Wikileaks Cables from Mogadishu: Condoms Not Used in Somalia Invasion
Wait a minute. Is there US embassy in Mogadishu?
The recent leaks are shedding some light on the type and level of US engagement in the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia and Eritrea are in the spotlight, following the posting of edited cables from Addis Ababa, Asmara, Nairobi and Doha. The Diaspora-based Ethiopian media and a blog based in Ethiopia were quick to speculate on the content of the leaks as they relate to Ethiopia, and were observed rushing to make analyses of what has so far been availed by the editorial team of Wikileaks. One thing that was, however, missing from most of them is the part relating to Ethiopia’s difficult relations with Somalia and the involvement of the US in those interactions.
The cables contain important hints and pieces of information on what is happening in Somalia and the dynamics of Ethiopia-Somali relations. Broadly speaking, the cables expose areas that had formerly been “black spots” for anyone interested in the study of the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia’s invasion and occupation of Somalia, the Juba State, and US covert relations with the ONLF in and outside of the Ogaden have all been a mystery for the many Ethiopians keenly interested in the foreign policy of the state. It is natural that a responsible citizen would be concerned about whether the government is serving the best interest of the country in the short and long term. When transparency is completely lacking in the making and execution of foreign policies, and when those policies are drafted and administered by incompetent professionals selected for the job on the basis of loyalty, then one will be even more concerned.
One of the biggest revelations in the cables is the affirmation of the prior-held belief that the US was the driving force behind the mounting of the large-scale invasion of Somalia. So far what was known was that the US participated in that military adventurism only after Ethiopia made the decision to invade, and that their role was limited to sharing satellite images with the Ethiopian military.
According to a cable dated January 31, 2007, The Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, told the Commander of CENTCOM, General John Abizaid, “The Somalia job is fantastic.” The timing is important here. In that very month, Ethiopia was pursuing the forces of the Islamic Courts in Ras Kambon, a relatively forested area in the southern tip of Somalia, just after the U.S. launched an air strike using an AC-130 gunship against suspected Al-Qaeda operatives. What is not reported is that the US had even sent ground Special Forces,, possibly comprised of 40 to 50 soldiers, to the location. However, the US forces failed to find the Al Qaeda operatives that they were looking for and had to be assisted by Ethiopian forces in order to find their way out of the jungle. So when the Crown Prince refers to a job as “fantastic”, he is not referring to the actual US job – which failed. It can only be the whole project of routing out the Islamists. And that was done by Ethiopia. But if that was an Ethiopian-driven or executed project, then the compliment of “fantastic” is to be delivered in front of Ethiopian officials, not to an American general. The logic here is simple. The Americans should take credit because they are the masterminds of the whole Somalia invasion.
Meles once told parliament that Ethiopian forces are not fighting in Somalia using condoms (using USAID money). Well, now we are no longer in as dim a light as we once were before this leak. The US was the driving force and, as such, the financier of the ‘”fantastic” Somalia job. Yet lying to representatives of the peoples is not crime in Ethiopia, at least when it is the Premier who is lying.