It is obvious that the hope for development for the people of eastern Africa rests on peace, development and democracy building process. Considering this, the countries of the region are joined in hands to win against poverty, which has shamed our people for years – except for the Eritrea regime that aspires to disturb the region.
So, the threat of terrorism that is seen in the region should be averted in order to solve the instability problem of the region and bring peace. We are seeing through our own eyes how much dangerous and threatening this danger is – not only to us, but to the other countries in the region as well.
Therefore, considering all this, it is unquestionable that the only choice is to work hand in hand to build upon the good impacts and lessen the bad ones. I don’t think it goes without saying that out of the countries of our region Somalia has been a safe haven and retreat for terrorists. As it can be recalled, after the demise of Siad Barre’s government, various warlords, terrorists and extremist groups were starting to disturb the peace and stability of not only of their own people, but the rest of the countries of the region as well. And I think the terror attacks they have carried out in our country and neighboring countries at various times are more than enough evidence.
Especially, we can recall that they have went as far as declaring Jihad on Ethiopia – through the self-proclaimed ‘Union of Islamic Courts’ and through the terror group called “Harakat Al-Shabaab Al-Islamiya’ aka “Al-Shabaab’ which was established on the back of the remnants of the Union after they were dismantled by FDRE army in2007.
Of course here questions like ‘why is it our country committedly fighting extremists and terrorists that are sheltering in Somalia? and what operations is our army doing under the umbrella of AMISOM and outside of the peacekeeping mission? Answering these questions will enable us to understand the contribution our army is giving to the country and the brotherly people of that country. Side by side to this, I believe it will also enable us to correct the unfounded being disseminated, either intentionally or unknowingly.
In my belief, I think it is for two reasons that our country is fighting terrorists and extremists that are sheltered in Somalia. The first has to do with the FDRE government’s foreign affairs and national policy and strategy which basis peace and mutual benefit as its core; and the second reason relates to the blood bond we have with the brotherly people of that country.
Looking at the first reason, we can see that the state of the relation of the two country is stated on page 83 of the FDRE government’s foreign affairs and national security policy and strategy “… our close proximity to Somalia can play a better contribution when there is peace and stability in Somalia. It is when a government that can stand as partner to its neighboring countries is setup in Somalia that the region can have peace fending off unrest, terrorism and extremism”.
As the policy states, if it is possible to create lasting peace and stability in Somalia, the peace, development and democracy building process that are initiated in our country will continue with the needed pace. In other word, Somalia being in peace has huge contribution in maintaining the renaissance momentum our country has going on. And I think it shows clearly the comprehensive benefit the peace of our neighbors has in our country. This is why – it is repeatedly stated ‘the peace of our neighbors, is peace of our own’. So, this is why our country is committedly fighting terrorists and extremists sheltered in Somalia or any of the other neighboring countries – the issue is about ensuring national existence.
And if we are to look at the other reason why our country is committedly fighting terrorists and fundamentalists in Somalia, we can see that not only Ethiopia and Somalia are sister countries that has historical and cultural ties that spanned many years, but also the fact their people are tied with history, culture, language and religion. Truth be told, both people have created close ties with each other. And this close ties that exists between the people of the two countries cannot be easily be broken by any force.
In addition to this, as the countries share a large border (close to 1600km) and the favorable way their landscape is put will make business relation between both countries easy. The fact that the Somali people chose Ethiopia to be their save haven and shelter in their dire moment of need, when their country was a failed state for twenty years, shows the deep relation that exists between the two countries’ people. Indeed! As we saw at the time, the brotherly people of Somali didn’t had any other choice but to flee to their second home Ethiopia, when they get to suffer by terrorists. Even today, the people that are situated in the small areas Al-Shabaab controls are choosing our country to take shelter.
Then again, considering the bond that exists between the two people is all-encompassing, we cannot detail all of it in this article – it would mean I will leave out some facts. Nevertheless, in addition to the peace and mutual development policy of our government, this long standing people to people relation can be taken as additional reason why Ethiopia is taking measure on Somalia based terrorists and fundamentalists.
[So, by entering into Somalia as a result of these national security reasons in 2007 after exhausting all patience, the FDRE army has dismantled terrorist group that calls itself ‘Union of Islamic Court’ with the help of the people in its two years stay. And after this, it has masterminded the ruin of Al-Shabaab (which declared Jihad on us and posed clear danger) by weakening it.
Of course it can’t be denied that Al-Shabaab tried to weaken the transitional government after the dismantlement of the “Union of Islamic courts’. However, as per the call of Somalia’s transitional government for help, the FDRE army entered Somalia in 2011 and weakened Al-Shabaab, limiting its terror activities to few of its own areas and its operation to hopeless suicide attacks. As a result to its two years stay, it was able to avert the threat posed on Somalia and on the region.
And in the month of December 2013, following the call made to our country to strengthen the AMISOM (African Union Mission in Somalia), our country has sent in more than 4400 soldiers into Somalia. And it has been years since they started their mission in responsible way, accepting responsibilities of sector 3, which consists eastern Somalia and its areas, and sector 4, which consists the area between Bedleweyne and Gurae.
With this mission, they are able to bring peace to the sector they are overseeing. By teaming up with AMISOM and the peacekeeping forces under it, they have committedly worked to destroy terrorists sheltering in Somalia, while creating stable administrative structures by working together with the people. They are still working on that. They are creating suitable conditions for a national democratic election that is inclusive of the majority of the people to be held in Somalia. In addition to this, they are undertaking work that would facilitate humanitarian operations by making the environment where they would govern themselves and administer their own security apparatus possible.
It is not only our peacekeeping forces that are in Somalia. Information show that at the request of Somalia’s government, an army outside of AMISOM is in Somalia to train, arm, organize and help the government’s security forces draw their own capabilities. This army also holds the mission to build social service giving institutions for the local people using our own government’s limited resource, expertise and our own labor. Their number is smaller compared to the peacekeeping forces stationed in Somalia.
As its objective is to build the capacity of the Somalia federal government, the segment of the army will return back to their country when they are sure that the capacity of the federal government is in a better shape, especially considering their number is small. However, some people are heard saying ‘Ethiopia’s army is getting out of Somalia’ looking at Al-Shabaab’s temporary activity. But, I think there is one thing that should be made clear here. That is; the force that went out of Somalia is not the peacekeeping force operating under AMISOM, but must be the small army (mentioned above) that is in the country for capacity building work – this is because it is still doing its task. And as this force is there to build the capacity in a temporary basis, and not to do peacekeeping work in Somalia, it is not surprising if it is out as some people are saying – as it is there for a special work in the first place.
All in all, in my belief the reason the FDRE government is committedly fighting extremists and terrorists in Somalia or the other regional countries (in addition to the aforementioned reasons) is because it follows up a clear policy and pro-people path. As a result to this, it would be naivety to think that the peacekeeping work would be stopped even for a second. And currently, in order to bring regional peace, it has dispatched peacekeeping force in Darfur, Abeyei and recently in Juba in addition to the ones stationed in Somalia.
I think it is obvious that this all reaffirms our country’s regional peacekeeping role and the government’s commitment for peace. So, it should be understood that what is being done in Somalia is in line with this. And as our defense force is a force that put the public ahead, it doesn’t have the interest to leave the desire for peace of the people of Somalia, or any other people, to the undemocratic values of extremists and terrorists. Thus, I think it should be realized that the interest of our country and army aligns to the peace-loving forces.