By Keffyalew Gebremedhin The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)
PART One of two
The purpose of this article is to express the writer’s disappointment at and opposition to the April 4, 2018 appointment by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres of Maj-Gen. Gebre Adhana Woldezgu as commander of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA).
Gen. Gebre Adhana Woldezgu is succeeding Maj Gen Tesfay Gidey Hailemichael, another Tigrean member of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) who commanded UNISFA from February 23, 2017 to April 23, 2018.
Gen. Gebre was recalled from Somalia in 2008, when dictator Meles Zenawi finally got tired of the complaints against his trigger happy general. Somalia’s Transitional Government President also refused to receive him.
There was not much success in the anti-terrorism front in Somalia. I have long held that view, although in recent months the United States has also intensified its military operations against Al-Shabaab. Thus in late October I opined:
“Somalia could have been up and running long ago, if the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the forces it commands within Somalia — including all sorts of shady Somalia militias — have not been allowed to become authors and contributors of Somalia’s continuing tragedy.”
I still hold that view, given that TPLF interests are different from the people of Somalia, AMISOM’s and other supporting nations.
Thus even when Maj-Gen. Gebre returned to Somalia and continued to circulate in later years as representative of the eight-member nation Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD), he behaved in the same manner. He was free in his dealigns with Somalia officials as with his hired hands in every corner of the country. He tried to do what he is good at: appear friendly until people do his dirty job and he damps them in bad ways in the end.
He could no longer be effective in his job in Somalia as intelligence operative, even President Farmaajo in 2017 becoming the second president to deny him access to him and the presidential palace, Villa Somalia.
In sum, whereas Maj-Gen Woldezgu was a military officer, who once upon a time was considered the actual leader of Somalia in the wake of the 2006 Ethiopian invasion of that country. Far reaching was his influence in Somalia that a Somalia paper angrily in 2017 printed a picture of the general, shuffling through the papers of a Somalia minister, a saddening image of a nation in free-fall that continues to irk Somalians to this day.
Against numerous backdrops of the TPLF arrogance of power had fostered in him, coupled with his personal weaknesses, most troubling for many however is Gen. Gebre’s April 4, 2018 appointment by the United Nations. The general is characterised as a person with no respect for innocent lives and fundamental human rights. As per account of The New York Times of May 6, 2008, which makes tough read, is an account of the general’s involvement in war crimes, amply demonstrating his disloyalty to international law and the United Nations Charter.
Of that, Amnesty International at the time released details of the 19 April 2008 raid on a mosque. It notes in that attack, “Ethiopian forces killed at least 21 people, including 11 unarmed civilians inside the mosque, and detained at least 40 children and youths, aged 9 to 18. At least 10 others were killed by Ethiopian forces in the vicinity of the mosque.”
This is just a snippet of the many crimes the TPLF regime has committed in both Ethiopia and Somalia, as has the general’s buddy, Abdi Iley — seen here together in the picture below warmly locked in mutual embrace with the general.
As the commanding officer of Ethiopian forces in Somalia, Gen. Gebre is also known to have integrity problems, his name linked to widespread charges of corruption. The proceeds he received estimated in millions of dollars mostly reportedly came from the sell of weapons to rival Somalia factions and receipt of bribes “from opportunistic Somali politicians who want to buy the sympathy of Addis Ababa.”
Probably it is more telling about him listening to an elementary school teacher Maryan Awale. She had seen how ‘Gen. Gabre’ had been mistreating or imprisoning people in her locality and also misguiding Somalia politics into more clan and ethnic divisions and conflicts. Maryan Awale daringly ventured to warn others about Gen. Gebre that if President Farmaajo did not expel Gabre from the country, “then no progress would be made in rebuilding Somalia.”
“You can’t avoid sickness if you have bacteria in your food or or environment at home,” says Maryan who is a 36 years old mother. Gabre is a combination of bacteria and virus that harm the nerve of our politics”, adding “he is the most hated person in Somalia.”
My information on Gen. Gebre comes mostly from sources in Somalia as well as international journalists and international intelligence, a good piece of which is also available on WikiLeaks.
The general’s Somalia activities, i.e., beyond his personal failures — as per UN and African Union (AU) observers — have helped portray him as a person let down by his services of carrying out the TPLF policy objective of keeping “…Somalia in chaos…no peace, constant wrangling…Hearing that Ethiopia did not even happen to hear the US veep Biden talking of Somalia..”
TPLF policy on Somalia?
Keeping Somalia a weaker neighbour, therefore, might correspond with TPLF’s temperament and interests. Somalia historically is known as irredentist, harbouring longstanding interests in uniting Somalis across the Horn of Africa. Its primary focus was the Ogaden — an issue still a grit to the mills of Somalia social media.
Therefore, it would not be farfetched to assume possible Ethiopian policy response to this Somalia’s intentions lurking in Addis Abeba’s actions. Its aim could be to prevent any future challenge to Ethiopian sovereignty. By this, I am not implying TPLF loyalty to Ethiopian sovereignty, especially recalling in recent years its surrendering of Ethiopian territory to the Sudan in appreciation of its services to the Front during the years it tried to dismember Tigray from Ethiopia.
When it comes to Somalia, with TPLF and its dictator Meles Zenawi’s support to Ziad Barre and their cadres camping in Somalia during 1970s invasion up northwest up to Dire Dawa will not be easily erased from Ethiopian consciousness!
In Somalia, Gen. Gebre was known for his cruelty; it extends from having gained him the notoriety of pulling the trigger at Somalia citizens at any point.
He is always armed with a side-weapon, as can be seen on the picture. He is also known to forcibly, and in violation of international law to have transferred Somalians to Ethiopia’s Somali Region, a practice about which in later years the United Nations Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG) has been complaining, even reporting to the United Nations Security Council to no effect — for obvious reason.
At the same time, in bringing up this and exposing the longstanding TPLF practices of ethnic discrimination inside Ethiopia and abroad, this piece would try to show UNISFA, a United Nations mission, has been reduced to a single Ethiopian ethnic group’s fiefdom ever since its establishment by the Security Council in July 2011.
TPLF, Gen. Gebre, the United Nations and ethnic discrimination
On the merit of the issue I have set out to bring to light, i.e., the general’s appointment, I hold the firm view that the secretary-general’s acquiescence and the decision to appoint Maj-Gen. Gebre Adhana Woldezgu as commander of a UN peacekeeping force, upon the nomination by the TPLF, has hardly benefited from the Organisation’s reflections and its sanitising political introspection.
As a former United Nations international staff currently in retirement and, in keeping with the United Nations Charter, I remind the secretary-general and readers, amongst the primary functions of the Organisation are: promoting equal rights, protecting and defending human rights — but never the rewarding of perpetrator(s) of crimes of human rights and discriminations of any sorts!
Further, the UN is tasked in Article 1 of the Charter “To be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends”, as outlined under the Purposes and Principles section.
Nowhere does the Charter leave the door open for any United Nations body or its secretary-general to become provider of agency in the perpetuation of corrupt and criminal actions by any member state, big or small.
As a matter of fact, the commanders and deputy commanders of UNISFA are selected on the basis of ethnicity, the hallmark of TPLF’s policies and operations. If need be for elaboration, I might add here that since UNISFA’s inception it has been commanded at both the commander and his deputy levels by ethnic Tigreans, many of the troops and also civilian and police elements are of the same ethnic origin.
In the seven-year lifespan of UNISFA, there were only two exceptions: (a) once when Maj-Gen. Hassan Ebrahim Mussa (January 15, 2016 – January 16, 2017, an Amhara by ethnic group); and, (b) when Maj. Gen. Birhanu Jula Gelalcha (November 21, 2014 – January 20,2016, an Oromo by ethnic group) commanded the force.
For the rest of the time, UNISFA has been a TPLFite jamboree, mostly with little success in its mission. For any serious observer, the TPLF and its action literally make one believe they are awaiting fulfilment of the folklore about the golden goose’s inevitable expiry on account of the Front’s greed and misbehaviour.
Further, the secretary-general already in mid-October 2017 pointed out, while grazing land, water problems in Abyei during migration and criminal activities perennial causes of conflicts, it should not be discounted that the relations between the Sudan and South Sudan are also poisoned by imagined and perceived/inherited fears pertaining mostly to the oil lying under and between the two nations. This makes a great deal of political and diplomatic work a necessity.
In his October 17, 2017 report to the Security Council (S/2017/870), the secretary-general has conceded that the four trends responsible for the tension and conflict in Abyei (para 2.) remain already seven years gone.
In that regard, he underscores: “The Sudan and South Sudan have diametrically opposed positions on the way forward to settle the Abyei question”, for which as gung-ho on record Maj-Gen. Gebre Adhana Woldezgu is ill-equipped for the task.
His Somalia experience shows that the mere mentioning of his name, ‘Gen Gabre’, is all teeth chomping. Nor does ‘Gen. Gabre’ in Somalia’s papers and the social media exude affection. The way it is spelt may possibly have been taken from his Twitter handle, the sound of it alien to Ethiopian, perhaps sign of a soul in search of path out of its unknown crisis.
Somalians describe Gen. Gabre as “secretive, abusive and killer”. Expanding on that quote and an interview with a military officer, the Suna Times states: “Atto Gabre was corrupted by Somali politicians and he also then corrupted Ethiopian senior officials so they will condone his wrong doing”.
The general is a person whose stay in Somalia from 2006 – 2008 was cut short because of his unacceptable behaviour as military commander. His terror machine was the Liyu Police, based in Ethiopia’s Somali Region. In violation of international law, he was accused of engaging in the kidnapping and trafficking of Somalia citizens to the Ogaden.
Some of these were reportedly returned to Somalia only in July 2017. This was arranged to ease the anger surrounding the kidnapping of Abdulkerim Sheik Musa by the general and his hired hands from Somalia. The TPLF considers the kidnap victim a ‘terrorist’ and Somalia considers its citizen, a colonel and a veteran of their 1977 war against Ethiopia where my own brother was slain.
Confident as Gen. Gebre is, in August 2017 he went public with his admission of orchestrating the kidnapping of Abdulkerim Sheik Musa from Galmudug State, where he has the Ethiopian-armed militia the Ahlu Sunnah Waljamaah (ASWJ). On his part Musa must have dabbled with his travel documents of both Ethiopian and Somalia, while Ethiopian law does not recognise dual citizenship.
Therefore, when it suits Musa he is Ogadeni. At other times, he is a Somalian, who had served as a senior officer in the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) as well as a colonel in the Somalia National Army in the 1977 Siad Barre’s war against Ethiopia. Thus he became, like many others before him — Ethiopian opponents of the TPLF regime one more victim fleeing through Somalia to safety— because of the general’s overzealous operations.
It is no surprise, therefore, for the TPLF general his suppression of the freedoms of Ethiopians is never an issue much less a Somalian he considers an enemy, if one could see his boasting as the author of the kidnapping and the coordination actions hereunder:
On the question of ethnic discrimination in Ethiopia, which the TPLF has made its political ideology, it’s my earnest hope the table below portrays TPLF’s practices into which the United Nations is also sucked in. The whole objective behind TPLF ethnic discrimination is the exclusively ethnic utilisation of the United Nations structures to benefit the TPLF senior officers and others. Hereunder is the table with names, ranks and dates of services of TPLF commanders, incomplete as it is:
[click to magnify]
UNISFA for the TPLF top brass has thus served as their benefits sprinkler, each senior officer taking turns to suck it on a yearly basis. For the TPLF, this reduces the tension within its ranks, the generals held together so long as they are getting newer sprinkler, when one goes dry. They had done it in Ethiopia, seizing lands, businesses, homes, etc. and exclusively enriching the members of the TPLF, whose criterion of membership is being Tigrean by ethnicity, language and culture, much like the Nazis requiring citizenship on being Aryan and attested by race, blood, colour and German culture.
Interestingly, this is a double-faced crime by a mafia organisation, rpt the TPLF as a mafia organisation, having implications to United Nations activities and image as well.
Firstly, as Ethiopia is Africa’s largest multi-ethnic state, it happens to be one of the largest troop contributing nations in the world to the United Nations. While Ethiopia under successive government’s has had such contribution, this TPLF strategy is expanded, as an ethnic minority regime, to help the Front get continual international political, diplomatic and economic support and humanitarian assistance. All this has been happening the United Nations slumbering.
Ethiopians, whose country is engulfed in protests against the TPLF regime in the last three years its martial law notwithstanding, have been denied of their right to serve and contribute their share to the goals and purposes of the United Nations Charter on the basis of equality, rights, qualifications, dignity and national belongingness.
Secondly, through this TPLF criminal actions — harsh as this may sound — the United Nations has also been collaborating with the TPLF in its ethnic discrimination practices.
From this point on, it is up to the United Nations secretary-general to investigate this matter and institute remedial measures to the problems the United Nations bodies never again to being utilised as agents of TPLF’s mass ethnic discrimination, or any other nation.
It is also essential to state here, obnoxious as discrimination of all forms are, this time the primary reason for my opposition to Gen. Gebre’s appointment is hardly these obnoxious TPLF practices in ethnic discrimination against Ethiopians, or the person’s ethnic origin.
Rather my intention is opposition to the appointment of the Major General, who hardly is endowed with the tools the intertwined job of peacekeeping and peacemaking require. He lacks the essential qualities a United nations force commander should possess, among which integrity is one, a substance in short supply in his case.
Misplaced info in the general’s biodata
Gen. Gebre is good, among others, for sowing confusion about his identity for reasons that impose on him the need for explaining. To get a glimpse of what have caught my attention, start from the simplest one. Compare what is on his biodata in his job application he or the TPLF has provided for consideration by the United Nations with what his latest twitter handle speaks of him.
From his unscrutinised biographical piece, one is likely to assume it has the approval of the TPLF regime. This, it is likely, would put the United Nations in an awkward situation. Behind generalities, Maj-Gen Gebre Adhana’s biography seems to hide too many horrid details. Essentially, the cardinal sin here hence is sprucing up a life of human rights crimes and corruption more particularly in Somalia. Whatever those may be, for now — with United Nations connivance — the general seems to have been given a pass; as at April 4 2018, he has already been appointed UN force commander in Abyei.
While his career in Ethiopia may have also be characterised by similar charges of blood-letting crimes, suffice for now to focus on what I have come across so far in written materials, and some which have also been arrived at through deduction. I trust there would be general consensus that deduction is a scientific method of analysis by which the unknown is inferred out and sifted against the metrics of ‘reference to a general law or principle’.
In Gen. Gabre’s case one thus can deduce from his biodata — on which the United Nations is also in agreement — the major-general is patted on the shoulder as bringing to the United Nations “38 years of experience in the Ethiopian Army”.
Has counting years also changed under the TPLF in Ethiopia? How could he be in a position to have 38 years of military service within the Ethiopian army, when the TPLF regime itself is only 27 years old on the seat of power in Ethiopia?
No doubt this is a flawed information. It is intended possibly to disguise the general serving in the TPLF as a ‘freedom fighter’ to dismember Tigray from Ethiopia. He is also disguising his service in Somalia as the ‘Supreme Commander of the Ethiopian armies in Somalia” [sic] and also his post military service years as a frequent visitor to that country, under the convenient guise of Senior political Advisor at the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD), which for all intents and purposes, is only one of the departments in the TPLF’s secretariat, instead of an eight-nation organisation!
Gen.Gebre has been tested in Somalia and has been founding wanting. He has been known to enjoy violating national and international law with his killings, kidnapping, unlawful dispossession of citizens of their properties corruption as his motive.
Every word in this piece is without pretence or deceit. The things I allege about Maj-Gen. Gebre Adhana Woldezgu are those I have learned a while ago from various sources during my research on Somalia’s tribulations, as it has been a state confronted by Al-Shabaab’s terrorism and disintegration of its internal national cohesion.
It is my earnest hope and expectation, also an issue of vital importance to the United Nations itself, the general clears his name from these serious allegations before he is allowed to sit on the United Nations peacekeeping commandant’s chair.
Part II will follow shortly.