Sunday, January 07, 2007

A Hornet's Nest

You history buffs will like this one. The rest of you might find it boring.

A few posts ago I implied that Ethiopia's neighbors are not likely to make Triple-A's list of "Top 100 Vacations for 2007". For the last week or two Ethiopia has been at war with their neighbor to the east, Somalia (of Black Hawk Down fame - ever heard of Mogadishu?)

I've spent all afternoon trying to understand the factors that underly the conflict. I'll try to explain it in easy to understand language. Hope I get it right!
  1. Talk about a holding a grudge! Wars between the two countries date back to the 16th century when an Islamist leader, Ahmad ibn Ibrihim al-Ghazi (say that real fast 10 times) declared a holy war on Christian Ethiopia. Much of the fighting between the two nations since then centers around the region of Ogaden, the easternmost region in Ethiopia.

  2. Ever seen a map of Ethiopia? Notice the dotted line along the east border. I think its dotted because they can move it back and forth between Somalia and Ethiopia easier. These guys just can't get along! Notice the region of Ogaden below. That seems to be the source of all the bad blood.

  3. After World War II the victorious Allied Forces (the good guys that defeated Hitler and crew) determined in 1948 that Ogaden belonged to Ethiopia. The dudes in Somalia have been mad ever since!

  4. Ticked off Somalia believed that Ethiopia and Kenya were standing in the way of 'Greater Somalia' by retaining Ogaden. Somalis (not to be confused with Salamis) conducted hit and run raids across both borders from 1960 to 1964. Ethiopia and Kenya signed a mutual defense pact to contain Somali aggression.

  5. In 1977-78 Ethiopia and Somalia had it out in the ring. An all-out conventional war. In typical Cold War fashion the superpowers chose sides. Russia decided to go with Ethiopia. Disappointed with Russia's choice the U.S. was left with last pick - Somalia (up to that point in the conflict the US had traditionally backed Ethiopia). Ethiopia cleaned Somalia's clock, completely destroying their military.

  6. This just scratches the surface. All that to say this: There's bad blood between these neighbors that fuels the conflict.
So this brings us to present day. Somalia has been a highly disfunctional country for years, run by regional mafia types and brutal dictators. Look up the word "Anarchy" in the dictionary and you'll find this map.

Anyway, the United Nations helped to install a transitional Somali government. Most of world recognizes that these guys are the good guys that are supposed to be in power. However, there's a group of Radical Islamists who are trying to push the U.N. guys out. These dudes are the "blow-youself-and-everyone-else-around-you-even-if-they're-innocent-civilians" terrorist-types faithful to a group called the Islamic Court Union. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that if these guys take over the government of Somalia it spells real trouble in Ethiopialand.

In November Ethiopia's parliament voted to take "all necessary steps to rebuff any potential invasion by Somalia's Islamists". (By the way, "rebuff" means to "stop the advance of" or "to buff again" - you choose which definition applies.) On Christmas day, 2006, their planes bombed targets in Somalia stirring up a hornets nest in the Islamist world. Religious leaders have called for a holy war against Ethiopia. It is reported that hundreds of Islamist militants (terrorists) have been seen arriving in Somalia to fight against Ethiopia.

Hope this didn't bore you too much. So Ethiopia and Somalia basically don't get along. But neither do Ethiopia and its northern neighbor, Eritrea. I'll let you research that one yourself.

And have I mentioned that Sudan (home of Darfur) is located to the west?

Sources: War in Somalia, Christmas Bombing


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