Mon, Jan 05, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Djibouti peace plan ‘under threat’

‘DOWN THE DRAIN’ The Ethiopian government vowed that it would not leave behind a power vacuum when it completed its troop withdrawal from war-torn Somalia


Islamists guard Howlwadaag police station in Mogadishu, Somalia, on Saturday. Insurgents took over police stations in the Somali capital on Saturday as Ethiopian troops pulled out, raising fears the Ethiopians’ departure will set off a violent scramble for control over the country.


The Djibouti peace process is at risk of going “down the drain” and needs urgent support from the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the OIC chief said on Saturday.

Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu told a meeting of OIC foreign ministers that they needed to contribute troops, equipment and financial support to the African Union Mission to Somalia to prevent the collapse of the peace process when Ethiopia pulls out its troops from the country in the coming days.

“The Djibouti peace process, which remains the only credible political process currently under way in Somalia, in which the OIC is a major international stakeholder and facilitator, is under severe threat,” Ihsanoglu said.

“Our heavy investment in the process, which produced the historic Djibouti Peace Agreement between the Transitional Federal Government and the coalition of the opposition ... must not be allowed to go down the drain and needs the full support of all the member states,” Ihsanoglu said.

Ihsanoglu also called on OIC members to offer up humanitarian assistance to Somalians and for the organization to open up an office in Mogadishu “as a symbol of our enduring engagement with Somalia.”

Ethiopia pledged on Saturday that it would not leave behind a power vacuum when it completed its troop withdrawal from Somalia in the coming days, two years after it invaded the country.

There are 3,600 Ugandan and Burundian African Union peacekeepers in Somalia, but they are ill-equipped and under-funded and have been unable to restore stability in the country.

Ethiopia invaded Somalia in 2006 to rescue an embattled transitional administration and oust the Islamic Courts Union, which had taken control of most of the country and started imposing a strict form of Shariah.

Ethiopia’s pullout was agreed upon by the Somali government and the more moderate wing of the Islamist-led political opposition during UN-sponsored reconciliation talks in Djibouti.

In Somalia, Islamic insurgents appeared to be scrambling for power, taking over several police stations in the capital as Ethiopian troops began to pull out, witnesses said.

Many fear the Ethiopian pullout — and last month’s resignation of Somalia’s president — will cause Islamic militant groups to fight among themselves for power, bringing even more chaos.

“We have to show commitment to do our part in security, we want to help people feel secure,” Abdirahim Issa Adow, a spokesman for one wing of the insurgency, told reporters on Saturday after deploying troops to three of Mogadishu’s 14 police stations.

His Union of Islamic Courts is not allied to the most powerful insurgent group, al-Shabab, which has taken over most of Somalia.

The US accuses al-Shabab of harboring the al-Qaeda-linked terrorists who blew up the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. Many of the insurgency’s senior figures are Islamic radicals; some are on the US State Department’s list of wanted terrorists.

The Somali government controls only Baidoa, the seat of Parliament, and pockets of Mogadishu. There is no effective military or police force; some police bases are occupied by government forces and others are vacant. The three taken over on Saturday were vacated months ago.

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