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Ethiopia Marks Yearlong Occupation in Somalia

It was Christmas Day a year ago that the situation in Somalia changed dramatically. That’s when Ethiopia invaded and drove out forces belonging to the Islamic Courts Union. However, Ethiopia’s initial, decisive military victory has turned into a yearlong occupation with no end in sight.

Among those who’ve been following developments of the past year in Somalia is Professor David Shinn of George Washington University. Dr. Shinn is a former US ambassador to Ethiopia. From Columbus, Ohio, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the events of 2007.

“I think a lot of people are surprised that the Ethiopians are still there and still trying to figure out how to get out of Somalia. I’m convinced they’d very much like to leave but feel they’re sort of stuck. And I’m almost certain they’re surprised at the situation that they are in. And I think a lot of other people are too, although frankly it should have been fairly predictable that this was not going to go very smoothly,” he says.

Shinn adds, “It’s a very difficult situation. The situation on the ground is still very difficult and has not really improved. And one still does not see a way out of this unless there’s going to be a political solution to the problem, which is really what is required.”

Ambassador Shinn has been calling for a political solution for the past year. Asked why one has not been achieved, he says, “Because I don’t think anyone has been very serious about trying to achieve a political solution on any side of the issue. In the past year, you would have to put most of the blame on the Transitional Federal Government for not making a significant enough effort. Because they have held most of the security cards so long as the Ethiopians have been there supporting them. So, it is really up to them to make the gesture to those who oppose them. And try to bring them into the government in order to create a government of national unity that would allow the opponents to rein in those who are fighting against the Transitional Federal Government. They have not made sufficient steps to do that. They still have an opportunity to do that and I think the naming of the new prime minister, Nur Adde, makes that a greater possibility. But he has to seize the initiative and really create a new government that will be acceptable to most of those individuals who now oppose the Transitional Federal Government.”

Shinn calls on the international community, including the Arab League, to do more to find a political solution, rather than relying on AU peacekeepers, who are very few in number.