The Reporter (Addis Ababa)

Somalia: UEDF Leader Calls for Ethiopia's Pullout From Somalia

Addis Ababa — Merera Gudina, a senior opposition figure, called for the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from Somalia as heavy fighting in the capital Mogadishu claimed the lives of hundreds of civilians.

Merara, leader of the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF) party, told The Reporter that the military victory against the Islamic Courts forces was not followed by political victory or national reconciliation which is now postponed to July.

"If you see from the (Ethiopian) government's point of view, the options left are difficult. Pulling out will raise the question: 'why in the first place did Ethiopia go to Somalia?'"

However, Merera warned that staying in Somalia had consequences. "If you see it from the public's viewpoint, I would say pulling out is a better option", he said.

He argued that Ethiopia's poor economy cannot sustain a military presence in Somalia for long. "For a poor country like Ethiopia, interfering in others' business will be a heavy burden."

"America stayed four years in Iraq and nearly sixty years in South Korea militarily. Doing the same thing is difficult for Ethiopia," said Merera, stressing his point that Ethiopia's fragile economy might suffer due to war expenditures in Somalia.

Merera criticized Ethiopian government's choice of "allies" in Somalia who could not so far bring about peace to the country.

"Key figures in the Somali transitional government are well known. They are not saints", Merera said, referring to the many former warlords included in the transitional government.

He accused them of lacking legitimacy in the eyes of the Somali people as many of these warlords lacked popular support due to their past during the decade-and-half-long civil war.

"The warlords were there for 15 or 16 years. Everybody knows them. The Somali people may not be expecting anything new or good from them," he said.

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