It turns out Ethiopia’s much publicized ‘withdrawal’ of its troops from Somalia is after all just a tactic. Although it has apparently withdrawn some of its troops from some hotspots like Mogadisho, it nonetheless continues to have its troops present, conquering ever more towns and cities in Southwestern Somalia previously held by the various insurgent groups. The news coming out of Gedo and Baay region confirms that Ethiopian troops have indeed took Bardheere and Diinsor towns in Gedo and Baay respectively, in an effort to bolster the strength of its newly reincarnated warlord tool,Barre Hiraale.
More insidiously, however, is Meles Zenawi’s tactics of re-arming warlords who were driven from power by the Union of Islamic Courts first, then by the insurgency that ensued in the past two years. This is the tactic Ethiopia was using in Somalia throughout the 1990s. In fact, Ethiopia armed Abdullahi Yusuf in the 1990s in order to fight the previous Islamists movement before the Union of Islamic Courts, which was Al-Itihad, who coincidently was led by Sheikh Aweys Dahir at the time as well. It wasn’t until 2004 after the creation of the Transitional Federal Government in Nairobi that Ethiopia eased its arming of warlords favorable to its goals in Somalia. But its effort to eliminate or destabilize entities which seek to bring law and order continued.
Now with the emergence of Al-Shabab/UIC more strong than before it went to eliminate in 2006, Ethiopia is once again re-arming criminal warlords, who use such Islamic-sounding names like Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaca – giving the false impression of ‘moderate Islamists’ fighting Al-Shabab, which really is a front for clan-based warlords who are willing to continue Ethiopia’s stated goal of anarchy in Somalia. For Meles Zenawi, all of these tactics are an effort to cultivate an environment of lawlessness and instability that is ungovernable for any entity hostile to his goals in Somalia and the disputed region of Ogaden. Perhaps Somalia is condemned to anarchy for life. Yet I don’t understand why Somalia’s lawlessness and instability serve Ethiopia better because it doesn’t make sense to burn your neighbor’s house, does it?