Sir-- The Embassy of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia to the Arab Republic of Egypt would like to bring to your attention the article published on 15 November under the title 'Emergency Somalia' by Ramzy Baroud. The article is studded with errors, from the extraordinary assertion that Ethiopian forces have wreaked havoc in Mogadishu, to the idea that Britain gave the "Ogaden province" of Somalia to Ethiopia after World War II. This presumably refers to the part of Eastern Ethiopia, the Haud, taken over in 1941 by Britain during the war against Italy. It was returned to Ethiopia in 1956 and is now part of Ethiopia's Somali Regional State. It was never part of Somalia.
This attempt to portray Ethiopia as a colonial power is incomprehensible. Ethiopia has the longest record of independence in Africa. It is, rightly, proud of its anti-colonial reputation, its long support for the anti-colonial struggle in Africa, and its commitment to respect and indeed defend the rights and sovereignty of others. It is equally proud of its role in the founding of the Organisation of African Unity and in the part it has played in the OAU and the African Union.
Equally, to argue that the civil wars in Somalia, which actually began much earlier than 1991 when Siad Barre was expelled, were largely the result of foreign intervention, and subsequent "colonial intervention", demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of Somali politics and clan interests and of recent Somali history.
On the more recent events Mr Baroud is equally inaccurate. The Islamic Courts Union did not bring stability to "much" of the country. It imposed itself by force on Mogadishu, and then set out on a process of military expansion. It made no attempt to engage in dialogue, refusing to participate in Arab League- sponsored talks in Khartoum. It threatened to attack Baidoa, the base of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), the legitimate and internationally recognised government of Somalia, which the ICU had persistently refused to allow to enter Mogadishu. The ICU leadership also announced its intention to revive the Somali irredentist claims to Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya which led to two wars and three guerrilla conflicts in the 1960s and 1970s. Faced by this aggression, the TFG asked the government of Ethiopia for assistance. The United States had nothing to do with this, but it was, not surprisingly, concerned by the known terrorist links of members of the ICU leadership.
Since the collapse of the ICU last December and the flight of its leadership to Eritrea, where it is getting help and assistance, the Somali government has been able to restore its authority over most of the country. There is still a serious security situation in Mogadishu where Al-Shabaab terrorists, linked to the former ICU leaders, have been operating. Ethiopian troops continue to assist the operations of the TFG security forces to restore order. Despite continued assassinations and incidents of land mines on roads, and despite the publicity given to Al-Shabaab by Nairobi-based journalists, and others who have not been to Mogadishu, the security situation is improving. The success of the National Reconciliation Congress in reconciling many clan conflicts underlines the progress being made. There is certainly still a serious humanitarian problem for thousands of IDPs, some displaced by clashed in Mogadishu, most affected over the last year or so by floods and drought and food shortages. With the improving security situation and the appointment of a new prime minister with a long record of involvement in humanitarian affairs, there is every reason to believe that food aid will rapidly reach those in need.
One final point: the UN has not ruled out any chance of an international force. The Security Council only last week specifically requested the secretary-general to develop contingency plans for a UN peacekeeping force. Further elements for AMISOM will be deploying before the end of the year, and Ethiopia looks forward to being able to withdraw its forces once there is an international force available in Mogadishu. We will not, however, withdraw prematurely and leave a vacuum to be filled by terrorists.
Ibrahim Idris Ibrahim
Ambassador of Ethiopia
More liveable place
Sir-- Mr Walberg's 'Colonising a metaphor' (29 November-5 December) is an echo of Oswald Spengler. Whether it be the monotheistic Islam or monistic Buddhism that "does" it, one thing is clear: the West cannot bootstrap itself back onto solid ground. With all of the New Sciences man has lost the formerly solid ground provided by the Baconian Scientific Method. More and more thereal sciences show that talmudic/einsteinian ("relativistic") thinking is a bad dream from which we are very slowly awakening.
Iran does it politically, Venezuela spiritually while China will pull the financial plug. Sad thing is, things will have to get a lot worse before there is a chance for them to get better. Let me paraphrase the Global 2000 agenda and change numbers and "labels": Kissinger said, "We think that in the early years of the Third Millennium more than 200 million people will have to die to make life for the remainder more liveable". He was talking about depopulating the Third World. I am thinking that the Anglo-American destruction machine has to have its comeuppance to make life possible for the rest.
Follow the golden rule
Sir-- Re 'Colonising a metaphor', I am an American who became uncomfortable with the Trinity. I am unclear, as are Jews themselves, about the ability to convert to Judaism. I am unsure whether Judaism refers to a race or a religion. I read Houston Smith's account of Islam in his book, Religions of Man/the World. I found Mohamed to be a man who seemed to tie these traditions together and a man who lived according to the golden rule.
I hold the golden rule to be the supreme guide. I wonder if the Jewish heritage of those in the media skew their perspective. I wonder if the ubiquitous nature of the Israeli perspective in the US has skewed our understanding. I don't wonder at all; I am subject to these influences and I know others are similarly affected. For me, the question rests on where do you find your guidance? Do you follow the Machevellian machinations that sometimes may be helpful as a last resort? Do you seek to empathise with your competitor/enemy? Do you believe in fairness or exclusivity? This is a spirit that can be found in all traditions.