Ethiopian troops withdrew from four of their bases in Mogadishu on Tuesday. Ethiopia sent them in two years ago and overturned the
government run by the Islamic Courts Union, which ruled using Islamic
law, or Sharia. Analysts say the move could either open the way for
reconciliation among the country's armed factions or create a power
vacuum that could lead to increased fighting in the capital.
past few days, fighting in Mogadishu has been reported among Islamic
factions, including a moderate group, the Ahlu Sunna Wal-jammaah, said
by some to be supported by Ethiopia. The other is the hard-line Al
Shabab, which the United States considers to be a terrorist group
funded by Islamic groups in Southeast Asia.
The International Crisis
Group is urging that Islamic insurgents be included in the peace
negotiations backed by the international community.
Menkhaus of Davidson College says he agrees at least in part with ICG.
"The international community," he says, "should work to maximize political space to
allow negotiation and maneuverability among the Somalis. The current
effort to form a unity government, produced out of the Djibouti talks,
will probably have to reach out to at least some elements of al Shabaab
while marginalizing or defeating the real hard liners. To do that, we
need to stop 'red-lining' [labeling] entire groups as terrorists, and instead
allow some who joined Shabaab to engage in negotiations and in the
process modify their positions."
He says that would include those who
joined not out of jihadist conviction, but rather to support the group
they thought would be most effective in combating the Ethiopian
At the end of the month, the parliament will
meet to select a new president, an effort that Professor Menkhaus says is the best hope
for creating a broad-based government.