From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Thu Sep 17 2009 - 16:39:57 EDT
Ethiopian PM Says No Ethiopian Forces in Somalia
By Peter Heinlein
17 September 2009
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has dismissed reports that Ethiopian troops are
back in neighboring Somalia, nine months after they withdrew. At a news
conference, Mr. Meles also lashed out at a new report that warns of the
potential for violence ahead of next year's Ethiopian elections.
Prime Minister Meles flatly rejected recent news reports saying Ethiopia is
staging military incursions into Somalia to support President Sheikh
Sharif's Transitional Federal Government. Some analysts have suggested the
Ethiopian army's return, less than a year after it ended an unpopular
two-year adventure in Somalia, is turning public sentiment against the TFG.
Mr. Meles, himself former guerrilla leader, scoffed at the notion of an
accurate public opinion poll in lawless, war-ravaged Somalia.
"There are no military incursions by Ethiopia in Somalia. As for...the
supposed analysis of some experts that these military incursions are
weakening the TFG because they weaken the support of the TFG, how do they
know whether Sheikh Sharif has lost influence over the past two months. Have
they been carrying out effective polls in Somalia?" he asked. "So I don't
think this kind of analysis can be taken seriously."
In a two-and-a-half-hour meeting with reporters, the prime minister had
harsh words for the authors of a new report that warns of the potential for
ethnic violence ahead of next year's national elections. The report by the
International Crisis Group describes Ethiopia as a de facto one-party state
where the lack of political space "incites opposition groups to consider
armed struggle as their only remaining option".
Mr. Meles called the report "contemptible".
"I do feel that the analysis in the paper was not worth the price of the
cost of writing it up," he said.
Mr. Meles served notice his government would not tolerate outside
interference, as the election nears. He pointed to recent "Color
Revolution" in countries such as Ukraine and Georgia, describing them as
coups backed by powerful foreign forces.
"Those who feel it is their God-given right how to tell others how to run
their affairs are free to think so, but they should limit their practice of
that idea to their own country," said Mr. Meles. "This type of financing of
activities of so called Color Revolutions that are in substance nothing more
than exalted coups, these we do not agree with, and we do not believe this
is within the purview of partnerships between developed and developing
On a positive note, Mr. Meles says he is satisfied with Ethiopia's
relationship with the United States, even though the Obama administration
has not appointed an ambassador to Addis Ababa and Ethiopia recently called
home its ambassador to Washington.
"We have more old friends in the current administration than we had in the
previous one," he said. "So, in terms of interpersonal dialogue, it's much
smoother than it has been in many years. In terms of the fundamentals of
that relationship, it's also solid."
Ethiopian diplomatic sources say Prime Minister Meles rejected the Obama
administration's first choice as ambassador. A retired diplomat, Ambassador
Roger Meece is currently serving as the interim Charge d'Affaires. An
embassy official said there is no word on when a new envoy might be named.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi (file photo)
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi (File)
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