Voice of America (Washington, DC)

22 January 2014

Somalia: Ethiopian Amisom Membership Scrutinized

A former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia says he thinks it's a "mistake" for Ethiopian troops to join the AMISOM force in Somalia. AMISOM is the African Union Mission in Somalia.

David Shinn is an adjunct professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University. He said it could be of particular concern "if Ethiopian forces are expected to go beyond the immediate Ethiopia/Somalia border area. Everyone knows that they have been crossing the border into Somalia for some time now confronting al-Shabab forces or any hostile forces for that matter."

AMISOM has driven al-Shabab from the capital Mogadishu, but the militant group still controls areas of the country.

Shinn said the Ethiopian incursions into Somalia of late have been "fairly low key and hasn't drawn a lot of attention. But it's all been done in the context of a bilateral action obviously with the support of the Somali government.

But by joining AMISOM, this I think is going to revive the Ethiopian intervention more broadly in Somalia that they engaged in from the very beginning of 2007 through January of 2009, particularly their engagement in Mogadishu. And that did not end well."

At the time, Ethiopian forces helped drive out the Islamic Courts Union, which had imposed Sharia law in the country. The relationship between Ethiopia and Somalia over the years has included conflict.

Shinn said the Ethiopian decision move could allow al-Shabab to use it as a "rallying cry" to recruit new members.

He said that it's unclear what Ethiopia would gain by joining AMISOM, aside from possible reimbursement for its military operations in Somalia. It's currently funding those operations itself. He said that the move probably would not enhance Ethiopia's border security, which is already "pretty good."

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