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Ethiopia and Somalia: Missed opportunities and some challenges

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If ever there was one with a tad bit of intellectual prowess in reaching deep down where many in that ill-foresaken status had failed, Ismail surely had scored the hattrick in his reflections and observations.


I particularly wish to challenge the ersatz nationalists in the forum who regard Dr Ghalaydh, former Premier Abdirazak H Hussein & Co saviours and great heroes of the hour to dig deeper in their cognitive particles and search the thinking muscle for cerebral perspective.


Skip should you wish the historical reflections and anecdotes and devour the section that attempts to address the "Challenges..."




By Ismail Ali Ismail

July 06, 2005




Prior to the colonial era the history of the Horn of Africa was, for the most part, a struggle between Islam and Christianity with their adherents trying from time to time to overrun and vanquish each other. With the advent of European colonialism religion continued to play a large part in geopolitical calculations. I remember listening to an interview the BBC Somali Service had with a Somali who was a contemporary of Sylvia Pankhurst and knew her. He said in the interview that, astonished by the ferocity of her campaign to have Somalia ceded to Ethiopia he asked her why she was so ardently supporting Ethiopians against Somalis who were both, being Africans, equally foreign to her. Her answer surprised him because she told him that as a Christian it was incumbent upon her to support her coreligionists against Moslems. As with individuals so it was – then as now – with countries, and the foreign policies of the great powers have never been free, to this date, from religious considerations, (despite what they have been saying) as a result of which Ethiopia was aggrandized at the expense of Somalia.


Dame Margery Perham (then Oxford's foremost authority on colonial administration) says in her book “ The Colonial Reckoning †that the long frontier between Ethiopia and Somalia was “envenomed†and she cited this as one of the main reasons besides extreme poverty and ‘backwardness' why Somalia would not be able to make much progress – indeed any progress – in its struggle to achieve economic advance. But she stopped short of stating the plain fact that it was her own country, Britain, capitalizing on Ethiopia's insatiable hunger for territory and encouraged by our as-yet-unawakened national consciousness, that injected the venom into those frontier disputes – a venom which has since been running deep in the veins of both Somalis and Ethiopians but which seems now to be wearing off, thanks to certain cataclysmic events in both Ethiopia and Somalia.


The two nations have had, before they arrived at their current cul de sac, their share of follies and foibles leading to serious miscalculations and disappointments in their ceaseless efforts to outmaneuver and outsmart each other. It is these costly miscalculations that I call ‘the missed historical opportunities' and I shall now address myself to them.


Ethiopian Miscalculations


After the thoughtless transfer of the Haud and Reserved Area to Ethiopia the British Government realized its grievous mistake and earnestly worked, ex post facto , towards the retrocession of the Area. Emperor Haile Sellasie was offered a large monitory compensation in lieu of returning the Area to British hands but the Emperor declined. The British then tried to kill two birds with one stone by satisfying in one stroke both the need of nomadic Somalis for the Haud and Reserved Area for the grazing of their livestock and Ethiopia 's desire to have an outlet to the Gulf of Aden , the Eritrean ports being difficult. Accordingly, the Emperor was offered the whole area of Zeila in exchange of the Haud and Reserved Area. The Emperor also rejected that offer and that, in my view, proved to be a serious miscalculation on his part, for if he had accepted the offer Djibouti would have become an enclave within Ethiopia which could have laid then a much stronger claim to it upon decolonization. At that time, of course, Ethiopia was not landlocked, Eritrea being an integral part of it, and Djibouti was in the hands of the French who were not only friendly to the Emperor but were also well aware of the obvious symbiosis between the two countries – Djibouti and Ethiopia. The Emperor did not – perhaps could not – foresee or envision then the separation of Eritrea , the independence of Djibouti (both of which happened after his demise) and our virile nationalism. But, it was a blessing for us Somalis that the Emperor was blind to the opportunity which would not only have assured him of Djibouti but would also have brought the Ethiopian navy to our shores as Djibouti would have ceased to be a littoral buffer between us and the Ethiopians.


Ethiopia 's second miscalculation also concerns Djibouti . In 1958 France , under the leardership of Gen. De Gaulle, decided to hold referenda in all its African possessions with a choice between staying with France and opting for independence. In Djibouti , the late Mahmoud Harbi and his party were fighting for independence while Hassan Gulaid and his party were campaigning against it. Our hearts, though not yet independent ourselves, were with Mahmoud Harbi and his freedom fighters, and we denounced Hassan Gulaid and his friends as imperialist lackeys. Ethiopia was working against the independence of Djibouti , which was then called French Somaliland, because it feared that it might give fresh impetus to our young nationalism in British Somaliland which had been spurred by the effective transfer of the Haud and Reserved Area only three years before; Somalia was also scheduled for independence only two years from then. This fear blinded the Emperor to the very real possibility of creating a situation in Djibouti which would have allowed Ethiopia to march into it upon the departure of the French on the pretext that it was protecting its own citizens and interests in Djibouti or that it was part of Ethiopia before French colonialism. In those days gunboat diplomacy was still very much alive and the French, once their presence was rejected would not have lifted a finger in defense of Djibouti . And, of course, there was no Somalia to deter Ethiopian aggression. Luckily, the French rigged the referendum in their favour and thereby unwittingly forestalled ‘Ethiopian intervention'. It would surely have been in the interest of Ethiopia if Djibouti became independent in 1958 – an independence against which Ethiopia fought hard.


In the event, Hassan Gulaid was vindicated and he changed his position at the right time in the 1967 referendum in favor of independence. The Emperor, determined as ever to thwart our irredentism, was clearly in collusion with the French who again rigged the plebiscite in their favor and changed the name of the country to the French Territory of the Afars and the Issas much to the delight of His Imperial Majesty. I vividly remember that dangerous moment when, having maintained a heavy military contingent at Abdul Qadir (which is situated in close physical proximity to Djibouti ) we were ready to capture Djibouti itself if the French, upon abrupt departure, beckoned Ethiopia to move in.


Somali Blunders


We Somalis have also made quite a few historical blunders of our own. I am told by elderly and credible eye witnesses of history that on the eve of the transfer of the ****** and part of the Reserved Area to Ethiopia in1948 the British local administrators in Jigjiga apprised some of the Somali elders of the impending transfer and sought to incite them to violent demonstrations so that the administrators would advise the British government against the transfer in view of the unstoppable violent reactions of the indigenous people. The administrators had advised against it and wanted their position to be vindicated and to prove thereby that the impression created by the Foreign Office in London that the local people would be indifferent, if not favorably disposed, to the transfer was false. However, much to the disappointment of the local administrators there was no reaction from the Somali side apart from feeble and half-hearted protestations of few SYL members. In the event, the transfer went ahead because there was no locally organized popular and politically sustainable force to be reckoned with. The British tried to justify their perfidy by citing an Anglo-Ethiopian Agreement which had been concluded and signed in 1897 and to which we were not a party. Most agreements are, however, subject to rebus sic stantibus and the British could have – perhaps would have – allowed that agreement to fall into desuetude and become a dead letter had we ourselves been sufficiently educated and vigilant We would have foreseen and blocked all the Anglo-Ethiopian conspiracies by which our lands were surreptitiously transferred. Under the treaties of protection our forefathers signed with Britain we were supposed to be protected, not sold to the Ethiopians or any other power for that matter. And to add insult to injury the delegation we sent in 1955 to the British government and the UN to reverse the transfer of the Haud and Reserved Area by invoking those treaties was told that such treaties had no validity in International Law because we were not sovereign. Yet, it was those same treaties that gave international recognition to Britain 's suzerainty over our land. Had the earlier transfer of the ‘****** and Part of the Reserved Area' been effectively pre-empted through vigorous and sustained popular action in 1948 we would have avoided that annus horribilis and its repetition in 1954/55 when the British transferred the Haud and the rest of the ‘Reserved Area' in utter disregard of our sensibilities. Apparently, the British were so, if wrongly, sure of our indifference to this latter transfer as well. However, there is a silver lining in every dark cloud, and those unfortunate events were not without their compensation as our inflamed passions unleashed an accelerated a virile nationalist movement for British Somaliland 's independence and consequent union with Somalia .


Surprisingly, we had been presented with a golden opportunity in 1948 which we also squandered ourselves. That was the time when the entire Somali areas, with the exception of Djibouti , were in the hands of the British Military Administration. Bevin's plan for a Greater Somalia, although torpedoed by a Soviet veto in the Security Council, could have been resuscitated and the key for its implementation lay in the hands of the SYL leaders in Mogadishu . After the Second World War the victorious powers considered the fate of the former Italian possessions and decided to put Somalia under a U.N. trusteeship for ten years (1950 to 1960) in preparation for independence. Interestingly, only two countries voted for Somalia 's immediate independence at the time: Haiti (whose UN ambassador voted for Somalia in defiance of his country's instructions and was consequently dismissed from his post) and the newly established state of Israel . But we also received invaluable support from Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan an eloquent and highly respected Pakistani jurist who was his country's representative to the United Nations and later became a judge at the International Court of Justice in The Hague . Both of these distinguished ambassadors were of course invited to our independence celebrations in 1960 and awarded the highest Medal of Honor our country could give. The few Arab States that existed at the time threw all their weight behind Libya whose independence was immediately secured as a result.


Having decided to prepare Somalia for independence for ten years the Security Council considered which country was best suited to undertake that responsibility under the UN Trusteeship and the “Four-Power Commission†was sent over to Mugadishu in January, 1948 in order to sound out the Somalis themselves as to their preference. Our SYL leaders were great nationalists, honest and forthright; after all it is they who secured our independence and we have to be grateful to them. But their serious shortcomings which were lack of education and knowledge of the mechanics and the dynamics of international politics led them to an unfortunate choice which, if accepted, would have spelt out disaster for Somalia . They asked all the four powers (the US , UK , USSR and France ) to administer Somalia ; fortunately, that was thought impractical; otherwise, Somalia would have been divided into four sectors like Berlin (the American Sector, the British Sector, the French Sector and the Soviet Sector). It is said that the British had expected the SYL leaders to choose the UK as the administering power so that all the Somali territories would be united under their rule; they were even contemplating to enter into negotiations with France for the exchange of French Somaliland with one of their island possessions. The SYL had been established and was flourishing under British rule in Somalia and the British had every right for all the cogent reasons to expect its leaders to choose Britain as the administering power. But the leaders were so shortsighted and inept that they feared that Britain, being a world power, would use every subterfuge and stratagem to overstay well beyond its mandate or even deny the country its independence; they were so obsessed with the single goal of independence that they were blind to all the benefits accruing from British rule: the unification of Somali territories; development of a unified administration, a unified educational system; a common colonial heritage; a common outlook; and of course the integration of the economy. These are all problem areas which proved to be debilitating and even pernicious to the Somali state. The leaders thought that Italy would by contrast be a better choice because, being vanquished and weak, they would be able to wrest independence from it if it tried to create obstacles. But the Italians also lobbied hard to return to Somalia , albeit in a different capacity, and managed to gain the sympathy of the United States particularly since they were in dire straits after the war and had shown their contrition by the public hanging of their fascist leader, Il Duce Mussolini.


Italy had therefore its own selfish aim in returning to Somalia , but our leaders were vigilant and constantly fighting with it as it tried to do lip service to its trusteeship mandate and even prolong it in order to further its colonial interests. Our nationalism was virile and fervent but our ignorance was so abysmally dismal that when the Italians used tear gas on one occasion to disburse stone-throwing demonstrators in Mogadishu one of the SYL men ran to the party headquarters and reported that the Italians “threw an atomic bomb on the crowdâ€. Evidently, however, the choice of Italy was manifestly a bad one from the very start. That country had been destroyed by the war and its economy was in shambles to put it mildly; it woefully lacked political stability as successive governments tumbled down in quick succession; it was also bereft of a stable, strong and merit-based bureaucracy which was described even in the sixties as underpaid, corrupt, undisciplined and inefficient; and the Mafia played a prominent role in the country's affairs which made Italian political culture full of intrigue and scheming. We have undoubtedly made a grievous historical error in favoring Italy as the power that would teach us governance and prepare us for independence. In so doing we violated our own Somali wisdom which says: “ ninkaad kabo ka tolaneysid kabihiisaa la eegaa â€. It was to that Italian culture and that Italian fractured polity, aggravated by our divisions along clan lines instead of party lines, that we fell prey as soon as we tasted self-rule in 1956. That self-rule under those inauspicious circumstances weakened our nationalism and pushed clan divisions to the fore. I am strongly convinced that endemic southern instability owes its origin to the Italian manipulations and machinations of those days.


Armed Conflict as an Agent of Change


Benjamin Franklin was substantially right when he said, “There was never a good war or a bad peaceâ€. But wars bring about changes and often fundamental changes. War is no doubt an agent of change since people – and governments - have to cope with its aftermath. Tragedies can be molded into positive change. That was what prompted that shrewd observer, Winston Churchill, in comparing a pessimist and an optimist, to say: “An optimist sees an opportunity in every calamity; a pessimist sees a calamity in every opportunityâ€. We and our Ethiopian neighbors have been at each other's throat for a long time our bone of contention being that large territory which is shown on the map of Ethiopia but is so Somali and so un-Ethiopian in all other respects. We both engaged ceaselessly through the years in a war of words and our propaganda machines were geared to outdo each other. But we fought two real wars in 1964 and in 1977/78. The World, having shrunk into the village it has become, became well aware, unlike the past, of our territorial dispute with Ethiopia . In 1982 I participated in a UN experts meeting in Spain and I found myself sitting at dinner next to Dean Donald Stone, a renowned, revered and recognized authority in Planning and Development Administration. He looked so old that he must have been an octogenarian. In the middle of the conversation he asked me what we and the Ethiopians were fighting about. I told him we were fighting about a territory of whose reality we had two different perceptions: the Ethiopians derived their reality from the map which showed that the territory was Ethiopian while we derived our reality from the facts on the ground which showed that the territory was Somali for all intents and purposes. Dean Stone seemed satisfied as he nodded and did not utter a word, and the conversation drifted to other topics.


There are those who contend that the 1977/78 war was disastrous for Somalia . I agree that Siad Barre's government fell short of attaining its objective at monumental costs. Some would say it was simply a costly misadventure which led to Somalia 's own destruction. I beg to differ. Whilst we were succeeding at the battle front we were failing dismally at the diplomatic front, and the forces which were arrayed against us and drove us out of the territory we liberated were but the manifestation of a tragic diplomatic failure. Our policymakers were soldiers who thought that in war only military hardware and military thinking mattered. But, surprisingly, that war brought Ethiopians and Somalis closer to each other. It was a sobering experience for both of them; the Ethiopians had dangerously underestimated us and had been dismissive of us as it never entered their minds that ‘a handful of Somalis' (as their press put it) could capture an inch of territory: that arrogance and their delusion of grandeur were shattered even before we were pounding at the gates of Harar and Dire Dawa, and they knew in their heart of hearts that they were saved by the Soviets. Moreover, the war plunged Ethiopia deep into debt to the Soviet Union and many Ethiopians were deeply resentful that their country which had been free for thousands of years and had never been colonized – a fact of which they had been ostentatiously proud – was reduced to a mere client state of the Soviet Union because of the war with Somalia. The Soviets, their ideology and the regimentation of life that was inherent in their totalitarian system were so hated that when the statue of Lenin was brought down in 1991 by the EPRDF there were jubilant celebrations throughout Addis Ababa . I am told that when both Ethiopia and Somalia attended a year or two after the war the OAU ministerial conference in Freetown (Sierra Leone), which normally preceded the summit, some members of the Ethiopian delegation said to their Somali counterparts: “we can forget the war, but we will never forgive you for the ignominy of pushing us under Soviet dominationâ€. I would never have thought at the time that the two delegations would even speak to each other. But, for us too the expulsion of the Soviets from our country was a welcome byproduct of the war.


However, the government of Mengistu Haile- Mariam was keenly and painfully aware of the heavy toll the hostilities with Somalia was exacting a heavy toll on the Ethiopian economy: first, keeping a huge army proved to be too heavy a burden; secondly, it discouraged investment in the disputed area which was known to have gas deposits and also suspected to have petroleum deposits as well; thirdly, Somali ports would be needed to export those vital resources; fourthly, Ethiopian Moslems (including those in Addis Ababa itself) were feared to be susceptible to the propaganda and influence of their coreligionists to the east of the border who could use them to blow up or at least sabotage economic installations; and finally, Somalia was attempting to bring about the disintegration of Ethiopia by training, arming and encouraging fissiparous tendencies in certain nationalities in Ethiopia and was at the same time extending full support to the Eritreans on a sustainable basis. For all these reasons the Ethiopians were favorably disposed towards rapprochement with the Siad Barre regime. The latter had itself been shaken by an attempted coup and feared being destabilized by Ethiopia when both the SSDF and SNM started to operate from Addis Ababa . The two countries consequently exchanged high-level visits just few years after the war in order to improve relations as a first step towards economic cooperation. That was the first light signaling a departure from destructive engagement and towards a common strategy for the well-being and economic survival of the two peoples. The two leaders (Mengistu and Siad Barre) pledged to freeze their support to the armed fronts operating from each other's country. It seems, in retrospect, however, that mutual suspicion prevented both leaders to redeem their pledges. It is argued at times that the Ethiopians were amenable to a concession of sorts (not necessarily territorial) before the SSDF and SNM established themselves in Addis Ababa – a move which emboldened the Ethiopian side and weakened ours. However, regime change was in store for both countries.


The year 1991 brought fundamental changes to both Somalia and Ethiopia starting with the violent change of the regimes. The implosion in our country took place in January of that year and Addis Ababa fell, with the flight of Mengistu, to the EPRDF followed only five months later. Although with the fall of the Siad Barre regime our State vanished immediately the policy towards Ethiopia undoubtedly paid off to a great extent, for we soon had friends at the helm of Ethiopia and Eritrea . As a matter of fact both Meles Zenawi and Isias Afeworke have openly acknowledged, with much gratitude, the unfailing assistance they had been receiving from our side. And I was pleasantly surprised to come in contact with Somali-speaking senior officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Asmara when I participated in an international symposium for the writing of the Eritrean Constitution in 1995. President Isias held a reception for the participants who were truly international and real experts in their own respective areas. But I was elated when the Somali-speaking Eritrean officials brought the President himself to me where I was standing to introduce me to him – incredible but true. The President and I had a half-hour conversation and I was impressed both with his excellent Arabic and equally excellent English as our conversation alternated between those two languages. The President was full of praise for Somalia and the Somali people; he told me how deeply grateful he and the Eritrean people were for all that sincere support they had received and was solicitous about our sad situation and the stability of our country. I went to Asmara again in the following year to train some of their senior officials and on both occasions I was struck by the genuine love and affection the Eritrean people had for the Somali people. It was seemed to me that every man jack of them was truly sad, like the President, about what was happening to us. I have never met Prime Minister Meles but all those who met him are convinced that he feels he owes a debt of gratitude.


Were it not for the implosion and consequent destruction of our State (which still remains moribund) we would have played a major role in the Horn of Africa mediating between Ethiopia and Eritrea, between Eritrea and Yemen, and between Eritrea and Djibouti and playing an important role in both the OAU and IGAD whose problem child we have so lamentably become. I also believe that the circumstances would have been most propitious for our own internal reconciliation, if only our State outlived Mengistu by a few months. The Somali Regional State in Ethiopia would have been stable, well-organized and ready for a referendum as to whether they wanted to secede or remain in Ethiopia . I know that the current policymakers in Ethiopia feel that the stability of that region was contingent upon Somalia itself being stable. While Prof. Sa'id Samatar and I were participating in the International Symposium for Writing of the Eritrean Constitution in 1995 in Asmara the Speaker of the National Assembly of Ethiopia, Ato Dawit Yohannes, asked to meet us privately and we were joined by Dr. Elmi Du'aleh who was then WHO Representative in Asmara but is now our Ambassador-Designate to the UN. The Speaker told us (and I am sure both Sa'id and Elmi will bear me out) that they (the Ethiopian Government) were facing very difficult and intractable problems with the Somali region which was being destabilized by the situation in Somalia because, as he put it, “the people on both sides of the border were the same†(we were glad to hear him acknowledge that simple fact). He said that, in their view therefore, the best way to stabilize the Somali Regional State in Ethiopia was by stabilizing Somalia itself and he asked us how educated Somalis could help in stabilizing their country. Sadly, we had no impromptu solutions ourselves but we did discuss the situation.


The Challenges


Changes have actually been occurring in Ethiopia ever since the demise of Haile Sellassie some thirty years ago. The Emperor used to tell the world that Ethiopia was a Christian country and used to stipulate in furtherance of that claim that mosques should not have minarets and should otherwise remain indistinguishable from normal buildings. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church was all-powerful and ruled the country with the Emperor as there was no separation between the Church and the State. All that changed when Mengistu came to power and the church lost its prominent place in the affairs of the State. And for the first time in Ethiopia the government acknowledged that the country was half Christian and half Moslem; and for the first time ever in Ethiopian history the birthday of Prophet Mohammed (SAWS), and the two Moslem Eids were celebrated and the streets of Addis Ababa glittered at night on the behest of the revolutionary government with colorful lights on those occasions. The current regime added to those changes and allowed Moslems to leave the offices for Jum'a prayers and to pray in the Stadium and the squares of Addis Ababa on the special religious occasions of Eid Al Ad'ha and Eidal Fitr.


To understand the challenges facing us today we have to take, first and foremost, the fundamental changes that have occurred in Ethiopia over the last thirty years. There are those who, being blind to these changes, are still locked in the past. They still argue that Ethiopia wants to divide and dominate Somalia . Such an argument is sterile, negative and unhelpful. These are the people who cannot come up with a proper argument as to how we should handle the new situations in Ethiopia and in our country. Ethiopia itself has been divided by forced change into Ethiopia and Eritrea; a federal structure has been introduced to ensure that each nationality within Ethiopia enjoys a measure of home rule and uses its vernacular as the official language; the right to secede has been enshrined in the constitution; for the first time in its history Ethiopia has publicly and formally acknowledged that there is a Somali region with Somali as its official language; and it formally acknowledged that the Somalis are the third largest ethnic group in Ethiopia – more numerous by far than the ruling Tigreans. In the days of Haile Sellassie the word “Somali†was a taboo and each Somali clan was said to be a separate nationality on its own; viz. the ****** nationality; the Issa nationality; the Gurgura nationality and so on. Such political nomenclature continued until the EPRDF came to power in 1991


These are all fundamental and irreversible changes which I have personally witnessed. On our side there have been fundamental changes too: we broke into clans and the heavy tide of clannism swept away the State we had long fought for. What happened to our State reminds me of the famous quotation from Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour: ‘ après nous le deluge' (i.e. after us, you will be swept away by the floods). Our situation also brought some far-reaching changes: a resurgence of clannism which still remains our scourge; a federal structure, separatism, and a whole different outlook and political philosophy brought about particularly by our exposure to the external world. Yet there was another fundamental change: it brought Somalis and Ethiopians closer to each other. We and our Ethiopian neighbors did not really know each other; and we had negative and demonizing views of each other for hundreds of years and our “envenomed frontier dispute†as the late Dame Margery Perham put it, made us see each other as enemies. Somalis suffered under a cruel Ethiopian rule which demonized Ethiopians in our eyes. However, when we were flung by that violent implosion of our country to the four corners of the world a huge number of us crossed the border and traveled far into Ethiopia until they reached Addis Ababa and came face to face with their erstwhile enemies to seek refuge in their country; and they were welcomed; and it was a welcome which was entirely unexpected. But a reciprocal situation has been created as Ethiopians also felt free to enter Somalia , live in it, work in it, trade in it and visit and use its ports without hindrance. The political barriers have thus been broken and the relationship between the two countries will no longer be defined by politicians alone; for what obtains now is a genuine people-to-people contact. It should be obvious in today's world and conditions that we can no longer remain prisoners to the superannuated political maxim that “neighbors are enemies; neighbors' neighbors are friendsâ€. As educated men and women we should change our habits of mind and be flexible enough to cope with changing situations.


The current situations in both Ethiopia and Somalia truly pose an intellectual challenge to all of us. However, before we face the challenge of dealing with what the changes in Ethiopia mean to us we need to put our own act together. We have been repeatedly failed by the lack of education, the lack of enlightened leadership and prevalent narrow-minded clannism. Our intellectuals have been mesmerized by the war-lords in whose faces they have become helpless not minding the obvious fact that we Somalis irrespective of the clans we come from will either survive together or perish together without discrimination as to clan affiliation. Responding to this challenge will require the intellectuals to come together, form a network or networks – perhaps in the form of professional societies – change loyalties from kins to cronies and develop loyalty to one's own profession.




My conclusion from the foregoing is short and should be obvious. Today thank God, we have, unlike the past, people who are young and vigorous and educated. Everywhere in the world, past and present, it is the young people who bring about revolutionary change either with their own hands or by prodding old fogies who are at the helm to take action in the right direction. Alas our young have drunk too much from that poisoned well of clannism, but it is us the grown-ups who poisoned that well. The clan system on which our culture and tradition were based has always been there but its application had its own subtleties. The young people do not know these subtleties for they have not been brought up in their own culture and have no sense of history and no sense of culture. Some of them are so young that they cannot even remember being a sovereign nation and have been hearing only bad things about their country and their people. Inevitably, they will suffer from low self- esteem vis-à-vis other children of their age who come from well-established countries.


It is always easy to pinpoint the problems and expand on them but take refuge in brevity when it comes to the solutions. We should reform our youth, educate them, and inculcate in them a sense of service to their people and their country. Once they know it is their future we are talking about they will be responsive and will oblige. In this day and age it is absolutely imperative that we should work towards a knowledge-based government. We have missed so many opportunities in the past because our leaders did not have the necessary education and so were groping in the dark for national objectives they could not reach and in the process have actually been blind to the opportunity that were within reach. Today, with all the advantages we have (education, science, technology and know-how, mobilization of financial resources, etc.) we should be condemned as absolute fools if we do not do better to live better.


Ismail A. Ismail



Highlights of Ismail A. Ismail's Background

Educated in Aden, United States and United Kingdom; Experience: District Commissioner in Hargeisa; Zeila and Kismayo; Deputy Governor in Togdheer (Burao) and Lower Juba (Kismayo); Senior Training Officer at SIDAM; United Nations Economic Commission for Africa: Professional Officer for 26 years (22 years in Addis Ababa covering the entire continent of Africa, and 4 years in Lusaka covering the entire sub-region of Southern Africa) until retired in 2002 as Senior Public Administration Officer.

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Originally posted by Samurai Warrior:

I have never met Prime Minister Meles but all those who met him are convinced that he feels he owes a debt of gratitude.

Really? This is what the people of Somali Regional State (aka Occupied Western Somalia) wrote about PM Meles Zenawi a few years ago:


UNGRATEFUL CHILD: Melez Zenaawi & Somalia




****** Online Editorial Board


If Somali government officials in the 1970's and early 80's were told that soon after the new millennium, Ethiopia would be seeking to convince the international community that it's military operations in Somalia were justified, that would come as no surprise. If you then mentioned the Melez Zenaawi would be the one leading this Ethiopian charge the reaction would probably have been one of disbelief.


After all, Melez Zenaawi and other leaders of the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) the ruling core of the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) enjoyed unprecedented hospitality by the Mogadishu government. It is an open secret that during his struggle to remove Marxist Dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam, Zenaawi travelled with a Diplomatic Somali passport. Everywhere he went he was greeted with open arms by Somali government officials. To the Somalis, he was an adopted son of sorts. Like their brethren in ******, Zenaawi was struggling for self-determination (at least that is what he said).


But those familiar with Zenaawi during his stay in Mogadishu recall his intense jealousy for assistance Somalia gave the Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front (EPLF). One former Somali official in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told ****** Online "He was always telling us we should give him what we gave the Eritreans, every time he compared his situation with that of the Eritreans and tried to convince us he had a better chance to succeed against Mengistu than the EPLF"


But despite his envy of the EPLF Zenawi was clearly in no position to complain. Not only was he given a Somali diplomatic passport, but his TPLF was given an office and an expense account all paid for by Somali tax payers.


Zenaawi was also reportedly eager to gain favor among Arab nations, something he felt Somalia was clearly in a good position to get him. Unlike the Eritreans, the TPLF had limited contacts with the Arab world and desperately sought introduction to Arab diplomats in Mogadishu at every opportunity.


On ******, Zenaawi is reported on more than one occasion to have strongly expressed that "Ethiopia is an Empire State artificially patched together" going on to say that all that would change once the oppressed overthrew mengistu.


Zenaawi did not spend all his time lobbying in Mogadishu however, he is reported to have enjoyed frequenting hotel restaurants and playing pool with Somali intelligence officers from the National Security Service (NSS).


While he was also a frequent visitor of the beaches along Mogadishu, he reportedly never went in the water because he could not swim.


Even when his hairline was just beginning to recede, he is reported to have been mocked by other TPLF comrades as having a striking resemblance to Lenin, something he was very proud of.


Following the cease fire agreement between Somali president Siad Barre and Ethiopian leader Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1988 requiring each nation to stop supporting the others armed opponents, Zenaawi was still allowed to keep his Somali diplomatic passport and even secretly visited Mogadishu on more than one occasion from Saudi Arabia, a location where the Somali government had arranged for him and other TPLF leaders to stay.


So why then is Zenaawi so eager to interfere in Somalia sending his forces across the boundary on more than one occasion???


Any answer at this point would be little more than speculation, however, what is undeniable is that Zenaawi benefited from Somali hospitality during the TPLF's struggle. Despite being an impoverished nation, Somalia willingly furnished both money, arms and diplomatic contacts to Melez Zenaawi. Despite his jealousy of EPLF officials who were also in Mogadishu, Zenaawi was warmly welcomed in Mogadishu according to anyone familiar with his stay their.


Today, like an ungrateful child, who was nurtured, supported and raised to be in a position to claim power, he has turned back and bit the hand that once fed him. In Somalia's time of need he not only chose not to return the favor, but to extend Somalia's misery by supporting various warlords at different times in the last 10 years. Now Zenaawi sees an opportunity to dominate the political and economic affairs in Somalia and the current war on terrorism is his vehicle of choice. Ironically, he who once benefited from a Somali government, now seeks to destroy the Transitional National Government (TNG) in Mogadishu.


Interesting isn't it how some forget how they were once humble and in need.


The people's in the Horn have long memories. For Somalis, Zenaawi will always be remembered as an ungrateful beneficiary of Somali kindness.


While Zenaawi may currently be using his knowledge of Somali society obtained during his stay in Mogadishu to ensure Somalia never rises again, he apparently did not learn one critical lesson from being in Mogadishu.


Like their Eritrean brothers, Somalis never kneel before tyrants and Zenaawi's ill will toward Somalis will have only solidified his place in the dustbin of histories failed tyrants.


****** Online Editorial Board

Somalia helped Zenawi and his EPRDF movement over the years. And how does he repay us? By continously meddling in Somalia's internal affairs and suppressing Somalis living in Ethiopia. Save us the pro-Col Yeey propaganda about how Ethiopia has changed since they've admitted there are more Muslims (but the Christians are in power - so what good is that admission?) and that Somalis in Ethiopia outnumber the ruling Tigreans. Big deal. Zenawi is a parasite just like all his predecessors, Amhara or Tigrean - they're all filthy Ethiopians.

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Another Great article by Ismaaciil.



Originally posted by Samurai Warrior:

If ever there was one with a tad bit of intellectual prowess in reaching deep down where many in that ill-foresaken status had failed, Ismail surely had scored the hattrick in his reflections and observations.


I particularly wish to challenge the ersatz nationalists in the forum who regard Dr Ghalaydh, former Premier Abdirazak H Hussein & Co saviours and great heroes of the hour to dig deeper in their cognitive particles and search the thinking muscle for cerebral perspective.



This author has been insightful in his articles and most importantly inspiring. He challenged many Somali dignitaries to write their version of history and past experiences as that would help advance conspicuously our distorted history. He challenged former PM Abdirizak Haji Hussen, Mohammed Ali Samatar, to write their version of history because they were indeed overly qualified since they have been there, had seen and done many things and events that went wrong and right.

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The SYL had been established and was flourishing under British rule in Somalia and the British had every right for all the cogent reasons to expect its leaders to choose Britain as the administering power. But the leaders were so shortsighted and inept that they feared that Britain, being a world power, would use every subterfuge and stratagem to overstay well beyond its mandate or even deny the country its independence; they were so obsessed with the single goal of independence that they were blind to all the benefits accruing from British rule: the unification of Somali territories; development of a unified administration, a unified educational system; a common colonial heritage; a common outlook; and of course the integration of the economy. These are all problem areas which proved to be debilitating and even pernicious to the Somali state. The leaders thought that Italy would by contrast be a better choice because, being vanquished and weak, they would be able to wrest independence from it if it tried to create obstacles. But the Italians also lobbied hard to return to Somalia , albeit in a different capacity, and managed to gain the sympathy of the United States particularly since they were in dire straits after the war and had shown their contrition by the public hanging of their fascist leader, Il Duce Mussolini.

Only few Somalis see the light at the end of the tunnel. This man, Ismaciil is one of them. I am left with nothing but sublimity every paragraph after paragraph and I am still musing on how long that this man has kept this priceless info behind the curtain. He indeed sparks sincere judgment and offers historical erudition for our people and their land, and the enemies that encircle our highest purpose.

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Filthy Ethiopians, they indeed are.


This article is wishful thinking at best or a treacherous campaign to simplify and depict the thorny issues of the horn in a manner that’s quite disingenuous at worse. If any thing Somalia’s prolonged civil war deepened the mistrust between the two countries. Ethiopia proved to be an entrenched enemy who spared no effort to destabilize Somalia by undermining its territorial integrity and arming its proxy dummies (warlords) to the teeth to prevent any meaningful reconciliation. That’s a political reality in that part of the Dark Continent; an actuality that can’t be eclipsed by Ismail’s creative writing! What’s stake is no less than the land and its people.


Wondering though if what seems to me an empty looms has stuffing that’s worthy of Samurai and Caamir’s thunderous cheering!

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Very good read, but I ran up to too many baseless facts. Some even downright BS! And the issue about the missed opportunities are oversimplified.


Mr. Ismaaciil seems to forget that the Ethiopians, whom are xaasid by nature, would have done anything, absolutely anything to undermine the young Somali state even if the opportunties we missed have been seized. I also resent the fact that he sheds a positive light on the filthy Ethiopians, as if they ever had the slightest sympathy and compassion for Somalis ever. The fact that the late Ethiopian emperor Haille Sellasie rather controlled the vast, but landlocked reserve area over the more accessible Awdal region (Seylac) shows you that Ethiopians are hellbent on controlling Somalis not on the basis of gaining something materially, but to gain something mentally. To be in a position where it can boast that they are superior to the Muslim pastoralist nomads of the lowlands in contrast to them; the Christian petty farmers from the highlands. The Ethiopians are our enemies and we should never forget that. They are weaker than us, but even more cunning than we are. Which is why they managed to be salvaged by their Christian brethren the Portuguese, Americans, Russians etc. whenever we stormed to the Xabasha highlands seeking for justice. Our people must understand that the Somali ethnic group is by far the most powerful ethnic group in East Africa, whilst united and focused on the common interests of all Somali brethren. I'm an optimist and I'm sure rays of sunlight will find their way through the dark clouds gathering above Somalia.


The only thing I agree with and commend him highly for is that the lack of knowledge and political prowess of our leaders were fatal to our nation. Its admirable how he bravely questions the service done by the SYL gentlemen. Hadalka yaanan kugu dheeraanin, you can read what Mr. Ismaaciil wrote about their blunders yourself. I too, have always believed that Somalia wouldn't have been in this miserable position if the British administered all the Somali parts through a UN mandate. For the SYL gentlemen to have resisted that in fear of the Brit's superpower status shows you the sad level of intellect even our brightest men of that era had.


Caamir and Samurai, Mr. Ismaaciil surely has presented a lot of unknown and interesting facts about our modern Somali history, but that's pretty much about it.

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