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Peace with Eritrea has proved unattainable.  A UN observer force patrols the border region but has had no effect on moderating Eritrea’s behavior. Eritrea, with less than 4 million people maintains an army almost as large as Ethiopia’s, which is drawn from a population of 75 million.  A mutually agreed border commission failed to come to examine the border, looked at old maps and “awarded” territories that had always been Ethiopian to Eritrea. Ethiopia refuses to surrender its citizens and their land to an oppressive police state, so the border remains undemarcated.  Isaias has jailed most journalists, closed Asmara University and incarcerated many of his own officials. Eritrea’s economy is a shambles, its budget in hopeless deficit.  Isaias extorts money from diaspora Eritreans by threatening their parents.  Starting with international good will and a potential to have become the Switzerland of the Horn of Africa, Eritrea has degenerated into an oppressive rogue state comparable toNorth Korea.

Defeating the Eritrean invasion was costly to Ethiopia.  So is the necessity of staying well armed.  But Meles Zenawi has built a highly effective fighting force, as its performance in Somalia has just shown.  At the same time Ethiopia has made good use of aid from the World Bank, the EU and numerous donor countries, including the United States, Germany and Japan.  New highways, dams, irrigation systems, factories, hotels, housing, schools, health stations and universities have sprung up throughout the country.  Economic growth is approaching 9% annually.  There has been progress in democratization.  Elections in May 2005 were certified free and fair by President Carter.  In their wake, however, an opposition party infiltrated by former Derg elements provoked violence with the apparent aim of sparking a “Rose Revolution”.  The government’s police and security forces responded with force.  Some opposition politicians were arrested and jailed and some newspapers were suspended.  The situation remains to be resolved.  Former Dergists, most of whom have taken refuge in theUnited States, continue to denigrate Meles, but their agitation has had no effect on American support of Ethiopia as an ally in the war against terrorism.  Meles has been clear about his commitment to  continue to expand democracy and adhere to international standards.

During the past 15 years, while Ethiopia was moving ahead to become an open and prosperous society, Somalia festered in anarchy.  So-called warlords, some regional leaders who tried to maintain order and elementary services for the population, others self-seeking strongmen, competed with each other.  The US/UN misadventure in famine relief in the years 1992-95 was a disaster.  Much of the humanitarian aid provided by NGOs has been diverted to support rival clan and tribal factions.  The former British northern region, Somaliland, fenced itself off from the chaos in the south and has become for all intents and purposes an independent country.  It has even achieved a degree of democracy. Somalilandis more deserving of international recognition thanEritrea. Ethiopiahas consistently supported international efforts to improve the situation in the rest of Somalia.  These finally led two years ago inKenyato the creation of the Temporary Federal Government which was set up in Baidoa.  Meanwhile, however, Somalia became a target of Islamic extremists and terrorists who wished to use it as a base.  Somali-based pirates menaced Indian Ocean shipping.  The southern part of the country degenerated into lawlessness that was overcome only when the Islamic Courts Group imposed Taleban-like control in mid 2006.  Leadership fell to extremists who revived old calls for unifying all Somali-populated lands, claiming territory inEthiopiaandKenya.  In November 2006 they declared war on Ethiopia. Ethiopia tried first tried to bolster the Baidoa government, then concluded that the Islamo-fascist regime had to be deposed.


The Future?

Under Ethiopian assault the forces of the “powerful Islamic Courts” crumbled with surprising speed and fled. Ethiopia has temporarily at least eliminated a terrorist threat to itself and the world at large.  Eritrean adventurism has been frustrated.  But neither Meles Zenawi or any other Ethiopian can feel assured thatSomaliawill not again fall into anarchy. Somalianeeds regional and international help.  It must not again be permitted to become a terrorist haven.  The UN-recognized government now moving into Mogadishu must be assisted in creating conditions where the long-suffering people of Somalia can enjoy the kind of security and development to which most peoples in the world feel entitled.

Center for Security Policy

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