19 May 2007 04:15


  • [SW Country] (Courtesy of ION - 996) Ethiopia - Attack of the Tribes  :Posted on 23 May 2002

Attack of the Tribes


In the future, external threats on the internal security of Ethiopia will have more to do with the long-distance manipulation of internal ethnical conflicts than with conventional warfare. Because of the ethnic diversity of its population, the Ethiopian government cannot make do with a simple consensual good-neighbor diplomacy, but must enter into all sorts of wheeling and dealing with local ethnic players in order to prevent them from becoming the instruments of destabilization operations stirred up covertly by rival states. In spite of the problems with the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) which brought Addis Ababa to request the removal of Patrick Cammaert, the Dutch general in command of the UN troops, the Ethiopian-Eritrean conflict is more likely to end in a verbal war than in renewed hostilities. It is the same with Sudan, whose vice president Ali Osman Mohamed Taha recently visited Ethiopia – a prelude to President Hassan Omar al Beshir's official visit to Addis Ababa on May 20 – has brought closer the former enemies of the 1990s.

But the signs of diplomatic rapprochement hide more complex and less reassuring realities, since none of Ethiopia's neighbors is really on a friendly basis with the country. All can take advantage of more or less large-scale local ethnic conflicts to destabilize Addis Ababa without even the need to intervene directly. One recent example is the strike of truck drivers linking Djibouti to Addis Ababa (ION 993). With the murder of two drivers in early April during a fight between Ethiopian Afar and Somali-Issans, who clashed in the region separating Gadamaitu from Giwane, 5,800 trucks remained immobile for days around Awash, which caused a shortage of diesel fuel in Addis Ababa. In the meantime, battles continued to grow because the Oromo of the Kireyou and Ito tribes, who also feel threatened by the northwestern advance of the Issas, have joined forces with the Afar to fight them off. As it happens, the Ethiopian Issa are covertly supported by certain circles in Djibouti.

In the same vein, regarding the agitation that developed in Wollega with regards to the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) in early April, one did not have to search far to find the hand of the Eritreans who had flown the Oromo fighters as far as the southern Sudan regions, on the border with Ethiopia and in the grip of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (ION 995). Needing Eritrea to put pressure on Khartoum, the SPLA's John Garang had given the nod to serve as relay for the OLF fighters shipped in by Asmara. And so it turns out that the Ethiopian government's alliance with its Sudanese counterpart is hardly worth much, since Khartoum is not the entity which controls the border regions of Illubabor which the OLF rebels filtered through. It is not even certain that Khartoum wishes for the OLF to be reined in, even if the Islamic régime, contrary to what it was doing five years ago, does not go as far to provide direct help to the Ethiopian rebels. Also, when they reflect upon the long term, certain sectors in the Ethiopian halls of power consider that the ?friendship? with Khartoum is a tactical and temporary normalization, rather than a profound strategic reorientation. On the other hand, the OLF agitation, which has been active in southwestern Ethiopia, has dropped somewhat in Borana country, on the border with Kenya, where it had become very bloody last year. The reason being, at least partly, that the Nairobi government collaborated with Addis Ababa to fight against the Oromo guerillas' movements on the Kenyan side of the border. Similarly, the activities of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) in Ogaden were slowly brought down in size thanks to collaboration, both in the Somali region of Ethiopia and on the other side of the Somalia border, between Ethiopia and the Rahanweyn Resistance Army (RRA) and the militia of the warlord Mohamed Saïd Hersi aka ?Morgan? whom the Ethiopians helped to launch an offensive into Gedo, Somalia, this week.


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