War and rumours of war dominated the Ethiopian blogosphere this week as reports came in of bloody clashes between Ethiopian and Islamist troops in northern Somalia.
Accounts of the conflict from the mainstream media have so far been fragmentary and often contradictory.
GlobalVoices’ own Ethan Zuckerman summed up the confusion in a post on his blog …My Heart's in Accra:
The situation in Somalia is, as it always is, extremely confusing. Headlines yesterday alternated between reports of fierce battles and reports that both sides were returning to the negotiating table.
Ethiopia's government was today still insisting that their troops were not involved in the fighting – the official position is that they don't even have any soldiers in Somalia. This approach was faithfully echoed in the country's official state news outlets.
But the claims were contradicted by the BBC which yesterday claimed one of its correspondents had been stopped close to the besieged town of Baidoa by “a huge convoy of Ethiopian military armour”. Meanwhile, journalist Mike Pflanz gave glimpses of life in Somalia in his blog-style Diary from Somalia in the UK's Daily Telegraph newspaper.
Ethiopia's highly politicised bloggers got round all this editorial uncertainty by staying away from the hard facts. Instead they concentrated on pouring scorn on the Ethiopian government and what they saw as its misguided military strategies.
The whole world knows that it's [Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's] unprovoked military maneuver in and around Somalia that prompted the Jihadists to declare war on Ethiopia. Just like the French and the Brits opposed the war on Iraq, we Ethiopians should oppose the unprovoked war on a country that doesn't even have a working government system,
wrote Ephrem Madebo of the blog Enset in Four big mouths, four big lies.
How about a militant leader interfering in the internal affairs of a neighboring country (that has finally, according to international reports, ‘admittedly’ experienced a level of stability and security under the [Union of Islamic Courts] unprecedented for over a decade) to appease Western powers that seem “less than pleased’ over recent reports of internal human rights abuses?
wrote Mengedegna in his post on The Other Side.
Don't eat my Buchela! took a bitterly ironic tone in her post By God, Let the Games Begin!:
According to rumors from Ethiopia, the war with Somalia has “sort of” started. Soldiers are also being sent up north to the border with Eritrea. This is good, good news for all of us for many, many reasons including the five below:
1. I am a mom now. Yaaaaaay for all those mothers whose sons are going to surely die. And die they will in thousands. There will be sooo many new heroes! Such a lucky nation Ethiopia is, blessed with so many chances to make new heroes.
2. The little bit of “economic growth” Ethiopia seems to have accidentally achieved will now be stripped bare. We have to spend millions to get Ethiopian mothers’ sons ammunition to create heroes for Somali mothers. They are going to be so happy happy! …
Zenobia of Ewenet Means Truth in Ethiopia warned against making simplistic analyses of the conflict in The Minefield of Somali Clan Politics:
It is very easy to view the unfolding events in Somalia as one between the Eritrean supported “Islamists” of the Union Islamic Courts versus the Ethiopian supported “secularists” of the Transitional National Government of Somalia.
This article in Somaliland Times from the point of view of a Somalilander Ahmed Ali Ibrahim clarifies what the conflict in Somalia really is about -a battle between various embittered clan factions for supremacy and power.
Miles away from the fighting, Alex Russell of Addis Calling talked about how the new conflict was affecting ethnic Somalis living in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa. in Addis Ababa Somalis Lay Low he wrote:
Last Friday a police officer came to our house. He was conducting a last minute census of the neighborhood, an area filled with Somali families who escaped pre-Islamic Court Mogadishu and are waiting to get their refugee visas to Western countries. Most have been here for years and want nothing else than to get as far away from Somalia (and Ethiopia) as possible. “I'll be in Norway in a month,” one young man hopefully told me. The owner of the Somali café fifty meters up the road just let it be known he'll be in the US in a month (after eight years here). If true, hello Khat withdrawal.
But these Somalis were the hustle and bustle of my dusty street, but since the Police officer came through they've retreated behind their gates. At night I keep on listening out for some sort of round-up, not really sure what I'm listening for. The fear, captured by the silence in the streets and the sudden lack of Somalis in the satellite-TV cafes, is palpable.