Skip to content

Jendayi Frazer, former University of Denver Prof, Implicated in 2006 Ethiopian Invasion of Somalia

December 7, 2010

Jendayi Frazer, US Under Secretary of State For Africa in the Bush Administration

Note: the piece below, originally published on this blog, has just been published in `Foreign Policy In Focus’. The title was changed, the rest is there. It was then picked up from Foreign Policy In Focus and reprinted in `Antiwar.Com.‘ Shortly afterwards, on December 14, it appeared in `Ethiosun’, what appears to be an Ethiopian diaspora human rights website; Later in the day, there it was on Jack&Jill Politics: A Black Bourgeois Perspective on U.S. Politics. A few days later, `News And Views For Anarchists and Activists at picked it up as did the blog Siratyst. By the end of the week (Sunday, December 19), the piece appeared on `ZNET


Ethiopia: Knee Deep In Somalia….

By mid 2007,  the 50,000 Ethiopian troops that invaded Somalia in late 2006 found themselves increasingly bogged down, facing much fiercer resistance than they had bargained for as Somalis of all stripes temporarily put aside their differences to stand together against the outside invader.

As the military incursion turned increasingly sour, then US Under Secretary of State for Africa, Jendayi Frazer, who taught at the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies in the 1990s, insisted that, prior to the invasion that the United States had counseled caution.

Frazer was quoted that  Washington had warned Ethiopia not to use military force against Somalia. Frazer was a close collaborator with former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, for whom there also is a strong University of Denver (D.U) connection. Gone are the days when Frazer, as a University of Denver faculty member, opposed CIA recruitment on D.U.’s campus or when Condi Rice shed tears over learning about U.S. foreign policy in Latin America in the 1970s, in places like Argentina, Brazil and Guatemala. 

As it was occuring in 2006, Jendayi Frazer certainly tried to distance the United States from responsibility for the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in a number of interviews she gave to the media at the time.

But one of the released WikiLeaks cables, suggests a different picture, one that implicates Frazer in pressing

Foreign troops, Ugandan, Burundian and some Ethiopians, remain in Somalia today

Ethiopia’s President Meles Zenawi to invade its neighbor. The content of the cable is being widely discussed in the African media. It exposes a secret deal cut between the United States and Ethiopia to invade Somalia.

If accurate – and there is no reason to believe the contrary – the cable suggests that Ethiopia had no intention of invading Somalia in 2006 but was encouraged/pressured to do so by the United States which pushed Ethiopia to do so behind the scenes. Already bogged down in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at the time, the Bush Administration pushed Ethiopia to invade Somalia with an eye on crushing the Union of Islamic Courts which was gaining strength in Somalia at the time.

At the time of the invasion there was little doubt that the Ethiopian military incursion was `made in Washington.’ Like so many other WikiLeaks cables, this one merely puts a dot on the `i’ or crosses the `t’ on what was generally known, although it does give specific information about Jendayi Frazer’s deep involvement in the affair.

According to the cable, as the main U.S. State Department representative in Africa, Frazer’ played a key role, spearheading what amounted to a U.S. led proxi war in conjunction with the Pentagon. At the same time that she was pushing the Ethiopians to attack, Frazer was laying the groundwork both for the attack in the U.S. media and for a cover up, by claiming that although the United States did not support Ethiopian military action, she could understand `the Somali threat’ and why Ethiopia might find it necessary to go to war.

According to the cable, as the main U.S. State Department representative in Africa, Frazer’ played a key role, spearheading what amounted to a U.S. led proxi war in conjunction with the Pentagon.

Frazer spread rumors of a possible jihadist takeover in Somalia that would threaten Ethiopian security. Turns

Somalis Living In Canada Oppose 2006 US-Backed Ethiopian Invasion of Somalia

out that media performance was little more than a smokescreen. The U.S. military had been preparing Ethiopia for the invasion, providing military aid and training Ethiopian troops. Then on December 4, 2006, CENTCOM Commander, General John Abizaid was in Addis Ababa on what was described as `a courtesy  call’. Instead, the plans for the invasion were finalized.

At the time of the Somali invasion, Zenawi found himself in trouble. He was facing growing criticism for the wave of repression he had unleashed against domestic Ethiopian critics of his rule that had included mass arrests, the massacres of hundreds of protesters and the jailing of virtually all the country’s opposition leaders. By the spring of 2006 there was a bill before the U.S. Congress to cut off aid to Zenawi unless Ethiopia’s human rights record improved. (His human rights record, by the way, has not improved since. Given how the United States and NATO view Ethiopia’s strategic role in the `war on terrorism’ and the scramble for African mineral and energy resources, Western support for Zenawi has only increased in recent years)

In 2006, dependant on U.S. support to maintain power in face of a shrinking political base at  home – a situation many U.S. allies in the Third World find themselves – and against his better judgement, Zenawi apparently caved to Frazer’s pressure. Nor was this the first time that Frazer had tried to instigate U.S. proxi war in Africa. Earlier as U.S. ambassador to South Africa, she had tried to put together a `coalition of the willing’ to overthrow Mugabe’s regime in Zimbabwe, an initiative that did not sit so well with South Africa’s post apartheid government and went nowhere.

Earlier as U.S. ambassador to South Africa, she had tried to put together a `coalition of the willing’ to overthrow Mugabe’s regime in Zimbabwe, an initiative that did not sit so well with South Africa’s post apartheid government and went nowhere.

The 2006 war in Somalia did not go well either for the United States or Ethiopia. Recently a State Department spokesperson, Donald Yamamoto, admitted that the whole idea was `a big mistake’, obliquely admitting U.S.

Somali Refugee Camp in Kenya. Women With Their Sick Babies. Some 2 million Somalis were made refugee by this U.S. instigated war

responsibility in the invasion. It resulted in 20,000 deaths and according to some reports, left up to 2 million Somalis homeless. The 50,000 Ethiopian invasion force, which had expected a cake walk, instead ran into a buzz saw of Somali resistance. got bogged down and soon withdrew with its tail between its legs. The political result of the invasion was predictable: the generally more moderate Union of Islamic Courts was weakened, but it was soon replaced in Somalia by far more radical and militant Islamic groups with a more openly anti-American agenda.

As the situation deteriorated,  in an attempt to cover both the U.S. and her own role, Frazer then turned on Zenawi, trying to distance herself from fiasco using an old and tried diplomatic trick: outright lying. Now that the invasion had turned sour, she changed her tune, arguing in the media, that both she and the State Department had tried to hold back the Ethiopians, discouraging them from invading rather than pushing them to attack.  The WikiLeaks cable tells quite a different story. In 2009, the Ethiopian forces withdrew, leaving Somalia in a bigger mess and more unstable than when their troops went in three years prior. Seems to be a pattern here?


Related Posts:

– The Fantastic Somalia Job by Alemayehu G. Marian

US Behind Ethiopia Invasion of Somalia in `In Depth Africa’

WikiLeaks Dispatch Exposes Menes Zenawi as a Mercenary om `Ethiopian Review’

Africom: It’s Peace Corps …With A Weapon (note – my title to an excellent and related article)

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Bechir permalink
    December 7, 2010 11:30 am

    hypocracy ! lies and lies for what? the islamic courts were doing a much better job, as a matter of fact we are backing president Sharif Sheik Ahmed now who was a leader of the courts from the start (head of their local clan called “jowhar”) we are so focused on treating everything that has “Islamic” on it as a threat and a potential terrorism issue that we have become blinded with real issues on the ground. it is bluntly clear now that all that matters is what the diplomats think or assess on their own little thin layer of reality, sitting from their office reliying on paid informents or whatever shady way they use to get their so called intelligence. Somalies simply need a job and food on the table and security they can care less who provides it weather Islamic Courts, African Unions or UN! so all these sneaky dumb lies that Miss Frazer has found necessary of a tool maybe get the same results that ordinarary Somalies aspire to are unecessary as a matter fact they turn out to be the opposite of what is needed. time after time it seams like these policies are making African coutries and their citizens GUINEA PIGS for these sad ill advised diplomatic experiments that has NO RESEMBLANCE TO WHAT THE AMERICAN PEOPLE BELIEVE IN OR STAND FOR. this has to stop and at some point we are gonna have to stick by our principles and let our interests come second, it is in our interest when people in Somalia or Tunisia or anywhere else in Africa are doing well and can speak freely in a secure country because the first thing they will do is turn to the US and that is good for the US.
    the only policy that had and still has any effect is the AIDS policy and that’s one run by NGO’s because they have the real need of the people on the ground not behind a desk somewhere in an embassy. Miss Frazer should apologize in public for directly causing the death of thousands of lives, unless she thinks that Somali life is cheap and worthless not deserving her apology in which case i can understand: most scientists move on to the next science experiments they don’t reminiscent about the guinea pigs they had to kill on the past.

    • December 7, 2010 11:36 am

      you really got into this my friend…of course you are right about how the islamic courts were/are pretty moderate and that when the U.S. sees anything with the adjective `islamic’ on it, it runs around in circles. so the courts were destroyed and in their place emerged a much more radical, hard bitten, anti-american movement. 2 million people made refugees that no one talks about, tens of thousands died and 4 years on ethiopia is still run by a skunk (but he’s our skunk!!) with one of the worst human rights records in africa. and US aid continues to pour in because ethiopia has `a strategic’ role to play in the war on terrorism. sound familar? shades of ben ali perhaps… cheers, rjp.

  2. Luke permalink
    December 7, 2010 2:19 pm

    I do not believe this illegally obtained material, from a terrorist website (wikileaks) should be publicized or even used at all.

    I am upset by the fact that American media groups are releasing wikileaks’ illegally obtained classified documents, including documents that show terrorists all the weak points in our country to attack, and claiming to be “acting ethically.”

    I will not buy anything insinuated by this “release” because it has been obtained and used unethically.

  3. December 19, 2010 6:19 am

    I have been unable to find the cable released by Wiki that includes the information you report in your column about the US role in pressing Ethiopia to invade Somalia. This role was first reported on December 6, 2010, as far as I know, in the Sudan Tribune.,37189 Your column in FPIF is dated December 7.

    If you have a copy of the cable, or the link to the cable, I would appreciate your making it available. I will disseminate it to my listserv and post it on my website.

    This is a serious allegation that should be documented and publicized, or withdrawn if it can’t be reliably documented.

    I have posted all of the released Wiki cables from the US Embassies in Ethiopia and Eritrea at

  4. Khalid permalink
    July 12, 2012 10:31 pm

    You’re completely right on the money in concluding that Ethiopia was strong-armed into this situation. Here’s the basic run-down of events:

    – Post-election violence in 2005, where an opposition coalition headed by pro-west, neoliberal free market party w/ close ties to World Bank & IMF was sidelined. Opposition groups largely ran on the platform of hating on the gov’t, not on their economic agenda which nobody seemed to understand.

    – The violence provided ample leverage for the US to strong arm Ethiopia into compliance w/ the invasion of Somalia. Up to that point, Ethiopian gov’t’s position was to not interfere, believing that doing so would only embolden the hard liners and marginalize the moderate factions of the IC.

    – After Obama’s election, Ethiopia quickly withdraws its forces from Somalia, mistakenly believing that things have changed w/ the new administration. Not everyone has learned that the personality occupying the oval office doesn’t actually matter in shaping policy. Ethiopia got its marching orders and resumed its fruitless occupation until Uganda & Kenya, both of which also curiously experienced election related violence prior to their occupation of Somalia, got involved in this dance of death.

    Stamping out the IC was never the desired goal by the architects of this invasion. The goal was to precipitate a downward spiral of violence that is the inevitable conclusion of making a military target out of an ideology. The ensuing chaos will mirror the tragic situation with Boko Haram in Nigeria, as explained in this blog:

    Speaking of excellent blogs, I really must commend you on a job well done with the analysis you’re providing. You put celebrated “left wing” outlets like Democracy Now & Pacifica to shame, but that’s a whole ‘nother conversation. Look forward to reading more of your insight.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: