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Last Updated: Feb 11, 2014 - 5:11:05 AM
Somalia: At the cost of what?

EDITORIAL | Who is to blame for the relentless massacre in Mogadishu?

It is no surprise that the Ethiopian government categorically denies committing war crimes in Somalia where its armed forces intervened eight months ago. Beret Simon, special adviser to the Ethiopian prime minister, told the New York Times that the Ethiopian army had "not killed any civilians" in Somalia. Simon was responding to a 113-page report on the situation in Somalia published by Human Rights Watch. The report documents alleged war crimes committed by government and Ethiopian soldiers and insurgent fighters who have waged urban warfare in Mogadishu since Ethiopians arrived at the beginning of the year.

Despite Mr. Simon's in-your-face denial, unimaginable war crimes have been committed in Mogadishu where more than 320,000 civilians were forced to flee since February 1. Any Mogadishu resident will attest to the Ethiopian army's vicious response whenever under attack. HRW was right to condemn the Ethiopian military, the Somali militia-turned-government troops and the rebels fighting the government in the same report. These "parties to the conflict" are collectively responsible for the carnage in Mogadishu which has claimed more than 1,300 civilian lives as the death toll increases by the day.

The humanitarian situation in Somalia, especially in the capital, has progressively worsened since the Ethiopia-backed government rolled into Mogadishu. Despite the massive military support from Addis Ababa, the Somali government has been unable to stop insurgents from launching daily attacks using grenades, landmines, rocket launchers and machineguns. The disarmament effort in Mogadishu has yielded tons of weapons, but not nearly enough to stop insurgents' deadly barrage of attacks.

Who is to blame for the relentless massacre in Mogadishu? Government officials continuously claim that the transitional federal government (TFG) is "a government of reconciliation." But the government's actions, and the actions of its allies, tell a resoundingly different tale. Government soldiers have been accused of indiscriminate killings, robberies and other violations on the civilian population. This is a government that has shown little mercy to its own citizens. This is a government that, instead of attempting to find resolutions beneficial to the general public, is planning to construct a safe " Green Zone" inside Mogadishu to protect its own ends.

And the insurgents are responsible for heinous war crimes by continuously launching attacks in densely populated areas. The insurgents fully know that the Ethiopian army has no mercy for the people of Somalia, yet they shoot and run, using innocent civilians as shield. The Mogadishu insurgency draws most support from Islamic Courts loyalists, clan fighters and anarchy businessmen. They have sworn to wage war until they force Ethiopian troops out of Somalia; so far, they have ensured that the Ethiopians' stay in Mogadishu is a bloody adventure.

Both groups in the conflict claim to represent the best interests for Somalia. The TFG promotes the rule of Western-style democracy as the road to lasting peace in the country, while their Islamist rivals maintain that Muslim Somalia should be governed under Islamic law. What has been dishearteningly true is that the "Somalia" of today - the offspring of TFG-Islamic Courts violence - is not the Somalia for the people. It is a Somalia ruined by an evil war with no end in sight and where the politics of global competition take on the most primitive form.

No Somali person wants today's Somalia. Ethiopia's unilateral intervention, met with silence from the international community, has produced a humanitarian catastrophe that needs immediate attention and perhaps the deployment of neutral United Nations peacekeepers once genuine political settlement is achieved. The bloodletting will not stop as long as each side maintains that it’s morally correct and refuses to compromise.

Garowe Online Editorial
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