[dehai-news] Focus-fen.net: Somalis 'filling' Ethiopian gaps

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From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Tue Jan 06 2009 - 14:19:00 EST

Somalis 'filling' Ethiopian gaps


6 January 2009 | 00:00 | FOCUS News Agency


Mogadishu. African Union officials in Somalia have told the BBC
pro-government forces in the capital Mogadishu are plugging gaps left by
departing Ethiopian troops. A BBC correspondent says pro-government forces
face an array of insurgents which has so far proved stronger. African Union
peacekeepers on Sunday said they may have no option but to leave unless
their mandate is boosted and their troop numbers bolstered. Ethiopia's army
began pulling its 3,000-strong force out last week. The withdrawal came two
years after Ethiopia helped the transitional government oust Islamists from

A BBC world affairs correspondent says the move raises the prospect of a
possible power vacuum in the capital, where there has not been a functioning
central government since 1991.
A spokesman for the AU peacekeeping force in Mogadishu, Major Ba-Hoku
Barigye, told the BBC a mixture of forces from the government and the
Alliance for the Reliberation of Somalia (ARS) were taking over some
positions from the exiting Ethiopian army.
The ARS is made up partly of groups which used to fight the government, but
which have now come to a deal with it. Major Barigye said AU peacekeepers
would not be directly taking up positions previously held by the Ethiopians
because this could draw them into confrontation with the anti-government
insurgents. Earlier, another AU official had told the BBC their peacekeepers
would take over some positions left by the Ethiopian military. Our
correspondent says the armed insurgents are a mixture of Islamists,
nationalists and traditional Somali clans. The situation in Mogadishu is now
on a knife-edge, he adds. The Islamist and nationalist insurgents have vowed
to overthrow what remains of the government, whose president resigned last
Meanwhile, the UN said more than 40 civilians were killed and some 50,000
displaced by fighting between rival Islamist militias in central Somalia
last week. There are rumours that the Ethiopians have been arming clan
militias to take on the hardline Islamist group al-Shabab.
The militias have reportedly managed to defeat the radicals during several
clashes in central Somalia and on the border with Ethiopia. After a meeting
on Sunday in Burundi's capital, Bujumbura, the Ugandan and Burundian defence
ministers said the AU's force in Somalia (Amisom) needed more troops, as
well as air force and marine units and a stronger mandate. They gave the AU
two weeks to meet their conditions. Burundi Defence Minister Gen Germain
Niyoyankana said more troops were needed "very quickly" and added:
"If our conditions are not met, it's normal that our troops will be
withdrawn", reported AFP news agency.

Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa have not yet met their pledges to send
forces. The 3,600-strong Amisom force has faced frequent attack from
Islamist insurgents in Mogadishu. Ethiopia's departure follows an agreement
with the Somali transitional government and the more moderate wing of the
Islamist-led political opposition during UN-sponsored reconciliation talks
in Djibouti. Government forces only control parts of Mogadishu and the town
of Baidoa. Large parts of the Somali capital are already flattened by
artillery fire and 2008 saw roughly half the civilian population flee



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