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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Expert: Ethiopia's invasion of Somalia 'a disastrous miscalculation'

Expert: Ethiopia's invasion of Somalia 'a disastrous miscalculation'

Listen Dr. Michael Weinstein Interview Part1 [Play MP3 | Play Real] and Part2 [Play MP3 | Play Real]


by Yusuf Ali, managing editor

MELBOURNE, Australia Oct 19 (Garowe Online) - Ethiopia's decision to invade neighboring Somalia under the pretext of "protecting" that country's transitional government has transformed into 'a disastrous miscalculation,' an expert on Somali politics said.

Dr. Michael Weinstein, a professor at Purdue University in the United States, told Australia's SBS Somali-language radio service that Ethiopia is in a "weak position" nearly 11 months into the invasion.

"It [Ethiopia] now has to be in the difficult position for itself to choose sides and its going to alienate many of its clients [in Somalia]," Dr. Weinstein said.

Dr. Weinstein [Image: Purdue University website]
The Ethiopian-backed transitional government, led by President Abdullahi Yusuf and Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi, is entangled in a serious political dispute that has largely divided an already weak government.

Furthermore, military conflict in relatively quiet northern Somalia has placed the Ethiopian government is a difficult position where it has to choose between two of its loyal clients, the breakaway Somaliland republic and the Puntland regional autonomy.

"Somaliland is feeling very isolated," Dr. Weinstein says. Somaliland troops ousted Puntland security forces from the disputed town of Las Anod earlier this month.

Thousands of residents have led Las Anod fearing armed reprisal after Puntland President Mohamud "Adde" Muse vowed to retake the town by military force.

Dr. Weinstein linked Somaliland's military incursion into Las Anod as being propelled by the need to reach colonial-era boundaries it claims as the basis for declaring independence from Somalia.

"Somaliland is very anxious to get back these territories [Sool and Sanaag regions] it claims for itself because it senses there might be a unified Somalia," Dr. Weinstein says.

But he stressed that Puntland, which controlled Las Anod since 2002, has been weakened economically and militarily by support for President Yusuf's transitional federal government (TFG) and mismanagement within the Puntland government.

"Muse, the president of Puntland, has not been able to pay his troops," Dr. Weinstein said.

On the Yusuf-Gedi rift, Dr. Weinstein said the Ethiopian government is playing a classic game of "divide and rule" by supporting both parties to the conflict.

He argued that the main cause for the political rift between the TFG leaders surfaced when Prime Minister Gedi pushed for a Petroleum Law to be passed in parliament.

Yusuf signed an exploration agreement for his native Mudug region with the Chinese National Offshore Oil Company, a deal that Gedi distanced himself from.

"Parliament is fairly evenly divided," Dr. Weinstein said, referring to Yusuf's attempt to unseat Prime Minister Gedi via a parliamentary no confidence vote.

Thus far, Gedi has resisted any pressure to resign or to appear in front of parliament and face the confidence motion.

The rift between the TFG leaders has not only divided the weak transitional government but it has also managed to place regional power brokers and the United Nations in an unfavorable position.

"We see signs of desperation going on. We see Uganda saying 'we are going mediate between the TFG and the opposition'," said Dr. Weinstein, who is the Somalia expert for the Power and Interest News Report thinktank.

Uganda is the only African Union member state to deploy peacekeepers to Mogadishu where an Islamist-led insurgency aims to violently overthrow the TFG.

"[UN Special Envoy for Somalia Ahmedou Ould] Abdallah says he will go to Asmara to speak with anyone, that his mind is open and that he is not completely behind the TFG," Dr. Weinstein said during the interview.

The Eritrean capital, Asmara, is hub for an umbrella organization of Somali opposition figures, including senior Islamists and former TFG officials.

He said the Eritrean government, locked in a border dispute with Ethiopia since 2000, has shown no sign of stopping its interference in Somali affairs.

But Dr. Weinstein was most critical of open-handed U.S. and European support for the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia.

The U.S. and European governments have been "pushed into a corner by their own doing" by openly backing the Ethiopian invasion, according to Dr. Weinstein.

He likened Ethiopia's "disastrous miscalculation" in Somalia to the ongoing U.S. quagmire in Iraq.

"Western donor powers have been absolutely stupid" by backing the Ethiopia-TFG military push to unseat the Islamic Courts movement late last year, Dr. Weinstein argued. He said that the Islamist takeover of Mogadishu in mid-2006 was "a genuine revolution" that brought peace to Mogadishu.

Source: Garowe Online

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