U.N. Blue Berets Bump Ethiopians in Somalia?


Last week the U.N. Security Council approved a peacekeeping operation for Somalia. It’s the first step to actually deploying troops to the region.
There are huge hurdles, of course. The last time the U.N. tried to intervene in the mostly ungoverned country, 18 U.S. soldiers and hundreds of Somalis died in the Battle of Mogadishu. It’ll be an uphill fight getting donor nations to pony up forces after that.
But the African Union force in Mogadishu has proved that peacekeeping can work in Somalia. The A.U. has shown that it’s vital for peacekeepers to be perceived as neutral parties in the ongoing conflict pitting Somalia’s unpopular clan-based “transitional” government and their Ethiopian allies versus Islamic insurgents led by the Al Shabab group.
Indeed, it appears that the Security Council vote is tied to recent assertions by a key Somali opposition group that no peace is possible in Somalia until Ethiopia withdraws. Somali Weyn radio has the scoop:

Dahir Mohamud Gelle, the spokesman of Asmara group [based in Eritrea], has told Somali Weyn radio that they would not have sturdy negotiation with the transitional federal government delegates unless the Ethiopian troops absolutely pull out from Somali soil.
“We have discussed with the United Nations regarding about this issue of the withdrawal of the Ethiopian troops, and if this happens we are ready to meet with our fellow Somalis, in order to gain back the reputation of our mother Somalia,” said Dahir, the spokesman of the Asmara team.

But the Ethiopians, for all their brutality and unpopularity, nevertheless play a vital role in providing a measure of street-level security in parts of Mogadishu. If they leave, as they should, some armed body must replace them. U.N. troops would be an excellent replacement for the Ethiopians, provided they’re not white and take pains to be neutral peace brokers.
(Photo: me)

By David Axe

David Axe is freelance war correspondent based in Washington, D.C. He has reported from Iraq, Afghanistan,Lebanon, East Timor and Somalia. His books include War Fix and Army 101. His personal blog is called War is Boring. He can be reached at david_axe@hotmail.com.

1 comment

  1. “But the Ethiopians, for all their brutality and unpopularity, nevertheless play a vital role in providing a measure of street-level security in parts of Mogadishu.”

    The Ethiopians are now the major source of insecurity in Mogadishu. The waves of people leaving the city follow Ethiopian attacks rather than insurgent activity. The recent Amnesty report makes clear their brutal disregard for human rights.

    And David, I’ll buy you a goat supper in Bakara Mrket when the UN troops go in. (I’m tempted to make a bet about running naked through the streets, but sense has just about prevailed.)

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