Al-Ahram Weekly Online   3 - 9 April 2008
Issue No. 891
Reader's corner
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Readers' corner

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Ethiopia seeks peace

Sir-- 'Taking chances' (20-26 March) could hardly have been more inaccurate.

Ethiopian troops are not going to stay in Somalia as Ethiopia has consistently underlined. Ethiopia went into Somalia in part to help the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia against a violent and far from popular clan-based movement, the Islamic Courts Union, which tried to use Islam to disguise its political ambitions. The ICU was taken over in mid-2006 by the extremist Al-Shabaab terrorist element to try and overthrow the legitimate government of Somalia. Now, much of Al-Shabaab's capacity has been destroyed. Significant progress has been made in establishing security in and outside Mogadishu (though incidents certainly continue).

Ethiopian troops will leave Somalia as soon as there is a sufficient international force on the ground (whether from the African Union or the UN) to guarantee the TFG's survival, and sufficient security forces for the TFG have been recruited and trained. Training for several thousand recruits has already started. At the moment, with reconciliation gathering pace in Mogadishu and the security situation clearly improving (though not fully satisfactory) the position of the TFG is certainly not deteriorating. What Ethiopia wants is a stable and peaceful Somalia which hopefully will be achieved with next year's elections. Ethiopia fully recognises that this is something that in the final analysis must be achieved by Somalis themselves.

Far from deploying more troops in the Somali Regional State, in the Ogaden area, the security situation launched after the ONLF's massacre of 74 Chinese and Ethiopian (largely Ogaden Somalis) workers in April last year, has been largely successful. By November, a majority of ONLF fighters had been put out of action. The security situation in the region is now returning to near normalcy, though there remains a serious humanitarian problem following the poor deyr rains and current shortages of water. With only ONLF largely defeated, however, international relief can now reach those affected.

Ethiopia has made it clear it will not start any conflict with Eritrea. Indeed it has spent the last few years trying hard to persuade President Issayas to talk about the normalisation of relations. He has consistently refused to do so. Ever since Ethiopia fully accepted the Boundary Commissions' Decisions on the border, Eritrea has persistently made difficulty after difficulty, and steadily and systematically violated the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities which Ethiopia and Eritrea signed in June 2000. Despite this agreement which lays out the obligations of both sides, Eritrea has continuously violated the Temporary Security Zone and forced the UN Mission to leave. All this is in defiance of both the Algiers Agreements of 2000 and of numerous Security Council resolutions.

Ethiopia wants demarcation of the border according to international norms and as part of the complete normalisation of relations. Eritrea simply refuses to go along with this. Eritrea has also persistently armed and financed opposition to the TFG in Somalia for no other reason than that Ethiopia supports the TFG. Eritrea has never had any national security or strategic interests in Somalia, but that has not stopped it from supporting and training the terrorist group Al-Shabaab, now recognised as a terrorist organisation by the US. Similarly, Eritrea has armed and trained several hundred ONLF fighters, and supported a number of other Ethiopian opposition groups with arms, training and finance. It is all part of its publicly admitted and even widely publicised efforts to destabilise Ethiopia.

Incidentally, to refer to Al-Shabaab, a self-admitted terrorist organisation which welcomes the death of women and children and has always focussed on assassination, as "Somalia's Islamic resistance", is an insult to all genuine Somali nationalists, and indeed to Islam itself.

Ibrahim Idris Ibrahim
Ambassador of Ethiopia

Refreshing perspective

Sir -- I found 'Plus ça change' (27 March-2 April) an excellent analysis and pregnant with information. It adds perspective to our world view. As a journalist in Delhi, I also agree that the new style sovereign economy promoted by Russia and China is the key to national strength in the coming decades.

Sandhya Jain
New Delhi

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