Meles Zenawi and Digital Images of Genocide
June 20 , 2008
Born out of the need to respond to Ethiopia’s news blockade of the Somali region in 2007, the 2008 images and reports (http://shr.aaas.org/) released by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAASA) is a timely tool. It enables the world see the cruel destruction and wanton killings of civilians in this hard-to-access region.
Funded by the philanthropic John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, these images are assembled by using ERDAS Images and the ArcView Geographic Information Systems (GIS).
The project reviews ‘11 of the locations identified as burned in the Human Right Watch “Collective Punishment” report’ and was able to find conclusive burning and mayhem in the following 8 locations: Dameeray, Lasool, Labigah, Qamuuda, Uubatale, Bukudhaba, Garoonka and Wardher.
To human rights groups, these images and the Human Rights Watch report are not only catalog of history, but powerful evidence to help indict the Meles regime soon or later (his commanders, ministers and regional
administrators) by international courts, which are beyond the influence of Washington.
Protection of the Somalis from Abyssinians has been an issue since the 1885, when Major G. C. Swayne set his exploration. Swayne records that after Harar fall in to Ras Mekonen of Ehiopia, it left Somalis venerable to intermittent Abyssinian invasions. In his book, “Seventeen Trips Through Somaliland And A Visit to Abyssinia,” Swayne notes the following:
Abyssinians help themselves to Somali cattle when they like, and the
owners, who are Mahomedans, turn their eyes towards us for protection against
their natural enemies. They place the most implicit faith in the British, and
are persuaded that our Government will never stand by and see them seriously pushed
by the Abyssinians without giving them, at any rate, moral help of some sort. They
turn to us as their natural protectors, as they would have turned to the Egyptians
had that Government continues to hold the coast.
Swayne extensively talks about massacres and raids (in iimay, near jigjiga, near Zailac, Bulaxaar, in the Haud and other localities). Nearly 200 years later, similar “collective punishment” by Ethiopian raids is taking place in the region.
Most recently, Jeffry Gentleman, in a 2007 New York Times article, revealed shocking stories of horrendous massacre describing what Human Rights Watch denounces as “Collective Punishment” carried by the autocratic government of Mr. Zenawi of Ethiopia.
Following suite, on March 2, 2008, The LA Times featured a front-page story, comparing the blight of the Somali region in Ethiopia to that of Darfur. The horrific account of Ridwan Sahid, a teenage Somali girl, for example, whose throat was slit by Ethiopian soldiers with their bare hands by using a wire, then leaving her for dead “under a pile of corpses” only to be accidently discovered by returning villagers, is one of several stories that prompted HRW to dub Ethiopian massacre against Somalis “Collective Punishment,” a label not far removed from “genocide.”
Washington, while correctly pressuring the Sudan government on the case of Darfur, has so far paid deaf ears to calls for action by numerous non-governmental organizations and human rights groups to halt the progressive gore massacres, torturous in the Somali region that reached an unprecedented level. The Orwellian nature of present day “Collective Punishment” is that the Britons took the same do-nothing attitude as is the Bush Administration in the face of desperate cries coming from Somalis.
To the dismay of many, the undersecretary of African Affairs, Jendayi Frazer, whose missteps are more common than otherwise, praised Mr. Zenawi, her familiarity with these and similar massacres in the region notwithstanding.
The Bush administration has looked the other way, for example, when CIA reconnaissance satellites, showing images depicting Southern Ethiopian peasants being herded into the conflict zone as fodder cannon in the 2000 Ethio-Eriterian border clashes that resulted in over 40,000 casualties, were availed to the State Department.
Washington would do nothing to stop “genocide” in the Somali region under Ethiopian rule, simply because Mr. Zenawi, according to the Bush administration, is a “reliable partner in the war on terror.” But nothing of these images - showing villages and civilian settlements, some of them sustained by Western food aid, being razed to the ground, are hardly qualify for “war on terror.”
To those Somalis who expected from Meles less than this, it is indeed a banging awakening! Ethiopia is not capable to do any better than this for its Somali subjects and for what is now its sphere of influence, i.e., Somalia proper; Ethiopian polity under Meles is nothing more than a feudal and a colonial polity that morphed into a cunningly opportunistic autocratic regime that defines its existentialism in relation to how it keeps Somalis (both inside and outside Ethiopia’s border) at bay.
The HRW “Collective Punishment” report and the AAAS images must be read and viewed by all, no matter how depressing they are.
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