Ethiopia: Massing Troops on the Somali Border


July 15, 2006: It's a collision of international organizations inside Somalia, with Ethiopia a key player. The African Union (AU) and the UN are trying to work through Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to create stability in Somalia. Not so the Arab League. The Arab League wants the TFG to negotiate directly with the Islamic Courts Union (ICU). Meanwhile, several sources report that Ethiopia-- an ally of the TFG-- has added to its forces along the Somalia-Ethiopia border. Ethiopia is positioning "several mechanized divisions" near the border. Ethiopia can easily send battalion-sized contingents into Somalia for brief periods of time. Divisions --and especially "several divisions"-- are something else entirely. Logistics is not a strong point for East African armies. Ethiopia is eight or more weeks away from being able to launch a sustained offensive force. Ethiopia could enter Somalia as an African Union peacekeeper. The question is, would Ethiopian action on behalf of the TFG benefit the TFG politically, or hurt it? The ICU would paint Ethiopia as an invader.
July 13, 2006: Kenya and Ethiopia are both "beefing up" police and security forces along their mutual border. The problem? Cattle rustlers. Cattle rustlers moving across the Kenyan-Ethiopian border (as well as in Sudan and Uganda) have been a long term problem. The agreement to improve security followed a very serious report on July 9, 2006 when the Kenyan government said that "raiders" from Ethiopia entered Kenya and killed 19 people, including six police officers. The raiders were involved in stealing cattle. Kenyan police said they had recovered 300 stolen cattle.
July 12, 2006: The Eritrean government said that Eritrea and Yemen had agreed to play a "positive role" in Somalia. Eritrea said it wants to see a "united and sovereign" Somalia. Eritrea is playing a diplomatic game at the expense of its chief rival, Ethiopia, since Somalia claims part of Ethiopia's Ogaden region (which has many ethnic Somali inhabitants). Further Eritrean statements made that clear when Eritrea accused Ethiopia "in collusion with the CIA" of planning action in Somalia.
July 7, 2006: The UN once again described conditions along the Eritrean-Ethiopian border in the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) as "stable but tense."
July 5, 2006: Eritrea denied a Sudanese government claim that Eritrea is supporting a Darfur rebel group. The group in question is the National Redemption Front-- which is a collection of Darfur rebel factions that refused to sign the May 5 Darfur peace agreement. Sudan claimed that the rebels had met in Eritrea to form a political front.


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