Former US Ambassador to Ethiopia, Dr. David Shinn, says he’s not surprised the Ethiopians have begun to withdraw troops from Somalia. In an interview with VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua, Shinn says, “In fact, I think the Ethiopians are interested in getting out of Somalia as soon as they can. They do face a dilemma however in terms of how fast and how many you pull out, while balancing that against a desire to maintain stability and security inside Somalia. Because if they pull out too fast then they risk allowing forces opposing them or opposing the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to regain an element of control. So, it’s a very delicate balance that they’re engaged in.”
Asked whether the opponents of the TFG include militia leaders and elements of the former Islamic Courts Union, Shinn says, “All of the above. You probably still have some warlord elements, who if they saw an opening would try and seize it. People who were never fully supportive of the Transitional Federal Government. There may still be a few remnants of the Islamic Courts, although I think that militia group has been largely destroyed. And then there are just plain hooligans, who still have weapons and who will create trouble. Basically, they’re engaged in banditry and looting.”
Shinn says in order to hold power and keep the peace, the TFG must make the right political decisions. “That’s the more critical issue. The TFG has got to reach out to a wide element of Somali society and they’ve done some of this, but they haven’t done enough. And when they’ve made decisions like stating that they will not engage in discussion with the moderate elements, and I underscore moderate, of the Islamic Courts I think that’s a mistake. They have got to reach out to the moderate elements. There’s no place in Somalia anymore for extremists or terrorists in either the courts or any other element of society. But anyone who is interested in a future of Somalia that is sort of moderate and traditional ought to be brought in,” he says.
Shinn says the United States should be encouraging dialogue with moderate elements in Somalia.