Ethiopia said its phased troop withdrawal from Somalia would not create a security vacuum as has been suggested by some. Bereket Simon, an advisor to Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, said Ethiopia has also achieved almost all of its goals for going into Somalia.
“Absolutely! In fact, we have achieved a lot more by sending our troops to Somalia. Our first goal was to ensure that the threat that was posed to Ethiopia was overcome, and with the defeat of the extremes in the Islamic Courts, we have succeeded in achieving our goal. In addition to this, we have been able to bring about peace and stability in most parts of Somalia, including Mogadishu. We have been able also to disarm the warlords and incorporate their militias with the federal army,” he said.
Simon dismissed suggestions by some that a quick Ethiopian withdrawal from Somalia may create a security vacuum there.
“That is not correct. As the prime minister has said time and again, the responsibility of ensuring a lasting peace is basically that of the Somali people and the transitional federal government. And they have really taken matters into their own hands, and they have shown that they can deliver on their promises. Secondly, we are withdrawing in a phased manner. We have only withdrawn troops that are meant to withdraw in the first phase. So we are doing this withdrawal in a responsible manner. We are not getting out of Somalia in such a situation that will create a vacuum,” Simon said.
He said Ethiopia was convinced the African Union would deliver on its current plan to send about eight thousand peacekeepers to Somalia.
“So far if we can talk about concrete commitment, there are countries who have committed themselves in a concrete manner, and our belief is that they will deliver on their promises. The summit of the African Union will take place here in Addis in the coming week, and we hope the leaders will deliberate on it and make sure this opportunity is not missed,” he said.
Simon hoped the international community would support the transitional government in Somalia without preconditions.
He also said Ethiopia is not working with the United States in Somalia.
“As we have repeatedly said, Ethiopia went to Somalia based on its own national interest, and in this scheme, we have not consulted anybody, we have not decided with anybody or any country. So that was the basis for our activities in Somalia, and that remains to be,” he said.
Simon also dismissed suggestions by some that Ethiopia undertook its military adventure in Somalia to divert attention from its own international political and economic problems.
“This is a government which is not shying away from its internal problems. There are problems at the polls in underdeveloped countries, and we are facing them squarely. So there is no reason for us to shy away from our internal problems. There will be problems, but we are determined to control them, and we are determined to tackle them,” Simon said.