By Oromsis Adula*
In the closing minutes of a spectacular sporting event, organized by an African nation for the first time, a twin bomb blast rocked the capital of another African country – Kampala, Uganda. The simultaneous attack left an estimated 74 people dead and scores wounded. The two targets, an Ethiopian restaurant and a rugby club, were in ruins. Authorities in Uganda are said to be digging through the wreckage to find more victims.
Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the heinous crimes. The attack comes on the hills of a decision by IGAD member states – a regional grouping made up of Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, Sudan and Djibouti (Eritrea is suspended) to send additional 2000 “peacekeepers” to Somalia. Uganda already has some 5000 strong contingent based in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu.
The announcement made in Addis Ababa, after “extraordinary summit” of IGAD member states, was seen as Ethiopia’s backdoor deal to go back to Somalia – for what many refer to as “an unfinished business.” Ethiopia ousted the Union of Islamic courts in 2006 with an alleged covert United States support. Ethiopia later found itself in a quagmire and withdrew its forces in 2009. Since that time, the United Nations backed fragile Transitional Government of Somalia has been battling hardliner Islamist groups hoping to reverse the loss and gain some footing in this lawless country – Somalia.
The meeting of IGAD member states was called because the Transitional Government came under a growing threat from Al-Shabaab. The government has virtually no control over the country with the exception of a handful of tiny corners and streets in Mogadishu heavily guarded by the AMISOM – the African Union Mission in Somalia. Many have decried the decision to send additional boots into Somalia because foreign meddling has only served to exacerbate the situation thus far. Somali activists have warned that Ethiopia is using IGAD as a masquerade to invade Somalia once more. Al-Shabaab has vowed to fight and defeat foreign forces and even called a massive protest rally in towns it controls. Nobody seems to have taken note of that warning.
Here we are grieving over a dreadful loss of the lives of innocent civilians. The target of the attack also sends a clear message for IGAD, especially Ethiopia. Ethiopia’s authoritarian regime, now a defacto one party system, run single-handedly by a powerful dictator, has put Ethiopians everywhere in danger. Even the refugees who escaped the brutality and a growing human rights abuse are no longer immune. Most of those Ethiopians killed at a restaurant, as we will learn in coming days, are no doubt refugees and expatriates who left the country to spare their lives.
The attack has a wider implication beyond Africa’s shores. Clearly, the scale on which the bombing happened shows Al-Shabaab’s ripeness as a terrorist organization. That is not a pretty picture for the United States that is battling similar extremist groups in Afghanistan, trying to control the situation in Iraq and ward-off a similar threat coming from Yemen – just across the ocean from Somalia. As such, Ethiopia appears to be an indispensible ally, capable of quashing the Somali insurgency – albeit temporarily. That may mean, in a new US foreign policy lingo, a reset to US and Ethiopia’s collaboration and by extension more US funding for Ethiopia in the upcoming budget cycle.
For millions of Ethiopians struggling to be heard and see their country moving forward in the right direction – that of democratic governance and respect for the rule of law – the twin bombing might just be a curse of the new decade.
Africa was represented by SIX nations at the 2010 World Cup; the host nation’s Bafana Bafana, Nigeria’s Black Eagles, Ghana’s Black Stars, Cameroon, Algeria and Ivory Coast. Siphiwe Tshabalala’s first goal at the first African World Cup combined with the ear-busting sounds of Vuvuzela energized the continent from the get go. However, soon with the host South Africa as the first victim, the African teams fall one by one – some due to lack of discipline and others owing to inability to deliver offensively.
For a while, Ghanians held up high the African dream. The entire continent, even the African Diaspora, was behind the Black Stars. In what the U.S President Barack Obama called “nerve-wrecking”, the Ghanians rooted-out Team USA for the second time in the knockout stage. All of Africa and with the Vuvuzela roaming like African lions, the Ghanian’s played extremely well against Uruguay. Asamoah Gyan penality miss as the extra-time winded down and a controversial handball from behind the line by Uruguay’s Luis Suarez sent the Black Stars home in the Quarterfinals – the Vuvuzela’s were quite – so was the rest of Africa.
A day after Spain was crowned in a hard-fought final match against the Netherlands, the “Dark Continent” finds itself in tears – of joy over a successful and uneventful first World Cup on its soil and of sorrow from the evil deeds of terrorists and dictators.