From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Thu Jan 08 2009 - 08:05:52 EST
Somali Government Denies Ethiopian Troops Return
By Peter Clottey
08 January 2009
The Somali Federal Transitional Government (TFG) is sharply denying reports
suggesting the return of Ethiopian troops despite a scheduled withdrawal.
This comes after Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein recently met with
Ethiopian leaders in the capital, Addis Ababa. Some Somalis claim to have
spotted several convoys of Ethiopian troops coming into the country. But the
government denied the reports without giving reasons. Some political
analysts say Ethiopia might have changed its exit strategy to counter
ever-increasing threats by Islamists, including al-Shabab. Somali political
analyst Ali Abdullahi tells reporter Peter Clottey that it is apparent
Ethiopia is making friends with some warlords.
"What is happening with the reinforcement, or perhaps I should call it the
re-arrangement rather than reinforcement because it was just removing them
from one area and putting them in another area. The troops are being drawn
from Mogadishu, and they seem to be going south. It is a matter of trying to
prop up one warlord apparently who has an alliance with the Ethiopians. But
there is also the threat of al-Shabab in the Kismayu area. So it is a very
fluid area, and I think they are trying to get their presence felt in that
area," Abdullahi noted.
He said the transitional government has been quiet on the development of the
return of Ethiopian troops, although there seems to be an effort not to
create a power vacuum after Ethiopian troops withdraw.
"Coming to the issue of an al-Shabab threat and the rearrangement of
Ethiopian troops, these are strategic military issues, which I presume are
very secret to the Ethiopian presence because they have been there for quite
some time. And you cannot pull out of an area overnight. Leaving a vacuum
can trigger destabilization. So they are trying to make sure that they do
not create a vacuum," he said.
Abdullahi described the Somalia situation as sad, and blamed the
international community for not doing enough to alleviate the suffering of
the ordinary Somali because of a growing instability.
"The stability of the country relies on the coming president of Somalia.
However, the international community as it has always done it has ignored
the Somalia issue at a time of its need. We need a president that can lead
Somalia out of this current crisis. We need a president that can see beyond
clanism, and we need a president that can understand how the global system
works. And we need the assistance of the international community so that
Somalia comes back as a country. If that doesn't happen, then there is going
to be more chaos," Abdullahi pointed out.
He said although Ethiopia has helped in bringing some stability into the
country, it might end up being bedeviled with clan fights.
"This is an issue that is very secret to the government and that is that
Ethiopia has the right to choose its friends, even if they would choose a
warlord to come back again to run Jubaland, which apparently covers the
bigger area of Somalia. Well, that is their choice. But you have to
understand that Ethiopia has been involved in very tactical maneuvers in
Somalia, which from time to time are counterproductive. I'm looking at it
from a strategic point of view because the more you get bogged down with
clannish warfare, then you become another warlord," he said.
Meanwhile, Nairobi declined to send peacekeepers to neighboring Somalia,
which has not had an effective central government after the overthrow of
former President Mohamed Siad Barre. But after meeting the Somali speaker of
parliament, who also doubles as the acting president , Kenya's foreign
minister Moses Wetangula said Nairobi is willing to play a crucial role in
rebuilding Somalia. Wetangula adds that Kenya will continue training Somali
customs officials, immigration officers, army personnel and border guards to
help them safeguard their country.
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