Facing an apparently tough enemy in Somalia, how did the Ethiopian military achieve such swift and decisive victories against the Union of Islamic Courts?
For an analysis of the Ethiopian military, VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua spoke to David Hartwell, Middle East editor for Janes Country Risk, part of Janes Information Group. From London, Hartwell explained Ethiopia’s military offensive in Somalia.
“Assessments tended to perhaps underestimate the Ethiopian military (and) perhaps overestimate the effectiveness of the Union of Islamic Courts, the UIC…and then within two weeks you have the UIC effectively routed, more or less, in the face of what proved to be a pretty decisive Ethiopian advance. Ethiopia really won it with their air power. That’s essentially what proved to be the decisive factor. That and their use of heavy artillery and armor…The UIC had no effective answer to this sort of firepower,” he says.
Hartwell says the Union of Islamic Courts probably knew it couldn’t defeat the Ethiopian army in a head to head battle. “I think the UIC were counting on the fact that if the Ethiopian advance reached such a point, for example the edge of Mogadishu and the larger cities such as Kismayo, then the Somali population would rise up in defense of the UIC or more importantly Somali national territory and launch a national revolution against the Ethiopian military. But this didn’t happen either,” he says.
Asked whether Ethiopian troops vanquished the UIC or whether its forces simply blended into the countryside, Hartwell replies, “That still remains a very important question… the UIC was, yes, a unified organization, but there were vast differences of opinion and strands of ideology within the organization. So there’s a possibility that any number of things have happened.”
He says that some UIC elements may have been bribed not to fight or switched sides.