Somali opposition and Islamist leaders meeting in Eritrea are quoted as saying they intend to liberate Somalia from Ethiopia within the next few months. They’re also sharply critical of US policy in the Horn of Africa.
Among those following developments is Timothy Othieno, senior researcher at the Institute for Global Dialogue. From Midrand, South Africa, He spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about Somali opposition comments.
“The meeting in Asmara is meant to organize these disintegrated Islamic groups, different groupings, to unite them so they may come under one control. In the event of them taking control of Somalia, then there wouldn’t be any confusion about hierarchy in terms of politics. Basically it is to establish a control and command system. But this is to avoid any kind of incident that we saw in January of this year when the Ethiopian-backed TFG (Transitional Federal Government) came into power. And of course we found that the Islamists were very disorganized in terms of responding to the invasion,” he says.
Othieno says Ethiopia should take the opposition’s words seriously. “This should be a warning for Addis Ababa in any sense because there is rivalry between Eritrea and Ethiopia. Disenchantment by Eritrea on Ethiopia’s refusal to abide by a boundary commission ruling a couple of years ago…and the Islamists have found a willing backer…you can see Asmara warmly hosting them,” he says.
The analyst says that it appears the Islamists and opposition leaders are not simply trying to unite militarily, but politically as well for a long-term strategy for Somalia.
Also, the International Contact Group on Somalia met Monday in Rome. During the meeting, US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer was quoted as saying, “We need to address the fact that there are still extremists and terrorists, many of them sitting in Asmara, who are undermining a process by road-side bombs, targeted assassinations of moderates. And so we’ve got to deal with cutting of the supply for what I would call the spoilers, the extremists and the insurgents.”
Othieno reacts by saying, “Look, Jendayi Frazer’s comments are worrying to say the least…the sub-text of what she’s saying is basically Eritrea has been hosting so-called terrorists in The Horn and therefore, the US probably will have to take action against Eritrea. She implies that by saying to cut off the supply route. I mean how to do you cut off the supply route? Either you deal with them through diplomatic channels and try to find some middle ground and negotiate a way out or you basically invade the country.”
He says that cutting off international funding probably would not have much of an effect on Eritrea.