SOMALIA: ETHIOPIAN FORCES TO JOIN KENYA, AMISOM VS. AL-SHABAAB
The Horn of Africa’s grouping IGAD requested Ethiopian support for the war against Al-Shabaab in Somalia in its 19th Extraordinary Summit of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Heads of State and Government in Addis Ababa on Friday that was attended by Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, President of Djibouti Ismael Omar Guelleh and also President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed of Somalia, among others, and Chaired by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.
According to a the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the summit ‘called on the Ethiopian government to continue to support the Kenyan, TFG, AMISOM operation, and for Kenya to consider the prospects of integrating its forces in AMISOM’.
The Summit therefore welcomed the joint security operations of the Kenyan Defence Forces (KDF) and the TFG [Transitional Federal Government] forces, and said it understood, appreciated and supported the joint operation as a unique opportunity to consolidate the gains made. It emphasized the need for regional consolidation and enhanced coordination between AMISOM, the TFG and KDF. It stressed the need for enhanced engagement by IGAD and the AU to galvanize international support for the ongoing operations. It also called on the Ethiopian government to continue to support the Kenyan, TFG, AMISOM operation, and for Kenya to consider the prospects of integrating its forces in AMISOM.
Though the above quoted ‘integrating its forces in AMISOM’ seems a reference to a military force, the kind of IGAD’s official chose not to make it explicit in his comment to the media.. The news from Businessweek stated:
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development asked the authorities in Addis Ababa to provide assistance and “there was a promise from the Ethiopian government that they would do so,” IGAD Executive Secretary Mahboub Maalim told reporters today. He wouldn’t say what support Ethiopia may provide, adding: “We leave that to the national security forces to decide.”Maalim made the announcement after a meeting in Addis Ababa between Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, and Djibouti’s president, Ismail Omar Guelleh.
However, Ethiopian troops may already be in Somalia, as the news from AFP last Sunday. AFP reported on Nov. 21:
Several hundred Ethiopian troops crossed on Saturday into southern and central Somalia, local elders said, but Addis Ababa dismissed the reports as "absolutely not true.""There are several hundred Ethiopian troops here in lorries and some armoured vehicles too," said elder Abdi Ibrahim Warsame, speaking by telephone from Gurel town, in Somalia’s central Galgudud region.Ethiopian forces were also reported in the Hiran region at the town of Beletweyne, some 30 kilometres (18 miles) into Somalia, an area contested by Islamist Shebab rebels and pro-government militia."They are here, the Ethiopian soldiers in trucks have reached Beletweyne with many forces," said elder Ahmed Liban. "The Shebab in the area are pulling back, away from them."But Ethiopia dismissed the reports outright."It is absolutely not true, there are absolutely no troops in Somalia," said Ethiopian foreign ministry spokesman Dina Mufti. "People are simply speculating."
On the other hand, Somalia’s officials signaled their endorsement of Ethiopian intervention in hypothetical terms the same day. Bloomberg reported on Nov. 21 that:
Somalia would accept the involvement of Ethiopian forces in its battle against al-Qaeda-linked militants as it seeks the expansion of an African Union-led peacekeeping mission, a government spokesman said.Somalia is unaware of any Ethiopian soldiers crossing its border, Abdirahman Omar Osman, a spokesman for the government, said today by phone from Mogadishu, the capital. The New York Times reported today that hundreds of Ethiopian soldiers with artillery and tanks crossed into Somalia yesterday.“We don’t know of any Ethiopian troops crossing into our territory,” Osman said. “Illegal troops can’t cross a country’s legal border.”
In a related news, the Somalian President, who arrived in Addis Ababa last Thursday to attend IGAD’s meeting held talks with Ethiopian PM Meles Zenawi. According to ENA, the Somali President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed indicated that ‘his government is desirous to further boost the bilateral relation with Ethiopia. He urged the Ethiopian government to strengthen its support to the efforts of the TFG to eliminate Al-Shabab.’
It is to be remembered that President Sharif Ahmed was opposed to Ethiopia’s intervention in Somalia in 2006, when he was among the leaders of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC). He distanced himself from the radical UIC leaders and joined the Transitional government in 2009, when he was elected president and Ethiopian troops withdrew. President Shariff had initially opposed Kenya’s on-going military intervention in southern Somalia that began in mid-October.
[Stay tuned for more on this issue]