Ethiopia at Full-scale war with Somalian Islamists

AU backs Ethiopian Military intervention
By Amin George Forji

Ethiopia military jets on Monday,Dec.25th bombed two Islamist-held airfields in Balidogle and Mogadishu, both in the south of the country to stop what she called “unauthorised flights”. The bombings came one day after it’s PM, Meles Zenaw announced that Ethiopia was now at full scale war with the Union of the Islamic Courts (UIC) who seized the Somali capital of Mogadishu on June 5. Speaking in a televised speech on Ethiopian television,Meles explained that the Ethiopia decided to intervene in Somalia because the Islamists had ally to anti-Ethiopian forces, apparently refering to Eritrean infiltration into the ranks of the courts. Up to 2,000 Eritrean troops are suspected of fighting alongside the Islamists.

“Ethiopia’s defensive measures are targeted only at this terrorist group,” Zenawi explained. “The defensive measures we are forced to take will be limited and proportional to the attacks launched against us and the dangers facing our country, as well as in line with international laws.”
“We are not trying to set up a government for Somalia, nor do we have an intention to meddle in Somalia’s internal affairs. We have only been forced by the circumstances.” He added.

Hours later, the defence ministry in Addis Ababa for the very first time issued a statement acknowledging her presence in the fighting in Somalia, saying:

“The Ethiopian defense forces have started attacking anti-Ethiopian forces which have been massed in Beledweyne, Bandiradley, Bur Hakaba and Dinsoor,…Our defense forces is taking an offensive action on those forces in these areas. After tolerance for so many months, we have been forced to take these measures as our security and stability and sovereignty have been threatened,” The statement read.
All those areas are near to our border,…The Islamists have already started shelling our territories,” It added, asking the Ethiopian people to lend the government their moral support.

Far from being civilwar,it is feared that the conflict in Somalia may quick engulf the whole horn of Africa, with arch-enemies, Ethiopia and Eritrea, who are supporting opposite camps poised to use Somalia as a proxy battlefield to settle scores. An influential New York think-tank organisation, the Council on Foreign Relations in her Dec.14 report blamed the derailed Ethiopia-Eritrea peace process as the key factor fuelling the growing threat of war inside Somalia.

“Eritrea in particular is ruled by an increasingly repressive, isolated, and unpredictable regime,” the Council of Foreign Relations report remarked.
“Ethiopia [on the other hand] closed down an unprecedented political opening in 2005 with arrests of major opposition politicians, civil society leaders, and journalists, effectively criminalising dissent.”
It is feared that the conflict if unckecked has the potential to spread as far as Kenya and Djibouti as well.

Reacting to the Ethiopian strikes, Sheikh Muhamoud Sheikh Ibrahim, the secretary general of the Islamic Courts, speaking at a press conference at Mogadishu renewed the groups call for a holy war on Ethiopia, boasting that the group can never be defeated inside Somalia.

“We call on Somali people to unite against the enemy and go to Jihad,…I am telling you that we will never lose this war … God will assist assist us. Whatever they use, their planes and tanks, they will lose,” Said Sheikh Ibrahim.
“They are cowards. … They are afraid of the face-to-face war and resorted to air strikes. I hope God will help us shoot down their planes.” He added.

Abdirahman Janaqow, a spokesman for the group was quoted by the BBC as saying “We will overcome the Ethiopian troops in our land. Our forces are alert and ready to defend our country,”

The African Union (AU) has meanwhile backed the Ethiopian action, saying it has come to cover a major loophole of the organisation’s failure to intervene.

Speaking to the BBC, Patrick Mazimhaka, the AU’s Commission deputy chairman explained that the AU is not criticising the Ethiopian action because she had “given us ample warning that it feels threatened by the UIC…It is up to every country to judge the measure of the threat to its own sovereignty.”

Somalia is considered one of the most dangerous places in the world. For over 15 years, it has been living in complete anarchy, with no effective government. In fact, it is a lawless land. Rival warlords have asserted control in different patchwork fiefdoms ever since the government collapsed in 1991. The Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), which seized the capital, Mogadishu in June and most of the Southern and central parts of the country has helped to establish relative stability in their spheres of control. But the group is accused by the USAof having close links with the Al Qaeda terrorist network of Osama bin laden.
The group was widely accused of orchestrating the Sept 18th suicide car bomb on the interim president, Abdullahi Yusuf, who made a narrow escape.

(c) Forji Amin George

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