Nov. 25 (Bloomberg) — Ethiopia agreed to back efforts by Kenya, the African Union and Somalia’s government to defeat the al-Shabaab insurgency, a seven-nation regional group said.
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development asked the authorities in Addis Ababa to provide assistance and “there was a promise from the Ethiopian government that they would do so,” IGAD Executive Secretary Mahboub Maalim told reporters today. He wouldn’t say what support Ethiopia may provide, adding: “We leave that to the national security forces to decide.”
Maalim made the announcement after a meeting in Addis Ababa between Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, and Djibouti’s president, Ismail Omar Guelleh.
Kenya deployed troops in Somalia in mid-October to wipe out al-Qaeda-linked militants and secure its borders, following the abduction and murder of at least five foreign tourists and aid workers that it blamed on al-Shabaab. Kenyan authorities are concerned the attacks will deter travelers and damage the tourist industry, its second-biggest foreign-exchange earner.
The New York Times reported that hundreds of Ethiopian soldiers with artillery and tanks crossed into Somalia on Nov. 20. Ethiopia denied its troops had moved in.
Ethiopia withdrew its forces from Somalia in 2009 after a three-year intervention aimed at ousting an Islamist government that had seized southern Somalia. The incursion had become bogged down in a guerrilla war with al-Shabaab, which has fought for the past four years to defeat the United Nations-backed government and establish an Islamic state.
IGAD accused Eritrea of supplying arms to the al-Shabaab militia, a charge the authorities in Asmara have previously denied.
The political grouping, which admitted South Sudan as its seventh member today, also asked Kenya to consider integrating its troops into the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia and work alongside government troops.
The UN-backed force has helped push out most al-Shabaab fighters from the capital, Mogadishu, and needs more soldiers to wrest control of rebel-held central and southern Somalia, Commander Fred Mugisha said on Oct. 7.
Somalia has had no effective government since the removal of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre 20 years ago.
–Editor: Paul Richardson, Karl Maier.
Filed Under: Reports
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