Majority of Somalia nationals think Ethiopia’s invasion and alleged interference is the cause of instability in their Horn of Africa country.
From interviews conducted by Radio Dalsan in Mogadishu, some 80% of residents in the capital believe Ethiopia undermines the sovereignty and security of its neighbor Somalia.
“As long as the Ethiopian army presence continues in my country, I will not be optimistic that the conflict facing Somalia will come to an end soon,” Ahmed Bille, a Mogadishu resident said.It is ten years now since neighboring Ethiopia sent its troops across the border at the end of 2006 to help the weak Transitional government rout out the Islamic Courts Union who had controlled the capital Mogadishu for six months. Locals still refer to that battle as “Dagaalki Itobian-Ka Moqdisho ku qabsatay” or loosely translated “when Ethiopians Were in Mogadishu War”.
Over a million Somalis were displaced following the invasion and tens of thousands died, a memory that many Somalis painfully remember.
Ever Since, Ethiopian troops have been either an independent force or recently as part of AMISOM peace keeping force. They have in the past withdrawn and return depending on the political scenario back home and in Somalia.
According to Abdirashid Ahmed, a Somali Political Analyst, Ethiopia’s boots on the ground are at least 10,000 and only 2,000 serve under the green AMISOM beret.
“That indicates their interest in wanting to control the path that Somalia takes both internally, regionally and internationally,” Ahmed said in an interview with Radio Dalsan.
Ethiopian troop are still present in Galguduud, Central Somalia, Kismayo, Gedo region and Hiraan. They operate under AMISOM in Bay and Bakool regions.
Ethiopia has lately been seen supporting President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and with the Presidential election set for January 22, Addis has been seen to be backing a Mohamud come back.
On Saturday, Addis hosted a mediation, closed door meeting between the Incumbent and Presidential hopeful Sharif Sheikh Hassan Adan. Ethiopia would want to see Adan back down his bid and become Speaker of parliament while backing Mohamud.
That would be the fifth time that President Mohamud has been in Addis in a period of one month and if the frequency of his visit is anything to go, Ethiopia is pegging its hope on his to Villa Somalia.
President Mohamud recently sealed a deal whereby Ethiopia would replace Burundian troops in Mogadishu. Bujumbura has threatened to withdraw its troops over non payment.
Sagal Bihi, an MP and social justice activist did not mince her words regarding the Ethiopia -Somalia relation.
“Now after 10 years they are intervening with our political system to dominate the country in every aspect,” she tweeted.
If the mood of the ordinary Somali on the street would be measured, Ethiopian troops are arguably the least popular of the AMISOM peace keepers in Somalia.
“Somalis rank Kenya, Uganda and Burundi ahead of Ethiopia,” Abdikarim Yusuf, a student at the University of Mogadishu told Radio Dalsan.
There have been reported cases of civilians killed by Ethiopian troops . One of the highest civilian deaths caused by AMISOM when Ethiopian troops opened fire and killed seven civilians in El Buur.
Animosity between the two neighbours go beyond the 2006 invasion. Somalia and Ethiopia went to war in 1977 over the Ogaden region. Like Siamese twins, Somalia and Ethiopia’s political destinations are likely to remain intertwined in the years to come.