By Faisal A. Robleabout 114 Somalis residing in the Diaspora (including this author) sent a letter to the Somali public and to several international players in the Somalia affairs, including the United Nations General Secretary, Ban Ki-Moon, Ambassador Augustine Mahiga and US Undersecretary for Africa, Mr. Johnnie Carson. The letter urged all sides to reject the unilateral mandate to extend the Transitional Federal Parliament (TFP) term for three more years 1. The letter specifically underscored the troubling role the Inter Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD) has been playing in the Somalia affairs 2. IGAD’s overreaching hand in the political and social life of Somalia is at best troubling and at worst perpetuating by design the status quo.
However, with Ethiopia’s ascendency to political and military prominence since the mid 1990s, the vision was expanded to include security and political integration as a long term goal. Ethiopia, owing to its recently acquired status as a populous landlocked country, worked hard through the AU and IGAD to utilize said vision statements for its dominance of the political space of the region. It is plausible to argue that Ethiopia under Meles Zenawi has been usurping IGAD authority in order to freely interfere in the affairs of its traditional rival nation - Somalia. As a matter of fact, Ethiopia invoked this part of the vision statement (security) when it invaded Somalia in whose aftermath thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of civilians were killed 3.
Two geopolitical factors, one regional and another global, seem to have helped Ethiopia become the most influential IGAD member in the affairs of Somalia. First, the global factor is the Afro-Arab rivalry in the Horn of Africa, which until recently was rolled out at the level of the AU. In the Afro-Arab conflict, Ethiopia presents itself as the Christian Island in the Horn of Africa. Egypt, on the other hand, owing to its national security that is centered on the Nile River, presents itself to the Muslim residents of the region as the god father and the alternative power to Ethiopian leadership. Ethiopian won the war, thanks to massive support from the West 4.
With Western countries teaming up with Ethiopia on: (a) breaking up Sudan (into South North), and (b) arming and financially rewarding Ethiopia to suppress Islamic revivalism in the Somali peninsula, Ethiopia had effectively won the battle and assumed the leadership to oversees the Horn of Africa region for now.
Secondly, having the AU parliament headquarters located in Addis Ababa gives the Ethiopian authority significant advantage to unduly influence Somalia 6. Today, anyone in the political theater of Somalia (from Aydid and Mohamed Dheere, to the Yusuf Gedi and Nur Cade regime, to the present leadership) must first receive Ethiopia’s blessing before assuming the top leadership. The leadership of the sitting parliament in Somalia, for example, is closely associated with the geopolitical strategy of Ethiopia.
Faisal A. Roble
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