Ethiopian withdrawal from Somalia a precondition for peace

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“We have done our job and we are proud of it, but the expectations that we had from the international community were never fulfilled. But that said, we will withdraw in a responsible manner,” said Wahide Belay, the Ethiopian foreign ministry spokesman.

Ethiopian Troops have announced their withdrawal from Somalia and the deadline for the pull-out was in a letter sent to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and African Union Commission Chairman Jean Ping on Tuesday.

This is not the first time the Ethiopians have said they would withdraw but this time they have made the announcement without any conditions or provisos. Ethiopia had announced that it would not pull out in a way that would leave a vacuum or destabilize the situation Somalia.

However this withdrawal move is part of a peace deal agreed recently between the government and moderate Islamists.

According to reports, the US supported the Ethiopian move into Somalia but calls for UN peacekeepers to be sent have never materialized. There are believed to be about 2,000 Ethiopian troops in Somalia – sharply down from the 12,000 who first intervened.

Some analysts fear that fighting could increase after the Ethiopians leave because the small African Union peacekeeping force in Mogadishu are unlikely to fight off the advancing Islamists.

The presence of the Ethiopian troops has been deeply unpopular with many Somalia Islamists. And despite being forced from power in Mogadishu, the Islamist forces have rallied and staged frequent attacks against Ethiopian and government soldiers, and had refused to take part in any peace talks until the Ethiopians left Somali territory – the two countries have twice fought border wars.

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