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BCouncil on Foreign Relations: Vicki Huddleston on Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia
By Sophia Tesfamariam
February 24, 2007
On 22 February 2007 I attended a meeting, “ Somalia, Second Chance?” at the Council of Foreign Relations in Washington, DC. Since it is an area of great interest to me, I decided to attend the lunch hour meeting and listen to what was being said in the hopes of hearing some good news on Somalia. I heard that Vicki Huddleston, Charge d’Affaires, U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia (2005-2006) was going to be there and so I was curious to hear what she had to say.
Right from the get-go, I felt there was something missing. The topic was supposed to be about Somalia and yet, there was not a single Somali in the room. I suppose the Ethiopian Ambassador Samuel Assefa was representing both the minority regime in Ethiopia as well as its puppet, the Transitional National Government of Somalia. It just didn’t make sense that such an important subject was being discussed and yet, the key stakeholders were not represented. I was however happy to see a few other Africans there. In any case, I sat down and listened as the presenters took turns telling us about what is going on in the region. I will limit my comments today to those made by Ms. Vicki Huddleston.
Ms. Vicki Huddleston unabashedly told the audience that the Ethiopian intervention in Somalia was a “success” and that the US had done the right thing in Somalia. Without giving us the exact numbers, she said that 1/3 of the Ethiopian troops had withdrawn from Somalia and that the others would withdraw in phases to coincide with the entry of the African Union forces. She also said that Uganda and Burundi had approval from their parliaments and that the US was providing $15 million for air lift and logistical assistance. She said that 10,000 TNG forces had been trained, “representative of all clans” and now a conference for 3000 Somalis was being organized by Abdillahi Yusuf for what she called the “political side” of the issue, since the military side had “been resolved”.
The latest headlines belie her rosy assessment of the facts on the ground. Let us see what others are saying:
-“Government official killed in Mogadishu”-21February 2007
-“ Somalia: Artillery Kills 10, Wounds 50”- 22 February 2007
-“Two officials shot dead in Somalia”-22 February 2007
-“Gun battle between government troops and armed militias wound two”-
22 February 2007
-“Anarchy in Somalia”-22 February 2007
-“ U.S. desire to oust Islamists in Somalia leaves country back in chaos”-
21 February 2007
Irregardless of how Washington and its “lawmakers” tout the invasion of Somalia -as a success story, the facts speak otherwise.
Providing an equally erroneous assessment of the political crisis brewing in Ethiopia, Ms. Huddleston went to great lengths to praise Meles Zenawi’s minority regime and said that democracy in Ethiopia “was on track”. While mentioning that 150 members had taken their seats in parliament, she neglected to tell them of the other 100 or so that have been in detention for the last year or so. She also didn’t tell them of the 40,000 more detained for voting the minority regime out of office or that the elections were marred with violence in which over 200 people were massacred by forces under Meles Zenawi’s command. A gentleman sitting close by told me that she sounded “more like the Ethiopian Ambassador” than an American envoy. I for one was not impressed; her statements contradicted the facts on the ground and I found her to be neither neutral, nor honest in her presentation, which seemed to be based more on hearsay, Meles-say, than on tangible facts.
It should be recalled that 02 January 2006 she had written an Op-Ed, “Opportunity in Somalia”, for the Washington Times, in which she exaggerated the threats posed by the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC). That article was also circulated during the hour long meeting. Here is what she said in that article:
“…The overriding objective of the Supreme Islamic Courts Council since it seized Mogadishu six months ago has been to expand into neighboring Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti. As the Islamists overran southern Somalia, they indoctrinated school children and pressed them into the militant "al Shebab," whose ruthless leaders were growing increasingly close to al Qaeda. Their end goal was to form a Muslim caliphate in Greater Somalia under whose banner their reach would extend throughout the Horn and into central and southern Africa…”
She said that the biggest threat to Ethiopia and the United States was the threat of the UIC talking over all of Somalia and creating a “radical Islamic Government”, “no Punt land”, ”no Somaliland”. I am not sure what she was trying to insinuate but the Transitional National Charter (TNC) under which the puppet TNG is operating gives them the same authority over all of Somalia. Since the UIC were not a militarily threat to the US or Ethiopia, it seems the real threat was the reconstitution of Somalia, the formation of a unified Somali State. A weak and balkanized Somalia is somehow less of a threat to the US and Ethiopia…
As for the “Islamic Caliphate” in Greater Somalia extending its reach throughout the Horn of Africa and beyond… not only is this shameless fear mongering, and a gross exaggeration of the UIC’s makeup and intentions, it is a cover for the real threat-the US-Ethiopian agendas in the Horn region and Africa on the whole. If the Somali irredentist ambitions were such a great threat, Djibouti and Kenya would have reacted. They didn’t. Based on what we know today, Somalia was invaded and occupied simply to humiliate the Somali people, install the Menelik Palace assembled puppet regime in Mogadishu and keep Somalia from ever being reconstituted. The US-Ethiopia invasion and occupation of Somalia was not only evil and treacherous, it was also a gross violation of international law, as well as the African Union and United Nations’ Charters.
Article 2.4 of the UN Charter says:
“…All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations…”
Article 4 of the African Union Constitutive Act clearly calls for adherence to these principles:
•“Prohibition of the use of force or threat to use force among Member States of the Union”
•“Non-interference by any Member State in the internal affairs of another”
•“Peaceful co-existence of Member States and their right to live in peace and security”
Instead of rectifying its mistakes the Security Council is instead trying to legitimize and consolidate the US-backed Ethiopian war of aggression and invasion of Somalia by adopting Resolution 1744.
On the issue of the Eritrea Ethiopia border demarcation, Ms. Huddleston blamed Eritrea for the failure of the US efforts. She told the audience that after working for 9 months with Jendayi E. Frazier and Donald Yamamoto on the issue of demarcation, the US was unable to get a breakthrough because of Eritrea. She also went on to mention tangential issues relating to UN Mission for Eritrea and Ethiopia (UNMEE) to further muddle the facts instead of addressing Ethiopia’s serious violations of over two dozen Security Council Resolutions, the Algiers Agreements and international law.
It was then that I decided to raise my hand and remind Ms. Huddleston that the key issue was Ethiopia’s rejection of the Final and Binding Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission decision of 13 April 2002. I told her that Ethiopia’s acceptance of the EEBC decision “in principle” was tantamount to rejecting the decision and that the first thing that needed to be done was to secure, Ethiopia’s unequivocal acceptance of that Final and Binding decision.
In what has to be the biggest behind the walls lie, or else a bombshell, she responded by saying, “ Ethiopia has fully accepted the decision” and that she heard it herself from Meles Zenawi and Seyoum Mesfin and that it was announced in the Ethiopian Parliament. When an Eritrean Embassy staff member told her that during Donald Yamamoto tenure in Washington before taking the post of US Ambassador to Ethiopia, he never ever said that Ethiopia had accepted the EEBC decision, she still insisted that she knew that Ethiopia had accepted the decision. I was flabbergasted; I could not believe what I was hearing from someone who is supposed to be a representative of the United States government. If that is true, how is it that nobody else knows it? Obviously, the Security Council doesn’t know about it because in its latest Resolution on Eritrea and Ethiopia, Resolution 1741, adopted on 30 January 2007, the Council:
“…Reiterates its demand expressed in paragraph 5 of resolution 1640 (2005) that Ethiopia accept fully and without delay the final and binding decision of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission and take immediately concrete steps to enable, without preconditions, the Commission to demarcate the border completely and promptly…”
In addition, in response to a letter written to the Boundary Commission by the Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin on 13 November 2006, the Commission responding on 27 November 2006 with its own letter (annexed to the 22 January 2007 Report of the Secretary General on Eritrea and Ethiopia ) said:
“…Your letter seeks to blame the Commission for Ethiopia’s failure to meet its obligations under the Algiers Agreement. Such blame is entirely misplaced. The truth of the matter appears to be that Ethiopia is dissatisfied with the substance of the Commission’s Delimitation Decision and has been seeking, ever since April 2002, to find ways of changing it. This is not an approach which the Commission was empowered to adopt and is not one to which the Commission can lend itself…”
So if the Security Council doesn’t know about it and the Boundary Commission doesn’t know about it, how did Vicki Huddleston know and when did she know? The Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Sub Committee on Africa must insist on a hearing on this very serious issue. The situation in Eritrea and Ethiopia is not a joke, millions of lives are at stake and it is obvious that the issue has been mishandled and dangerously compromised by these two women who have chosen to uphold the rule of Meles Zenawi instead of the rule of law in the Horn of Africa.
In early 2006 Jendayi E. Frazier led the new US initiative by calling together the “witnesses to the Algiers Agreement” to help move the demarcation process forward. She said she wanted to talk to both sides and so Mr. Yemane Gebreab, Head of Political Affairs at the People’s Front for Justice and Democracy and Advisor to the President of Eritrea, led a high level delegation to Washington and talked with her. At no time did Eritrea refuse to talk to her or refuse to issue her a visa to enter Eritrea. Those are lies that have been circulating since. She then headed to Ethiopia to talk to Meles Zenawi.
During her visit to Ethiopia, she went to the occupied Eritrean sovereign territories, including Badme through Ethiopia, a flagrant violation of Eritrea’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Instead of apologizing for her mistakes, she decided to launch a campaign against Eritrea to blemish Eritrea’s image in the press. Through various statements, interviews etc. she launched a very vocal and undiplomatic attack on Eritrea. She started regurgitating Meles Zenawi’s deceptive statements about “divided villages” etc. etc. further undermining her credibility and integrity.
As if that was not enough, she also tried to hijack the EEBC’s sole mandate of demarcating the Eritrea Ethiopia border by introducing a “neutral facilitator” to work with the Commission. There was nothing neutral about the facilitator who turned out to be General Fulford, Director of the African Strategic Studies Center established in Ethiopia in 2001.
In the 27 November letter to Seyoum Mesfin, the Commission addresses Eritrea’s position quite succinctly. Allow me to share an excerpt from that letter:
“…One of the elements in Ethiopia’s complaints is that Eritrea is guilty of the same obstruction. Eritrea’s non-cooperation with the Commission only really developed after Ethiopia insisted that the boundary should be altered to meet with what Ethiopia chose to call “anomalies and impracticabilities”, despite the clear statements of the Commission that this could not be done. When asked to confirm its continuing acceptance of the Delimitation Decision, Ethiopia repeatedly qualified its position by saying that it wished negotiations to take place regarding such “anomalies and impracticabilities”. Eritrea’s insistence on strict adherence to the terms of the Delimitation Decision was a position which it was entitled to adopt in accordance with the Algiers Agreement…You place great emphasis on “the need for dialogue and support by neutral bodies to help the two Parties make progress in demarcation and normalization of their relations”. Of course, “the normalization of relations” is a desirable objective but that is a matter that falls outside the scope of the Commission’s mandate, which is solely to delimit and demarcate the border. The scope for “dialogue” is limited to what is necessary between the Commission and the Parties to further the actual process of demarcation on the ground. There is no room within the framework of the Algiers Agreement for the introduction of “neutral bodies” into the demarcation process…”
Ever since the EEBC delivered its final and binding decision, Eritrea has made numerous calls on the international community, as witnesses and guarantors of the Algiers Agreement of 2000, to urge the minority regime in Ethiopia to abide by international law and allow for the demarcation of the Eritrea Ethiopia border in accordance with the EEBC decision without delays and pre-conditions. Eritrea has been calling on the UN Security Council to honor its legal and moral obligations under Article 14 of the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities as well as Articles 41 and 42 of the UN Charter to use all available mechanisms available to it to enforce the Algiers Agreement and the Border Commission's decision.
According to Article 14 of the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities signed by Eritrea and Ethiopia on 18 June 2000 in Algiers:
"The OAU and the United Nations commit themselves to guarantee the respect for this commitment of the two Parties until the determination of the common border on the basis of pertinent colonial treaties and applicable international law... This guarantee shall be comprised of... measures to be taken by the international community should one or both of the Parties violate this commitment, including appropriate measures to be taken under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter by the UN Security Council..."
The US led international community has failed to shoulder its legal and moral obligations. Ms. Vicki Huddleston knows the facts but chose instead to lie in order to cover up for Meles Zenawi. This is all a matter of public record and was dismayed to listen as Ms. Huddleston twisted the facts and lied to the audience about the US initiative and Eritrea’s response.
So for those who wonder why US policy for Africa is incoherent, this is a classic example. The lives of millions of Africans and the rule of law are subordinated to the personal whims and desires of self serving envoys such as Vicki Huddleston and Jendayi E. Frazier. Today, the likes of Vicki Huddleston are making their rounds as “Horn experts” and “diplomats” as they make a hefty career as hired guns to produce reports and statements to mislead, confuse and misinform Washington lawmakers, policy institutions, academia and the American people.
Judging from the way Huddleston and others are peddling this war of invasion, it is not hard to see how some can be misled in to believing the “US has done the right thing”. I suppose we will have to wait until the dust settles to see how “right” this illegal act was. In the meantime reports of killings, rapes, chaos, turmoil, bloodshed and lawlessness seem to be the headlines on post invasion Somalia. What good can possibly come out of that?
The rule of law must prevail over the law of the jungle!
Source: American Chronicle