Meles Zenawi - Foreign Policies - Somalia


In 2006, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) assumed control of much of the southern part of Somalia and promptly imposed Shari'a law. The Transitional Federal Government sought to re-establish its authority, and, with the assistance of Ethiopian troops, African Union peacekeepers and air support by the United States, managed to drive out the rival ICU. On 8 January 2007, as the Battle of Ras Kamboni raged, TFG President and founder Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, a former colonel in the Somali Army, entered Mogadishu for the first time since being elected to office. The Somali government then relocated to Villa Somalia in the capital from its interim location in Baidoa. This marked the first time since the fall of the Siad Barre regime in 1991 that the federal government controlled most of the country.

Following this defeat, the Islamic Courts Union splintered into several different factions. Some of the more radical elements, including Al-Shabaab, regrouped to continue their insurgency against the TFG and oppose the Ethiopian military's presence in Somalia. Throughout 2007 and 2008, Al-Shabaab scored military victories, seizing control of key towns and ports in both central and southern Somalia. At the end of 2008, the group had captured Baidoa but not Mogadishu. By January 2009, Al-Shabaab and other militias had managed to force the Ethiopian troops to retreat, leaving behind an under-equipped African Union peacekeeping force to assist the TFG's troops.

Some political parties in Ethiopia opposed Zenawi's policies and demanded the complete withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from Somalia. Merera Gudina, leader of the opposition party United Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF) said "the military victory against the Islamic Courts forces was not followed by political victory or national reconciliation." He also said staying in Somalia harms the Ethiopian economy and some of the leaders in the transitional Somali government were not reaching out to civil society members in Somalia. With the exception of the SPDP, UEDP-Medhin (EDUP) and ONC opposition parties, not many opposition parties in Ethiopia supported the choice of intervention in Somalia by Zenawi's ruling party. Some members of the Somali parliament also expressed their appreciation of Ethiopia's help publicly, but opposition remained against the intervention, which was portrayed as an invasion instead.

Between 31 May and 9 June 2008, representatives of Somalia's TFG and the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) group of Islamist rebels participated in peace talks in Djibouti brokered by the former United Nations Special Envoy to Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah. The conference ended with a signed agreement calling for the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops in exchange for the cessation of armed confrontation. Parliament was subsequently expanded to 550 seats to accommodate ARS members, which then elected Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, the former ARS chairman, to office.

In October 2011, a coordinated multinational operation began against Al-Shabaab in southern Somalia, with the Ethiopian military eventually joining the mission the following month. According to Ramtane Lamamra, the AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, the additional Ethiopian and AU troop reinforcements are expected to help the Somali authorities gradually expand their territorial control.

Read more about this topic:  Meles Zenawi, Foreign Policies

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