Ethiopian troops in Baidoa in 2012
Ethiopian troops have been in and out of Somalia for many years
January 23, 2014 (VOA News) — A former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia says he thinks it’s a “mistake” for Ethiopian troops to join the AMISOM force in Somalia. AMISOM is the African Union Mission in Somalia.
David Shinn is an adjunct professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University. He said it could be of particular concern “if Ethiopian forces are expected to go beyond the immediate Ethiopia / Somalia border area. Everyone knows that they have been crossing the border into Somalia for some time now confronting al-Shabab forces or any hostile forces for that matter.”
AMISOM has driven al-Shabab from the capital Mogadishu, but the militant group still controls areas of the country.
Shinn said the Ethiopian incursions into Somalia of late have been “fairly low key and hasn’t drawn a lot of attention. But it’s all been done in the context of a bilateral action obviously with the support of the Somali government. But by joining AMISOM, this I think is going to revive the Ethiopian intervention more broadly in Somalia that they engaged in from the very beginning of 2007 through January of 2009, particularly their engagement in Mogadishu. And that did not end well.”
At the time, Ethiopian forces helped drive out the Islamic Courts Union, which had imposed Sharia law in the country. The relationship between Ethiopia and Somalia over the years has included conflict.
Shinn said the Ethiopian decision move could allow al-Shabab to use it as a “rallying cry” to recruit new members.
He said that it’s unclear what Ethiopia would gain by joining AMISOM, aside from possible reimbursement for its military operations in Somalia. It’s currently funding those operations itself. He said that the move probably would not enhance Ethiopia’s border security, which is already “pretty good.”
To hear the interview click on the link below
Source: VOA News
Ethiopia joins Somalia’s African Union force
January 23, 204 (BBC) — More than 4,000 Ethiopian troops have been formally absorbed into the African Union force in Somalia.
The Ethiopians will be based in Baidoa, about half way between Mogadishu and the Ethiopian border. It has been heavily defended since being taken over a year ago by Ugandan troops in the Amisom force. Al-Shabab has significant positions in the area and attacks Amisom garrisons almost every day.
The 4,395 Ethiopians are a mixture of fresh troops and soldiers who were already in Somalia on a mission which Addis Ababa sees as defending its borders and many Somalis see as an assault on their sovereignty.
Amisom intends to reshuffle its forces now the reinforcements have arrived. There has long been talk of a big Amisom offensive.
But co-ordination between the various Amisom national contingents is sometimes poor. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior officer in one contingent told me late last year that he “wasn’t told” when another contingent attacked an al-Shabab position near his area of operations.
They will be responsible for security in the south-western regions of Gedo, Bay and Bakool, the AU said.
Ethiopia’s contribution takes the AU force to the 22,000-strong level mandated by the UN Security Council.
Ethiopian forces have been operating in neighbouring Somalia for several years, helping the UN-backed government fight the al-Qaeda-aligned al-Shabab group.
Last year, the UN chief Ban Ki-moon asked for a “surge” of extra troops for the AU force in Somalia, known as Amisom, fearing reversals in advances made over the last few years.
The BBC’s international development correspondent Mark Doyle says the troops from the Ethiopian army – one of most battle-hardened in Africa – will be based in Baidoa, some 300km (185 miles) north-west of Mogadishu.
There was a flag ceremony on Wednesday morning in the town to welcome them and hand over the security of the region.
“The Ethiopian deployment will permit Burundian and Ugandan forces to move into parts of Lower and Middle Shabelle,” the AFP news agency quotes an Amisom statement as saying.
Ethiopia first entered Somalia in 2006 to remove the now-defunct Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), which had ruled most of southern Somalia for six months that year.
Al-Shabab emerged as the radical youth wing of the UIC as it battled Ethiopian troops.
Our correspondent says that in the 1970s, Somalia and Ethiopia fought a bitter war over their border area and as a consequence many Somalis, who are fiercely nationalist when faced by any foreign forces, have a particular hatred of Ethiopians.
Nonetheless, Amisom will welcome the new troops on its side, he says.
Its soldiers are hit almost daily by al-Shabab roadside bombs, ambushes and rocket attacks, he adds.
The first contingent of Amisom troops arrived in Somalia in March 2007, with Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya, Sierra Leone and Uganda now providing the force’s soldiers.
Despite Amisom gains, Islamist fighters still hold sway over many small towns and much of rural Somalia where they have imposed a strict version of Islamic law.
They also control a number of small coastal ports which they use for the lucrative export of charcoal, which fetches high prices in Arab Gulf states.