The African Union’s Panel of the Wise over the weekend called on the United Nations to form a stabilization force to further what it called the cause of peace in Somalia. The appeal came a day after Ethiopia announced it would withdraw its troops from Somalia at the end of this year.
The panel reportedly said the absence of the stabilization force would create a security vacuum that could seriously undermine the efforts towards lasting peace and reconciliation in Somalia.
Ethiopia sent troops to Somalia in 2006 to support an embattled Transitional Federal Government against Islamic insurgents.
Ethiopian-born Getachew Metaferia is professor of political science at Morgan State University near Washington. He told VOA the Ethiopian troop deployment in Somalia was doomed to fail from the start.
“First of all, the Ethiopian government sent troops into Somalia without any debate and discourse within Ethiopia, specifically in the parliament. So it was not clear as what the objective of sending to Somalia was. So my reaction is first of all, why send troops to Somalia? What happens in Somalia is not an immediate threat to Ethiopia. So it is bewildering to say the least,” he said.
In announcing the troop pull out, Ethiopia said last Friday that the international community failed to support its troops.
But Professor Metaferia said Ethiopia did not clearly think out the consequences before going into Somalia.
“The parliament discussed it but not very seriously. The opposition groups in the parliament were opposed to the idea of sending troops to Somalia. About three opposition parties said the best thing Ethiopia can do is that if there is any threat, put Ethiopia army on the Ethiopian border on the Ethiopian side and look on what is going on in Somalia. So they did not see the wisdom of sending the troops,” Metaferia said.
Metaferia said he does not see any immediate domestic political threat to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi because he said the prime minister controls almost every aspect of Ethiopian political life.
“In a normal political environment where there is checks and balances, where the media has a say, where civic organizations do have a say, it could have some negative impact on the prime minister. But the prime minister controls every aspect of life in Ethiopia. He can silence political parties and he can silence the media. So I don’t see an immediate threat to the prime minister. In other democratic societies, that could have called for a vote of no confidence and he could have been removed from office,” he said
Metaferia said he even heard one time that Prime Minister Zenawi had threatened those opposition groups that raised questions about the wisdom of Ethiopian troops going into Somalia.
He sending a stabilization force to Somalia to fill the vacuum after Ethiopian troops leave is not the panacea to bringing about peace in Somalia.
“First of all, there needs to be peace. To bring peace to Somalia, the different functions of religious and political groups and civic organizations need to come to a roundtable and discuss, iron out their differences. Once they have made peace, then it’s possible to send in the peacekeepers,” Metaferia said.In addition, Metaferia said neighboring countries like Eritrea and other regional countries need to keep their hands off Somalia and give Somalis the opportunity to discuss among themselves.