Ethiopian and Somali government troops drove Islamist forces out of their last stronghold in Somalia yesterday, just eight days after the start of a major military offensive.
The apparently easy victory, however, did little to appease the region's bloggers, many of whom have been against the confrontation since the start.
What has [Ethiopian] Prime Minister Meles Zenawi gotten the soldiers of the Ethiopian defence forces into with his irresponsible and aggressive foray in Somalia? Are they going to be facing an insurgency similar to the type in Iraq as some Somali pundits are suggesting?
worried Zenobia of Ewenet Means Truth in Ethiopia in her post Ethiopian Soldiers in Somalia.
The Head Heeb fleshed out the fears in The apocalypse begins. He was writing a few days earlier when the Ethiopian-backed forces of Somalia's Transitional Government were forcing troops loyal to the Union of Islamic Courts back into Somalia's capital Mogadishu:
Somalia is an easy country to overrun but a hard one to occupy, and the Ethiopian intervention will turn into a counterinsurgency very quickly. It's pure fantasy to believe that the foreign fighters will simply leave or that the people will accept an Ethiopian-installed transitional government, and if Addis Ababa really intends to crush the SICC [Somalia Islamic Courts Council] as a fighting force, it will face a long, brutal asymmetric conflict. The likely humanitarian cost of such a regional war is incalculable. The Ethiopian air strikes have already made thousands of people into refugees, and a continued war would disrupt regional food security and send still more thousands to the uncertain shelter of neighboring countries.
Others said that the easiness of the victory undermined Ethiopia's whole reason for going to war in the first place. Ethiopia's prime minister claimed he had been forced on to the offensive because his country was threatened by the Islamic Court forces:
The fact that they seem to be able to conquer two important cities in two days only proves that the Militia of the Union of Islamic Courts never were a serious threat to Ethiopia. So because of this useless brutality thousands of Somali are without aid because the World Food Program of the United Nations had to withdraw from the battle fields. The fact that they are dependent on aid has everything to do with the behavior of the warlords that now call themselves the legitimate Transitional Federal Government of Somalia.
wrote Urael in Ethiopia proves the uselessness of the Somali war.
Enset was equally critical in A Reckless War Borne of Bad Choices:
This time around Ethiopians are told by Meles Zenawi that the nation's “defence forces were forced to enter into war to protect the sovereignty of the nation and to blunt repeated attacks by Islamic courts terrorists and anti-Ethiopian elements they are supporting.” This is hogwash!
The truth of the matter is that Ethiopia was not forced to enter this war; rather, it is the bad policy choices that the Meles regime has made with regard to Somalia and domestically combined with the reckless decision of the lunatic Eritrean regime to engage in a proxy war with Ethiopia that has made this war inevitable.
[It is widely believed that Ethiopia's old enemy Eritrea has been stoking the conflict by sending troops and weapons to the Somali Islamists.]
One of the bloggers’ major gripes was the lack of reliable news filtering back from the front through the region's state-controlled newspapers and radio stations:
I was just thinking spoke for many in Angry at the war and at the media:
A newspaper vendor at Arat Kilo that I was talking to this morning was telling me that how his customers are disappointed and annoyed at the papers that are available now which are full of propaganda, diabolizing ‘the fundamentalist group comprising elements that have hidden agenda.’
For middle-class Adissers who could afford satellite dishes and Internet, update about the war come into their living rooms. (The BBC TV is doing wonderful job with its constant update, apparently convinced that this has a potential to turn into crises). For the majority that is not the case. They have to depend on the information they get from their transistor radio and state TV that is full of puffery.
The few ‘private’ papers that are in the market never offend the government and sound as if they are enlisted in what the government calls in ‘the battle for development’. Information remains a government monopoly.