Exposing a Secret: Ismail Guelleh’s Revelation in Memoir about Ethiopia
In a fascinating account in his memoir, Ismail Omar Guelleh, who has served as the President of Djibouti since 1999, openly revealed his covert but crucial support for Ethiopia during the Ogaden War against Somalia.
The enthralling book, titled “Ismail Omar Guelleh, One History of Djibouti,” was written by journalist Chérif Ouazani and published in 2016. It sheds light on this intriguing chapter in history.
Chérif Ouazani, a former journalist with the newspaper Jeune Afrique, is believed to have collaborated with and received encouragement from the long-serving Djibouti dictator himself in writing the book.
There have been speculations about financial support from the Djibouti President, given the close ties between Jeune Afrique, Chérif Ouazani, and Guelleh.
The memoir provides captivating insights into the events surrounding the Ogaden War and explores the intricacies of international relations during that turbulent era. By delving into the details shared by Guelleh, readers can gain a deeper understanding of the complex geopolitical landscape that influenced the conflict between Somalia and Ethiopia.
The book chronicles Guelleh’s challenging journey, from being the Director of Djibouti Presidency in charge of security and intelligence, to facing the immense responsibilities that emerged with the eruption of the Ogaden War just 15 days after Djibouti declared independence. The war resulted in a significant influx of refugees into Djibouti, placing an economic burden on the small African nation.
According to the memoir, Djibouti faced two urgent political challenges during this critical time. Firstly, it had to prevent Somalia’s Intelligence from operating within its borders to avoid being seen as aligned with Somalia by Ethiopia. Guelleh, then the Presidential Director, relied on the assistance of the Ligue populaire africaine pour l’indépendance (LPAI) network, which played a major role in Djibouti’s independence struggle, to disengage Djibouti from supporting Somalia’s war efforts.
Secondly, Djibouti was tasked by the Ethiopian government to ensure the secure transportation of military and civilian equipment imported through the Doraleh Port and destined for Ethiopia.
In coordination with Ethiopia, Djibouti Intelligence executed a covert operation to transport the logistics and equipment to Ethiopia without implicating itself in the conflict.
Guelleh emphasized the paramount importance of planning and executing the operation with utmost discretion in selecting transport personnel to prevent potential Somali spies from revealing his secret support for Ethiopia. This was crucial because the majority of Djibouti’s population supported Somalia during the war.
Djibouti’s LPAI, also known as the African People’s League for Independence, played a crucial role in selecting reliable pilots for nighttime transportation of military cargoes to Ethiopia. Special precautions were taken to ensure the security of containers in Djibouti’s free zone during the secret transportation process to Ethiopia.
Ethiopia’s acquisition of significant military equipment from the Soviet Union through Djibouti’s ports played a pivotal role in tipping the balance in favor of Ethiopia and ultimately ending the war with Somalia in March 1978. This victory was not surprising for many, as the once-strong alliance between the Soviet Union and Somalia had collapsed due to underlying tensions in the early 1970s.
According to Guelleh’s memoir, Djibouti played a crucial role in supporting Ethiopia during the war, but Ethiopia’s former leader, Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam, did not show gratitude to Djibouti’s leaders after the conflict. Instead, he harassed and put undue pressure on Djibouti, which was then a newly established government.
Nonetheless, Djibouti’s actions during the Somali-Ethiopian War of 1978 had significant repercussions, shaping regional dynamics and diplomacy.
NOTE TO OUR READERS: if you may be interested to read the original story which was written in French, please refer to the pages of 97, 98, and 99 of Guelleh’s Memoir titled; Ismaïl Omar Guelleh: une histoire de Djibouti.