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Is Somalia a Proxy War Between Ethiopia and Eritrea?


The tensions between Eritrea and Ethiopia may be playing themselves out in part in Somalia. Some observers say the violence in Somalia may be a proxy war between Eritrea and Ethiopia.

Timothy Othieno is a senior researcher at the Institute for Global Dialogue in Midrand, South Africa. He spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about whether he thinks Somalia is a proxy war.

“Yes, it can be construed as that based on the fact that if one goes with the allegations that Union of Islamic Courts in Somalia were being funded, armed and also had the political support of the Eritrean government in its fight against the Ethiopian-backed TFG (Transitional Federal Government) government. So in that case, yes, I could argue it is an extended confrontation Ethiopia and Eritrea…but to go into more detail…the unresolved border dispute between Eritrea and Ethiopia actually can be explained and one can argue that what we’re seeing today in Somalia is actually an extension of that. Because a UN boundary commission ruling in favor of Eritrea has not been implemented to date in favor of Eritrea. Ethiopia has refused to give back the (border town) of Badme to Eritrea as the boundary commission had decided…and that is actually an extension of the current problem that we’re seeing today,” he says.

Eritrea’s information minister, Ali Abdu, is quoted as saying the allegations are a “smear campaign.” He describes them as a “fabricated pretext for an Ethiopian invasion and to cover up the failures made by the United States and the United Nations.”

Othieno says, “To a certain extent I would agree with the Eritrean minister in the sense that the onus was on the United Nations to enforce, to implement its own ruling. I mean you cannot have a UN ruling being ignored, if I may use that word, by a government such as Ethiopia.” He says that the United States and other nations “should have impressed upon Ethiopia to abide by that ruling.”

He says Eritrea and the Union of Islamic Courts in Somalia currently have a common enemy in Ethiopia. He says that he doubts there will be peace in Somalia until tensions between Eritrea and Ethiopia are resolved and that includes the border dispute.

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