Opposition feud over Ethiopia pullout of central Somalia

September 30th, 2008 | by addis portal |

BELETWEIN, Somalia Sep 30 (Garowe Online) – Key opposition figures in Somalia are engaged in a public dispute as to exactly why Ethiopian troops pulled out of a major town in the central regions.Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, chairman of a fractured opposition known as the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS), told the BBC Somali Service recently that Ethiopian forces’ withdrawal is “linked to peace talks.”

“I am saddened by the repeated violence in Mogadishu, which impacts the civilians,” Sheikh Sharif said.

He indicated that there are “serious efforts underway” to resolve the Somali conflict, while calling on “armed groups” like the muqaawama to stop actions that harm the public.

Sheikh Sharif condemned both piracy and threats to shoot down airplanes landing at Mogadishu’s airport as “not serving the interests of the Somali people.”

“There is a road to peace. You see, Ethiopian troops have pulled out of Hiran Region and there are efforts to pullout from other regions,” Sheikh Sharif said.

An Ethiopian army garrison stationed in Hiran since 2007 drove their armored trucks towards the border on Friday. While locals welcomed the development, speculation soon grew as to the nature behind the military move. [ READ: Ethiopia pulls troops out of key Somalia region]

An Islamist-linked official has rejected as “lies and fabrication” Sheikh Sharif’s suggestion that the Ethiopian pullback from Hiran is part of the peace process.

“I was conducting operations in Hiran…I was in Beletwein when they [Ethiopian troops] left,” said Indha Ade, referring to the provincial capital of Hiran.

Continuing, Indha Ade claimed that “those men [Ethiopian troops] left after we fought them,” adding: “I am the Defense Secretary for the Re-liberation Alliance [ARS] and also for the Islamic Courts. There were no talks.”

When the BBC interviewer asked Indha Ade how he can be present at so many battles, the ex-warlord of Lower Shabelle region responded by accusing the interviewer of “talking like an Ethiopian or like [Sheikh] Sharif.”

Inside sources tell Garowe Online that Islamist fighters in Hiran are generally allied to Sheikh Sharif’s camp. Col. Omar Hashi, a Sharif ally, condemned al Shabaab as “criminals” on Monday, revealing deeper fractures within the Islamist-led armed resistance. [ READ: ‘al Shabaab are criminals’: Opposition official]

The ARS, a Somali opposition coalition founded last year in Eritrea, splintered into two camps in June after Sheikh Sharif signed a peace agreement with the Ethiopian-backed interim government in Mogadishu.

Sheikh Sharif relocated his camp to Djibouti, while Islamist hardliner and former Sharif ally Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys remained in Eritrea and rejected the peace pact.

If the signed, the peace deal – the Djibouti Agreement – calls for the implementation of a ceasefire, the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops within 120 and their replacement by UN peacekeepers.

Source: Garowe Online

Be Sociable, Share!

You must be logged in to post a comment.