Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Case of Eskinder Nega

The New York Review of Books
JANUARY 12, 2012 • VOLUME 59, NUMBER 1

To the Editors:

On September 14, 2011, Eskinder Nega, an Ethiopian journalist and dissident blogger, was arrested by the Ethiopian authorities shortly after publishing an online column calling for an end to torture in Ethiopian prisons, a halt to the imprisonment of dissidents, and respect for freedom of expression. The charges against him are punishable by death, and carry a minimum sentence of fifteen years in prison,1 where both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch warn that he is at risk of torture.

Previous to his current arrest, Eskinder and his wife Serkalem Fasil, both newspaper publishers, were charged with treason following Ethiopia’s disputed 2005 elections, along with dozens of journalists, human rights activists, and opposition leaders, and spent seventeen months in jail. While in custody, Serkalem gave birth to their first child. Even after they were acquitted by Ethiopia’s Federal High Court, Eskinder and Serkalem were blocked from reopening their newspapers and the government continued to pursue civil charges against them.2

Eskinder also was detained earlier this year, after he published an online column asking members of the security services not to shoot unarmed demonstrators—as they did in 2005—in the event that the “Arab Spring” should spread to Ethiopia.3

Most of us would have fled into exile after such treatment—as have nearly all of Ethiopia’s significant opposition leaders and independent journalists since 2005. In all, eleven independent journalists and bloggers have been charged with terrorism this year, five of whom are behind bars. Ethiopia tops Iran and Cuba to lead the world in the number of journalists who have been forced into exile over the past decade, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.4

Having spent a large part of his childhood in suburban Washington, D.C., and being in possession of a US residence permit, Eskinder could have easily followed. That he has not is testimony to his commitment to democratic values that Western governments say they hold dear.

America and its Western allies have aligned themselves closely with Ethiopia’s government in the fight against radical Islamists in the Horn of Africa and in efforts to prevent a repeat of the 1984–1985 famine. Worthy as these goals are, we should not allow them to blind us to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s increasingly authoritarian bent—as exhibited by his regime’s 99.6 percent election victory in 2010 and most recently the decision to prosecute Eskinder as a terrorist, along with seven other dissidents.5

We therefore call on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and America’s Western allies to publicly repudiate Ethiopia’s efforts to use terrorism laws to silence political dissent. We also urge the US to ensure that our more than $6006 million in aid to Ethiopia is not used to foster repression.7

William Easterly
Professor of Economics
Co-Director, Development
Research Institute
New York University
New York City

Mark Hamrick
National Press Club
Washington, D.C.

Aryeh Neier
Open Society Foundations
New York City

Kenneth Roth
Executive Director
Human Rights Watch
New York City

Joel Simon
Executive Director
Committee to Protect Journalists
New York City

1. See charging document (Amharic), at ↩

2. See also "Ethiopia Reinstates Hefty Fines Against Publishing Houses," Committee to Protect Journalists , March 10, 2010, ↩

3.See also "Ethiopian Journalist Alleges Detention for Inciting Egypt-Style Protests," Voice of America , February 17, 2011, ↩

4."Journalists in Exile 2011," Committee to Protect Journalists. Available at ↩

5."Ethiopia Charges Opposition Figures, Reporter With Terrorism," Voice of America , November 10, 2011, ↩

6.See US foreign assistance figures at ↩

7.See Helen Epstein, "Cruel Ethiopia," The New York Review , May 13, 2010, See also Human Rights Watch , March 24, 2010, "One Hundred Ways of Putting Pressure: Violations of Freedom and Association in Ethiopia," and October 19, 2010, "Development Without Freedom: How Aid Underwrites Repression in Ethiopia, ↩

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Letter From Reporters Without Borders to UN Special Rapporteur On Abuse of Anti-Terrorism Law

Ben Emmerson

Paris, 20 December 2011

Dear Sir,

Reporters Without Borders, an international organization that campaigns for freedom of the press, wishes to draw your attention to the worsening climate for journalists in Ethiopia since the government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi began using anti-terrorism legislation against them.

Since the law was passed in July 2009, Reporters Without Borders has written to the Ethiopian authorities to point out its shortcomings and how it can be misused against the press. The organization feared the law might be used to curb freedom of the press and crack down on journalists. In 2011, our fears were confirmed.

In June, Woubeshet Taye, the deputy editor of the Amharic-language weekly Awramba Times, and Reyot Alemu, a columnist for the Amharic-language weekly Fitih, were arrested. Both were accused of complicity with a group regarded as a terrorist organization.

On 1 July, two Swedish journalists of the Kontinent news agency, reporter Martin Schibbye and photojournalist Johan Persson, were arrested for entering Ogaden illegally to report on human rights abuses in the region, which is closed to the press. They are accused of entering Ethiopia illegally - which they have already admitted in court - and also of supporting a terrorist group.

Finally, in November the authorities charged six Ethiopian journalists, some of whom are in exile, with terrorism offences.

Serious though this is for those who have been arrested and prosecuted, Sir, it is also damaging for Ethiopia's privately-owned media as a whole. It fosters self-censorship and nurtures fear.

This climate has forced at least three journalists who feared arrest to flee the country in November. These were Abebe Tola, known as "Abe Tokichaw", a well-known columnist for the weeklies Fitih and Awramba Times, Tesfaye Degu of the newspaper Netsanet, and Dawit Kebede, managing editor of the Awramba Times.

The 2009 law has become a real threat for the news industry. In the name of the fight against terrorism, the government muzzles dissident and critical voices, thus abusing human rights and fundamental freedoms.

For this reason, we urge you to visit Ethiopia. In your capacity as Special Rapporteur in this field, it is incumbent on you to meet the Ethiopian government and persuade it to stop using the fight against terrorism to penalise freedom of expression.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you require further details of the journalists who have been arrested and penalised.

Thank you for your consideration in this matter.

Yours sincerely,

Jean-François Julliard

CC: Frank La Rue, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Dismantling Dissent: Intensified Crackdown on Free Speech in Ethiopia

An new detailed and comprehensive report by Amnesty International, the London based watchdog, reveals that the crackdown on free speech by Ethiopian authorities has even more intensified since March 2011.

According to the Report, since March 2011, at least 108 opposition party members and six journalists have been arrested in Ethiopia for alleged involvement with various proscribed terrorist groups. By November, 107 of the detainees had been charged with crimes under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation and the Criminal Code. A further six journalists, two opposition party members and one human rights defender, all living in exile, were charged in absentia. Trials in all these cases have begun, and are ongoing at time of writing.

Amnesty International believes that the prolonged series of arrests and prosecutions indicates systematic use of the law and the pretext of counter-terrorism by the Ethiopian government to silence people who criticise or question their actions and policies, especially opposition politicians and the independent media. Whilst these groups have often been arrested and prosecuted in the past, the large numbers of arrests indicates an intensified crackdown on freedom of expression in 2011.

Many of those arrested during 2011 have been vocal in their commentary on national politics and in criticising government practise, in the course of their legitimate roles as journalists and opposition politicians. As a result, many had been harassed by state actors over a long period, and in some cases arrested and prosecuted. Many arrests in 2011 came in the days immediately after individuals publicly criticised the government, were involved in public calls for reform, applied for permission to hold demonstrations at a time when the government feared large-scale protests taking place, or attempted to conduct investigative journalism in a region of Ethiopia to which the government severely restricts access.

Much of the evidence against those charged, and listed in the charge sheets, involves items and activities which do not appear to amount to terrorism or criminal wrongdoing. Rather, many items of evidence cited appear to be illustrations of individuals exercising their right to freedom of expression, acting peacefully and legitimately as journalists or members of opposition parties, and which should not be the subject of criminal sanctions. Evidence cited includes articles written by the defendants criticising the government or journalistic reporting on calls for peaceful protest. In relation to some of the charges, it appears that the overly broad definitions of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation are being used to prosecute individuals for any display of dissent. Calls for peaceful protest are being interpreted as acts of terrorism.

The trials of these individuals have become highly politicised due to the interest of, and statements made by, senior members of the government, including by the Prime Minister, who declared in the national parliament that all the defendants are guilty. Amnesty International is concerned that these comments could exert political pressure on the courts. These comments could also violate the right of the defendants to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

All 114 opposition members and journalists arrested during 2011 were initially detained at Maikelawi detention centre, where they were denied the rights accorded to detainees under Ethiopian and international law. All were denied access to lawyers and family members during the initial stages of their detention, increasing their risk of being subjected to other human rights violations. Many of the detainees complained, including in court, that they experienced torture and other ill-treatment during their detention and interrogation in Maikelawi. According to available information, the court has not ordered an investigation into any of the complaints of torture made by defendants, nor have the authorities indicated any intention of conducting investigations. Many of the detainees were reportedly forced to sign confessions or forced to acknowledge ownership or association by signing items of seemingly incriminating evidence.

Amnesty International believes that all the journalists and opposition members cited in this report were arrested primarily because of their legitimate and peaceful criticism of the government, and that the high level of political interest in the cases increases the risk that the independence of the judicial process will be subverted. The human rights violations widely reported to have taken place during pre-trial detention, and already raised in court several times with no result, raise further concerns that these individuals will not receive a fair trial and that they will be convicted for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association. It is essential, therefore, that all six trials mentioned in this report are systematically monitored for their compliance with international fair trial standards. In the absence of a functioning civil society in a position to undertake trial monitoring, Amnesty International is calling on the representatives of the international community in Addis Ababa to take up the role of monitoring the trials.

The Prime Minister expressed an intention to arrest more members of the political opposition, indicating that the crackdown is not yet over and, indeed, the arrests continue. In the first week of December Amnesty International received reports that at least 135 people had been arrested across Oromia, including members and supporters of the Oromo People’s Congress and Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement political parties.

These arrests, prosecutions and ongoing high level of government interest and involvement have had a wider impact on the exercise of freedom of expression in Ethiopia. They send a chilling message to other opposition politicians, journalists and anybody who has concerns about the policies and actions of their government to keep quiet, ask no questions or risk arrest. Several journalists and opposition members have already fled the country as a result.

It appears that the Ethiopian government is determined to destroy the few remaining traces of free expression in the country. There is increasingly no space in Ethiopia for individuals and publications who hold different opinions, represent different political parties or attempt to provide independent commentary on political developments.

To read the entire Report click on the title above.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ethiopian Illicit Outflows Doubled In 2009, New Report Says

By Christopher Matthews

Ethiopia lost $11.7 billion to outflows of ill-gotten gains between 2000 and 2009, according to a coming report by Global Financial Integrity.

That’s a lot of money to lose to corruption for a country that has a per-capita GDP of just $365. In 2009, illicit money leaving the country totaled $3.26 billion, double the amount in each of the two previous years. The capital flight is also disturbing because the country received $829 million in development aid in 2008.

According to GFI economist Sarah Freitas, who co-authored the report, corruption, kickbacks and bribery accounted for the vast majority of the increase in illicit outflows.

“The scope of Ethiopia’s capital flight is so severe that our conservative US$3.26 billion estimate greatly exceeds the US$2 billion value of Ethiopia’s total exports in 2009,” Freitas wrote in a blog post on the website of the Task Force on Financial Integrity and Economic Development.

The report, titled “Illicit Financial Flows from Developing Countries over the Decade Ending 2009,” drew on data from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund on external debt and trade mis-pricing to calculate illicit capital leakage. The study, which will be released later this month, measures the illicit financial flows out of 160 different developing nations.

Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries on earth as 38.9% of Ethiopians live in poverty, and life expectancy in 2009 was just 58 years.

“The people of Ethiopia are being bled dry,” Freitas wrote. “No matter how hard they try to fight their way out of absolute destitution and poverty, they will be swimming upstream against the current of illicit capital leakage.”

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Persecution of Ethiopian Journalists

Bertrand Pecquerie, CEO
Global Editors Network
Paris, France

Dear Mr. President,

I am writing as a proud member of The Global Editors Network(GEN), a
blogger, journalist, and scholar to bring to your attention the
continued and ever mounting persecution of journalists by the
Government of Ethiopia(GoE) in different manners. The GOE has
recently intensified the arrest and systematic harassment of
journalists and pundits publishing critical analyses, unfavorable
news, and unflattering contents.

In the trial held on November 23, 2011 of 24 people charged with
terrorism on November 10 where six of the suspects were journalists.
So far, ten journalists are being tried in three separate terrorism
related cases in Addis Ababa. Ethiopia is currently making illegal
use of its anti-terror law as a pretext to arrest journalists and
political activists. The editor of one of Ethiopia's few remaining
independent Amharic-language newspapers has fled the country amid
concerns that more arrests are coming. In this regard, Human Rights
Watch and Amnesty International issued a statement on 21 November 2011
calling on Ethiopian authorities to stop using anti-terrorism laws to
stifle political dissent.

Many Ethiopians, who did their best and hardest to remain neutral and
objective in the highly divided and polarized domestic politics, have
already run out of any hermeneutic charity with GoE ever since the
latest institution of a criminal suit in absentia on counts of
terrorism against Abiye Teklemariam and Mesfin Negash, the two
founding journalists of Addis Neger, who went into exile two years
ago, and worst of all, after it had been consistently denying that it
had no intention of criminally charging them and after the gruesome
rebuttal it issued against the teacher who burnt himself in protest
to the effect that he had been suffering from mental illness.

This is therefore to kindly request GEN to issue a statement
condemning, in the strongest possible terms, the unconstitutional acts
of the Government of Ethiopia.

Alemayehu Fentaw
Chicago, IL.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Ethiopian man burns himself to death in protest

Events in Ethiopia have taken a disturbing turn following reports that a teacher in his late 20s burnt himself alive last week in protest against the ongoing brutal clampdown on dissent in the country. According to reports Yenesew Gebre made an impassioned plea at a protest gathering before dowsing himself in petrol and setting himself on fire.

Addressing fellow protestors he is reported to have said: ’I want to show to all that death is preferable than a life without justice and liberty and I call upon my fellow compatriots to fear nothing and rise up to wrench their freedom and rights from the hands of the local and national tyrants.’

It is understood that Gebre died from his injuries three days later at the Tercha city local hospital.

Click on the title above to read the full story.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Ethiopia charges six journalists with terrorism

New York, November 11, 2011--A judge in Ethiopia's federal high court charged six journalists with terrorism on Thursday under the country's antiterrorism law, bringing the number of journalists charged under the statute since June to 10, CPJ research found.

Twenty-four people, including imprisoned dissident blogger Eskinder Nega and five other journalists critical of the government who work online and in exile, were charged, according to the court charge sheet obtained by CPJ. Nega, a contributor to U.S.-based Ethiopian diaspora news websites; editors Mesfin Negash and Abiye Teklemariam of the U.S.-based Addis Neger Online; Abebe Gellaw of the U.S.-based Addis Voice; Abebe Belew of the U.S.-based radio station Addis Dimts; and Fasil Yenealem of Netherlands-based station ESAT were charged with providing support to Ginbot 7, a banned opposition movement that the government formally designated a terrorist entity under the sweeping 2009 antiterrorism law this year, the charge sheet said. The law criminalizes any reporting that authorities deem "encourage" or "provide moral support" to groups the government has labeled terrorists. The five journalists in exile were charged in absentia.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Love Ethiopia, Fear Its Government

(Source, Addis Fortune, 6 November 2011)

It is certainly pleasing to belong to a nation of people known for their hospitality, communal life of sharing and caring, refined social mores, compassionate to faults and longest surviving civilization in the world. With greater initiative and modern marketing, Ethiopia could have been the most preferred tourist destination of Africa, not only for its unique heritages but also for the exceptional value that it offers as a country free from violent street crimes.

The positive values of its culture oblige some of us to be involved in public service no matter how small a contribution we could make in the economic, social, and political life of its people. Similarly, the deeply embedded love of the nation remains the utmost reason for some of us to join the sphere of politics that, traditionally, has been the proclivity of illiterate monarchs, brutal military dictators and unscrupulous thugs.

Even today, Ethiopian politics is shrouded with acrimony and adversaries that can seriously endanger and deprive life and liberty by those who feel threatened for whatever reason their fertile imagination can concote. A case in point is the recent barb Prime Minister Meles Zenawi unloaded in parliament, alleging that two of the credible opposition parties in the country are serving as fronts for terrorist organizations. His gibe focused especially on members of Medrek and the Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) parties.

He elaborated that his government has hard evidences to substantiate his claim. As usual, no one could challenge him to the accuracy of his blatant and incriminating statements as MPs can only submit questions in the prevailing Ethiopian parliamentary setting. It is always him that conveys the answers in any format that he wishes; no rebuttal is allowed no matter how fictional his accusations are.

While the ‘dear leader’ can deliver an emotionally loaded deadly blow to the image and reputation of honorable citizens and their organizations, his expressions that castigate, belittle and insult the opposition, have always been tolerated. Often, it is accorded with thunderous applause by his rubber-stamp parliament as an expression of respect and admiration for his eloquence and acumen, to throw at will, and in admirable speed, snide remarks against the political opposition.

The emotional tantrum accompanying his speech is the distinguishing feature of an ordinary man at any corner of the streets of Addis Abeba rather than a leader of a country of 80 million people. No one can dare stop him before he is satisfied with his quarterly presentation of a litany of trashing the opposition. Certainly, the parliamentary rules and procedures on the use of civilized language within the parliament are forgotten and selectively enforced.

For those of us who had the misfortune of listening to him closer, or raise questions that are either too hard for him to answer, too close in exposing the purported lies made to glorify him and his henchmen or challenge his near-paranoia to hold at bay potential threats to his government’s authority from sources his fancy dictates, parliamentary sessions have always been traumatic experiences to be endured.

If what the Prime Minister has alleged in parliament has any substance at all, it should have been the responsibility of the police to investigate and the courts to hear the case, not the Parliament. Under the pretext of fighting terrorism, however, he is consolidating his power and stifling any form of dissent to his one party rule as it is becoming the rule, and not the exception, in most sub-Saharan African countries. To those who had the slightest doubt that Ethiopia is ruled by men who wield excessive power, and not by the much touted rule of law, the recent parliamentary session should serve as indisputable evidence.

Even though the constitution of the country clearly and unambiguously states that ‘ne is presumed innocent, until proven guilty at a court of law,’ the Prime Minister, not only in contravention to the constitutional article, but also in a manner that defies any rational thinking, has declared that the accused and their organizations are guilty. His argument came before the defendants had any chance to be heard in a neutral and independent court.

Surely, his allegation has exposed the public and the courts to a prejudicial judgment and conclusion, preempting the authority of the courts to assess guilt or innocence based on evidence.

In a federal system of government, one among the many advantages enjoyed, used to be the separation of power among the three branches of government. It involves checks and balances to tame the unrestrained hunger for power by any branch of a government. To our dismay, all three branches of the federal government in Ethiopia are totally subservient to one party from the center that makes the separation of power theory and practice a charade.

The Prime Minister's emotional accusation of the political opposition is a telling example for his total disregard for rule of law and the authority of the judiciary to address issues on fair and equal bases to all the citizens of the country, without bias. No one can say the he is not aware of this distinction. Arguably, it is the feeling of impunity that compels him to make such disparaging statements in public.

In a world where interdependence of countries for economic, military, and political reasons is the order of the day, the future of democratization and respect for rule of law seem to have fallen exclusively in the hands of the ruling Revolutionary Democrats. They feel no pressure, locally or internationally, to institute multi-party democracy any time soon. The hope and aspirations for justice and equality under the law is fading with no threat of economic, moral or political consequence for their actions from any of the superpowers.

To make matters worse, Western governments seem to attach their support not to democratic values that they are so much fond of repeating with boring redundancy, but to their purported allies in the fight against terrorism. It is all happening despite their knowledge of gross human rights violations and undemocratic practices by ruling parties at the helm of unrestrained power.

Their simplistic view of ‘see no evil, hear no evil,’ as long as ruling parties appear committed to fight terrorism, would eventually boomerang in ways that cannot only be totally forecasted for its long-term effect, but the consequences in the short-term could end up incubating home-grown dictators that would violate universally accepted norms of civilized human behavior in governing their people.

The true measure of leaders’ commitment in fighting global terrorism should have been the respect for the rule of law and commitment to democratization in their own country.

The current indifference of continental organizations and Western powers to the plight of the masses in the hands of undemocratic governments in Africa would have repercussions that would reverberate in the entire world, unless timely measures are taken to correct the injustices.

The aspirations of the people for democracy should not be allowed to be circumvented by the few who seem to have no boundary in subjecting them to economic, political and social deprivations with a blind pursuit to undeserved eminence and unrestrained power.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

THE 2011 LEGATUM PROSPERITY INDEX: Ethiopia Ranks 108 out of 110 Countries, Ranking Just Above Zimbabwe and Central African Republic

The ruling party in Ethiopia should be advised by friends of Ethiopia and people of goodwill in Western Europe and North America to spend more resources on developments that benefit the people instead of building its defense arsenals by buying more tanks from Ukraine, Russia and other former Soviet Republics and building defense industries with the help of North Korea, in order to maintain its grip on power. It should also be advised to open the democratic space so that legitimate opposition parties (the loyal opposition) and civil society organizations, which are the building blocks of a democratic system, would flourish and get strong. If the current situation is allowed to continue, the future of Ethiopia as a united and viable state could be at stake.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Ethiopian National and Foreign Policy: A Critique

The aim of this paper is to critique the Foreign Affairs and National Security Policy and Strategy (FANSPS) of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE). The thrust of the critique is double-pronged: first, against a modest theoretical exposition of the concept of ‘human security’, it shall attempt to expose a caesura between the policy and praxis and make out a case for a paradigm shift in Ethiopia’s approach to national security. It contends that the central purpose of Ethiopia's foreign and security policy has remained the same, in spite of the shift in orientation as well as clichés and shibboleths. The crux of its contention is that a change in discourse has not brought about a change in essence. Still building defense capability takes precedence over ensuring human security in today’s Ethiopia. Non-military aspects of security have been relegated to a secondary place whilst human security should have been made to constitute the basis of the FANSPS. Second, against a conceptual elucidation of ‘inclusive security’, which treated as an aspect of human security, the critique hopes to bring out the hitherto neglect of the critical role that women could play in peace-making, peace-building, and security and call for a shift along this line. By way of recommendations, I suggest that the Government of Ethiopia should revise its FANSPS in such a manner as to provide a robust human security framework and live up to its promises. Nor can it afford to continue to disregard the promises offered by inclusive security, both as a matter of recognition and implementation of women’s roles and rights in peace and security, as it after all is duty bound by virtue of UN Security Council Resolution 1325(UNSC 1325). In this regard, it should, as a preliminary step, draw up a workable national action plan for the implementation of UNSC 1325.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ethiopia’s Somalia Policy: A Very Brief Critique


Part II of the Foreign Affairs and National Security Policy and Strategy (hereinafter referred to as the 'FANSPS') of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, under a section devoted to explicating Ethiopia's policy towards Somalia, which goes by the same title, sets forth, in clear and unequivocal terms, the country's official foreign and security policy position. In the words of the FANSPS: "Our fundamental policy remains to persistently work towards the birth of a peaceful and democratic Somalia. But in light of the continuing instability, the policy we pursue should essentially be a damage-limitation policy to ensure that the instability does not further harm our country." (Italics mine) To this end, the FANSPS identifies three distinct, and yet inextricably intertwined, damage-limiting strategies, namely: (1) Extending assistance to the relatively stable parts of Somalia such as Somaliland and Puntland to enable them to continue enjoyment of the relative peace and stability they have managed to maintain; (2) Increasing Ethiopia's defense capability to defend and foil any terrorist or extremist attacks launched from Somalia; (3) Weakening and neutralizing any force coming from any part of Somalia in cooperation with the Somali themselves and the international community. Though, it appears to point out three different damage-limiting strategies, each of them are inextricably intertwined in that the second and third strategies boil down to one and the same strategy in the final analysis, i.e. resort to force or reliance upon military means, while the first may still consist in military assistance.


It should be borne in mind that Ethiopia's Somalia Policy, as can be gleaned from a close perusal of the FANSPS, takes the form of what I might call a 'negative policy', rather than a 'positive policy' inasmuch as it concerns itself with the need to primarily limit the harm arising from the instability in Somalia. By so doing, it relegates the FANSPS's fundamental policy consideration of "persistently work[ing] towards the birth of a peaceful and democratic Somalia" to a secondary place. Therefore, it appears that Ethiopia's Somalia Policy is misguided insofar as it downplays the role the positive policy can play in achieving the objectives of the negative policy, officially known as the 'damage-limitation policy'. On top of this, in order to demonstrate how others' misconceived perceptions of Ethiopia's defense capability resulted in unprovoked aggressions in the past, the FANSPS invokes Somalia under the leadership of Siad Barre along with Eritrea. According to the FANSPS, "Some time ago the Siad Barre regime in Somalia launched an attack on Ethiopia on the presumption that Ethiopia was unable to offer a united resistance and that it would break up under military pressure." In this regard, it is interesting to note the continuity in Ethiopia's foreign and security policy towards Somalia, despite the change in regime. The bottom line is that Somalia has never been taken off Ethiopia's security agenda.


That said, Ethiopia's incursion into Somalia is a clear indication of its strategy of conducting foreign policy through war, in lieu of conventional diplomacy, albeit war had to be kept to the minimal. It reminds us of Clausewitz's famous dictum: "[w]ar is merely the continuation of policy by other means." Thus, one has to say that Ethiopia's decision to intervene in Somalia remains to be its biggest national security and foreign policy blunder, though it is hard to deny that she has had legitimate national security concerns in Somalia. This is so, because there were other ways and means of dealing with its security concerns short of resort to force. One was for Ethiopia to order the ENDF to keep on high alert by assuming a defensive military posture in keeping with a carefully crafted Grand Strategy and Somalia Strategy taking into account all elements of the power at its disposal, viz., diplomatic, informational, military, economic, intelligence, legal, and financial. Another was to adopt conventional deterrence as a military strategy to prevent aggression. In this connection, strategists must keep in mind one major limitation on deterrence, i.e. effective deterrence only works against states or groups that fear the consequences of retaliation. Suicidal states or groups cannot be deterred—they are willing to suffer severe damage or death in response to an attack, so threats of retaliation are rendered meaningless. A further strategy was for Ethiopia, in cooperation with the US, IGAD, and AU, to mediate between the UIC and the TFG so that they can reach a comprehensive peace agreement acceptable to both sides. Commenting on the non-military option, John Prendergast writes: "Had Ethiopia, the United States, and other regional powers focused on brokering a deal between the Islamic Courts and the transitional government, the current civil war may have been avoided."


If Ethiopia had embraced what Owen Harries calls the 'prudential ethic' as a signpost to international relations, it would not have opted for the use of force in a preemptive strike a la the Bush doctrine with a view to neutralizing potential security threats emanating from the Islamists in Somalia. According to Harries, the just war theory, assuming that war is inevitable, provides an important prudential ethic. The aim of the theory is two-fold: on the one hand, it prohibits an unjust war, by laying down rules for the determination of the legitimacy of use of force (jus ad bellum), and makes war less savage, by establishing rules of conduct (jus in bello), on the other. Hence, a resort to force must have a just cause, in that it is resorted to in response to injustice, is authorized by a competent authority, and is motivated by right intention. It must meet four prudential tests in that it must be expected to produce a preponderance of good over evil, have a reasonable chance of success, be a last resort and be expected to result in a state of peace. The requirements of jus in bello are that when force is resorted to, it must be discriminate and proportional.


Leaving the issue of legitimacy aside, (not least because it was invited by the TFG) Ethiopia's incursion into Somalia hardly passes the four prudential tests. At least, we have every reason to doubt that the military intervention was a last resort and was expected to result in a state of peace. With the benefit of hindsight, it has become crystal-clear that Ethiopia's resort to force failed to bring about a state of peace in Somalia. Besides, reports that Ethiopia violated the requirements of jus in bello abound. For instance, in March and April 2007 Ethiopian soldiers allegedly violated international humanitarian law by using heavy artillery and rockets to fight an insurgency in Mogadishu, killing hundreds of civilians and displacing up to 400,000 people. Though Ethiopian troops have since withdrawn from Somalia, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi stated in June 2009 that the country has not ruled out a future redeployment. According to David Shin, "both the United States and Ethiopia followed a misguided policy in Somalia."


Though analysts, worth their salt, contend that Ethiopia fought in Somalia as proxy for the US, I agree with David Axe's claim that "Ethiopia had received significant help — even urging — for its invasion." However, it has to be noted that a copy of the actual wikileaked cable has not yet been produced and still remains to be seen if further wikileaked cables detailing the form and quality of the American support whether military intel, hardware, personnel or moral urging, if any, provided to the ENDF in the Somalia operation can be produced anytime soon. Granted, both Ethiopia and the US have had their own, albeit concurrent, legitimate national security interests in Somalia. As Terrence Lyons aptly put it, "it's important to note that Ethiopia moved into Somalia not as the puppet or proxy for the United States. Ethiopia had its own very specific national security interest relating to Somalia. Ethiopia saw stepped-up attacks on Ethiopia as originating in Somalia, aided by Eritrea. Ethiopia saw this as a real threat to the Ethiopian state and region. That´s why Ethiopia invaded, I believe, rather than just because the United States said ´Go get al-Qaeda.´" But the crux of the matter is whether they had to pursue their national security interests in the manner they did, i.e. through war.


The Ethiopian invasion, instead of improving, aggravated the status quo, and turned out, in the final analysis, to be disastrous as long as it eventually emboldened the threat emanating from the very Islamists Ethiopia had hoped to neutralize. It rallied Somalis of all clannish allegiance and political persuasion against the invaders, ultimately boosting support for extremist Islamic groups that now had a clear enemy in the invaders and their American allies. Violence reigned throughout the two years of Ethiopian occupation. In what seems a rare admission of guilt, Donald Yamamoto, the former US ambassador to Ethiopia reportedly said in March 2010, "We've made a lot of mistakes and Ethiopia's entry in 2006 was not a really good idea."