A huge campaign must be launched to press western governments to end this slaughter, which is almost entirely the work of those in control of the country. The European Union warned a month ago that war crimes might have been committed in an assault on the capital last month – in which the EU could be complicit because of its large-scale support for those accused of the crimes. Human Rights Watch has documented how Kenya and Ethiopia had turned this region into Africa’s own version of Guantánamo Bay, replete with kidnappings, extraordinary renditions, secret prisons and large numbers of “disappeared”: a project that carries the Made in America label. Allowing free rein to such comprehensive lawlessness is a stain on all those who might have, at a minimum, curtailed it.
US accused of using Ethiopia to launch air strikes on Somalia
Xan Rice, East Africa correspondent
Saturday February 24, 2007
The US military secretly used landing strips in eastern Ethiopia to launch air strikes on suspected Islamists in Somalia last month, it was reported yesterday.Quoting anonymous army officials, the New York Times also claimed that the US diverted spy satellites to provide intelligence to Ethiopian troops as they swept across the country to drive the Somali Council of Islamic Courts (SCIC) out of the capital, Mogadishu.
If true, the report would confirm rumours of close planning between the two countries before and during the war. Both administrations deny this was the case. The account also raises questions about the relationship between Washington and the Ethiopian prime minister, Meles Zenawi, whose record on human rights has come under severe scrutiny.
Until now, the US has refused to provide specifics on its operations in Somalia, other than to confirm that it launched two strikes aimed at alleged “al-Qaida affiliated” members of the SCIC in the far south of the country.According to the NYT, which said military officials considered the Somalia operations a much-needed counter terrorism success, two AC-130 gunships landed at a small airstrip in eastern Ethiopia on January 6. One of the planes launched a strike on a suspected Islamist convoy the following day. A second strike followed two weeks later. No “high-value targets” – the term US officials use to describe al-Qaida members – were killed in either attack.
Initially it was suspected that the planes had flown from Djibouti, where the US has a large military base. But Djibouti’s president later condemned the US attacks, and denied the planes took off from there.
Bereket Simon, an Ethiopian government spokesman, said the US planes had not used landing strips in Ethiopia. But analysts said the report appeared to back up hitherto unconfirmed accounts.
Richard Cornwell, senior research fellow at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, said that a visit by General John Abizaid, then head of the US central command, to Addis Ababa in December, probably paved the way for the operation.
Award-winning HornAfrik radio service shut by Ethiopian-backed government
January 16, 2007
Somalia’s Ethiopian-backed transitional government shut down four broadcasters yesterday, including a major network founded by three Somali-born Canadians, who were trying to help rebuild their violence-ravaged homeland.
“At about 1 p.m. we got a letter instructing us to close the station,” said Ali Iman Sharmarke, a managing partner of the popular HornAfrik radio and television network. “We were surprised, because we thought the media could relax once the Islamists lost control.”
Sharmarke, Mohamed Elmi and Ahmed Abdisalam Adan, all Somali refugees with comfortable professional careers in Ottawa, returned to Somalia in 1999 and founded HornAfrik, the country’s first non-partisan, independent broadcaster. It quickly built up a large and enthusiastic audience for its network of seven radio stations, an Internet website and satellite television link.
The network, which offered talk, news and music programs, was the winner of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression’s 2002 International Press Freedom Award for its courage in facing down threats and intimidation in an environment of extreme violence.
CJFE executive director Anne Game said the new restrictions on HornAfrik and others – including Al Jazeera – “are being made under the guise of national security. Somalia’s clampdown on its broadcasters is alarming and closes off one of the only independent news sources accessible to the people of Mogadishu.”
The broadcasters have been ordered to appear before the national security agency, which is struggling to maintain order as pockets of resistance continue attacks on the Ethiopians, and gun battles flare between criminal gangs and militias roaming the streets.
The shutdowns came three weeks after Ethiopian forces fought their way into Mogadishu, ousting the hardline Union of Islamic Courts which had controlled much of the country – and installing a transitional government that had failed to take power for the past two years.
Government spokesperson Abduraman Dinari told a local radio station that the media were “instigating violence,” according to a report from Agence France-Presse.
But another partner in HornAfrik, Mohamed Elmi, said the government “doesn’t want free media that really give people the real information. They want distorted information.”
He said in a phone interview from Ottawa, “Some of the things I was hearing are that they don’t want us to say the Ethiopian armies are supporting the government. They don’t want our news … on who was searched, or who collected weapons, or any other activity the Ethiopian army is doing.”
Sharmarke, who is in Mogadishu but also has a family in Ottawa, said the situation in the Somali capital was chaotic, but not as bloody as in the past, when warlords fought each other and thousands of people were slaughtered.
“When I arrived here in 1999 it was like walking into hell,” he said in a phone interview. “We called ourselves media, but we were frontline workers. For seven years we were under fire constantly. Now, this seems like business as usual.”
The network was set up with funds from Somali business people.
Sharmarke said that HornAfrik – Mogadishu’s fifth largest employer, with 142 employees – was waiting to see what would happen next.
“Nobody can explain why (the transitional government) needs martial law,” he said.
“What they need is reconciliation, after chasing each other around with guns for so many years.”
But, he said, “last night one of my employees had a very close call, caught in the crossfire between the Ethiopians and some others. It’s very disturbing, because we hoped that real government had finally come to Mogadishu.”
In 1991 the socialist government of President Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown by opposing clans, who fought each other for nearly a decade, making Somalia one of the poorest and most dangerous countries in the world.
During the period of chaos, Sharmarke says, two of their employees were killed. The station came under attack a number of times, and some employees were temporarily jailed.
A 2004 peace deal set up a new Somali government, but they failed to take power in Mogadishu. It left the way open for the rise of Islamists, who ousted the feuding warlords in June 2006, promising law and order, and cracking down on the media with draconian rules that censured “foreign culture or bad behaviour.”
During their regime, HornAfrik was also temporarily shut down.
“Somalis don’t support terrorism,” said Sharmarke. “They just want law and order and stability, and a healthy life for their children.”
i was in ethiopia a year ago for five weeks on honeymoon. to be noted the arabic translation for honeymoon is shaher asel–honey month. the week before we arrived there had been major demos in the streets as the government closed down est. 7 of the 11 newspapers in addis ababa the capital. only the government newspapers were allowed to remain up and running. the government also incarcerated 400 or more journalists and demonstrators.
we met a man running from the ethiopian governement to darfur. he was muslim and a journalist for a now-illegal paper. from darfur he said he could criticize the ethiopian government. i asked him if he could criticize the sudanese governement if he was in darfur. he replied: no.
we also learned alot about ethiopia in the global geo-politics realm. ethiopia as modern history post ww2. carter is best friends with the president of ethiopia. so i guess it is no surprise that the us would use ethiopia to invade somalia. my only question is what do we want from somalia?
i also was not able to sense what were many of the relationships allowed sanctioned between muslims and christians in ethiopia. i would say that the capital looked to be 50/50. and women’s fashions for both religions are elegant.
U.S. support key to Ethiopia’s invasion
By Barbara Slavin
WASHINGTON — The United States has quietly poured weapons and military advisers into Ethiopia, whose recent invasion of Somalia opened a new front in the Bush administration’s war on terrorism.
A Christian-led nation in sub-Saharan Africa, surrounded almost entirely by Muslim states, Ethiopia has received nearly $20 million in U.S. military aid since late 2002. That’s more than any country in the region except Djibouti.
Last month, thousands of Ethiopian troops invaded neighboring Somalia and helped overturn a fundamentalist Islamic government that the Bush administration said was supported by al-Qaeda.
The U.S. and Ethiopian militaries have “a close working relationship,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Joe Carpenter said. The ties include intelligence sharing, arms aid and training that gives the Ethiopians “the capacity to defend their borders and intercept terrorists and weapons of mass destruction,” he said.
Advisers from the Guam national guard have been training Ethiopians in basic infantry skills at two camps in Ethiopia, said Maj. Kelley Thibodeau, a spokeswoman for U.S. forces in Djibouti.
There are about 100 U.S. military personnel currently working in Ethiopia, Carpenter said.
Somalia has been the region’s primary concern for the U.S. government since the early 1990s. U.S. troops, sent to Somalia as part of a peacekeeping and humanitarian mission, withdrew in 1994 after a failed attempt to capture a clan leader led to the deaths of 18 U.S. soldiers in 1993. The incident was later the subject of the book and movie Black Hawk Down.
The country has had no central government since 1991. The capital, Mogadishu, has been controlled by a series of warlords. A fundamentalist movement called the Islamic Courts Council consolidated power by defeating the warlords six months ago.
Ethiopia responded in December, invading to oust the Islamic Courts and prop up a government backed by the United Nations and Western countries.
At least 8,000 Ethiopian troops remain in Somalia, according to United Nations observers.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has said he would like to be able to withdraw his troops in a few weeks. But there has been little progress in creating an African peacekeeping force to replace the Ethiopians.
Meanwhile, the ousted Islamic movement has begun attacking the Ethiopian troops. And, in an audiotape aired Friday on a website used frequently by Islamic militants, al-Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri urged Somalis to defeat “the crusader Ethiopian invasion forces.”
Ethiopia’s population is split almost equally between Muslims and Christians, but there are concerns that the Ethiopian intervention “will be framed as another Christian vs. Muslim war,” said retired Marine general Joseph Hoar, who headed the U.S. Central Command from 1991-94.
The Bush administration understands that Ethiopia’s intervention “is against international terrorism, not against Islam,” said Samuel Assefa, Ethiopia’s ambassador to the United States.
The close U.S. embrace of Ethiopia is risky, in the view of several Africa experts and human rights advocates. Even though Ethiopia had good reasons of its own for intervening to blunt a Somali threat to its security, it is perceived as acting on behalf of the United States, said William Zartman, an Africa expert at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.
The intervention is controversial in Ethiopia, where the Meles government has become increasingly repressive, said Chris Albin-Lackey, an African researcher at Human Rights Watch.
The Meles government has limited the power of the opposition in parliament and arrested thousands. A government inquiry concluded that security forces fatally shot, beat or strangled 193 people who protested election fraud in 2005.
At least 96 prisoners, including several opposition leaders, journalists and the former mayor of Addis Ababa, face charges of treason, plotting to commit genocide and inciting violence, Albin-Lackey said.
Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., plans to re-introduce legislation in Congress that would tie U.S. aid to Ethiopia to an improved record on human rights, but the prospects of passage are uncertain. “We have to be careful that that old maxim — the enemy of my enemy is my friend — does not make us unwitting enablers of abuse,” Smith said.