ADDIS ABABA (AFP) — Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi on Wednesday played down the threat posed by insurgents to Somalia’s government and said he believed President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed would not be toppled.
“Our reading of the situation in Somalia and in Mogadishu, is slightly different from the one of the speaker of the parliament that if there is no foreign military intervention within 24 hours, the TFG (transitional federal government) will collapse,” Meles told reporters.
“Our reading is that the TFG is facing a very difficult situation with Shebab and Hezb al-Islam militias supported by hundreds of jihadists that pose difficult challenges. But we don’t believe they risk to be toppled,” he added.
Somalia’s speaker last week made an urgent appeal for a foreign military intervention to prop up the internationally backed government, which has been facing a fierce insurgent military offensive since May 7.
In 2006, Ethiopia invaded Somalia to remove an Islamist rebellion that had taken control of large swathes of the country.
When it pulled out earlier this year, having failed to stabilise the country and significantly strengthen the transitional government, Ethiopia warned it could return at any time should hardliners threaten to take control.
But Ethiopian Communications Minister Bereket Simon reacted to the Somali speaker’s call by insisting that his country would not make its move without international backing.
On Wednesday, Meles insisted Sharif’s administration could be saved if the African Union’s peacekeeping mission AMISOM “could be beefed up in terms of troops and mandate and TFG troops reinforced.”
“We support the TFG… but we have no plan to deploy our troops in Somalia for a number of reasons…. We believe the situation could be stabilised without a deployment of Ethiopian troops,” he said.
Around 300 people, including many civilians, are confirmed to have been killed and more than 150,000 displaced by the six-week-old fighting in the capital Mogadishu and in central regions.