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Analyst Sees pros and Cons to Ethiopian Troop Withdrawal from Somalia

Now that Ethiopia has started withdrawing its troops from Somalia, what are the problems facing the Transitional Federal Government?

Among those watching developments is Dr. Ken Menkhaus – associate professor of political science at Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina. Menkhaus is currently in South Africa. From Pretoria, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the current situation in Somalia.

“I think what we’re seeing right now in Somalia is a good news, bad news scenario. The bad news is in fact the Ethiopians are pulling out and that there will not be an African Union protection force that can replace them in time. The good news is the way that events have worked out in the past couple of days, specifically Sheik Sharif’s discussions with Kenyan authorities and US authorities in Nairobi, with pressure by the donors, the US and the European Union, on the TFG (Transitional federal Government) to dialogue as a precondition for assistance. And now Sheik Sharif’s statement that the insurgency in Mogadishu is over because the Ethiopians are leaving, so there’s no reason for an insurgency, offers an interesting scenario, a soft landing scenario,” he says.

Menkhaus adds, “What we can hope for is that it won’t in fact precipitate large-scale fighting or insecurity. And at best, the Mogadishu groups might be able to cobble together at least a portion of the administrative structures that had given the capital such impressive public security over the past six months.”

There have been calls for the TFG and donor countries to reach out to moderates in Somalia. Asked whether there are enough moderates to have an effect, Menkhaus says, “Absolutely. In Mogadishu alone there are lots and lots of constituencies that first and foremost want some basic public security and want peace. That’s not to say though that there aren’t spoilers out there both in Mogadishu and outside Mogadishu. And those are going to have to be managed very effectively. The most important of them in the near term is going to be militia leaders or warlords that returned to Mogadishu and may not be as interested in seeing revived rule of law set up there locally.”