Revisiting Wikileaks: Ethiopia’s intervention in Somalia – an American or Ethiopian agenda?

Revisiting Wikileaks: Ethiopia’s intervention in Somalia – an American or Ethiopian agenda?

A few days ago, Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison by an American military court. Though he could be released on parole after a decade or so, his supporters – Amnesty International and the Bradley Manning Support Network – has already started collecting signature to be submitted to President Obama, demanding that Manning be given clemency.

Manning is responsible for leaking hundreds thousands of classified documents of the US State department through the Wikileaks.

Most of the leaked documents had been sent to the U.S. State Department by 274 of its consulates, embassies, and diplomatic missions around the world. Dated between December 1966 and February 2010. The cables provided insights into the nature of the relation between America and several countries including Ethiopia.

The publishing of the Cables caused embarrassment to several rent-seeking states in Africa, Asia and Latin America as well as their double-faced officials who tell one thing to their people and a completely different thing to US diplomats.Whereas in the case of Ethiopia, it was another proof of the independent policy-making and assertive international relation of the ruling party as well as the consistency of what the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

One of such cases is the account of Ethiopia’s military intervention in Somalia. When Ethiopia launched a military intervention in Somalia in 2006, several pundits bought the allegation of “respected” western and middle-eastern media that it is America’s homework.

Thus, it created doubt on the Ethiopian government’s statements that underlined the decision to intervene was taken solely in light of national interests and financed from the national treasury.

The allegation and debate continued until wikileaks closed the matter by publishing the diplomatic cables about the confidential meetings between Ethiopian and United States government officials.

What did the cables reveal?

A dozen cables that originated from US Embassy Addis Ababa provided accounts of discussions in 2006, focusing on Ethiopia’s planned intervention in Somalia.The meetings were held between top level government officials of Ethiopia and U.S.Here are a few of the revealing quotes from the cables that proved to the world that concurred with the official statements of the government, while refuting the allegations of the “reliable” western and middle-eastern media outlets.

1/ The Oct. 12, 2006 cable presents a meeting held between Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Theresa Whelan – also attended by Defence Chief of Staff Samora Yenus and State Minister of Foreign Affairs Tekeda Alemu and DATT (Embassy Defense Attaché) Colonel Zedler, OSD Representative Lt. Colonel Atallah and Chargé d’affaires Vicki Huddleston.

The cable mentions a request made by the then Ethiopian Premier Meles Zenawi to the Dep. Secretary of Defence and the view of the US.

“Meles asked that the US express dismay but not condemn Ethiopia if the UNSC does not approve the IGAD mission and Ethiopian forces deploy to Beledwyne, since Ethiopia would be acting in its own self defence.

From embassy’s vantage point, the lifting of the arms embargo on the TFG and the deployment of a small IGAD/Ugandan force could prevent an Ethiopian counter attack on Beledwyne and possibly a wider war.

In order to convince Ethiopia that it should not attack the CIC in Beledwyne, the international community will need to take action that will allow the TFG – as well as Puntland and Somaliland — to survive and Ethiopia to be secure from infiltration by insurgents.”

The cable shows Meles telling them what he told us when he said “Ethiopia would be acting in its own self defence’. The desire of the US looks not of a boss giving homework but “to convince Ethiopia that it should not attack the CIC” and “to prevent an Ethiopian counter attack and possibly a wider war”.

2/ The Oct. 14, 2006 cable reveals Meles was cautious of the reaction of the international community, which is not one expects from a person allegedly doing the homework of a superpower. The meeting was with Commander of the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) Rear Admiral Richard Hunt, US Business Executives for National Security (BENS) President and CEO General Charles Boyd, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), and Bennett McCutcheon Michele Huges from Joint Forces Command.

Absent of an international solution, Meles explained that Ethiopia is prepared to do battle with the UIC in Somalia. Meles indicated that before making a final decision he will wait for the November United Nation’s Security Council meeting where he hopes a favourable decision will be made to lift the arms embargo and deploy the IGAD/Ugandan battalion.

The cable shows Meles hoped for an “international solution” than Ethiopia intervene and was waiting for theSecurity Council meeting “before making a final decision”. This statement, if not true, would have been nonsense to the officials that know who makes the decision. 

3/ A Nov. 02, 2006 cable shows that PM Meles has told US officials that Ethiopia would be grateful if the US would help locate bases of al-Shebaab, an extremist element of UIC/CIC. He also asked them to lobby the Europeans and the UN so that they would not condemn Ethiopia’s actions.

The meeting was attended by PM Meles Zenawi and Commander of the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF HOA) Admiral Rick Hunt, DATT [Defence Attaché] Don Zedler and Charge and Chargé d’affaires Vicki Huddleston.

[PM Meles said] if the USG can assist in any way – specifically intelligence – to counter the growing al Shebab terrorist influence, Ethiopia would be grateful. Meles also asked if the USG would discretely talk with the Europeans and the UN so that they would not condemn Ethiopia’s actions. If they condemn Ethiopia, Meles said, “it will stiffen the Jihadists.”

When Charge asked why the CIC would attack Baidoa if it meant an Ethiopia/TFG response, Meles said that the CIC wants to provoke Ethiopia into a war in Somalia so the EU and the US will pressure Ethiopia to stop. But some in the CIC are not so sure that the US and EU will make that recommendation, and others doubt Ethiopia will bend to pressure. In response to the Charge’s urging, Meles reiterated his previous statements that Ethiopia wants to wait for the UNSC to lift the embargo on the TFG and authorize IGASOM.

The cable reads like Meles is the one asking for the US to   “assist in any way” and not to be condemned, which he would not need to ask if he was doing the US’s job. It is certain, however, no US financial assistance was provided to the Ethiopian military operation, as revealed in other cables later.

4/ The Nov. 15, 2006 cable depicts an insightful summary of the threats gathering in Somalia against Ethiopia and the region at the time. The cable written by the departing Charge d’Affaires Vicki Huddleston to State Department Ass Secretary Jenday Frazer and the newly appointed Ambassador Donald Yamamoto states:

If successful in defeating the TFG at Baidoa, Aweys’ forces will gain momentum; already daily flights of men and equipment are pouring into Mogadishu for an attack on Puntland and Somaliland in the expectation that this will unite Somalia. At the same time, insurgents from Oromiya (the OLF) and the Ogaden (the ONLF), backed by Eritrea, will move east into Ethiopia.

The ONLF intends to break off Ethiopia’s Somali region, uniting it with a Greater Somali state. The OLF will either ensure that there is regime change in Addis Ababa or separate Oromiya from Ethiopia. In the end, Ethiopia’s enemies — most notably Eritrea — would be successful in breaking up Ethiopia and ousting Meles.

The cable shows the American understanding of the threats against Ethiopia validates Ethiopia’s reasons to intervene in Somalia. However, the US advised Meles not to go to war and the cable claims that Meles has listened to our advice not to attack the Islamic Courts’.

5/ A Dec. 04, 2006 cable presents a meeting between Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and Senator Russ Feingold, who chairs the Armed Committee of the Senate, hinting that the US government is not enthusiastic about Ethiopia’s plan to intervene.

[Sen. Feingold] expressed hope that the armed conflict between Ethiopia and Somalia could be averted, and remarked that he would be surprised the USG were enthusiastic about an Ethiopian military intervention. At the same time, Feingold acknowledged that the GOE was in a difficult situation which he now understood better.

Meles replied that no one, including the GOE, was enthusiastic about conflict, but sometimes circumstances made military action the only option.

6/ A Nov. 29, 2007 Cable indicates that Ethiopia did not request financial support from the U.S. The meeting was attended by Senator James Inhofe a full member of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, Congressmen Ander Crenshaw, Robert Aderholt, Dan Boren, Tim Walberg, and Mike McIntyre as well as Congressional staff members, and Ambassador Yamamo.

The Prime Minister emphasized that it was the fight against terrorism that forced Ethiopia to take military action in Somalia against the Council of Islamic Courts and affiliated militias last year and he noted that it was a unilateral decision based on Ethiopia’s interests.

Meles emphasized that Ethiopia did not request financial support from the U.S. for that endeavour, but noted that Ethiopia derived adequate satisfaction from the strong U.S.-Ethiopia cooperation since then as it was evident to Ethiopia that the U.S. “was in the same trench” as Ethiopia. Ethiopia is fighting terrorism in its own interests, he stated, “we will do it with or without the U.S., but we prefer to do it with you.”

Meles told them the war was “a unilateral decision based on Ethiopia’s interests” and that Ethiopia did not request financial support from the U.S.” and no one objected his statement.

7/ A Jan. 04, 2008 cable presents a discussion between Ethiopian National Defence Forces (ENDF) Chief of Staff Gen. Samora Yenus’s and US Ambassador Donald Yamamato.

Gen. Samora responded aggressively, in tone if not demeanour, that the “U.S. did not support a single bullet for our operations in Somalia.” Samora reiterated the $3 million expense for five U.S. civilian contract trainers and argued that $2.5 million in C-130 spare parts “is nothing” in comparison to the sacrifices made by Ethiopian troops in Somalia without U.S. financial support.

Despite noting that the USG’s political support is valued within the GoE, Gen. Samora ended the conversation by complaining that Ethiopia had trained 680 Somali Transitional Federal Government troops without U.S. financial support and had recently brought another 1,000 Somali troops for training. “It would be good if the U.S. helped with this,” Samora lamented, “but not critical…We can do it ourselves; like everything else we do.”

This cable seals the issue as Gen. Samora tells the US ambassador that “the U.S. did not provide a single bullet” and about the sacrifices made by Ethiopian troops in Somalia “without U.S. financial support”.

He told the ambassador the usual confident speech we hear from our government- “We can do it ourselves; like everything else we do”.


U dhaaf Halcelis

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