Wondimu Asamnew is an Ethiopian Ambassador to Somalia. He has been actively working to execute the heavy-handed missions of Ethiopia in promoting and strengthening the relations of the two neighboring countries.
Journalist Zeray Hailemariam Abebe spoke to him regarding the May 28 (the date of the downfall of the previous regime), the developments in Somalia and Al-Shabaab current status.
Below are the excerpts.
Question 1. What did Somalis benefit from the change of government in Ethiopia who has come in May 28th 1991?
Ambassador Wondimu – The demise of the Derg regime had truly heralded the birth of a new Ethiopia. It was not a mere change of a government. It was a total transformation of a system of governance and a radical shift in the way we relate to each other and with the rest of the world.
In all aspects of life, including foreign relations, you can only give what you have. If you have conflict and injustice at home, that is all what you have to offer to your neighbours. The opposite is also true. Since 1991, we are at peace with ourselves and we are offering the same to our neighbours including Somalia.
It is a public secret that we had a relation of mistrust and discord before 1991. Now we have the closest of relations. The nature of our relations was changed because the new Ethiopia is benevolent, cooperative and peaceful. It is also because the new Ethiopia is strong and generous enough to help its less fortunate neighbours. By all standards, Somalia has benefited from the birth of a new Ethiopia in the 28th of May, 1991.
Question 2. What do you think are the main achievements of May 28 for Ethiopia?
Ambassador Wondimu – May 28th is a date when the centuries old system with all its organizing principles and philosophies was swept and buried. This is a big achievement. The old system was defended by half a million strong army and a complex set of attitudes, cultures and systems. It was not an easy task to destroy it. What is more important is however what replaced the old system. Many had succeeded in the destruction phase of a revolution. But miserably failed in building a new and progressive alternative. Ginbot 20 not only destroyed an old system but also heralded the birth of a new one.
We must not however be complacent by the victories so far registered. History is replete with glories stumbling into debacles. No country is inoculated against this danger. Every success is usually pregnant with a seed of failure. We shall not allow the seeds of our demise mushroom. We should always make sure that our system is keeping abreast with the rapidly changing times. That is the only guarantee to sustain the hopeful change Ginbot 20 has brought about.
Question 3. Could you share us about the new Political Developments in Somalia?
Ambassador Wondimu – Somalia is gradually but surely progressing towards normalcy. It has now internationally recognized government. It has both a constitution and a hyper active parliament. The anarchic war lord politics is giving way to parliamentary politics. The fragmented patches of the country are coming together. There are four regional administrations and one is in the process of formation and a federal form of government structure is evolving.
Somalia is now preparing for an election in august. The constitutional mandate of the incumbent President and Parliament will end in mid-august. There were serious differences on the modalities of the election between the many political and clan groups. The good news is that they are all resolved within the bounds of the constitution.
Question 4. How do you evaluate the current status of Alshebab?
Ambassador Wondimu – Al Shabaab is now on the retreat. AMISOM and the Somali National Forces have liberated many of the towns, ports and militarily strategic places. But Al Shabaab is not purely a military phenomenon. It is also an offshoot of the political, social and economic problems Somalia has plunged itself since 1991. It takes a comprehensive solution to resolve the Al Shabaab problem in Somalia and this can only be done by Somalis themselves. Partners like Ethiopia can only help. They cannot replace Somalis in solving their problems.
Journalist Zeray – Thank you very much for your wonderful interview Ambassador Wondimu.
Ambassador Wondimu – You are welcome.