.
Again, while the form of governance by the said powers was having its effect, the respond or reactions of the occupied people or nations varied from one another: depending on ways of living, settlement, governance or belief. Though their main target was gaining resources for their industries amid competing, the factor of faith played greater role for articulating strategies as the main faith in Europe was Christianity.
Moreover, the European colonialists’ soft power was “modern education and Christian missionaries”, which helped hardening positions by religious resistances of some Muslim communities; somehow [making] they overlooked to the resource-driven political nature of the colonial powers.
Therefore, people or nations of same faith became allies with European powers – namely Ethiopia or Abyssinia; people or nations of different faith including Somalis had resisted through religious and ethnic perspectives; while people or nations of traditional beliefs including would-be Kenyans were resisting through racial or ethnic causes.
Ethiopia among colonial powers of 19 century;
For example, the Somali fighter of early 20 century, Sayid Mohamed Abdille Hassan and his fellow fighters – Dervishes had fought against British, Italian and Ethiopian forces simultaneously, almost two decades. Being the first resistance leader that attempted fighting through Pan-Somalis’ slogan, was more religious than political as his sentiment was fuelled by his first seen to Muslim/Somali students named as John and others, in a Christian Missionary school in the coastal town of Berbera, reportedly.
On the other hand, the then-soft powers helped pacifying mainly non-Muslim communities who later become the first to be freed as “sovereign states” after costly wars [World War One & Two] fought by the rivalry European powers; while Muslim communities or regions were incorporated in to the newly-freed post-colonial countries of Christian leaders. The same happened to many other people and nations including Somalis and Ogaden.
Again, when post-colonial world becomes more connected; some causes become inter-related in to so many ways that forced [increasingly] changing arguments or/and tactics demonstrated by a number of resistance movements. The said movements insist of rejecting international borders founded by the colonial legacy; while such rejection ruled out any chance of political solution as it threatens not only to the States-in-conflict, but also others.
For instance, when movement’s mandate was to liberate specific location or region from a repressive or occupying regime, but fails because of some reasons; it might possibly add more other regions to seek attention though knows not meeting that new objective. This makes them employ self-incriminating activities to stay relevant in front of followers as they remain both abusing and misleading. That’s where terrorism starts.
But that does not always mean there is no real cause or grievance to be fought by the people or nations belonging to the misguided or failed movements.
Ethiopia Sympathizes AIAI extremists;
Unfortunately, the States-in-conflict use such forces to overlap with other genuine resistances of within the respective country. For instance, in 1990s, local politicians and Ogaden community elders were protesting against the Somalia-based Al-Itahad Al-Islam (AIAI) of setting up bases and offices in Ethiopia’s Ogaden region where Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) was more popular at the time.
The late Meles Zenawi’s Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF) – core faction of ruling coalition of Ethiopian people Revolutionary Democratic Forces (EPRDF) was envious from the ONLF [secessionist movement]; and instead of dealing ONLF issue accordingly, it sympathized with AIAI to create rivalry forces within the region; and later on, to lure western countries’ support for tackling foreign fighters.
Moreover, TPLF cooperated that AIAI’s academic scholars infiltrate in to the ONLF-led political system of the transition period while AIAI’s Jihadist groups were waging their armed fighting in the Ogaden as both tactics worked through polarization of Abdulahi Sa’di administration of 1992 and ONLF’s armed struggle of 1994.
Again, when TPLF fought AIAI [disguising ONLF’s armed struggle] with support of other countries and AIAI was declared terrorist by Washington and allies after September 11 attacks; it again helped them revive as Union of Western Somali Liberation Front (UWSLF) in early of 2000s. Though Eritrea is accused of helping them regroup through this umbrella, along with some of Somalia warlords; UWSLF had been in use for Ethiopian regime sooner.
Ethiopia partners UWSLF, revival of AIAI;
Apart from helping Ethiopia to re-scratch its card of fighting terrorism within Ethiopia, it further used them fight against ONLF as armed clashes among fighters of UWSLF and ONLF happened within the Ogaden region in 2008 and 2009. They also helped Ethiopia to kill the Late Dr. Mohamed Sirad Dolaal on January of 2009; just a year before they claimed signing peace deal with Ethiopia on April 2010.
Furthermore, they helped Ethiopia implementing its abusive “Diaspora and refugee hunting policy” since 2010. Because they were among Ogadeni refugees who were resettled as Somalia refugees in early of 1990s since their fighting erupted in 1992 and they were forced to exile. Their main operations included the 2011 to the 2014 killings and assassinations against Ogaden refugees and ONLF officials in Kenya.
On the other hand, UWSLF/AIAI’s partnership with Ethiopia was not limited only to the ONLF, but also they become useful for Ethiopia to exploit and annihilate to the governments or individuals of integrity in the neighboring countries, namely Somalia and Kenya.
Ethiopia uses extremists into Somalia/Kenya;
Ethiopia deals to those countries through a number of faces: its official governmental position and through informal loyalty by own citizens of such countries from birth or registration. AIAI’s branch of Ogaden were exiled to Kenya after 1992 military offensives of TPLF regime, and assimilated to the local population of Kenya’s Northeastern province. Therefore, by informal registration, they become Kenyan citizens though they are loyal to their organization’s policies, mostly exploited by Ethiopian government.
For instance, in Kenya’s 2007 General elections – they played allegedly a very crucial role for Yusuf Hassan Abdi’s loss a seat he contested against Ibrahim Mohamed alias Johnny, who was backed by famous Imams of Eastleigh mosques. Again, he won the seat itself, Kamukunji Member of Parliament in a by-election done August 2011. Though Hon. Yusuf Hassan Abdi was not openly antagonist to Ethiopian government policies; his personal integrity, profile and having ancestral relationship to Ogaden region, became enough worrisome to Ethiopian regime.
Many people from Ogaden region believe that his serious injury from a grenade thrown to him on December 2012 while he’s in one of the mosques in Eastleigh [run by alleged members of AIAI/UWSLF] was an Ethiopian plot though Alshabaab of Somalia were accused of.
Just similar with Hon. Abdi’s fate, the political movements of Prof. Mohamed Abdi alias Gandi in Somalia Federal Republic had been mainly challenged by Ethiopian proxy forces, including alleged leaders/members of AIAI factions in Somalia. Prof. Mohamed Abdi (Gandi) was sacked from Sh. Sherif Ahmed Transitional Federal Government’s Cabinet ministers in 2010 while Hussen Abdi Halane was nominated as Finance Minister to substitute Prof. Gandi for Absame tribe in Somalia.
From his nomination, Mr. Halane had managed to take AhmedMadobe Islan (Hisbul Islam defector) to Addis Ababa on August 2010 as regime’s proxy in the lower Juba region of Somalia, with the help of AIAI/UWSLF leaders who claimed signing peace-deals with Ethiopia in July 2010.
Since these settings had been put in place by Addis Ababa regime, an aggressive campaign against Prof. Gandi’s initiations was propagated loudly. AhmedMadobe and former AIAI members or sympathizers were left to locally propagate against Gandi, and disseminate that “Ethiopia is better capable and friendly than Kenya”. This had resulted that Prof. Gandi’s Azania or Jubaland initiative becomes hijacked as Ethiopia-backed Warlord, AhmedMadobe declared himself as President of Jubaland administration on May 2013.
At last but not least, the famous self-style cleric of Ethiopian-born, Sheekh Mohamed Abdi Umal’s tour to the Ogaden, Somalia’s autonomous regions of Somaliland and Puntland from March to May of 2014 shows how group’s politico-religious activities are still well connected and organized. But we need to be aware of that such tour was demanded and funded by Ethiopian government; because the said Sheikh never visited Ethiopia though he publicly endorsed UWSLF/AIAI’s peace deal of July 2010.
Ethiopia on both corners of the Ball;
Moreover, Ethiopia is also dependent on them for propaganda and media access if it needs reaching to the Somali-Speaking populations of the Horn of Africa while avoiding to stigmatize such propaganda by using its Somali Regional State media outlets. The most popular one of such online media is known as DhanaanMedia.com which airs Ethiopia’s strategic and timely stories that covers either ONLF/Ogaden or Jubaland sensitive causes, including the 2012 [Ethiopian initiated-but-never committed] Peace Talks with ONLF; and Jubaland & Gedo reconciliation or governance issues.
The extremists or remnants of AIAI, regardless of their current names, they show committed for Ethiopia [in the short term] of trying to end their main threat, which is ONLF or any popular nationalist movement in the Ogaden or Somalia; and Ethiopia may claim itself of using them same purpose. But, in the long-term, each side has something hidden as Extremists believe or dream that opportunity of overcoming Ethiopia itself might come one day, just as the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt or the ISIS of Iraq and Syria.
Moreover, geopolitical calculations of the Horn or Eastern of Africa might change unexpectedly from number of factors, which might give them opportunity of achieving their little-sacrificed dream. If it comes, they could do it through non-violent way as they already control significant number of Somali institutions including Hawala [money-transfer] companies, trade businesses and some popular religious institutions or through their traditional ways of violence.
On the other hand, it’s not first time that Ethiopia plays both corners of the ground or the ball. In the era of colonization, Ethiopia was the only black or African body that had openly asked to get its share of the African Scramble or Colonization of 19 century as Emperor Menilik II wrote such application to the Berlin Conference.
Yet, when colonization was to an end and European powers were compensating to the freed African nations of 20 century, Ethiopia claimed championing Africans’ freedom as many of them made their national flags related to that of Ethiopia – showing gesture of generosity to the latter.
Again, according to some media quotes of 2011, the Late Prime Minister of Ethiopia – Meles zenawi hailed Sayid Mohamed Abdille Hassan as an African hero who fought against European colonization and imperialism. Zenawi also promised to resurrect Sayid’s statues in Ethiopia, a move recently implemented by the regime’s surrogates in Jigjiga.
And now, in the 21 century’s War on Terror or Global Extremism, the only government in the region that takes in use Extremists though offering them legacy, is the Ethiopian government that’s also a key ally of U.S. and western countries in the fight against terrorism and extremism. Therefore, once again, Ethiopia plays on both corners of the Ball.
The author Ahmed Farah is both An Ogadeni activist and the Head of Ogaden Refugee Council (ORC)