[dehai-news] (VOA) Ethiopia's PM Declares 'Mission Accomplished' in Somalia


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From: Biniam Tekle (biniamt@dehai.org)
Date: Thu Dec 11 2008 - 16:11:38 EST


  Ethiopia's PM Declares 'Mission Accomplished' in Somalia By Peter Heinlein

Addis Ababa
*11 December 2008*
Heinlein report - Download (MP3)

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has declared "mission accomplished"
in Somalia, and told parliament Ethiopian troops will be home from their
controversial two-year military mission within weeks. Mr. Meles also pledged
Ethiopia would guarantee the safety of African Union peacekeepers in
Somalia, should they choose to withdraw.

The Ethiopian leader admitted it has been impossible to crush the Islamist
extremist al-Shabab forces and establish a stable government in the two
years since he dispatched troops to neighboring Somalia. But he said that
was not Ethiopia's objective.

That, he said, is the job of the United Nations, which gave legitimacy to
Somalia's Transitional Federal Government; the African Union, which
initially pledged to send 8,000 peacekeepers that he thought would quickly
replace Ethiopian soldiers; and the international community.

But in answering questions in parliament, Mr. Meles said he was bringing the
troops home confident they had accomplished the twin missions of preventing
the establishment of a militant Islamic regime, and giving the international
community time to intervene.

"Our main mission was to defuse the plan orchestrated by Eritrea,
accompanied by al-Shabab, and anti-peace elements in Ethiopia, he said. "We
have defused it in a way that it cannot come again. That is, if we feel
there are signs it is coming back again, we can take action. We did that in
the first two weeks. Our second mission was to give the international
community and Somali peace forces time to accomplish their mission of
bringing lasting peace to Somalia. We consider two years enough time. So we
have accomplished both our missions. Unfortunately, it has not been possible
to bring lasting peace to Somalia."

Urgent efforts are underway to bolster the 3,400-member AU force known as
AMISOM, and possibly transform it into a U.N. peacekeeping mission. If that
fails, however, and the international community abandons Somalia, Mr. Meles
said he has assured Burundi and Uganda, the two AMISOM troop contributors,
that Ethiopia will guarantee safe departure of the peacekeepers.

"When we intervened in Somalia, there were forces that stood by our side,"
he saidi. "So when we think of withdrawing from Somalia, we also think about
how those countries will withdraw their troops. When we withdraw, the
Burundi and Uganda forces have told us that if we withdraw, they might like
to withdraw. They have told us they would need our assistance to withdraw
form Somalia. They say it would be better if we escort them first, then we
withdraw."

AU Peace and Security Commissioner Ramtane Lamamra is in New York for talks
with U.N. secretary-general and Security Council ambassadors about ways of
preventing a collapse of Somalia's transitional government after Ethiopia
leaves.

African Union diplomats in Addis Ababa said the international community is
showing a heightened awareness of the severity of Somalia's crisis. The U.N.
Security Council is said to be preparing a ministerial-level meeting on
Somalia next week. The African Union Peace and Security Council will hold a
similar session the following week.

Even so, diplomats said it would take months to replace the several-thousand
Ethiopian troops who are going home, much less to bring the AMISOM force up
to its authorized strength of 8,000, or to transform it to a more robust
U.N. peacekeeping mission.

In what are seen as significant political developments, the leader of the
opposition Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia returned to Mogadishu
this week after a two-year absence, and the transitional government's
parliament is assembling for a meeting Saturday aimed at affirming a
power-sharing deal.

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