ISSN 2330-717X

Al-Shabab’s Enigmatic Invasion Of Ethiopia – OpEd

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In countries such as the U.S., there is an unwritten theory in police investigation that assumes whenever a neighborhood robbery occurs it was done by someone who not only had the motive to commit that crime, but the basic intelligence to help time it well and to get away with it. In other words it was committed by someone who lives or operates within 5-miles radius around the crime scene. If your gut feeling is ‘such mentality, regardless of how logical it may sound, will keep the law-enforcement stereotypically myopic and perpetually racist’ you are not alone. But that is a topic for another day.

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Meanwhile, an elaborately sophisticated attack carried out by more than 500 al-Shabab and dozens of technical- armed trucks- against Ethiopia left many casualties and many unanswered questions.  Granted this was not a robbery.

According to the VOA’s Investigative Dossier “Officials from both sides of the (Somalia, Ethiopia) border confirmed that the attacks preoccupied Liyu police forces and distracted them as other heavily armed al-Shabab units crossed the border unopposed.” Moreover, the same program quotes an anonymous former al-Shabab militant who said the group was determined to erect its flag inside Ethiopia and then officially declare that “jihad spread to a new front.”

The offensive, according to Matt Bryden of the controversial Sahan research group “appears to be the start of a major, strategic initiative to establish an active combatant presence in Ethiopia, probably in the southeastern Bale Mountains.” How about that for a narrative express?

Surely with the failure of the Somali Federal Government’s military and intelligence campaign as well as the America’s deadly drone doctrine to decapitate and defeat al-Shabab, the terrorist group remains more dangerous than ever. That danger is made worse when governments sometimes engage in their own concocted threats to pave the way for one manipulative objective or another. 

Here are some possible scenarios driving al-Shabaab’s incursion into the Somali region of Ethiopia:

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Scenario One: 

It is the first step of a foreign-driven plan to spook China out of Ethiopia’s oil and gas rich region. A few years ago the Ethiopian government signed a multi-billion dollar deal with Chinese company to develop petroleum and natural gas in the Somali region. Moreover, the company is to design storage, transportation, and marketing logistics as well as to build pipelines for domestic and international supply. 

On April 28, 2020, the Ethiopian government signed $3.6 billion deal with a Virginia-based energy firm named GreenComm Technologies to construct an oil refinery in Ethiopia’s oil-rich Somali region. Reminiscent of the Somali facilitated British predatory capitalist Soma Oil and Gas, there is only one problem: the company has neither the expertise nor the credibility to be trusted with such contract. And though the Ethiopian government indicated the willingness to cancel, there is no official report confirming that.  

Scenario Two:

A false flag scheme to re-shuffle the cards in the Horn with derailment of the Horn Economic Integration engineered by the European Union, championed by Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia, and funded by the U.A.E. Under such scheme a pretext for prolonged strategic military campaigns and political torpedoes launched from a selected federal state is established. So Ethiopia and Somalia, or President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali, will spend the next four years riding a dangerous roller-coaster, as did President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (Farmajo) and President Uhuru Kenyatta. Meanwhile Somalia is secured membership in the East African Community (EAC) and a peace-keeping force that excludes Ethiopia. 

Scenario Three:

To further hammer Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed who has already lost a loyal partner in the loss of Farmajo. Under this scenario multiple deadly fronts are opened. This scenario is based on the assumption that the United Arab Emirates or President Mohammed bin Zayed has turned his back to the European project that this author criticized before and dropped Abiy Ahmed from his previous pivotal role. Of course the natural replacement is none other than President Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea who secured UAE a military base while it was actively partaking the war in Yemen and just completed training 5000 Somali soldiers to provide military protection as UAE colonizes Socotra in partnership with Israel.  

“The saga of these Somali soldiers has been full of twists and turns,” wrote Michelle Gavin, security experts for the Council on Foreign Relations. This lucrative clandestine mercenary project was equivocated and denied by the Farmajo government until literally the last minutes before ceremonially handing over the presidential authority to the newly elected President HSM. 

Scenario Four:

To reengineer a new balance of power that would end the ethnic-cleansing of the Tigrayans and boost their military capacity to ultimately takeover what is considered as a viable economic insurance- Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). This requires stretching the Ethiopian military power so thin by opening on it many military fronts. The coalition of the willing under this scenario may include Egypt that considers the dam’s drastic impact on the flow of the Nile as an existential threat, Sudan, the U.S. And due to the rapidly changing geopolitics of the region, and Ethiopia’s steadily growing ethnic nationalism, it is likely to include U.A.E and Israel whose strategic and economical interest in the Nile water is no secret. 

Scenario Five:

A combination of the listed scenarios; and this could prove the most complex one to decode and deal with.       

Relevant Context  

For more than a decade, Ethiopia has been dominating the Bay and Bakool regions of the South West federal-state of Somalia. It has been its most reliable laboratory where Ethiopia trained and mobilized some of its most notorious clandestine allies, the violent neo-Islamists such as Mukhtar Robow (still held as a political prisoner) and his militia, and tribal secularists such as Abdirashid Janan and his militias for of subversion and security dependency (AMISOM).Intriguingly, the Shabaab militia that attacked Ethiopia is reported to have been trained in the Jubbaland federal-state (Jilib and Ras Kamboni). And their objective according to the Governor of Bakool was to raise their flag inside Ethiopia. 

To accept that Shabaab would carry out such daring operation with such reported large number of its militia out of Jubbaland while ignoring the temptation to take the jewel of that federal state – Kismayo – or to takeover U.S.’ only military base in Somalia and to chase the American troops out of that region requires an extremely wild imagination that some of us do not possess. 

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