The Alliance for Freedom and Democracy… everybody is talking about the Alliance.
Honestly, I can’t get myself excited about the hullabaloo, and believe me, I am no less than a notorious vendee of hullabaloo. “LF Groupies” are having recurring wet dreams about it, as are the highly excitable EPRDF demagogue addicts who are trying the “CUD is aligning itself with terrorists” line now that no one is buying the “CUD is the Derg” line. Walk it off, drama queens. Then there are the myriad of “Liberation Fronts for the Liberation of Liberation Fronts” who are in the middle of a prim and proper conniption fit… and some ridiculous ‘patriotic front’ is having its 15 minutes of fame.
Meanwhile in the “Are you done tearing them a new asshole?” department, Dagmawi weighs in with withering criticism. Ethiopundit joins the fray. Semminawerq makes astute observations and a case for the Alliance.
Ech! As the Alliance stands right now, it barely registers on my radar. It is neither an earthquake nor a CUD suicide. Until the real CUD leadership is free and IT decides its alliances, we should take with a grain of salt the actions of gently-aged, polyester-wearing political antediluvians who gathered in Norway to sign a document. But listen, more power to anyone who can talk with the OLF what with all the ‘Abyssinian colonialism’ it has burdened itself with fighting. So bottom line for this unofficial wonk is…whatever. Support the Alliance, don’t support Alliance, there’s a lot of reading material out there. But how can anything that gathers together this much Ethiopian testosterone in one room without someone ending up dead be all that bad, is what I am saying. Look at the darling way they are holding hands and hugging each other, ferchrissake! Shit, how close are they to ring-around-the-roseying to a peaceful resolution of the Ethiopian crisis?
Actually, I find the conversation about the Alliance more fascinating than the Alliance itself. Ethiopians are discussing it rationally (for the most part…this blog very much excluded), and people are publicly and intellectually grappling with the idea. (See Ethiomedia for various articles.) Some worthy back and forth has been occurring. That is, of course, unless you go on EPRDF websites where honest intellectual disagreement is feared more than Mariah Carey’s eminent movie career. Remember that line in The Big Lebowski where Bunny tells The Dude that the guy lounging in her pool is a nihilist? “Um, that must be exhausting,” he enjoined in perfect stoner lethargy. That’s what the EPRDF echo machine is: utterly exhausting.
What I do find fascinating is what has been happening in Somalia and the possible implications for Prime Minister Meles and the artery clot that is EPRDF.
So the Islamic Court in Somalia has claimed to have given a collection of “anti terrorism”, “hey, we hate Al-Qaeda” warlords a decisive drubbing. In a rushed panic against anything ‘Islamic’, the U.S. peppered the warlords with cash. And they still lost. You can’t hire decent mercenary help these days.
Well, guess who has been providing the US with information about supposed Al-Qaeda existence in Somalia? u-hum… not Pat Robertson?
Washington Post, May 17
In a report to the U.N. Security Council this month, the world body's monitoring group on Somalia said it was investigating an unnamed country's secret support for an anti-terrorism alliance in apparent violation of a U.N. arms embargo.
Wait for it… wait for it…
Today’s New York Times has a fascinating article about the whole thing. A must read.
Most area experts agree backing these warlords was… ehhhh, how can I put it diplomatically, gynormously fucked up.
Around that time, the State Department's political officer for Somalia, Michael Zorick, who had been based in Nairobi, was reassigned to Chad after he sent a cable to Washington criticizing Washington's policy of paying Somali warlords.
How come Chad gets all the smart people?
In May, the United Nations Security Council issued a report detailing the competing efforts of several nations, including Ethiopia and Eritrea, to provide Somali militias and the transitional Somali government with money and arms — activities the report said violated the international arms embargo on Somalia.
Good night and good luck.
The Newshour had an exceptional roundtable on the issue. Herman Cohen and Professor Abdi Samatar opined. Again, the transcript is a must read if you missed the program. Mr. Cohen attempted an Ethiopian connection to the sordid story:
I think the U.S. government panicked. They saw Islamic group; they said, "Taliban is coming."
Also, there are friends in the region, like the Ethiopians, who probably are feeding false intelligence about terrorists being hidden and that sort of thing, because the Ethiopians are deadly afraid of Moslem control and also they have their own Moslem problem among the Oromo ethnic group in Ethiopia.
Actually, Ethiopia has been feeding the US false information on terrorism because the Prime Minister knows what knee jerk reaction it gets from the State Department. Ethiopia has major internal problems (elections that didn’t quite add up, shooting of unarmed protestors, imprisoning of the opposition… y’know regular African stuff), and the only way it has escaped public scrutiny is by cynically playing the Al-Qaeda card. Well, that seems to have lost its luster.
Ethiopia’s status as a war on terror ally will finally come under close inquiry by the MSM press, and hopefully by the State Department. Prime Minister Meles’ government has been given several passes for egregious human rights violations because it was erroneously perceived as a stabilizing entity in the Horn. But now, not only is the UN is looking into violations of arms embargo, but the EPRDF has proven to be a destabilizing, Humvee hoarding, false-information providing, opportunist ally to the United States. Ato Meles’ government can get away with shooting unarmed civilians, but not embarrassing the US on matters concerning the war on terror.
The US has capitulated to working with the Islamic Court, and that might prove disastrous for the Meles regime. There also appears to be a reassessment of blind support to every AK-47 wielding warlord who claims to be rooting out Al Qaeda. If the US is serious about marginalizing Al Qadea in the Horn of Africa, it needs to seriously re-evaluate its relationship with the current Ethiopian government. But the US, unfortunately, doesn’t learn these lessons easily. After all, the warlords we are supporting in Somalia were the same ones who dragged the bodies of our boys through the streets of Mogadishu in 1994.
The Alliance for Freedom and Democracy might just provide the US with an alternative in Ethiopia. But even in this case, a careful assessment of the AFD’s strengths and weaknesses might be useful homework. Maybe Vicki Huddleston can tear herself away from target practice… ah, heck, transfer the good woman to Belize. She’s done her time trying to negotiate with Ato Meles.
Ted Koppel’s commentary, “Somalia: Decades of Unintended Consequences” hammers home the point.
Today is June 8, the first anniversary of the June uprising.