By Farah Maalim
My attention has been drawn to an article published by The Standard On Saturday on March 24 by Shemsudin Roble, Ethiopian Ambassador to Kenya.
While I initially hesitated to comment and give credence to the commentary by the ambassador on the regional dynamics, I, however, felt it important to clarify certain misinformation and erroneous aspects pertaining to my interview with K24 on March 15 at least for the benefit of Kenyans and other people in the region. I wish to clarify the following issues:
Democracy in Kenya
While Kenya is a vibrant democracy in the region, Ethiopia is certainly the complete opposite. In Kenya today, any person who decides to offer oneself for public office must be ready to be held to account for his/her acts of commission or omission, be it the President, Prime Minister and other Government officers, including MPs. This surely is a political context that cannot be countenanced in Ethiopia.
I suppose then that possibly the Ethiopian ambassador, coming from a very dictatorial regime, may not comprehend the dynamics of a liberal democracy like we have in Kenya. The Constitution of Kenya is one of the most progressive legal documents in Africa. As a Kenyan knowledgeable in political economy and political history of the Horn of Africa, our Constitution guarantees freedom of expression, even if others may not agree.
It is open knowledge that those opposed to the regime in Addis often find themselves in jail, exile or in the graves. No wonder there is a steady stream of Ethiopians always caught in Kenya as illegal immigrants fleeing the harsh and autocratic practices. For centuries, successive regimes in Ethiopia validated themselves through the barrel of the gun.
Empire builders such as Tewodros, Yohannes, Menelik, Iyasu, Haile Selassie and Mengistu Haile Mariam were killed in wars, executed or forced into exile, save for Emperor Menelik. The current regime in Ethiopia rose to power through a protracted guerilla war using the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front. Today in Ethiopia with an exception of the Amhara, Tigray and Southern nationalities, all the other regions/nationalities host armed liberation movements that are fighting Addis Ababa.
The Afar Liberation Front, the Oromo Liberation Front, the Ogaden National Liberation Front and the Beni-Shangul/Gambela are some of the movements involved in a violent endeavour to change the status quo in Addis Ababa. The regime in Addis Ababa must be prepared to give a chance to dialogue.
Operation Linda Nchi
I forgive the ambassador for his failure to listen actively to spoken words. As a patriotic Kenyan leader, I never stated that I am opposed to the operation Linda Nchi. While I fully support the operation in Somalia by Kenyaâs Defence Forces to eliminate the threats by criminal gangs, I nevertheless cautioned and qualified my support by expressing the need for a quick withdrawal strategy even as our patriotic forces got in. I raised alarm that we may not have learnt lessons from interventions by other powerful forces that failed in the recent past due to the perception of being viewed as foreign occupation forces. I would hate a situation where our defence forces are stuck or bogged down in internal political dynamics of Somalia, especially given the goodwill shown by the people of Somalia to our troops. I called for a quick intervention and then withdrawal and not long term occupations. Is this what the ambassador calls opposition to Linda nchi?
Kenya Defence Forces must limit their operations to safeguarding and protecting Kenyaâs territorial integrity and creation of a buffer zone along the border managed and controlled by friendly Somali government forces and civil administration. We cannot afford to have a meaningless antagonism with Eritrea or Somalia.
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