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THE TROOP DEPLOYMENT THAT NEVER WAS
By Jamal Madar, London , UK
If the statement of Wubshet Demisse, the Ethiopian Ambassador to Somaliland, is to be believed, Rayale and his UDUB henchmen are really in dire straits. The propaganda that Ethiopian troops will be deployed in Hargeisa is beginning to backfire. It is now clear that there will be no cavalry coming over the horizon to rescue UDUB. This means UDUB will have to play hardball in the forthcoming local and presidential elections.
For sometime, the streets of Hargeisa and Burao were buzzing with persistent rumours that Ethiopian troops and tanks will sooner or later rumble across the border into Somaliland and set up bases in pre-designated areas at Hargeisa Airport, the port city of Berbera and the Islamist infested town of Burao as government officials would like to portray it. Unbeknownst to the Ethiopian government and largely off the radar of western expatriates, these rumours, which are strongly believed to have originated from the presidential palace, have frightened the people out of their wits and reached paranoiac proportions. The continuous daily humming and buzzing of US drones spying from high above Somaliland cities further reinforced these fears.
The rumours reached fever pitch when a misleading report cropped up saying that Ethiopia had dispatched a threatening letter to KULMIYE high command for what was described as ‘KULMIYE’s unfriendly attitude towards Ethiopia’. Of course, it turned out to be baseless and unfounded because it was the rank and file of KULMIYE party followers who had always been associated with Ethiopia owing to their close connections with that country during the SNM (Somali National Movement) armed struggle against Barre’s military junta. Nonetheless, this did not dispel the power of rumour transmission that engulfed the country and the Diaspora.
Up until recently Somaliland has been going through a turbulent period that could almost led to a political meltdown in the country following a series of political mishaps, miscalculations and missteps on the part of the government.
Rayale was facing a hurricane of troubles ranging from the parliament’s refusal to pass the two members nominated by him to the National Electoral Commission, the rejection by the parliament to approve the budget for 2006 and last but not the least his arrests of QARAN party leaders and subsequent sentencing of these men to prison terms of three years and nine months each.
It is widely believed that Rayale has given misleading information to the Ethiopian government about QARAN party leaders in an attempt to smear their names. Dr. Mohamed Abdi Gabose, the former personal physician to the late Mohamed Siad Barre, is accused of being an Islamic extremist who formed the first Islamic party when the multi-party system of democracy was introduced in Somaliland while Mohamed Hashi is ludicrously accused of being a member of Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) and more seriously that he is the father of a young jihadi fighter who sacrificed his life in defending the UIC. And so the story goes.
Unfortunately, the story was not only confined to Rayale’s utter stupidity to smear QARAN party leaders alone or his arrogance not to listen to the parliament or to the public for that matter but what was more serious is that the president himself and his henchmen namely Hussein Ali Dulaeh, finance minister and Abdillahi Mohamed Duale, foreign minister, stand accused of having fed a pack of lies to Meles Zenawi that if KULMIYE was to come to power in Somaliland, Ethiopia’s interest in Somaliland would never be the same again.
The Somaliland public including the local media largely believed that Ethiopia will eventually give succour and support to Rayale if and when he feels his ruling party UDUB would lose the elections particularly the presidential election.
The recent departure of president Rayale along with his Chief of Staff, General Nuh Tani, to Addis Ababa further fuelled these rumours that Ethiopia will deploy troops in Somaliland in the light of the growing opposition against Rayale’s beleaguered government.
Thus, the fact that Ambassador Demisse has finally ‘dismissed reports that troops from Ethiopia will deploy in the region [Somaliland]’ was not only a breath of fresh air but also couldn’t have come at a more opportune time when Rayale’s government was playing sneaky games aimed at driving a wedge between the opposition parties particularly KULMIYE and the Ethiopian government.
Surely, Ethiopia has so many internal problems of its own and is currently fighting on two fronts. It is fighting a predatory war against Somalia, sinking deeper into a mire by the day as it faces a determined popular resistance. In the Somali-populated region of Ethiopia, it is locked in a bloody conflict with the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF). And in Eritrea, hostility can break out between the sides at any moment. With all these problems, Ethiopia cannot reign supreme in the region and be in a position to dictate terms to all the governments in the region.
Whatever Ethiopia’s problems are, the Somaliland public welcomes the fact that Ethiopia will not take sides in Somaliland politics and will, in the end, work with any party, be it KULMIYE or UCID that assumes power.
Knowing that no cavalry will now come to UDUB’s rescue, KULMIYE will have the delightful opportunity to wheel out the big guns to shatter UDUB into smithereens in the upcoming presidential election.
London , UK
5 September 2007