By Muhyadin Ahmed Roble
Ethiopian government said on Wednesday that its would send back troops into Somalia in the doubtful event it were called to evacuate African Union peacekeepers in Mogadishu.
Ethiopian’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said he would send the soldiers in the unlikely scenario if the African Union’s mission in Somalia (AMISOM) who is battling Islamist insurgents needs rescue.
“We will provide all the assistance that we can from our side of the border but we will not cross it, even if the Somali government in Mogadishu is threatened,” Meles said during a press conference in Addis Ababa.
“The only time when we may cross it is if the lives of AMISOM troops are under threat, and if they ask for our assistance. Then we will intervene without hesitation,” he told reporters.
He added that the intervention would only be facilitating the evacuation of the peacekeepers through Ethiopian territory.
“In such an eventuality we would be prepared to go as far in to Somalia as necessary to help AMISOM to do so. But this is completely hypothetical and I don’t expect it to happen,” he was quoted.
African leaders who met in Kampala last month agreed to send thousands of extra troops to its AMISOM force battling Islamist insurgents in Somalia. The summit came days after in the wake of suicide blasts that killed at least 76 people in Uganda’s capital in 11 July.
Al-Qaeda linked group of Al-Shabaab, which claimed the blast attacks, said it was avenging the killing of civilians by the African Union peacekeepers.
Somali government which controls a few block in Mogadishu welcomed the African Union’s decision to enhance its force in Mogadishu where Al-Qaeda linked group are trying to take over.
Ethiopia invaded the Horn of Africa nation in 2006 to oust the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) which controlled southern Somalia but withdrew under a UN-backed peace deal early in 2009.
Right groups accused Ethiopia forces committing war crimes and looted shops including the Bakara market in Somalia’s conflict for their years of presence.
Amnesty International also accused Ethiopia what it locally termed as “slaughtering” or “killing like goats” by Ethiopian troops, referring to killing by slitting the throat.
If Ethiopia force back to Somalia, the Islamist rebels may get reinforcement from Somali community in the country and outside for the longtime historic conflicts Ethiopia and Somalia.
The Horn of Africa nation has not had an affective government since warlords overthrew longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.
Muhyadin Ahmed Roble is a Somali freelance journalist reporting for Eurasia Review living in Nairobi. He can be contacted at [email protected]