Sunday, December 23, 2007

To stay or not to stay in Somalia

Indian Ocean Newletter N° 1228 21/12/2007
When he speaks in public on the subject, the Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi denies that his country’s troops are having a hard time bringing the Islamic rebels in Somalia to heel. He even accuses United Nations agencies of not having been "positive" enough on the role played by the Ethiopian forces there. However, the internal discussions within the Ethiopian military executive are far less optimistic.

On 11 December 2007, from 11 in the morning until well after nightfall, Meles Zenawi held a meeting with his generals behind closed doors to evaluate the situation in Somalia. Those present included the army chief of staff Samora Yunis. According to information obtained by The Indian Ocean Newsletter, several participants in this conclave reached the conclusion that the Ethiopian army is faltering through the poor quality of its intelligence sources on the situation in Somalia. The morale of Ethiopian troops on the ground is at a low ebb in the face of repeated attacks by insurgents and the Somalian Transitional Federal Government’s inability to cope.

A few generals went as far as to suggest withdrawing the Ethiopian troops, at least from certain neighbourhoods in Mogadishu. One of the participants even said that in the event of a full retreat, the Ethiopian servicemen should be disarmed, in order to avert a possible mutiny. But the majority of the generals present in the meeting rejected this proposal. They pointed out that disarming an elite force would have a detrimental effect on the morale of the rest of the army and so cause even more problems. In the end, nothing was decided and no date set for a further meeting on this subject.