Ethiopia said its involvement in Somalia is part of self-defense because of what the government called a repeated declaration of jihad on Ethiopia by the Islamists in Somalia
Bereket Simon is advisor to Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. For the first time, he said Ethiopia has declared war on Somalia.
“Technically, we are war with Somalia. Everybody knows it is them who declared jihad on Ethiopia. So technically speaking, we are at war with them based on their declaration of war. Now, we have asserted our rights to defend ourselves,” he said.
Simon rejected suggestion by some that Ethiopia’s war in Somalia was an attempt to divert attention from the country’s economic and political problems.
“Fortunately we have a government that gives priority to its internal affairs. At now time this country had such a government that focuses on creating an enabling atmosphere for its own people and creating good things here at home. We believe poverty is the main enemy of our country and we are working on it. We have registered about 10 percent growth of the last four consecutive years. And I assure you the internal situation is very good and stable apart from some hiccups here and there,” Simon said.
Ethiopia has also been criticized for having a history of destabilizing Somalia. But Simone blamed Somalia for past wars between the two countries.
“The reason for the two previous wars was the expansionist attitude of the Somali government who wanted to take part of Ethiopia to be incorporated with the greater Somalia they had in their mind. Nevertheless, this is a new government which doesn’t have an qualm with the Somali people,” he said.
Simon described the situation in Somalia as chaotic, and he said Ethiopia as a neighboring country is only interested in seeing Somalia stabilized again.
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Somalia bans cars in Baidoa to avert attacks
MOGADISHU, Dec 5 (Reuters) - Somalia's interim government on Tuesday banned cars from entering the town where it is based to try to stop more car bomb attacks there.
A suicide bombing near Baidoa, about 250 km (155 miles) from the capital Mogadishu, killed nine people last week in an attack which came less than three months after suicide bombers narrowly missed killing President Abdullahi Yusuf.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi visited Addis Ababa and said his Ethiopian-backed government was capable of defending itself against what he termed a "terrorism" threat posed by rival Islamists.
Somali Deputy Defence Minister Salad Ali Jelle initially blamed the Mogadishu-based Islamists for Friday's blast, but another minister said it was too early to blame anyone.
The Somalia Islamic Courts Council (SICC), the nation's most powerful military force which has challenged the Western-backed interim administration's authority and effectively flanked it on three sides, has denied any involvement.
"We have banned travellers using sedan cars to enter Baidoa in order to prevent further suicide attacks," District Commissioner Ahmed Maddey Issak told Reuters by telephone.
"Travellers have been using 40 to 50 small sedan cars a day which is overwhelming our security officials," he said.
Travellers would now have to use minivans and buses to go to Baidoa which would be subjected to searches at checkpoints.
The Islamists have suggested their arch-foe Ethiopia had a hand in the blast to create a reason to attack them. Ethiopia denies any involvement.
GOVERNMENT "NOT WEAK"
Gedi, speaking to reporters in Addis Ababa after meeting Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, said his government was busy bolstering its security forces so it could eventually take over the capital Mogadishu from the Islamists.
"The TFG (Transitional Federal Government) is not weak. We have trained our security forces and the military and we are ready to engage them," he said.
Gedi said 3,000 foreign fighters from Pakistan, Afghanistan and also the Eritrean government, along with unspecified other fighters from Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Egypt and Ethiopian rebel groups were converging on Somalia.
There was no independent verification of his estimates, although a report to the United Nations says roughly 2,000 Eritrean troops are there. Asmara denies that.
Diplomats fear the standoff between the Islamists, who control Mogadishu and much of the south, and the government will spiral into all-out conflict, sucking in neighbouring countries.
Talks between the two sides stalled last month and some fear the latest violence will derail further negotiations.
A U.S.-backed U.N. Security Council resolution to authorise a peacekeeping force to prop up the government is also being discussed, which the Islamists say would be tantamount to a foreign invasion. Gedi said he was confident it would pass.
"It is time for all countries in the world to be engaged in fighting terrorism before it expands," he said, echoing earlier comments in which he accused the SICC of being a regional front for al Qaeda. The SICC has denied any links to the group.
Arab League Warns the US-backed Draft Resolution Will Spark Civil War
The Arab League has asked the United States government to explain the draft resolution that, if approved, will let regional peacekeeping troops go in Somalia to protect the impotent government seated in the small town of Baidoa. The US-backed draft resolution calls on the lifting of arms embargo on Somalia partially.
Arab League has declared the arms embargo lifting could fail the ongoing negotiations between Somalia's vying parties.
On Monday, Islamists held a huge rally in the capital Mogadishu where thousands of people have gathered in football stadium to protest the Ethiopian military intervention in the country and US campaign for African troop deployment in Somalia.
The League said the resolution would spark a civil war in Somalia that may spread out in the region, stating that peace talks in Somalia should be given a chance as the government and Islamic Courts Union are due to come to the negotiating table in the Sudanese capital Khartoum mid December.
The news came as UN Security Council member states is debating about the approval of alleviating the arms embargo on Somalia after 14 years.
Somalia's civil war has begun in 1991 when warlords ousted President Siad Barre, and then turned against one another, plunging the country into anarchic dire conditions.