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Ethiopian Troops Begin Pulling Out Of Mogadishu


Ethiopian troops have begun pulling out of Somalia's capital, almost a month after they came in to support Somali government troops battling Islamists. Cathy Majtenyi reports for VOA from Nairobi.

At a small departure ceremony in Mogadishu, Ethiopian General Suem Hagoss told the gathering that it is time for Ethiopian soldiers to go home.

Suem says the Ethiopian government has ordered the troops to leave Somalia.

A journalist working in Mogadishu, Mohamed Dhoore, tells VOA there is mixed reaction in the capital, with some who oppose the presence of foreign peacekeepers happy to see the Ethiopians go, while others fear a security vacuum and a return to clan warfare that has ripped the country apart.

Ethiopian troops officially came into Somalia last month to help Somali government troops battle fighters of the Islamic Courts Union, which had control of the capital and much of southern Somalia.

By the start of the year, the Islamists had abandoned their posts, with some top officials fleeing the country.

The Kenyan government issued a statement confirming that one top official, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, is now in Kenya under police custody, but gave no further details.

The departure of Ethiopian troops has some observers worried that Somalia may fall back into a system where warlords and their militias control different parts of the country, as has been the case since civil war broke out in 1991.

The Somali government, the African Union and the United States are among those pushing for an African peacekeeping force to be sent into Somalia, with the African Union approving a plan to send 8,000 troops into the volatile country.

Uganda and Malawi have officially offered to supply troops, with South Africa, Libya, Tanzania, Angola, and Congo among countries said to be considering sending personnel.

Somalia's interior minister was quoted in press reports as saying troops from Uganda, Nigeria, and Malawi would be in Somalia within a week.

Somalia's transitional government was formed in Kenya more than two years ago following a peace process.