Emerging Crisis in Ethiopia: A Bush Legacy?

by Scott A Morgan

Most critics of American policy in the Horn of Africa generally focus on the fiasco in Somalia. But recent reports indicate that a key regional ally could possibly be in danger of collapsing.

ogaden

One of the most contested regions in East Africa is the Ogaden Region which lies along the border between Ethiopia and Somalia. The two countries fought a border conflict in 1977 which saw the Soviet Union switch its allegiances from Mogadishu to Addis Ababa. After that conflict, the area became a hotspot in the Cold War.

After the demise of the Soviet Union the governments of Ethiopia and Somalia collapsed. Currently there is a pro-Western Government in Addis Ababa while Somalia lacks a government.

Since the fall of Somali President Siad Barre’s Government in 1991, Ethiopia has sent forces into Somalia on three occasions. On all three occasions the actions were seen to be proxy conflicts on behalf of the United States. The latest incursion in December 2006 had military support from the United States.

The US is concerned about the rise of Somali Islamists ever since the Day of the Rangers in 1993. In that battle 18 members of the US Special Forces were killed trying to apprehend Somali warlord, Mohammed Farah Aideed.

Ever since the controversial decision to prop up the Somali Transitional National Government (TNG), there has been a plethora of problems for Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. Obviously the move was not popular with the Islamists in Somalia but that decision also led to rising tensions with Eritrea. Eritrea fought for independence from Ethiopia leading to its independence in 1991. Now tensions are again rising along the border between the Eritrea and Ethiopia. The Eritreans have been attempting to have the UN Mission leave its territory.

The situation in Somalia is not the reason to be concerned with however. The area of concern should be the Ogaden Region of Ethiopia. Although conflict in Ogaden has not garnered major coverage in the international media it has been reported by various online media outlets from the region. According to some outlets, a new series of clashes occurred in March with heavy casualties on both sides. In the past, the Ogaden has been the base of the anti-Zenawi opposition in Ethiopia.

The United States has drafted several pieces of legislation that would tie US military assistance to the human rights climate in Ethiopia. The US should also assist civil society groups trying to promote good governance in Addis Ababa and other areas of Ethiopia. And it should work with Prime Minister Zenawi to promote a free, vibrant and independent media.

Now that there is a change in Washington, maybe that will happen.

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Scott Morgan publishes Confused Eagle on the Internet. It can be found at morganrights.tripod.com
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