The story of Somali collective memory is told and retold as being short and selective. Here is another variation of such a story pertaining to the controversy about Ethiopian peacekeeping mission in Somalia.
In the 1980s, the Somali National Movement (SNM), the United Somali Congress (USC), and the Somali Salivation Democratic Front (SSDF) were all housed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. They all collaborated to overthrow Mohamed Siad Barre, the late dictator that ruled Somalia from 1969 to 1990. Most of the constituents that these movements claimed to have represented showed or seemed to have shown a high degree of affinity towards Ethiopia throughout the last 20 or so years, a period that has one of the lowest points and marked the speedy erosion of Somali nationalism.
One way that the above-mentioned groups and their followers showed gratitude towards Ethiopia was carried:
Somalilanders are on the record to say that they loved Ethiopia more than their own Somali brethren inside and outside of the republic. This sentiment is represented by one of the leader of Somaliland, Faysal Cali Warabe's [in] famous saying: “a boy born in Hargeisa has more commonality with one born in Addis Ababa than one in Mogadishu.”
In the case of USC supporters, love for Ethiopia was captured by a pamphlet that I read in the early years of the 1990s that said some thing akin to “Hobyo port for Ethiopia.” As a result, the late General Caydid used to be the only warlord who was received in Ethiopia with a red carpet stretched out to his Pole Airport arrivals.
As to Garowe's loyalty to Ethiopia, retelling the story here would be an overkill. Suffice it to say Bosaaso port is almost to replace the role Berbera had hitherto played for Ethiopia.
Today, irrespective of past affinity, all these groups are using Ethiopia as their bogyman to get to the top price and that is derailing Abdulahi Yusuf's government. They all have somehow agreed to shame Ethiopia not because they love Ethiopia any less, but because they hate what Ethiopia is doing for Abdullahi Yusuf more. It is a reminiscent of Shake Spear's assessment of the Rome of Caesar's killing of Brutus when he wrote: “It is not that I Love you any less, but that I love Rome more.”
One Somalilander Website (Awdelnews) ran an editorial (Ethiopia as an enemy is engraved in the collective memory of Somali people) and went as far as suggesting that Ethiopia's animosity with the Somali people goes back to the war of Imam Ahmed Gurey in the 15 th Century. That is precisely the case. But, can one talk about Ethiopia's animosity and its role to stunt Somali national aspirations, and then let have Ethiopia train its navy at the coast of Berbera at will?
Other websites prematurely wrote in droves op-ed pieces to condemn Ethiopia as Somalia's eternal enemy while Yalaxow was telling the press that Ethiopia had in the past supplied weapons to himself (Yalaxow), Aidid, Qanyare and of course Abdullahi Yusuf. In another instance, one Somalilander, who recently decried about Ethiopian troops as peacekeepers in Somalia, once equated the search for Somali unity to racial purity, hence equating greater Somali nationalism with racism. To make matters worse, this piece was posted on Ethiopian websites!
Where does really Ethiopia fit in each group's particular and narrow agenda? As the Somali clan politics shifts like the weather of London, we may never give a precise and short answer to this question. It is intriguingly puzzling, however, to know that Ethiopia, as an old and more complex country, correctly reads the uncontrollable and immature emotions of Somalis for the authorities in Addis Ababa refer to Somalis as a simplistic tribal groups, as in “ armane ya Somale Zalan gosawoch,” pagan Somali tribal groups. As such, Ethiopia perhaps reads where every one of these different interest groups stands and it claims to understand their agenda in the current fiasco.
The issue of Ethiopian peacekeeping mission in Somalia itself is as strange as Ahmed Silanyo of Kulmiye party carrying the banner for the reinstitution of the former Democratic Republic of Somalia. That does not mean all of the critics of Ethiopian peace mission in Somalia do not have merit. Some of them may have. However, painting Ethiopia as a cruel colonial force that is Somalia's eternal enemy is quite a laughable matter. Did we suddenly wake up as of January 2005 from the slumber that Dr. Ali Abdul Rahman Hersi, a genuine proponent of Somali nationalism and critic of Ethiopian intervention all along, identified as a plague in today's Somalia?
All of the groups beating the drum against Ethiopia have in the past used or are still using Ethiopia (as in the case of Puntlanders and Somalilanders) as their friend to weaken Somali nationalism. As viciously as clannish Somali clans and groups are, the current controversy surrounding Ethiopian peacekeeping mission is a classical case where a Somali clan or a political group would use anything at its disposal to advance its narrow tribal interest, even if that is smoking up the nation.
And one may suspect that the rest of the world, with the exception of some gullible western liberal groups like the International Crisis Group (ICG), sees said controversy as one of the many manifestations of Somalia's clan politics. If so, the entire Ethiopian bashing is nothing more than a political gymnastics by one political group against another.
What is disheartening is that Somalis in Ethiopia have lost what is estimated to be a third of their land in a sham plebiscite this past October that the Ethiopian parliament hastily rubber-stamped. Not a single Somali group, party or news group ever mentioned this historical miscarriage of justice with the exception of Wardheernews. Ethiopia is carrying the most comprehensive land grabbing policy .
Most of the groups shedding crocodile tears have their own hidden agenda about their bone of contention with Ethiopia, but are masquerading it as Somali nationalism.
Having said this, I join those on the other side of the fence and argue that Ethiopia may not be the right force to enforce either disarmament or peacekeeping mission in Somalia. Ethiopia is already, though, in Somaliland, Puntland, Hiiraan region, Baydhabo. Worse, Ethiopian Airlines have been flying into Somali cities, violating its air space for a number of years.
But, the very forces that have destroyed anything that was good about being Somali must not opportunistically use the cause of Somali nationalism in their political gymnastics to reach their parochial agenda.
Using Ethiopia as the bogyman must not be read outside the web of clan politics. To maximize one's clanist agenda, no stone is usually left unturned and that is the story of the 1980s and 1990s that would be told and retold. The Ethiopian bogyman is nothing more than one such a stone to be turned by as many groups and individuals as we have seen within the last two weeks. This is the real story retold, unflattering as it may sound.
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