The Ethiopian government says the withdrawal of its troops from Somalia has been well planned and will not create a power vacuum should the international community urgently deploys more peacekeepers.
Ethiopia says all areas once patrolled by its forces have been transferred to African Union peacekeepers and Somali government troops.
“Necessary steps are being taken to avoid a power vacuum and to avert the lawlessness,” Ethiopia`s government said in a statement quoted in Kenya`s Daily Nation newspaper.
But Ethiopia says more peacekeepers are required in the fractious country “as a matter of urgency”.
“It`s proven that Uganda and Burundi are willing to increase the number of their troops and the situation allows Ethiopia to go out,” the statement said. There are currently 3600 Ugandan and Burundian peacekeepers in the country. “However, they are ill-equipped and unable to control the ever increasing insurgency in Somalia”, the Daily Nation says.
Ethiopian forces started their withdrawal on Friday and at the weekend said it would take some days.
AFP says Ethiopia deployed troops into neighbouring Somalia in December 2006 to rescue an embattled transitional administration and oust the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), which had taken control of most of the country and started imposing a strict form of Sharia.
Bloomberg adds that the foreign ministry statement declares the two year sojourn a success. “Our defence forces have carried out a successful mission to eliminate the clear and present danger that our country had faced two years ago,” the statement avers under the headline “mission accomplished.”
Bloomberg notes that Ethiopia`s “attempt to reinstall the United Nations-backed transitional government in the capital, Mogadishu, was met with an Iraq-style insurgency by Islamist and clan-based militias.
“More than 800,000 have been forced from their homes by the fighting, while an estimated 3.2 million people, more than 40 percent of the country`s population, are in need of humanitarian aid. The seas off Somalia have become the world`s most dangerous for commercial shippers as the anarchy has led to rapid growth of piracy and kidnappings.
“As a result of the insurgency, the transitional government controls only parts of Mogadishu and the southern town of Baidoa, while Islamists from the al-Shabaab militia, a faction of the Islamic Courts Union, control much of southern Somalia.”