Woyanne finds a scapegoat for its failures in Somalia – NAIROBI (AFP)

October 28th, 2008 Print Print Email Email

Ethiopia, whose forces toppled an Islamist regime in Mogadishu two years ago, on Tuesday blamed the failure to restore stability in Somalia on the transitional rulers it helped bring to power. (more…)

Ethiopia, whose forces toppled an Islamist regime in Mogadishu two years ago, on Tuesday blamed the failure to restore stability in Somalia on the transitional rulers it helped bring to power.

“Somalia’s problems are not security, but political,” said Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin at a meeting of governments in the region focused on Somalia.

Seyoum said President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed and his successive prime ministers had “not managed to create any institutions of governance to speak of” since they came to power in December 2006.

“The continuing feud within the leadership … had contributed to the paralysis of the TFG,” he added in reference to the transitional federal government.

The TFG, headed by the one-time warlord Yusuf, was formally established in 2004 but its remit never extended beyond the backwater of Baidoa until the Ethiopian army invaded Somalia nearly two years ago.

The toppling of an Islamist group that had taken control of large parts of the country and started to impose a tough form of Sharia law brought Yusuf to power but did little to restore calm to a country that has been wracked by violence since the 1991 ouster of strongman Mohamed Siad Barre.

Somalia’s transitional federal charter expires next year when a new constitution is to be drafted and elections held although there is widespread scepticism over whether polls can take place amid the rampant insecurity.

Despite pledges from some African governments, only Uganda has contributed significant numbers to a peacekeeping force which has failed to halt a campaign of guerrilla warfare being waged by an even more radical Islamist faction.

“In all honesty, the international community can hardly be proud of its record in Somalia,” Seyoum said.

“But this is no excuse for the kind of egregious lack of responsible behaviour that we continue to witness on the part of all those in positions of authority in Somalia.”

Yusuf was in open disagreement with Ali Mohamed Gedi, the TFG’s first prime minister who eventually had to resign exactly a year ago.

Gedi’s successor Nur Hassan Hussein has also had his differences with the president and survived a no-confidence vote last month.

On Sunday, a UN-sponsored peace process in Djibouti announced that a deal had been signed by the transitional government and the main Islamist-dominated political opposition group.

The agreement provides for a ceasefire and an Ethiopian troop pullback to begin next month, with security responsibilities gradually handed over to Somali police until a UN peacekeeping force is deployed.

The main Islamist insurgent group, which now controls most of southern and central Somalia, rejected the announcement and vowed to continue its armed struggle.

The Shebab, the main insurgent group, accuse the conservative Christian regime in Addis Ababa of being engaged in a crusade against Muslim Somalia and have refused to negotiate before a full withdrawal is completed.

In recent weeks, Ethiopian troops have been less visible on the streets of Mogadishu and Addis Ababa has been sending mixed signals on the future of its presence in the country.

Experts say Ethiopia is mulling its exit strategy from the Somali quagmire and argue that a pullback has effectively already started.

“The Ethiopians have definitely been planning some form of military pullback. We just don’t know exactly on what scale,” said one expert, who did not wish to be named to ensure his security when he travels to Somalia.

The expert believes the pullback announced on Sunday could entail a redeployment to a handful of locations in Somalia, with a handover of security duties in Mogadishu to the African peacekeeping force and Somali police.

“Of course no one could assume that, speaking now on behalf of my country, Ethiopia will continue to keep its troops in Somalia,” Seyoum said in Nairobi.

Yet Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who is not attending the Nairobi summit, said earlier this month that he would not hesitate to send his army back in if the Islamists took power.

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