Tag Archives: Sudan

Ethiopia/Sudan: Troops exchange fire after Sudanese soldiers kill Ethiopian farmers

4 Jul

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

ESAT news (July 3, 2018) Ethiopian and Sudanese troops have engaged in a brief battle after soldiers for the latter killed and injured several Ethiopian farmers.

As information trickles from the area, ESAT has learnt that the latest wave of attack by the Sudanese began three weeks ago when its army killed several Ethiopian farmers on a disputed farmland on the border between the two countries.

A witness who spoke to ESAT on the phone from Metema said the Sudanese side killed five farm workers four days ago in an unprovoked attack. The witness said Ethiopian forces have been deployed following that incident and had engaged the Sudanese in a brief battle. He said there were deaths on both sides. Seven Ethiopians including members of the army have been sent to Genda Wuha Hospital in Metemma after today’s brief exchange of fire, according to the witness.

An attack last night in Dalol agricultural development has left several injured, according to the witness who said Ethiopian soldiers were among them.

Several Ethiopian farmers were feared killed by the Sudanese in Quara.

The Ethiopian Border Affairs Committee in North America and other witnesses on the ground accused that soldiers for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front had a hand in the conflict. The TPLF has been accused of instigating previous attacks on Ethiopian farmers along the border.

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The TPLF, that had the political and military upper hand in Addis Ababa until recently, had given large swaths of agricultural land to their comrades in arms in Sudan against the will of the Ethiopian farmers in the border areas. There have been several attacks by the Sudanese in past years, but the Ethiopian farmers have repulsed most.

In a related story, Amhara Mass Media Agency( AMMA), the regional state media, confirmed that the skirmish involving Sudanese Border Security and Ethiopian farmers happened this morning in Metema district of the zone along Delelo Agricultural investment land, according to Borkena. The source added that there were casualties on both sides but did not indicate the numbers.

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Neither Sudanese government authorities nor the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia has reacted to this latest conflict about four/five days later.

However, Borkena reports, there has been an outcry by Ethiopian farmers in the region for a long time now after the TPLF government allegedly handed over land that belongs to Ethiopia to Sudan. About three or so years ago, TPLF government, which used to be dominant in the Federal government while representing only five percent of the Ethiopian population, signed a joint-border security agreement with Sudan and arrangement was made to for a joint-force from the two countries to patrol border areas.

Related:

Sudan, Ethiopia hold military talks in Kassala

2008 Genet Mersha’s retrospects:

IS THE STORY FROM THE ETHIO-SUDANESE BORDER —A ‘REPULSIVE RUMOUR’, AS ALLEGED OFFICIALLY– OR…? (Abugida is gone with article. You may read the original from my original Word document)

Debate # Six: Another Miscalculation or Ignorance?

CRY MY BELOVED COUNTRY!Ethiopian group kills 16 Sudanese farmers: TPLF’s trade in nation’s sovereign territory with Sudan for Front’s permanence in power backfires

 

2008 Genet Mersha’s retrospect:       Is The Ethio-Sudan border a ‘repulsive rumour’, as alleged officially, or …?

4 Jul

By Keffyalew Gebremedhin, The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

by Genet Mersha, 21 May 2008

At a time when the scourge of drought and famine is casting its ugly shadow over residents of six out of the nine regions of our country,[i] the attention of Ethiopians is distracted by allegations of yet another injury to our territorial integrity. The recent story from Ethio-Sudanese border alleges that: (a) Ethiopia has handed over part of its territory to the Sudan, (b) Sudanese forces have taken some 33 Ethiopians prisoners, and, (c) the Agazi force is assisting Sudanese forces against the Ethiopians. If true, not only that this represents the height of insanity, but also it is extremely disturbing and unconscionable.

Admittedly, the information we have had so far may only be adequate for concern and worries, but not to pass informed judgement. Unlike the past, however, the current allegation has persisted, partly owing to unintended transparency on the Sudanese side and corroboration of the same on DW radio and the VOA that attributed their information this time to Ethiopian sources familiar with the situation. In the light of this, it is the duty of citizens to express their strongest concerns and exert pressure on government to restrain itself from exploiting the evolving Ethio-Sudanese relations for its narrower and short-term security and political interests. If the story is truly unfounded, as alleged in the 12 May statement, government should come out clean and provide citizens with sufficient clarifications, instead of its dismissiveness. That would give us all the much-needed opportunity for undivided attention to seek ways to help our people who are now suspended between life and death because of the drought and famine that has been creeping for some time now.

Understandably, many Ethiopian citizens are frustrated by the long and deliberate information blackout on an issue of such significance and national importance. For many, this current allegation revives memory of the toxic 1993 decision that rendered our country landlocked and has poisoned its politics ever since. The fact that the regime has made the question of access to the sea an important leg of its foreign and security policy since 1998 is only a reflection of its belated realization of Ethiopia’s dependence on a narrow corridor between Addis and Djibouti for its survival. Recently, in the context of the current Djibouti-Eritrea tensions, Prime Minister Meles indicated, “…Ethiopia will make sure the corridor is safe and sound.”[ii] Perhaps that message was intended for Eritrea. Nonetheless, as far as Ethiopians are concerned, neither has it provided them with a sense of security nor trust in government policies. On the contrary, as seen from the responses of citizens on the matter on the various WebPages, they have limited their comments to a strong attribution of charges of original sinfulness against the regime even 15 years after Eritrea was awarded its independence, without any say from Ethiopians. If the regime had grown wiser in 17 years, it should have now refrained from taking its citizens for granted, for it would only deepen their distrust of its motives and political judgements.

It is granted that Ethio-Sudanese relations are complicated, full of mischief and age-old claims and counterclaims of land that each side has seized or lost during decades of proxy wars. The fact is that Ethiopian citizens will never come to know, not even laser-eyed experts, about the true nature and quality of the agreements the two sides have concluded in recent years behind closed doors and at the highest levels possible. However, land transfers that involve displacement of high number of farmers, looting and destruction of investor properties cannot be hidden forever. In view of the seriousness of the issue, truth would always find its way giving citizens yet another opportunity to judge whether the policy of expediency has once again put Ethiopian territorial integrity to danger. Until the truth comes out, the current allegations of government dealings in land will linger on.

In response to the current gush of concerns and anger that hit the airwaves repeatedly a few weeks back, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 12 May issued a statement of denial[iii] that was only very late by a few years. As usual, its statement put the blame on concerned citizens, rather than its deliberate suppression of information. We are used to it that it is an indication the government is still unwilling to listen and respond in a timely fashion to its citizens concerns. On this serious issue, it should expect that the public would be of the mind that there would be no smoke without fire.

Consequently, government now finds itself in a tight corner of its own making. Even then, the most honourable course should have been to invite credible and independent media personalities, prominent citizens or academics to investigate the alleged story on the ground and the border incidents, immediately after the Deutche Welle and VOA reports. I do not think it is too late for that even now. Absent that, the stale statement by the Ministry remains mere denial by a ‘suspect’ against the words of an ‘accomplice,’ who of its own volition has revealed the appointed time for the handover of the disputed lands.

ARE EHTIOPIA & THE SUDAN READING FROM THE SAME PAGE?   

In his opening statement at the Seventh Session of Ethio-Sudanese Ministerial Commission at Addis Ababa, Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin on 26 June 2007 confirmed completion of the work of the Boundary Committee. At the time, the Foreign Minister declared:

…the significant achievements registered in a short period of time were sources of inspiration to redouble joint efforts…The completion of the Metema-Galabat-Gadarif road and the micro-wave link project as well as Ethiopia’s access to Port Sudan have paved the ground for enhanced cooperation between the two sisterly countries… The efforts made by the two sides to fully implement the agreements concluded during the Sixth Joint Ministerial Commission meeting regarding air transport, civil aviation and port utilization were encouraging. The joint Technical Boundary Committee has finalized the project proposal for the redemarcation of the long common boundary, [which is] extremely critical for putting Ethio-Sudanese relations on a firm and dependable basis[i] (Emphasis added).

That was 11 months ago. The key phrase in that latest revelation is “…has finalized the project proposal for the redemarcation…” which in practice involves territorial adjustments. Since this issue involves two sides, it is possible, so long as Ethiopia’s historical claims and the longstanding connection of the people to the land are respected and preserved. However, some chronological anomaly raises the question of timing. Almost a year before the above-mentioned jubilant declaration by the Ethiopian Foreign Minister, the Sudanese envoy Ambassador Abu Zeid, in an exclusive interview with Walta Information Centre (WIC), told the international community that agreement on the border was already the on the table in 2006. To that effect, he noted:

Ethiopia and Sudan have made boundary an issue of development and cooperation rather than of conflict. Sudan has about 10 [sic] neighbouring countries, but the way it manages its boundary issues with Ethiopia is exemplary to other African countries. The boundary of Ethiopia and Sudan is actually demarcated, yet the actual work on the ground remains a homework to both countries only because it is beyond their financial capacity.[ii] (Emphasis added).

Therefore, in reading the two positions side by side, one is left with more questions than answers. With respect to the Technical Boundary Committee, one also gets the impression that its individual members were assembled merely to carry out land surveys and to put marks on the ground, upon receipt of political decisions, despite the claim by the Minister that they “finalized project proposals.” The question here is did they have the requisite expertise in various disciplines and the independence, as in the past, to stand even on the way of political decisions when their findings warranted that? Commonsense dictates that government would do better, if it clarified to its citizens the process, if possible, and especially how the decision to hand over land is arrived at, if at all, that is true.

In addition, the Sudanese claim of 3 July 2007, which came one week after the opening of the Seventh Session of the Ministerial Commission, is an official position by the Sudanese government, as a party to the agreement. Their claim is unequivocal in its assertion that the actual handover of land “would start today”; that was eleven months ago, according to Governor Abdelrahman al-Khidir of Al-Gadarif State. At the time, the Governor said, “The joint Sudanese-Ethiopian committee would start today to hand over agricultural lands to residents of more than 17 Sudanese villages located in eastern Atbara River… Technical arrangements have been finished and a committee of seven experts from each side would give the Sudanese farmers their lands.”[iii](Emphasis added). If this is false, why were Ethiopian officials tongue-in-cheek this long, only to come one year later to tell the world that it was not true? The Ethiopian statement says, “What is going on at present is preparation to set the marks in the future.”(Emphasis added). On top of that, the strongly worded Amharic version of the statement rejects the allegation of land transfer as a “repulsive rumour.”

One thing is certain; both the Sudanese claim and the Ethiopian denial cannot stand the same test of authenticity. At the same time, given that two parties are involved in this matter, citizens understand that there is another side to this equation—the interests of the Sudanese side. Thus, could the Sudanese claim be a sleight of hand intended to prod Ethiopia into faster implementation of the agreement? Obviously, we do not know the answer to that question either. In the light of these, I have warmed up to Fekade Shewakena’s suggestion, where he says, “… we all need to take a step back and deliberate on the issue as one people with calm and reason and well founded evidence.”[iv]

Might I add at this point that, had government been forthcoming and provided its citizens with the appropriate information in a timely manner, it would not have found itself in the unfortunate position of contradicting its partner’s claims! 

A PERSPECTIVE ON ETHIO-SUDAN RELATIONS

As mentioned above, Ethio-Sudanese relations have always been sensitive, complicated and tricky. Until recently, the work of the joint Ethio-Sudanese Boundary Committee under successive regimes in Ethiopia and the Sudan had been decidedly nebulous and purposely ambivalent. Whereas the Boundary Committee got into the news on rare occasions, the post 1972 diplomacy seemed to give the air that the two countries were better off with the border issue left to slumber in the manner of the imaginary Rip van Winkle. The reason for that embrace of inaction was the fear of unsatisfactory solution being more ominous than the problem itself. In the meantime, the two countries continued to exploit every opportunity and for a better part of their relations and intensified their mutual bleeding quietly, including stepping into each other’s borders.

In terms of scores, therefore, against the best hopes or perhaps miscalculation of Ethiopian foreign policy of those days, long years of patient Sudanese efforts indisputably succeeded in 1991 in unseating the military government, thereby facilitating the reconfiguration of our territory with the secession of Eritrea in 1993. However, the two former beneficiaries of Sudanese assistance (TPLF & EPLF), continued proxy wars against the Sudan, instead of turning out to be grateful friends, as the Sudan had hoped or wanted to dictate the course of events.

In the case of Ethiopia, its proxy war this time aimed partly to counter Sudan’s aggressive efforts of the late 1980s that continued into the 1990s to Islamaize Ethiopia by showering poor rural citizens with Saudi, Iranian and Libyan monies. Therefore, Ethiopia supported the SPLA and had a brief courtship with the NDA too. This continued as an official TPLF/EPRDF policy until 2002, when the latter uncovered SPLM hosting 2,400 OLF fighters within the territory it had liberated.[v] They were directly flown by Eritrea for operation against Ethiopia. At the time, the commander of Ethiopian forces in the west told the BBC that captured OLF fighters had confessed that the leadership of both the OLF and Eritrea had deceived the fighters in telling them that they were being flown to the United States.[vi]

In its brief existence, hence, Eritrea’s major contribution has been to force closeness among the countries of the region. Its bellicose policies sent shock waves into the establishments in Addis Ababa, Djibouti, Khartoum and Sana’a. These countries took good note of Eritrea’s enormous capacity and expertise in what I call ‘insurrectionary diplomacy’, which proved effective in training, arming and dispatching insurgents faster than goods on sophisticated Chinese assembly lines. For these countries, therefore, the evidence of Eritrea’s mischief and trouble making had found ample expressions early on in its: (a) contention with the Sudan over their undemarcated border and its support for anti-Khartoum fronts in eastern, southern and western Sudan, (b) 1996 skirmishes with Yemen over the Hanish Islands, (c) repeated incursions into Djibouti, and, (d) 1998-2000 bloody war with Ethiopia.

History has hardly recorded times and places where mere sovereign earnestness has brought closeness and amity between nations, or sustained good neighbourliness in a vacuum. There is always, I repeat advisedly, always, a driving force that brings nations closer, much as there are always reasons for hostilities and termination of relations. Here also, there is ample evidence to suggest that since the late 1990s both Ethiopia and the Sudan have needed each other for similar and different reasons. The Sudan, which was beset by internal conflicts badly needed allies, especially a strong one, completely isolated as it was because of international disapproval of its behaviour. Ethiopia also needed security and an alternative access to the sea for its trade with the outside world, after Assab became off limits for it in 1998.

Therefore, the Ethio-Eritrean war of 1998-2000 provided conclusive evidence to both Ethiopia and the Sudan that they were better off coming closer together more than ever before. Consequently, in the years from 2000-2005, Ethiopia and the Sudan signed the largest ever number of bilateral agreements, compared to those from 1956-2000. At the same time, in the eyes of both countries, proxy war as an instrument of foreign policy now proved less valuable. They realized in time that it would undermine their fundamental interests and needs, because of the following reasons:

  • First, the immense pressure Eritrea’s aggressive posture exerted on both Ethiopia and the Sudan accentuated the vulnerability and security needs of the two countries that have a large number of opposition groups within their territories. For the Sudan, its internal conflicts were also widening.
  • Second, there is shared perception among analysts that the emergence of Ethiopia victorious from the war against Eritrea impressed upon the Sudan the need to improve relations with Ethiopia, now as the dominant power in the sub-region. Sudan recognizes that of the nine countries it is bordering with, Ethiopia is the only neighbour in the east that it faces on its northern front and the troubled south along their 1,606 km border. Therefore, the Sudan needed no proof that a stable Ethiopia is key to the solution, if possible, if not, to the containment of its internal problems, especially in the south and the east and diplomatically also in the West in respect of Darfur through its influence within the region.
  • Third, landlocked Ethiopia needed the Sudan to agree to its use of its Port Sudan on the Red Sea. Following a negotiation that took place longer than two years, Ethiopia got the right of use of the port in 2002.
  • Fourth, Since the mid-1990s the Sudan has become the third largest oil exporting country in Africa, with production capacity of 500,000 barrels per day (2005). According to some energy experts, Khartoum has proven reserves of 563 million barrels of light sweet crude oil that is easily refined and most desirable.[vii] A huge potential also exists in the regions that still need to be pacified—in the south and west.[viii] Therefore, Sudan realizes that it could pave its road to oil wealth only when it is at peace with its neighbours, and when there is security within the country.
  • Fifth, the common friendship Ethiopia and the Sudan have in China has helped the two countries in coordinating their regional and international policies on issues of common interest to both, thereby contributing to improved understanding and trust between the two neighbours. An evidence of that is the shift in Ethiopian foreign policy since 2003 in respect of Darfur. In 2004, Ethiopia’s position was less committal and only exhibited keen interest “to see the Darfur crisis resolved and the humanitarian tragedy dealt with as speedily as possible.”[ix]In January 2006, the Ethiopian Foreign Minister criticized “internationalization of the Darfur crisis,” noting “the issue is a local one.”[x] Furthermore, according to Chinese news sources, Prime Minister Meles has assured the Chinese of his opposition to any form of pressure or sanctions against the Sudan.[xi]
  • Sixth, isolation resulting from Sudan’s fundamentalist policies and the threat from the international community had helped in accelerating the break in the alliance between the al-Bashir government and the Turabi-led fundamentalists in 1999, thereby minimizing to itself the danger from outside while at the same time giving some degree of confidence to Ethiopia. Greater US military focus and involvement in Africa with the establishment of the Africa Command (Africom) in February 2007 also reinforced the change in Sudanese behaviour. Africom is established to respond to the dangers posed by China to Western interests in Africa on one hand and Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism in the Horn of Africa with the Sudan and Somalia as it targets on the other.

BENEFITS TO ETHIOPIA OF RELATIONS WITH THE SUDAN

There is always the potential for Ethiopia and the Sudan to benefit hugely from closer cooperation. To date, the most important dividend, among others, has been Egypt’s acceptance after 102 years of shenanigan Ethiopia’s unchallenged right to use the Nile water for its national development. For a long time, Egypt has anchored its Ethio-Sudanese policy on the 1902 British colonial treaty and its bilateral 1959 agreement with the Sudan, thereby extorting veto power over the water and special privileges for itself. For several decades, Egypt succeeded in blocking Ethiopia from raising international project finance for irrigation and building dams for electricity, immensely contributing to the perpetuation of cycles of drought and famine and, hence, abject poverty in Ethiopia. Moreover, since the days of President Sadat, Egypt had declared intention to go to war if Ethiopia built dams on the Nile River. Times changed and the rapprochement with Sudan compelled Egypt in 2004 at a trilateral meeting of Egypt, Ethiopia and the Sudan to recognize for the first time Ethiopia’s right of use of the water. The Egyptian declaration came through Mr. Mahmud Abu Zeid, the Egyptian Minister of Water Resources, who uttered that famous sentence, “Ethiopia has the right to build dams.”[xii]

On the economic front, Ethiopia and the Sudan have fostered growing trade relations, although data is hard to come by. In terms of volume, not only that it is insignificant, especially considering that Ethiopia’s exports to nay market are supply constrained, but also that Ethiopia is hardly Sudan’s important trading partner. However, after Djibouti and Somalia, Sudan is one of the three important Ethiopian export destinations in Africa for live animals, coffee and pulses. Recently, the Ethiopian National Bank reported that of the 16.6 percent of Ethiopia’s export that went to Africa in 2007/08, 90 percent headed to those three African countries, of which the share of live animals for the three countries was 11.4 percent and pulse 10 percent.[xiii] In the course of these budding relations, however, while trade especially from the Ethiopian side has hardly shown meaningful increases, obviously the balance continues to be in favour of the Sudan. Presently, negotiations are also underway for the interconnection of electric grids between the two countries, possibly enabling Ethiopia at future date to sale electricity to the Sudan and cover the costs of its oil imports from that country.

One advantage so far for Ethiopia of their energy agreement is that, at a time when the skyrocketing price of oil is taxing heavily the economies of developed countries and bankrupting developing nations, the Sudan has been providing Ethiopia 80 percent of its gasoline imports at a fixed and, thus, relatively, cheaper price. As a result, since 2003 it is estimated that Ethiopia might have gained from seven to ten million dollars annually.[xiv]Moreover, in view of sanctions imposed on the Sudan by the United States in 2007 and the prohibition of transfer of currency to Sudanese banks, Ethiopian import prices are paid either through a Letter of Credit (LC)[xv] or in barter trade, with Ethiopia paying in agricultural products.[xvi]Finally, infrastructure development like highway (156 km Metema-Gadariff) and telecommunications are completed further facilitating trade and commerce between the two countries.

All said and done, it must be stressed that at this stage the driving force behind Ethio-Sudanese relations and cooperation has primarily been the security needs of both sides. The difficulties that sometimes both sides experience in their negotiations in other sectors rather reflect that dependence and caution, instead of the potentials or the inherent difficulties in the other sectors. Ethiopia needs to be able to foresee the needs of the other side clearly and evaluate it on a longer time scale.

CONCLUSION

We now live in a fast changing world, in which the interests and considerations of nations are also undergoing significant changes. In all history, however, what has been constant is nations’ commitment and determination to ensure and maximize their interests and gains. The TPLF understands that better than anyone else does. In March 2007, Ato Sebhat Nega reportedly assured TPLF members in North America that the TPLF/EPRDF regime would remain stable and in power as long as the Sudan does not allow its territory to be a staging ground for attacks by armed groups. While on the surface the assumption is plausible for any Ethiopian government, past, present and future, Ato Sebhat went further in stressing explicitly that the TPLF would do everything to maintain good relations with the Sudan in order to prevent opposition forces from obtaining bases in that country.[xvii]

On purpose, this paper has dwelt at length on the delicate nature of the relations between Ethiopia and the Sudan and their mutually beneficial aspects. Its intention is to impress on anyone interested in that part of the world the importance of Ethio-Sudanese relations today and tomorrow. However, the fact that today security is ensured, highways are constructed, commerce is facilitated or oil is sold to Ethiopia at preferential prices or the nation has an alternative access to the sea is no adequate justification for any government to give away Ethiopian lands, if at all, that is being contemplated or if it has happened . In any language and culture, the surrender of national territory is a treasonous act.

As history has proved time again, any agreement that is driven by the survival interests of the governing party alone would be no different from an attempt at reinventing the imaginary Frankenstein that caused the demise of its own creator. In other words, it creates alienation between citizens and government. Also, it would leave behind problems for future generations, in view of the fact that recouping today’s losses at any time in the future would be next to impossible. This is because the claim of the other side would be strengthened by virtue of origin of concession. Above all, it would spoil the otherwise relatively healthy people-to-people relations between the two countries. Unlike others, it does not need immense  efforts at revitalization or restoration, as the others especially in the north and the south that have been spoiled by years of wars and the ensuing enmity reckless propaganda have fostered.

As we live in a volatile region that is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future, decisions on agreements with long-term implications to our national interests should not be influenced by temporary security, political and economic considerations. Such an action would hardly spare any government of the wrath of present and future generations, not to speak of the judgement of history.

The changing needs of states and mutating cells are not necessarily the measures of essence or permanence. Similarly, Ethio-Sudanese relations need to be handled with foresight and fortitude borne of history, and bearing in mind our country’s place and destiny in the region and in the world.

[i] ENA, Ethio-Sudanese cooperation witnesses marked progress, 26 June 2007.

[ii] ENA, Ethio-Sudan border commission meet concludes, 26 May 2006.

[iii] Sudan Tribune, ‘Eastern Sudan farmers get back disputed lands from Ethiopia.’ 2 July 2007.

[iv] Abugidainfo.com, Some points on the Ethio-Sudanese border flap, 15 May 2008.

[v] J. Young, Sudan’s Changing Relations with its Neighbours and the Implications for War and Peace, 2002.

[vi] BBC, Fighting on Ethiopia-Sudan Border, 29 June 2002.

[vii] Council on Foreign Relations, China, Africa and Oil, 26 January 2007.

[viii] Michael T. Klare. Rising Powers Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy, 2008, p. 212

[ix] Seyoum Mesifn, Statement at UNGA 59, 28th September 2004, New York.

[x] Suna 20 January 2006.

[xi] People’s Daily Online, 19 June 2007,

[xii] ENA, Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt reach agreement on Nile River projects, 29 June 2004.

[xiii] National Bank of Ethiopa, 1st Quarter 2007/08, p. 49.

[xiv] Alexander’s Gas and Oil Connections, Ethiopia to import oil from Sudan, 24 January 2003.

[xv] ibid.

[xvi] Fortune, 11 May 2008; The Sudan Tribune, 17 January 2008.

[xvii] http://www.alenalki.com, “Sebhat Nega’s meets Tigrayans in the Diaspora” 8 March 2007.

[i] United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Ethiopia,  Situation Report: Drought in Ethiopia, 16      May 2008.

[ii] Reuters, 15 May 2008.

[iii] Statement on border demarcation by Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 12 May 2008.

Has TPLF blind-sighted UN to get a controversial general inducted as UNISFA commander, or UNISFA a TPLF agency legitimising its ethnic discrimination agenda & practices?

30 May

By Keffyalew Gebremedhin The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

PART Two of two

As the last days of pseudo ‘liberationists’ of the marauding category everywhere await their sinking sun, challenges of all sorts to the United Nations no longer subtle, remain as insidious as ever. Their mission, if at all possible, is subversion of the ideals the Organisation stands for—pure and simple.

These phenomena are daily realities in both the developed world as in the least developed nations. Their driving forces are the hunger of brutes for power and wealths. In thinking of those, many are the moments I have wondered about what the United Nations has done right thus far to ride over many such obstacles and challenges both under normal times and during peak moments of the post-Cold War world.

There is no bette and latest indicator to reach such conclusion than the recent budget cuts by the Trump Administration from United States contributions to the United Nations. Polls show “58 percent of Trump voters agree the UN is still needed today.”

In this environment, it is also refreshing to note that Secretary-General António Guterres should resort to presenting the United Nations as a necessity for our world. He does this, to the extent possible, through continually preparing the Organisation for greater commitment and endeavours to attain its Charter objectives.

Those United Nations goals, as set out in the Preamble to the Charter, aim to enable the post-war world to:

  • “practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and
  • unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and
  • ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and
  • employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples.”

Accordingly, Secretary-General Guterres observed on the 56th anniversary of Hammarskjold’s wreath laying ceremony on 12 September 2017:

“Dag Hammarskjold not only believed in the United Nations, he inspired so many others to believe in it, too. We need that spirit more than ever today.”

In a fitting tribute on the occasion, the secretary-general honoured his enigmatic predecessor picking a strand from one of his utterances:

“Everything will be all right – you know when? When people, just people, stop thinking of the United Nations as a weird Picasso abstraction and see it as a drawing they made themselves.”

That, Mr. Guterres followed with a pledge befitting the occasion:

“As Secretary-General, I am committed to understanding and interpreting this complex drawing, so it is clear to all people everywhere what it represents. At its root, the United Nations stands for hope – hope for peace, prosperity and dignity for all.”

The Hammarskjold factor

For most international civil servants and United Nations member states, the enormously collected and focused  Dag Hammarskjold, the second United Nations Secretary-General (1953-1961)remains the architect who, with the approval and collaboration of member states, had successfully elevated the Organisation’s Charter at a difficult time on a reliable pedestal to serve as beacon to states, cultures and humanity in general.

Consequently, with lessons learned from the failed League of Nations, among Hammarskjold’s achievements is his success in determining how the secretary-general and his staff should conduct their relations with states to ensure independence of the secretary-general and his staff.  In so doing, he managed to lock everything within key values of excellence, personal integrity, in concert with Article 100 of the Charter, i.e., “… the Secretary-General and the staff shall not seek or receive instructions from any government or from any other authority external to the Organization.”

Hammarskjold had been credited for putting from the ground up most of the United Nations’ present operating manuals, recruitment policy, staff regulations (regularly updated), security, etc., as well as institutionalisation of peacekeeping, its essential policies, politics and procedures — following the onset in 1956 of the Suez Crisis (also see)

Most remembered is his sharp mind, we are told, which he employed to constantly undertake complex negotiations with member states, solely the United Nations Charter as his guiding light.

In his assessment of Hammarskjold’s achievements, I am hardly surprised that Brian Urquhart — one of the most experienced UN officials under the second secretary-general, in retirement still who happens to be our compass especially on the Hammarskjold era —should wonder in his Hammarskjold (1972) whether the person was “ahead of his time”, so “his personality and exceptional skill made an impression on his contemporaries out of all proportion to their lasting political or institutional value?”

He then concludes: “Hammarskjold was certainly a virtuoso of multilateral diplomacy and negotiation.”

At the opening of the first session of the new UN Regional Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) on December 29, 1958. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld greeting His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Haile Selassie I29 December 1958 (UN photo)

At a time when trouble was assailing many parts of the world and demanding the secretary-general’s fullest attention, this writer takes pride that Mr. Hammarskjold should visit my country Ethiopia on December 29, 1958 rather on a more peaceful and hopeful undertaking. Brian Urquhart has documented that the secretary-general needed to travel to Ethiopia, “to open in the presence of Emperor Haile Selassie the first session of the UN Economic Commission for Africa [ECA]” where part of his statement lauded the emperor with the following words:

“In the days when international cooperation was not so well founded as it is today,” he told the Commission, “His Imperial Majesty, in the adversity then experienced, was a symbol to the whole world of the principles of international order. It is certainly a vindication of his faith that now, in happier times…the UN is to make its African home in Addis Abeba.”

The United Nations continues to be represented in Africa, with ECA as its regional coordination programme, focussing on human, economic and social developments as its particular goals. Hammarskjold tragically lost his life in Africa, following a mysterious plane crush over the Congo on September 18, 1961. To this day, the United Nations has continued to investigate the cause(s) of his death, following every lead it puts its hand on.

It is granted that perusal of the above paragraphs may get some into thinking this long piece is about Dag Hammarskjold. Admittedly, it’s hard to argue against such assumption. Instead, I would yield; suffice to leave that to how Alec Russell in a May 13, 2011 article on The Financial Times had described Mr. Hammarskjold as “the benchmark against which his successors have been judged – and most found wanting.”

The preceding, it seems, must have been a widely-shared view in-house too, especially if one dwells on the (above) words of the ninth secretary-general, the current occupant of that office.

Fact: This article is not about Dag Hammarskjold!

UNSG receiving ‘Gen. Gabre’ (UN photo) While Otto von Bismarck’s famous saying “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable —the art of the next best” may always enjoy validity, I have, nonetheless, found myself incapable of reconciling to Mr. Guterres’ two decisions regarding this

Hammarskjold inspires the search for what is right and proper for the United Nations. In that, while the two decision points hereunder might be Secretary-General Guterres’ considered views, especially in dealing with a large troop contributing nation, this piece essentially is about being forthright. That is to say, I have found it difficult to reconcile myself with two of his following actionsThose are

  • The appointment in the first place of Maj-Gen. Gebre Adhana Woldezgu Commander of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), announced on April 4, 2018. To the best of my understanding, no vetting of his alleged crimes have been undertaken to protect the Organisation from the implications of such association; and,
  • Tthe secretary-general’s decision to receive and dispatch on May 1, 2018 the major-general to the Abyei mission, i.e., into the contested oil lands between the two Sudans, is taking for granted the concerns of the peoples of Ethiopia and South Sudan who deserve the appropriate responses by the general.

Mr. Guterres’ decisions came only about eight months after his pledge at the Hammarskjold commemoration (above). For me, its loudly-resonating remark underscored the importance of commitment to attain the goals of the United Nations Charter, as he put it at the time, with a view to promoting and protecting “… hope for peace, prosperity and dignity for all.”

Surely, I understand Mr. Guterres may have followed precedence. This wrongheaded decision and practice of entirely relegating UNISFA to the control of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF 1991- ) and its abuses and misuses thereon of the time-honoured United Nations institution started already in 2011. It is his predecessor Ban Ki-moon’s short-sighted action. Mr. Ban was overwhelmed with delight in the TPLF (Ethiopia’s) generosity to provide every UNISFA-required peacekeeper — including civilian and police force — at a time of diminishing numbers of troop-contributing states.

Inevitably, thus the UN surrendered to the wishes, political and economic benefits of its largest troops contributor’s. Such is the situation, for instance, in Abyei UNSFA has had until March 2018 force strength of 4,841 (uniformed), of which 4,321 or 89.4 percent are offered by Ethiopia.

The troops contributions of the other top nine states trail far behind Ethiopia’s in the following order of insignificance: Siri Lanka 5, Ukraine 4, Ghana 3, Namibia 3, Benin 2, Brazil 2, Burundi 2, Cambodia 2 and Guatemala 2.

For the TPLF, by using the nation’s resources was polishing its sooted image through such machinations and its fake double-digit economic growth fable.

This was the door the United Nations blindly walked in to its present trap. At no time has the UN been inconvenienced in becoming an ally of and agency for TPLF’s shameful ‘policy’ and practices of ethnic discrimination in Ethiopia. In other words, the UN has tolerated this for all these years, when UNIFSA commanders, save two, (as shown in the table below) happened to be all ethnic Tigreans, whereas Ethiopia has been known as a multi-ethnic state.

This TPLF crime, in which the UN became co-conspirator, is committed in the name of only less than six percent of Ethiopia’s 105 million population (2017). This — to put it mildly— is not only horrid and extremely annoying. But also on the part of the United Nations it borders betrayal of Ethiopia’s sacred trust, as one of its first few signatory states at San Francisco of the Charter on 26 June 1945.

Periods of commanders’ service compiled by the author from UN sources, while the ethnicity information is native knowledge from names and Ethiopian media. Click to magnify

The problem today is allowing this bad judgement by Mr. Ban KI-moon to stand now — seven odd years thus far, perhaps many more years to come too! Such monstrous failure by the Organisation brings to mind the 1867 famous remark by Prussia’s Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck: “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable —the art of the next best”.

I take it that the truism in this saying remains valid, its adherents motivated by practical necessities and considerations, especially when dealing with states’ restraint in contributing troops to the United Nations peacekeeping operations.  

This writer is reminded of Hammarskjold’s personal side, revelatory of his handling of the management of the Organisation. In Markings, his sort-of-private diary, is something that is both informative and instructive. In there, he had written: “We have to gain self-assurance in which we give all criticism its due weight and are humble before praise.”

That’s what the people of Ethiopia look to now in the United Nations. They have had enough of the repression and humiliation by the TPLF, while the United Nations chose to side the former in violation of its creed.

Political artisans at the United Nations made a horrible miscalculation in not waking up in good time to correct, when ethnic discrimination is feathering its nest within the Organisation, even after seven long years of alliance with murderers!

Today is May 29

This is a day that also invokes the name of the second secretary-general, Dag Hammarskjold! This writer too considers himself his devotee, aspiring to remain Hammarskjold’s life-long student, honouring his contributions to mankind and civilisations.

That is why the General Assembly too in its resolution 57/129 of February 29, 2003 has designated 29 May every year as the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers. 

On this day, the Secretary-General presides over a wreath-laying ceremony annually at the UN Headquarters in New York in honour of all peacekeepers.

This is in keeping with operative paragraph 1 of the resolution, which states: to pay tribute to all the men and women who have served and continue to serve in United Nations peacekeeping operations for their high level of professionalism, dedication and courage, and to honour the memory of those who have lost their lives in the cause of peace.” 

Those slain peacekeepers in the cause of peace and under United Nations flag during the preceding year are posthumously awarded the Dag Hammarskjold Medal.

Already eighteen days ago on May 11, Mr. Guterres had a photo-up with all United Nations force commanders.

I must be frank to state in that connection my disappointment, since it includes someone he last April appointed as force commander —Maj-Gen. Gebre Adhana Woldezgu — the very subject of this article’s Part One . In that article, I had tried to reason out why I disagreed with the secretary-general’s appointment of that soldier, without duly investigating his  widespread alleged crimes of human rights violations.

The photo-up was, it appears, to enable the secretary-general impress on his force commanders and the United Nations of his “zero tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse.” 

No doubt about its timeliness; this action is essential and fundamentally important, since the United Nations is not an organisation of angels. Already many United Nations peacekeepers — from both developed and developing nations — have been implicated in a number of sexual exploitations and abuses of minors. 

And yet, I would have liked the secretary-general also announcing it is United Nations policy and practice to apply suitability test to those he accepts and appoints as commanders of United Nations peacekeeping operations.

This may inconvenience troop contributing states. 

I hope the secretary-general would agree with me that peacekeeping is one of the most vitally important innovations of the Organisation— a hallmark of its relevance to a troubled world we live in. It should not be treated as less relevant of the Organisation’s work, or something worthless, as insinuated by the indifferent emplacement of a butcher of human beings  as force commanders, as has happened on April 4, 2018!

Ethnic conflict:. Renewed weapon in oppressors’s hands

In the post-colonial era and nearly three decades after the Cold War, tensions arising from scarcity of grazing lands and water are no longer the primary causes of ethnic tensions, especially in Africa. Rather it is power mongers exploiting differences based on ethnicity for political or economic reasons that have enabled its return with vengeance at present as the newest weapon to incite conflicts and instability.

In Ethiopia, following the onset of popular protests since 2014, besides TPLF shootings to kill of protestors and peaceful demonstrators, the regime’s greed for power and riches has compelled it to resort to inciting ethnic conflicts. Of late we hear, some leaders in the region, in collaboration with the TPLF army, are openly vowing to start an all out conflict amongst Ethiopians, if the TPLF is to lose power.

By a recent admission of the TPLF’s security institution, the population in this one of the few oldest nations in the world has been facing displacements. In the last three years, different parts of the country have been awash with state killings along the border between Oromia Region and Region 5, otherwise known as the Ethiopian Somali Region, according to the government-operated human rights organisation. Today, May 29, 2018, Dr. Addisu Gebre-Egziabher, head of the TPLF-run human Rights organisation, openly told the media his organisation has compiled names of state officials and regional leaders, who have their hands soiled in killings and or displacements of citizens, according to TPLF’s Fana

There is also ongoing conflict in Amhara Region up north, where the national army is deployed to defend the TPLF’s annexation of surrounding Amhara fertile lands to build its ‘Greater’ Tigray Region, as shown on the map here.

The root cause of the problem is the TPLF top military officers, one of them being the new UNISFA commander, and civilian leaders wanting to protect their monopoly and power of control over the Khat trade and contraband business between eastern Ethiopia (from their headquarters in the Ogaden Region) and other neighbouring states, entities and their delegated agents in the Middle East – especially Yemen, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, etc.

The TPLF pursues two approaches to crush the people’s struggle for the rule of law, freedom and democracy. As stated above, it has been employing typical divide and rule strategy, inciting ethnic conflicts amongst Ethiopians. The objective is to ensure continuity of the ethnic minority regime. The main beneficiaries are TPLF top military commanders, civilian leaders and the entire regional structure, who have been enriching themselves with illegal businesses and looting of state resources.

As a matter of fact, since summer 2017,  the border between Ethiopia’s Somali Region and Oromia Region was turned into a war zone, Abdi Ilay’s notorious Liyu Police, in collusion with the TPLF military commanders, attacking and displacing over a million people.

International Migration Organisation’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) in April reported “In 2017 Ethiopia’s humanitarian needs were aggravated by the outbreak of conflict along the Somali-Oromia borders and another drought affecting large parts of eastern and southern Ethiopia.”

These people have ended up in camps since September 2017, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA). IOM confirms, in 2017 alone, 700,000 people were displaced with the IOM recording a “significant spike” in September of that year, as per report of Kenya’s Daily Nation.

Right at its onset, horrified by the clear situation of ethnic conflict exploited for political purposes, the US Embassy from Addis Abeba in an official statement  on September 19, 2017 did not hold back in stating:

“We are disturbed by the troubling reports of ethnic violence and the large-scale displacement of people living along the border between the Oromia and Somali regions, particularly in Hararge, although the details of what is occurring remain unclear.

We urge the Ethiopian government to conduct a transparent investigation into all allegations of violence and to hold those responsible accountable.  At the same time, on the local level, communities must be encouraged and given space to seek peaceful resolutions to the underlying conflicts…These recent events underscore the need to make more rapid and concrete progress on reform in these areas.”

Strong as this statement is, given the wildfire of ethnic conflict in Ethiopia could create, as Newsweek’s Connor Gaffey, in asking why the US is worried about Ethiopia has picked aptly the implications. The US also has aired its disappointment with the TPLF regime it has kept as a close ally. It’s the TPLF bloggers that mostly tried to misdirect the strains against the person of US Ambassador Michel Reynor.

The issue

Co-conspirators Gen-Gabre. & Abdi Ilay (from General’s Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/WeiAlfaGabree/)

The issue here is the horrid allegations against the new UNISFA commander, i.e., his crimes of human rights violations in neighbouring Somalia and Ethiopia’s Somali Region. It’s in a mere surface-scratch, this article’s Part One of April 11, 2018 has learnt about. It’s that information that it signalled to all those with responsibilities to vet Maj-Gen. Gebre Adhana Woldezgu.

That article’s suggestion was for the United Nations to delay the general’s assumption of command, until his innocence is established. Without it, this writer strongly believes that Maj-Gen. Gebre Adhana Woldezgu cannot be considered a friend of the United Nations, especially as commander of one of 14 peacekeeping operations presently.

Tell me your friend and I will tell you who you are is an old adage full of wisdom. Maj-Gen. Gebre Adhana Woldezgu is seen here with his buddy Abdi Mohamoud Omar (Abdi Ilay), the infamous president of the regional state, otherwise known as Somali Region, or simply Region 5. He has been responsible for so many deaths and displacements of Ethiopians in that region

Also Abdi Ilay happens to be the lynchpin to corrupt senior TPLF civilian and military leaders.

The sale of military weapons, according to the Somalia Monitoring Group report to the Security Council, became common phenomenon. In fact, the report levels responsibility for this on ‘Ethiopian military commanders and soldiers’.

When Maj-Gen. Gebre Adhana Woldezgu was in command of Ethiopian force in Somalia, the Somalia Monitoring Group reports (S/2008/274):

“According to arms traders, the biggest suppliers of ammunition to the markets are Ethiopian and Transitional Federal Government commanders, who divert boxes officially declared “used during combat”.”

The problem with the major-general is that, for him killing is habitual. In the Monitoring Group’s report of 16 July 2008 (S/2008/466) regarding the situation in Somalia, he commanded 50,000-strong in the US-inspired Somalia invasion by Ethiopia.

The report clearly states that the political process between the Transitional Federal Government and the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) could not make any progress any more. The obstacle was the inability to achieve “sustainable peace in Somalia and to recognize the responsibility to deploy a neutral force that would be accepted by Somalis. Opposition leaders also identified the presence of Ethiopian forces in Somalia and ongoing human rights violations as key areas to be addressed by the international community.”

Regarding the 2008 human rights environment, the secretary-general’s report states:

“55. The human rights situation in Somalia continues to be characterized by indiscriminate violence and frequent attacks against civilians, including arbitrary detention of human rights defenders, arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial killings of journalists, as well as sexual and gender-based violence. Since 19 April the renewal of intense violence in Mogadishu between the Ethiopian-backed Transitional Federal Government troops and the insurgent groups has resulted in serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.

56. On 19 April, Ethiopian forces allegedly stormed Al Hidaya mosque, in north- eastern Mogadishu, killing numerous clerics belonging to the “Altabligh Group”, including a number of scholars, as well as detaining some 40 minors at an Ethiopian military camp in the north of Mogadishu who had been attending religious classes. Both the Ethiopian-backed Transitional Federal Government troops and the insurgent groups are using heavy artillery in urban areas inhabited by civilians, causing dozens of civilians to be killed or injured.

Already in 2007, shortly after Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia, according to the report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia (S/2007/436), that country was turned into an inferno for Somalia civilians on account of Ethiopian troops human rights violations:

“Whatever little confidence there was in the ability of the Transitional Federal Government to rule is fast eroding and antagonism against Ethiopia is at a crescendo — clearly not being helped by the Ethiopian Army’s heavy-handed response to insurgent attacks, involving the use of disproportionate force to dislodge insurgents from their suspected hideouts.” 

Why this article

This piece is a follow-up to Part I, explaining why this writer disagrees with UNSG Guterres’ appointment of ‘Gen. Gabre’ UNISFA Force commander. As in the ancient expression all roads lead to Rome, information about the commander this wrier has come across seem to point to the new UNISFA commander being tainted by human rights crimes & corruption in the two troubled nations of the Horn of Africa, Somalia and inside Ethiopia, especially Somali Region!

Co-conspirators (from Gen. Gabre’s FB)

In writing this article, my intention is to humbly ask Secretary-General Guterres to be beholden to his words at Hammarskjold’s commemoration anniversary and enable the United Nations to live up to the expectations and promises its Charter promises have generated and from which he too had drawn the pledge he had uttered, above.

I am not asking the secretary-genera to do the impossible. I am only calling upon him to remove doubts and misgivings, arising from this appointment. It is my sincere view the secretary-general should seize this once-a-life-time-opportunity to give pride of place to the Organisation’s Charter principles by reconsidering his appointment of Maj-Gen. Gebre Adhana Woldezgu at UNISFA, pending investigation of his alleged crimes.

I would like to inform the secretary-general that — as a proud ancient Roman expression has it about all its roads leading to Rome — all available information on the general also point to him being a fatally flawed soldier. We learn form his brief service in Somalia, his hands have been stained with the blood of innocent people.

For me, given the cruelty with which he mistreated ordinary Somalia citizens and also carried out massacres of innocent people, especially those in mosques or weddings is revolting, as Part I of this article of April 11, 2018 had pointed out. I strongly believe this person’s association with the United Nations in UNIFSA, which has troubles of its own, should be avoided at all costs, until he is proven innocent.

Not at all a hero he is. Outside his connection with the leadership in the TPLF, he is not that even to his sender — if at all the Front has any morals.

We have been taught by ancient civilisations heroism is about honour and honesty, loyalty to one’s nation and doing good by fellow human beings. In other words, heroism is hardly measured, as the major-general seems to think and believe, by the number of people a soldier or a general kills.

If the long past were to talk to us today, as the world’s famous mythologist Jospeh Campbell reminds us in his in 1949 A Hero With a Thousand Faces , “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”

The key phrase here is “…to bestow boons on his fellow man”, not to rob the poor and private businesses that try to take care of their families and themselves, as the commander had done to build in one of the poorest nations in the world, Ethiopia, first world lifestyle for himself.

Among many instances, Somalia citizens across that country have established ‘Gen. Gabre’ is corrupt through and through. In one instance, only the breakdown of the $2.8 million he reportedly took as bribes and was found by diligent citizens and was reported widely shown in table 18 of the Fartaag Report speaks volumes, including names of forced payers to the general.

Woldezgul’s head is filled with gold, banknotes, cars he seized from Somalia, not integrity and judgement he needs as United Nations commander. Some of the money he received was reported to been turned into all forms of assets such as construction equipment, all of which not possibly in his name, write sources in Somalia. Possibly details of the mystery of his robbery could be unlocked the day some of those allies of his in some of the Middle Eastern states speak out.

Does Abyei deserve a horror?

I don’t think so. Nor do I think the United Nations wants that. However, if the past is any guide, the United Nations responsibilities in Abyei deserve a responsible commandant, unless once again some in the international community feel they give no hoot to what other countries do in Somalia.

This is a question that all along has puzzled the United Nations Monitoring Group on Somalia, as described in its November 2006 report and in compliance with Security Council resolution 751 (1992) concerning Somalia.

His brief stay in Somalia as “Supreme Commander of Ethiopian Forces” was known to have been the period he committed mass massacres during the invasion of Somalia he commanded and in Mogadishu, according to Somalia sources, before he was withdrawn. The TPLF later reassigned him as Senior Political Advisor at the TPLF-operated — in name the eight-nation Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), his target still Somalia — a matter that speaks volumes about the sending state’s intents too.

A thing that should worry Somalia first and foremost and the international community too is the legacy ‘Gen. Gabre’ has left behind. All foreigners and Somalia citizens have always spoken about Al-Shabaab thus far being the excuse for Somalia to continue as a failed state and terrorism its blighter. The UN Monitoring Group in its 2007 report observes:

“117. Whatever little confidence there was in the ability of the Transitional Federal Government to rule is fast eroding and antagonism against Ethiopia is at a crescendo — clearly not being helped by the Ethiopian Army’s heavy-handed response to insurgent attacks, involving the use of disproportionate force to dislodge insurgents from their suspected hideouts.”

However, more than the terrorism of an extremist group, it was “Gen. Gabre” as all Somalia citizens refer to him, who has badly undermined their country. He has needlessly prolonged that country’s prospects of rising out of its crisis to peaceful national existence on Al-Shabaab and other extremists’ graveyard.

Unfortunately, as a divided nation, Somalia has been laden by inability to see itself outside its disorderly present, people like the general corrupting its elites, thereby denying it the trust of and goodwill to live in peace with its neighbours in the Horn of Africa.

Stop for a moment and ask why several African nations inside the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) have for such a long time been paying with their blood, or their foreign allies mostly the United States with treasures. Al-Shabaab’s might is made up to be, possibly by states and their agents who have become beneficiaries in Somalia’s continued imposed no peace no total collapse state!

In my October 27, 2017 article on this matter, I argue:

      “If the TPLF had the discipline to operate as per the

AMISOM mandate, the Horn of Africa could have also been long spared of present and future threats of the Al-Shabaab terrorism and related extremisms. In closer examination, one could sense this situation has prolonged Al-Shabaab’s life instead. With that, the Islamic extremist organisation of terror has utilised the opportunity to improve and develop its destructive capabilities to cause more havoc on innocent people, as witnessed in Somalia including on October 14, 2017 and even subsequently since.”

The secretary-general must see that the soldier I am talking about, he has now appointed to the very post, has miserably proved inadequate elsewhere in the first place. He failed because he lacks principles, the tact and political skills the responsibilities of the post badly require.  

It worries me that his appointment of Maj-Gen. Gebre Adhana Woldezgu to a peacekeeping mission empowered to operate within the Organisation’s Chapter VII mandate may be taken, in his usual way, as mandate to kill in Abyei.

 

 

Helen Epstein’s The Mass Murder We Don’t Talk About

27 May

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

by Judi Rever, In Praise of Blood: The Crimes of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (In The New York Review of Books)

Rwandan president Paul Kagame receiving the Pearl of Africa Medal from Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni, Kapchorwa District, Uganda, 2012 (Ronald Kabuui/AFP/Getty Images)

During the 1990s, unprecedented violence erupted in Central Africa. In Sudan, the civil war intensified; in Rwanda, there was genocide; in Congo millions died in a conflict that simmers to this day; and in Uganda, millions more were caught between a heartless warlord and an even more heartless military counterinsurgency.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. Although the US had for decades backed dictatorships and right-wing rebels across the continent, George H.W. Bush had declared in his 1989 inaugural speech that “a new breeze [was] blowing…. For in man’s heart, if not in fact, the day of the dictator is over. The totalitarian era is passing…. Great nations of the world are moving toward democracy through the door to freedom.”

Bush and his successors supported peace on much of the African continent by funding democracy promotion programs and sanctioning, or threatening to sanction, South Africa and other countries if their leaders didn’t allow multiparty elections and free political prisoners. But in Uganda, Ethiopia, and a small number of other countries, the Bush and Clinton administrations lavished development and military aid on dictators who in turn funneled weapons to insurgents in Sudan, Rwanda, and Congo. In this way, Washington helped stoke the interlinked disasters that have claimed millions of lives since the late 1980s and still roil much of eastern and central Africa today. The complicity of the US in those disasters has not yet been sufficiently exposed, but Judi Rever’s In Praise of Blood explores how Washington helped obscure the full story of the genocide that devastated Rwanda during the 1990s and cover up the crimes of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), which has ruled the country ever since.

The familiar story about the Rwandan genocide begins in April 1994, when Hutu militias killed hundreds of thousands of Tutsis, mostly with machetes and other simple weapons. The RPF, a Tutsi-dominated rebel army, advanced through the mayhem and finally brought peace to the country in July. The RPF’s leader, Paul Kagame, eventually became president of Rwanda and remains in power today. He has overseen a technocratic economic revival, the installation of one of the best information technology networks in Africa, and a sharp decline in maternal and child mortality. Political dissent is suppressed, many of Kagame’s critics are in jail, and some have even been killed—but his Western admirers tend to overlook this. Bill Clinton has praised Kagame as “one of the greatest leaders of our time,” and Tony Blair’s nonprofit Institute for Global Change continues to advise and support his government.

Over the years, less valiant portraits of Kagame and the RPF have appeared in academic monographs and self-published accounts by Western and Rwandan academics, journalists, and independent researchers, including Filip Reyntjens, André Guichaoua, Edward Herman, Robin Philpot, David Himbara, Gérard Prunier, Barrie Collins, and the BBC’s Jane Corbin. Taken together, they suggest that the RPF actually provoked the war that led to the genocide of the Tutsis and committed mass killings of Hutus before, during, and after it. In Praise of Blood is the most accessible and up-to-date of these studies.

Rever’s account begins in October 1990, when several thousand RPF fighters invaded Rwanda from neighboring Uganda. The RPF was made up of refugees born to Rwandan parents who fled anti-Tutsi pogroms during the early 1960s and were determined to go home. Its leaders, including Kagame, had fought alongside Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni in the war that brought him to power in 1986. They’d then been appointed to senior Ugandan army positions—Kagame was Museveni’s chief of military intelligence in the late 1980s—which they deserted when they invaded Rwanda.

In August 1990, two months before the RPF invasion, the Hutu-dominated Rwandan government had actually agreed, in principle, to allow the refugees to return. The decision had been taken under enormous international pressure, the details were vague, and the process would likely have dragged on, or not occurred at all. But the RPFinvasion preempted a potentially peaceful solution to the refugee conundrum. For three and a half years, the rebels occupied a large swath of northern Rwanda while the Ugandan army supplied them with weapons, in violation of the UN Charter and Organization of African Unity rules. Washington knew what was going on but did nothing to stop it. On the contrary, US foreign aid to Uganda doubled in the years after the invasion, and in 1991, Uganda purchased ten times more US weapons than in the preceding forty years combined.

During the occupation, roughly a million Hutu peasants fled RPF-controlled areas, citing killings, abductions, and other crimes. An Italian missionary working in the area at the time told Rever that the RPF laid landmines around springs that blew up children, and invaded a hospital in a town called Nyarurema and shot nine patients dead. According to Alphonse Furuma, one of the founders of the RPF, the purpose was to clear the area, steal animals, take over farms, and, presumably, scare away anyone who might think of protesting. The Ugandan army, which trained the RPF, had used similar tactics against its own Acholi people during the 1980s and 1990s, so these accounts seem plausible.

At least one American was angry about the RPF invasion. US ambassador to Rwanda Robert Flaten witnessed how it sent shock waves throughout the country, whose majority-Hutu population had long feared a Tutsi attack from Uganda. Flaten urged the Bush administration to impose sanctions on Uganda for supplying the RPF, noting that Saddam Hussein had invaded Kuwait only two months earlier and been met with near-universal condemnation, a UN Security Council demand that he withdraw, and a US military assault.

By contrast, the Bush administration, which was then supplying most of Uganda’s budget through foreign aid, treated the RPF invasion of Rwanda with nonchalance. When it took place, Museveni happened to be visiting the US. He assured State Department officials that he’d known nothing about it, and promised to prevent weapons from crossing the border and court-martial any defectors who attempted to return to Uganda. He then did neither, with the apparent approval of US diplomats. In 1991 and 1992 US officials met RPF leaders inside Uganda and monitored the flow of weapons across the border, but made no effort to stop it, even when the Rwandan government and its French allies complained.

Years later, Bush’s assistant secretary of state for Africa Herman Cohen expressed regret for failing to pressure Museveni to stop supporting the RPF, but by then it was too late. At the time, Cohen maintained that the US feared that sanctions might harm Uganda’s robust economic growth. But he hasn’t explained why Washington allowed the RPF—by invading Rwanda—to ruin that country’s economy, which had previously been similarly robust. Robert Gribbin, a diplomat then stationed at the US embassy in Kampala, has claimed that sanctions weren’t considered because they might have interfered with Uganda’s “nascent democratic initiatives,” without mentioning that Museveni’s security forces were torturing and jailing members of Uganda’s nonviolent opposition and also pursuing a brutal counterinsurgency in northern Uganda that would claim hundreds of thousands of Ugandan lives.

The UN may also have turned a blind eye to Museveni and Kagame’s schemes. In October 1993 a contingent of UN peacekeepers was deployed to help implement a peace agreement between the RPF and the Rwandan government. One of its mandates was to ensure that weapons, personnel, and supplies didn’t cross into Rwanda from Uganda. But when the peacekeepers’ commander, Canadian general Roméo Dallaire, visited the Ugandan border town of Kabale, a Ugandan officer told him that his peacekeepers would have to provide twelve hours’ notice so that escorts could be arranged to accompany them on patrols. Dallaire protested, since the element of surprise is crucial for such monitoring missions. The Ugandans stood their ground, and also refused to allow Dallaire to inspect an arsenal in Mbarara, a Ugandan town about eighty miles from the Rwandan border, which was rumored to be supplying the RPF.

Dallaire has not said whether he brought Uganda’s obstruction to the attention of the Security Council, and he didn’t respond to my interview requests. But in 2004 he told a US congressional hearing that Museveni laughed in his face when they met at a gathering to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the genocide. “I remember that UN mission on the border,” Dallaire said Museveni had told him. “We maneuvered ways to get around it, and of course we did support the movement [i.e., the RPF invasion].”

The likely reasons why Washington and the UN apparently decided to go easy on Uganda and the RPF will be explored in the second part of this article. But for Rwanda’s President Juvénal Habyarimana and his circle of Hutu elites, the invasion seems to have had a silver lining. For years, tensions between Hutus and Tutsis inside Rwanda had been subsiding. Habyarimana had sought reconciliation with Tutsis living in Rwanda—so-called internal Tutsis—by reserving civil service jobs and university places for them in proportion to their share of the population. Though desultory, this program was modestly successful, and the greatest rift in the country was between the relatively small Hutu clique around Habyarimana and the millions of impoverished Hutu peasants whom they exploited as brutally as had the Tutsi overlords of bygone days. While the elites fattened themselves on World Bank “anti-poverty” projects that created lucrative administrative jobs and other perks but did little to alleviate poverty, they continued to subject the Hutu poor to forced labor and other abuses.

Habyarimana, like the leaders of Malawi, Ghana, Zambia, and other countries, was under pressure from the US and other donors to allow opposition parties to operate. Many of these new parties were ethnically mixed, with both Hutu and Tutsi leaders, but they were united in criticizing Habyarimana’s autocratic behavior and nepotism and the vast economic inequalities in the country.

The RPF invasion seems to have provided Habyarimana and his circle with a political opportunity: now they could distract the disaffected Hutu masses from their own abuses by reawakening fears of the “demon Tutsis.” Shortly after the invasion, Hutu elites devised a genocidal propaganda campaign that would bear hideous fruit three and a half years later. Chauvinist Hutu newspapers, magazines, and radio programs reminded readers that Hutus were the original occupants of the Great Lakes region and that Tutsis were Nilotics—supposedly warlike pastoralists from Ethiopia who had conquered and enslaved Hutus in the seventeenth century. The RPF invasion, they claimed, was nothing more than a plot by Museveni, Kagame, and their Tutsi coconspirators to reestablish this evil Nilotic empire. Cartoons of Tutsis killing Hutus began appearing in magazines, along with warnings that all Tutsis were RPF spies bent on dragging the country back to the days when the Tutsi queen supposedly rose from her seat supported by swords driven between the shoulders of Hutu children.

In February 1993 an RPF offensive killed hundreds, perhaps thousands of Hutus in the northern prefectures of Byumba and Ruhengeri, further inflaming anti-Tutsi sentiment. At the time, the Organization of African Unity was overseeing peace negotiations between the RPF and the government, but the process was fraught. Habyarimana knew the RPF was better armed, trained, and disciplined than his own army, so under immense international pressure he agreed in August 1993 to a peace accord that would grant the RPF seats in a transitional government and nearly half of all posts in the army.

Even Tutsis inside Rwanda were against giving the RPF so much power because they knew it would provoke the angry, fearful Hutus to rebel, and they were right. Hutu mayors and other local officials were already stockpiling rifles, and government-linked anti-Tutsi militia groups (including the notorious Interahamwe) were distributing machetes and kerosene to prospective génocidaires. In December 1993, a picture of a machete appeared on the front page of one Hutu-chauvinist publication under the headline “What Weapons Can We Use to Defeat the Inyenzi [Tutsi Cockroaches] Once and For All?” The following month, the CIA predicted that if tensions were not somehow defused, hundreds of thousands of people might die in ethnic violence. This powder keg exploded four months later, when on April 6, 1994, a plane carrying Habyarimana was shot down as it was preparing to land in Kigali, the capital.

The French sociologist André Guichaoua happened to be in Kigali that evening. The country was tense, but peaceful. But Hutu military personnel panicked when they heard about the crash. That night they began hastily erecting roadblocks around government and army installations, while militiamen, many from the presidential guard, began moving into position. The killing of Tutsis began the following afternoon. According to Guichaoua, Tutsis suspected of collaboration with the RPF, which the killers blamed for the plane crash, were sought out first, but soon the militias were killing every Tutsi they could get their hands on. The vast majority of the victims would turn out to be internal Tutsis, who had nothing to do with the RPF.

Scott Peterson/Liaison/Getty Images

Rwandan Patriotic Front soldiers preparing to march into Kigali, Rwanda, 1994

For decades, blame for the plane crash that set off the genocide has fallen on members of Habyarimana’s army who were believed to be unhappy about the terms of the August 1993 peace accord. However, a growing number of academic studies, judicial reports, and other investigations now suggest RPF responsibility. They are based on eyewitness testimony from multiple RPF defectors who say they were involved in the planning and execution of the plot, as well as evidence concerning the origin of the missiles.

It’s unclear what motive the RPF would have had for shooting down the plane, but it may have wanted to ignite a war in order to abrogate the August accord, which called for elections twenty-two months after implementation. The RPF, dominated by the unpopular minority Tutsis and widely hated for its militancy, including by many internal Tutsis, would certainly have lost.

The RPF began advancing almost as soon as the plane hit the ground, and even before the genocide of the Tutsis had begun. According to Rever, the rebels actually made the situation worse. While Hutus were massacring innocent Tutsis, the RPF was further inciting ethnic hatred by massacring innocent Hutus. In mid-April RPF officers assembled some three thousand Hutu villagers in a stadium in Byumba and slaughtered virtually all of them. In June RPF soldiers attacked a seminary in Gitarama, killing several Hutu priests, and then, according to a four-hundred-page report compiled by a respected priest and human-rights activist named André Sibomana, proceeded to massacre roughly 18,000 others in the prefecture.

RPF defectors told Rever that the purpose of these mass killings was to strike fear in the Hutu population and provoke them to escalate the genocide into such a horrific crime that no political compromise with the former leaders would ever be possible. The August 1993 peace accord would then be irrelevant, and the population would have no choice but to accept an RPF takeover.

Some RPF operatives told Rever that they had even infiltrated Hutu militia groups to stoke ethnic anger and incite ever more indiscriminate reprisals against Tutsis. Again, this seems plausible to me. Kagame and other RPF commanders may have learned such strategies in Uganda while fighting alongside Museveni, whose rebel army reportedly committed similar “false flag” operations in the 1980s. After the genocide, war broke out in neighboring Zaire, as Congo was then known. When assailants killed hundreds of Congolese Tutsi refugees inside Rwanda in December 1997, US officials, Amnesty International, and The New York Times all blamed Hutu insurgents, but RPF sources told Rever that they themselves had done it. “Everyone knew that the RPF staged that attack. It was common knowledge in intelligence circles,” a former RPF officer told Rever. It was a “brilliant and cruel display of military theater,” said another.

Dallaire, the commander of the peacekeepers, remained in Rwanda during the genocide. In his harrowing memoir, Shake Hands with the Devil, he expresses puzzlement about the RPF’s troop movements. Rather than heading south, where most of the killings of Tutsis were taking place, the RPF circled around Kigali. When Dallaire met Kagame at the latter’s headquarters, he asked him why. “He knew full well that every day of fighting on the periphery meant certain death for Tutsis still behind [Rwandan government] lines,” Dallaire writes. Kagame “ignored the implications of my question.” By the time the RPF reached the capital weeks later, most of the Tutsis there were dead.

In May 1994, while supplies continued to flow to the RPF from Uganda, the UN placed the Rwandan government army, some of whose soldiers had participated in massacres of the Tutsis, under an arms embargo. By the end of July, the much stronger RPF had taken control of nearly all of the now ruined country. As it advanced, some two million Hutus fled, either to the giant Kibeho camp in southwestern Rwanda or to camps over the border in Tanzania and Zaire. Some Hutus returned home in the fall of 1994, but according to a UN report prepared by the human rights investigator Robert Gersony, many of them were killed by the RPF, either on suspicion of sympathy with revanchist Hutu militants or simply to terrify others.* These killings stopped during the run-up to a donor meeting in Geneva in January 1995, but then resumed after $530 million in aid was pledged.

Hutus once again fled to Kibeho, where they thought they would be protected by UN peacekeepers. But in April 1995 the RPF fired on the camp and then stormed it while helpless aid workers and UN troops, under orders to obey the RPF, stood by. At least four thousand Hutus, probably more, were killed, including numerous women and children. Thomas Odom, a retired US army colonel stationed at the embassy in Kigali, blamed the killings on Hutu instigators within the refugee population who, he says, stirred up the crowds, provoking panicked RPF soldiers to shoot. Several eyewitnesses dispute this.

In the enormous refugee camps in Zaire, Hutu militants—many of whom had participated in the genocide—began mobilizing to retake the country and launched sporadic attacks inside Rwanda. The RPF’s reaction was fierce, swift, and cruel. Hutu villagers who had nothing to do with the militants were invited to peace-and-reconciliation meetings, then shot point-blank or beaten to death with garden hoes. In 1997, thousands of Hutus fleeing indiscriminate RPF reprisals sought refuge in caves near the Virunga Mountains, where they were trapped and killed by RPF soldiers. Thousands more were killed in the environs of the town of Mahoko around the same time.

In order to neutralize the mounting threat from the Zairean refugee camps, the RPFcrossed the border in 1996, invaded them, and herded most of the refugees home. But hundreds of thousands refused to return to Rwanda and fled deeper into Zaire. Some were ex-génocidaires and other Hutu militants, but most were ordinary Hutus understandably terrified of the RPF. Kagame’s commandos, who had by then received training from US Special Forces, tracked them down in towns and villages across the country and killed them. Hundreds of thousands remain unaccounted for.

To hunt down fleeing Hutus, RPF spies deployed satellite equipment provided by the US. The RPF also infiltrated the UN refugee agency and used its vehicles and communications equipment. US officials insisted that all the fleeing refugees were Hutu génocidaires and downplayed the number of genuine refugees identified by their own aerial studies, but in 1997 Rever, then a young reporter for Radio France Internationale, trekked through the forest and found vast encampments of malnourished women and children. She interviewed a woman who had seen her entire family shot dead by Kagame’s soldiers, a boy whose father had drowned while fleeing the RPF, and aid workers who told her they had seen mass graves that were too dangerous to visit because they were being guarded by Kagame’s soldiers.

Versions of Rever’s story have been told by others. While all contain convincing evidence against the RPF, some are marred by a tendency to understate the crimes of the Hutu génocidaires or overstate the RPF’s crimes. But some, including the work of Filip Reyntjens, a Belgian professor of law and politics, have been both measured and soundly researched. Kagame’s regime and its defenders have dismissed them all as propaganda spouted by defeated Hutu génocidaires and genocide deniers. But Rever’s account will prove difficult to challenge. She has been writing about Central Africa for more than twenty years, and her book draws on the reports of UN experts and human rights investigators, leaked documents from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and hundreds of interviews with eyewitnesses, including victims, RPF defectors, priests, aid workers, and officials from the UN and Western governments. Her sources are too numerous and their observations too consistent for her findings to be a fabrication.

The official UN definition of genocide is not restricted to attempts to eradicate a particular ethnic group. It includes “killings…with the intent to destroy, in whole, or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” (my emphasis). The RPF’s operations against the Hutus in the Byumba stadium, in Gitarama, Kibeho, the caves near Virunga, around Mahoko, and in the forests of Zaire do seem to fit that description. The RPF’s aim was, presumably, not to eradicate the Hutus but to frighten them into submission.

And yet in January, the UN officially recognized April 7 as an International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsis—only the Tutsis. That is how the conflagration in Rwanda is generally viewed. And while the French army has been accused of supplying the Rwandan government with weapons during the genocide, US officials have faced no scrutiny for lavishing aid on Uganda’s Museveni while he armed the RPF in violation of international treaties and the August 1993 peace accord. Why have international observers overlooked the other side of this story for so long? And why are the RPF’s crimes so little known outside of specialist circles? That will be the subject of the second part of this article.

*After the genocide, numerous human rights reports described the ongoing killing of Hutus inside Rwanda. Gersony’s concluded that after the genocide officially ended, the RPF killed over 25,000 civilians, most of them Hutus, inside Rwanda, as well as two Canadian priests, two Spanish priests, a Croatian priest, three Spanish NGO volunteers, and a Belgian school director who attempted to report on RPF atrocities. Gersony submitted his report to UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata, who passed it on to UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali and Kofi Annan, who decided to delay its release. Timothy Wirth, then US undersecretary of state for global affairs, met Gersony in Kigali and said the findings were “compelling.” But at a briefing back in Washington, he downplayed the report, claiming the author had been misled by his informants. Wirth admitted the RPF had killed people, but said it wasn’t “systematic.”

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