The American State Department today came out in support of Ethiopia's invasion of Somalia even while the African Union is begging the Ethiopian troops to leave Somalia.
“The press must not be allowed to make this about Ethiopia, or Ethiopia violating the territorial integrity of Somalia,” the guidance said.
What the American press is trying to emphasize instead is how Ethiopia invaded Somalia in order to defend the "legitimate" government of Somalia.
A Western diplomat said: "If the government is attacked by the courts, the Ethiopians will come in saying they are defending the legitimate government. But they will underestimate the impact. There will be a groundswell of support in the wider Somali diaspora and the Muslim world."
Defending the "legitimate government of Somalia" is exactly the terminology Ethiopia has used. It is also the wording U.N. Ambassor Bolton used when pushing through a security resolution recently.
But is it true?
A de jure government is the legal, legitimate government of a state and is so recognized by other states. In contrast, a de facto government is in actual possession of authority and control of the state. For example, a government that has been overthrown and has moved to another state will attain de jure status if other nations refuse to accept the legitimacy of the revolutionary government.
What the situation on the ground is that the Transitional Federal Government of the Somali Republic is in fact a De Jure government unless it has the military might of a foreign government behind it. The Union of Islamic Courts(UIC) is the De Facto government of Somalia, unless the country gets invaded by a foreign country like Ethiopia. In other words, the De Jure government of Somalia that Ethiopia and America are defending have the same legitimacy as the Vichy government of France did during WWII.
This question of legitimacy goes to the heart of this war. If you consider the support of the people represented by the government, then the debate is over - the Islamic Courts are the only legitimate government because they are the only ones who represent the people of Somalia. It was only recently that America even considered the Transitional Government as being legitimate.
Although the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) was formed at the end of 2004, the Bush administration and other Western governments opted until recently not to recognize or consider the TFG as a legitimate government. In fact, early in 2006, the US government, as part of its War on Terror, chose to bypass the TFG and work with Mogadishu-based warlords, who were holding the interim government and the society in general as hostages, to form an Alliance for Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism.
Before 2006, the Islamic Courts were at the fringe of the Somali politics. Residents of Mogadishu supported the Islamic Courts only when the US government allied itself with the callous warlords despised by everybody. The Guardian observed this, “Washington's bungled policy of funding the Mogadishu warlords against the courts - which it accuses of harbouring al-Qaida militants - is credited with speeding the rise of Islamic Courts, which gained control of the capital in June and has since expanded rapidly.”
In fact, it was the Bush Administration's bungling that led directly to the rise of the islamists and this war. See my diary here for the complete history.
At this point it is important to go back in history and revisit how this De Jure government came into being.
A short history of a de jure government
"The birth of Somalia’s new government regrettably took place from outside the country, in Kenya - a decision that should have signaled that the arrangement was destined for failure."
After the fall of the Somalia government in 1991, the U.N. and regional powers held 13 conferences over the next seven years trying to come up with a solution for the chaos there, but without any success. In 1998, the IGAD agreed to convene yet another conference on Somalia in March 1999.
The conference was made up of Somali expatriots, mostly in exile since the early 1990's, and continued for five months. In contrast to past conferences, this one was not dominated by warlords, but by clan leaders instead. In the end it established a national charter (interim constitution) and elected a national assembly and a president, Abdikassim Salad Hassan, who had been an official in Barre's regime.
It had a three-year mandate to create a plan for a permanent government. This does not mean that faction leaders and warlords were not in attendance and represented.
General Gani - who is here at the conference - was in Hargeisa as the army general from 1980-1986. He was very brutal, carrying out summary executions, imprisonment, and confiscating property.
If every Issak was to name one war criminal, he would be at the front of the queue. General Morgan replaced him, and he used to take people from the streets and kill them. There is also Colonel Anjeh who was in Mogadishu. In 1989 he took 46 young Issaks - teachers, doctors, engineers - and shot them on the beach. One survived...
Abdikassim Salad Hassan
The new president flew to Mogadishu in August 2000. A number of militias refused to recognize the new government, and officials and forces of the government were attacked several times by militia forces, and the government exercised minimal authority in the capital and little influence outside it.
In April 2002, a group of warlords in southwestern Somalia took control of six districts and declared the “Southwestern Regional Government.” In September 2002, a cabinet meeting of the Transitional National Government was interrupted when militants invaded the building and opened fire. Peace talks were scheduled for October 2002. Twenty warlords attended, and a peace agreement was signed. But fighting continued anyway.
Meanwhile, the mandate for the largely symbolic interim government expired in August, 2003. But the president withdrew from the talks and refused to resign. The prime minister stayed at the talks, so the president removed him from office. Finally in January 2004, a new charter was agreed upon. Somaliland refused to participate in this new, de jure government.
Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed
In Sept., 2004, after many delays, a 275-member parliament was convened (in Kenya) under the new charter, and a new president, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, was elected in October. Yusuf, a former general who had served as president of Puntland, and the parliament are to serve for five years.
Yusuf is notable because he was violently opposed to the first round of setting up a Somali government. Amnesty International was not happy with the makeup of the new government because it contained "prominent warlords responsible for faction fighting, which continued in central and southern regions, became members of the new government, with impunity for human rights abuses."
The TFG’s limited achievement is related to number of enduring and fundamental factors. Firstly, absence of legitimacy and support of the Somali people contributed to this malfunction. As Professor I. M Lewis (2006) argued in his recent article about Somalia, the representation and legitimacy of the government is questionable because most of them are warlords, who do not represent to no one but themselves. Similarly, Professor Abdi Samatar (2006) stated that many Somalis believe the TFG is externally driven warlords that were imposed on them by the international community.
Secondly, the TFG is not an inclusive and broad based government. It is also considered as a victory for one political group. For instance, the role of civil society, traditional leaders and Diaspora was limited if not absent in the peace conference in Kenya due to the Inter-Governmental Authority and Development (IGAD) particularly, Ethiopia gave the Somali Reconstruction and Reconciliation Conference (SRRC) camp a green light to sideline any credible Somali intellectuals, who are critical to their naďve political ambitions. This has contributed to make the outcome of the prolonged conference a government controlled by warlords, inefficient, and incompetent as well as inexperienced individuals, who are not fit for the purpose.
Almost immediately the new, de jure government asked for a peacekeeping force to be sent into Somalia so that they could enforce their international authority on a populace that had no say in its organization. The peacekeeping force was agreed to, but was never actually created.
Without any real enforcement capabilities, and no popular support, the Transitional Federal Government was designed to be weak and impotent. The one country most responsible for its creation, Ethiopia, wanted it that way.
Because of Ethiopia’s constant fear of the re-emergence of strong and united Somalia, it has foiled every attempt made to help Somalis reconstitute their state.
Ethiopia has been and still is for a loose Puntland, weak southern Somalia states, a subdued central region, and Somaliland as a separate state.
Those who have closely followed developments at Embagathi, from the outset, were able to witness Ethiopia’s overt and blatant interferences in the affairs of Somalia. Nobody can now conceal that Ethiopia, through some of its junior officers at its embassy in Nairobi, had literally micro-managed the entire Embagathi Peace Process.
Because of the inability of the Transitional Government to garner any local support, the government refused to relocate from Embagathi, Kenya, to Somalia for over a year. The disputes in Kenya boiled over into fighting in Somalia in March and May, 2005, where the forces of two warlords battled for control of Baidoa, one of the proposed temporary capitals. In June the president returned to his home region of Puntland, and in July he announced plans to move south to Jowhar, the other proposed temporary capital. A coalition of Mogadishu warlords announced that they would attack Jowhar if the president attempted to establish a temporary capital there.
In January, 2006, Baidoa was selected as the site of the new capital, and the following month the new, de jure government convened in Somalia for the first time.
The de facto government of Somalia
Meanwhile Somalia was finding its own way. The Islamic Courts Union was created by local businessmen in 1994, after the U.N. pulled out, because they needed a peaceful way to solve disputes. It was so successful that they soon developed into local police forces. Eventually they began offering social services such as health care and education. In other words, it was a social movement much like the Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas in Palestine.
The ICU began consolidating in 2000, just as its power began to come into conflict with the local warlords of Mogadishu. However, there was no real violent clashes between the ICU and warlords until America got involved in January 2006.
How we got here
It was a subtle irony that almost everyone missed. Ethiopia began their invasion of Somalia by bombing the Mogadishu airport. It was ironic because the rise of the Islamic Courts began because of violence at the Mogadishu airport. Both times it was foreign nations that sponsored that violence.
Back in January it was American-sponsored warlords under the umbrella of the laughably named Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (ARPCT). This time it is Ethiopia, on the receiving end of $800 million a year from the Bush Administration, trying to impose a foreign government.
I can't finish this diary without commenting on the issue of terrorism. Ethiopia says that they are fighting terrorism.
PM Meles Zenawi said Ethiopia was forced to defend its sovereignty against "terrorists" and anti-Ethiopians.
"We are not trying to set up a government for Somalia, nor do we have an intention to meddle in Somalia internal affairs. We have only been forced by the circumstances," Mr Meles said.
The American government says that al-Qaeda has infiltrated the Islamic Courts.
Al-Qaida militants are operating with "great comfort" in Somalia, Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer said recently.
But where are they getting that information?
America got this information from...(are you ready for this?)...the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism.