Addis Ababa – Ethiopia said on Wednesday that it would send its troops back into Somalia in the unlikely event it was called on to evacuate African peacekeepers in the nation battling Islamist insurgents.
Ethiopia invaded Somalia in 2006 to topple the Islamist movement that gave birth to the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shebaab movement that today controls about 80 percent of the country. It pulled its troops out in early 2009.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said he would send the forces back in the “unlikely scenario” of peacekeeping troops from the African Union’s mission in Somalia (AMISOM), who are propping up the government, needing rescue.
“We will provide all the assistance that we can from our side of the border but we will not cross it, even if the TFG (transitional government in Mogadishu) is threatened,” Meles told journalists in Addis Ababa.
“The only time when we may cross it is if the lives of AMISOM troops are under threat, and if they ask for our assistance. Then we will intervene without hesitation,” he said.
Meles said such an intervention would only involve facilitating the evacuation of the peacekeepers through Ethiopian territory.
“In such an eventuality we would be prepared to go as far in to Somalia as necessary to help AMISOM to do so. But this is completely hypothetical and I don’t expect it to happen,” he said.
African leaders agreed last month to beef up AMISOM in the wake of suicide blasts that killed nearly 80 people in Uganda’s capital in July. The attacks were claimed by al-Shebaab.
The militants said the blasts were to punish Uganda for its leading role in the peacekeeping force.
Thousands of people have been killed in the violence in Somalia, and many more displaced, with Mogadishu one of the world’s most dangerous cities and the country suffering one of its worst humanitarian disasters. – Sapa-AFP