23 January 2014

Somalia: Ethiopia Changes Its Tune in Somalia


Last year, Ethiopia wanted to get out of Somalia as quickly as possible. It didn't. This year, it has renewed its commitment to the beleaguered country - although, as usual, Ethiopia has its own interests at heart.

In April last year, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn was unequivocal in his intentions when it came to Somalia. Speaking to his parliament in Addis Ababa, he complained that Ethiopian troops had spent long enough across the border, and that it was time for them to come home. "The main issue now is to accelerate our complete withdrawal towards our border. This is what we are fulfilling," he said.

This was more than just talk. In March, frustrated that no one was relieving them of their duties, the Ethiopian army withdrew from the town of Hudur, which it had captured from Al Shabaab just a few weeks before. Mere hours after the Ethiopian withdrawal, Al Shabaab were back in charge in Hudur.

The withdrawal was the geopolitical equivalent of going on strike: a pointed warning that Ethiopia's contributions in Somalia could not be taken for granted.

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