afrol News, 2 January - Only ten days ago, the Eritrean government predicted that the Somali Islamists, which it supported with arms, troops and training, would win its proxy war against Ethiopian troops. Humiliated by the total defeat, Eritrea's President now puts the blame on Washington, again claiming the US is behind all evils on the African Horn.
In interviews with local, state-controlled media, Eritrean President Issayas Afewerki claimed that the recently deposed Somali Islamist movement had not represented a "new Islamic philosophy but a choice the people made to establish a united Somalia."
The Eritrean President noted that the Ethiopian and the US governments were "resorting to different ploys to drag back the Somalis to the previously existing instability," alleging such a state of affairs was "tantamount to terrorism".
The war in Somalia had been "unleashed by those forces that stood against the emergence of a united Somalia," and "emanates from weakness, fear, panic and not might," President Afewerki said, referring to the official Eritrean view that the Ethiopian government is close to collapsing. He further claimed that the Ethiopian "invasion of Somalia is not spontaneous but a long time and well organised plan initiated by the Washington administration."
Also Eritrean Information Minister Ali Abdu, in an interview with 'Reuters' today, said that "this war is between the Americans and the Somali people." He repeated the Eritrean rhetoric - aimed at mobilising war-tired and tyrannised citizens - of an Ethiopian government afraid of being overthrown, claiming only US support was upholding the Addis Ababa regime.
President Afewerki, who only a year ago tried to become a major ally in the US-led "war against terrorism", during the last few months has made a u-turn in Eritrean foreign relations. Branding the US as the "historic enemy" of Eritrea, allegedly behind its conflict with Ethiopia, Mr Afewerki reconciled with Sudanese authorities, established friendly ties with Iran and supported the Somali jihadists.
Several reports, including a UN investigation, have documented that Eritrea was the major supporter of the radical Islamists - allegedly with close al Qaeda ties - ruling most of Somalia during the last half year. Hundreds of Eritrean troops were supporting and training the Islamists and heavy arms were shipped to Mogadishu despite a UN arms embargo, in what analysts saw as an attempt to stage a proxy war against Ethiopia in Somalia.
While the Eritrean government all along has denied its military support to the Somali Islamists - despite heavy proof - Asmara has been a staunch defender of the Somali radicals. Its omnipotent Ministry of Information - controlling all opinions and news published in Eritrea - has on several occasions declared that Ethiopia would be defeated in Somalia.
Only on 23 December, the Ministry published an article titled "Somalia is in the final push to eject the invading Ethiopian Army". The article, which claims that Ethiopia scooped Somali peace negotiations in 2004 to have interim President Abdullahi Yusuf installed, indicated that the Somali Islamists' expected victory could even lead to a toppling of the hated Ethiopian government.
As the Eritrean prediction of a Somali Islamist victory over Ethiopian troops proved anticipated, the Ministry of Information during the last few days has added a note to the article, saying it does "not necessarily reflect" the views of the Ministry - something otherwise unheard of in Eritrea, where the Ministry is in total control of any public statement and of the media.
The Ministry for long has embarked on an almost comic rhetoric when describing neighbouring Ethiopia, always referred to as "the TPLF regime". A recent "editorial" diplomatically states: "One of the bold marks of the TPLF regime is its pretentious characteristics, trying to fool the whole world by promoting lies, hypocrisy and deceit. The regime ranks second to none in the whole globe in its ability to fabricate a series of lies whenever the preceding ones are exposed. Shame doesn't hinder it from producing fresh and unprecedented lies every second."
Following this rhetoric, the humiliation for Asmara authorities has been total with the Islamists' defeat. The proxy war in Somali now definitively called off due to Ethiopia's victory. Equally, Eritrea was humiliated by the fact that Ethiopian forces killed large number of Eritrean troops during their Somalia operation.
While Ethiopian officials have claimed that hundreds of Eritreans were killed on the battlefield, Asmara now accuses Ethiopia of faking Eritrean identity cards in a "futile ploy" to provide evidence. Again, it is Ethiopian "lies, hypocrisy and deceit" that are to blame for Eritrea's defeat.
Meanwhile - as Ethiopia plans for the replacement of its troops in Somalia by African peacekeepers and the establishment of Somali's first central government in over 15 year - Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is also in a position to enjoy his easy victory over Eritrea. "It is evident that the Eritrean Government is prepared to fight Ethiopia until the last drop of blood of the people of Somalia," Mr Zenawi told the Addis parliament in a different way of explaining the Somali war.
"The Eritrean government elaborated this strategy in order to advance its objective through the blood of the Somalis," he told Ethiopian MPs. "It believed that the strengthening of the extremists in Somalia would put Ethiopia in an inextricable situation. But more importantly it did so because it does not have the capacity and willingness to wage direct military confrontation," Mr Zenawi claimed.
The Ethiopian Prime Minister held that it was "clear that the Eritrean government would have waged war if Ethiopia was bogged down in a quagmire in Somalia." However, this "projected quagmire for Ethiopian defence forces did not take place. When the interventionist Eritrean forces had to flee from one end of Somalia to the other, the Eritrean government did not directly dare lift a finger," Mr Zenawi bragged.
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