Ethiopian troops Tuesday handed over security control to the Somalia Federal Transitional Government and a moderate faction of an Islamic militia group as Ethiopia began its much anticipated withdrawal.
Three years ago in 2006 Ethiopia said it was going into Somalia to protect the transitional government against Islamic insurgents. But as it withdraws its military, critics say Somalia is more destabilized than when the Ethiopians first went in.
Bereket Simon, advisor to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi told VOA Ethiopia achieved most of its objectives for going into Somalia.
"We have been able to get rid of the immediate and clear dangers that were posed by extremist forces in Somalia before two years, and then we were striving to take the opportunity into account by trying to help Somalia become a stable country. We have been able to open forums between the different clans around Mogadishu. As you know the reconciliation conference that took place last year, and then we have been helping them to establish the police force and other institutions," he said.
Simon however said it was regrettable that Ethiopia was not able to establish an all-inclusive transitional government. He said that task was left to Somalis to take advantage of, but he said their political situation was not conducive to form an all-inclusive government.
"The Transitional Federal Government was the last thing that we would have liked to see, but we have opted for an all-inclusive federal government, and that was primarily the task of the Somali people and Somali political forces. But their political situation was not conducive for that," he said.
Three years ago, Ethiopia said it was going into Somalia to protect the fledgling federal transitional government against Islamist insurgents.
Simon denied that Ethiopian troops are leaving at a time when critics say Somalia is more destabilized than when Ethiopian troops first went in.
"As you know in the recent past the political forces in Djibouti have agreed to form a transitional government where the moderate wing of the former Islamic Union Forces have joined and an all-inclusive. So for us that negotiation and the deal that took place in Mogadishu was a step toward that where an all-inclusive government could have been established, and I think things are moving in that direction," Simon said.
He said there are a lot of political forces in Somalia who are striving to contribute positively to the stability of the country, including efforts by groups he called new forces who he said are striving to expel the Islamist Al-Shabaab militant group from central and southern Somalia.
Simon also denied as groundless accusations by some that Ethiopian troops have been abusive and heavy-handed during their time in Somalia.
"The Ethiopian military forces have been very disciplined and when we are leaving Mogadishu and Baidoa the people who have been working with us, the people of Mogadishu, Baidoa and the different places in Somalia have expressed their goodwill toward the army. Had it been abusive, I don't think people would have expressed their goodwill toward the army," he said.
Simon also denied Ethiopia was strengthening the Islamic insurgency by its withdrawal and by turning security over to both the transitional government and a moderate wing of Al-Shabaab.
"As you know currently the Islamic insurgency has been represented and spearheaded by Al-Shabaab. As you can see the Al-Shabaab has been extremely hated by the Somali people, and people have problems against them and they are fighting back. That's why the Al-Shabaab is retreating from many parts of Somalia," Simon said.