Could there ever be a more audacious line for the Foreign Minster to run as he plans a trip to Ethiopia, that the UN should spend its money on peacekeepers for Somalia?

After all, only two years ago the US paid and equipped Ethiopia to overthrow the first stable government poor Somalia had had for 18 years. That’s what created the chaos giving rise to the massive increase in piracy from the Somali coast, as the clans acquire cash to buy weapons from those countries with the loudest mouth about International Peace and freedom.

Maybe the US should think before it invades, Australia should think before it supports the US, and the Foreign Minster should think before he visits Meles Zenawi and his Excellency the President Girma W/Ghiorgis.

The Travelsmart advice for Ethiopia as at 1 Feb 2009 is: “We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Ethiopia, including Addis Ababa, at this time due to the high threat of terrorist attack against Western interests and ongoing political tensions.”

Well hey there Stephen, could that tension have anything to do with the Ethiopian Ministers taking all that US cash to invade neighbouring Somalia, killing thousands, displacing a million and then being driven out? And of course how much of the cash got accidentally deposited in Switzerland en route to the arms factories?

Amnesty thinks our mates Meles and Girma are great blokes:

Nearly a million people in Ethiopia’s drought-afflicted Somali Region in the east suffered severe food shortages due to a government blockade on humanitarian supplies and food trade in June. Government forces were responsible for mass arrests, torture, rape and extrajudicial executions in a continuing conflict with an armed group.

Thousands of government opponents were detained without trial.

Human Rights Watch put the finger right on the button when it wrote:

…above all western politicians and diplomats warm to Meles, because they concur with his analysis that he is a bulwark against the spread of Islamist militancy in the Horn of Africa. Meles plays this card well. He is helped by the fact that the influence of political Islam is strong and growing among the large Muslim populations of the region.

Furthermore, Islamist militants, some with links to international terrorist organisations, are operating in Somalia, Kenya and elsewhere in the Horn. But, while these considerations can help to nuance the west’s diplomatic, economic and military relations with Meles, they can be no excuse for the war crimes and gross violations of human rights that Human Rights Watch has documented in Somalia and Ogaden.

These unjustifiable acts are not only morally repugnant; they are also counterproductive. They serve to undermine international respect for the rule of law and they are likely to sharpen radicalisation and conflict in what is already one of the most dangerous parts of the world.

The west’s failure to acknowledge the reality of what is going on in these remote and inaccessible places and its failure to call for full investigations and accountability leaves the impression that when it comes to counter-terrorism, anything goes.

It is a shortsighted policy that is already backfiring in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon — and it will backfire here too.

So why the visit? And why the announcement that the Minister for our Defence may also go?

Well, our Government’s press lads and lasses will tell you that the pathetically incompetent and corrupt mob — the Organisation for African Unity — will be there and so will the US (and the CIA) and we could infer that we are brown nosing the Yanks to get that seat on the UN Security Council that our Dear Leaders lust for. Kim Beazley has already encouraged them to send more troops to Afghanistan to keep on the good side of Obama, so here is another chance.

Braving the serious warnings of his Department that other travellers should take note of, our Dear Leaders will be parading with a bunch of war criminals; but hey, who cares, after all there are serious legal issues about attacking Afghanistan and Iraq so maybe the lot of them are in the same boat.

Is there any respect for the rule of law?

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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