Ethiopia: Sparring Partners


October 29, 2006: Ethiopia continues to describe its confrontation with Somali Islamists as a "proxy war" with Eritrea. The government believes that the new Somali Islamic Courts leader, Sheikh Dahir Aweys has "close connections" with Eritrea's leaders. Aweys recently declared a "jihad" against Ethiopia. Aweys was once associated with al-Itihaad al-Islamiya, an Islamist group with alleged links to al Qaeda. Ethiopia now says the key date in the relationship between Eritrea and Aweys is November 14, 2005. Ethiopia maintains that a delegation from the Eritrean foreign ministry met with Aweys. One version reported that the Eritrean foreign ministry officials were posing as businesspeople. In this meeting (or in subsequent contacts), Eritrea agreed to supply the Islamic Courts with ammunition and weapons (to include anti-armor and anti-aircraft weapons and ammunition). Ethiopia has provided support for Somalia's Transitional National Government (TNG).

October 25, 2006: Ethiopia alleged that Eritrea had sent more troops into the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ), the buffer area between Eritrea and Ethiopia. Ethiopia said that Eritrea had expanded its force in the zone to around 10,000 troops (soldiers and militia). Ethiopia called this a "flagrant violation" of the ceasefire agreement. On October 16 some 1,500 Eritrean troops and 14 tanks entered the TSZ.

The UN reported that an Eritrean was shot and killed when the man "illegally entered" a UN peacekeeping position in the TSZ.

October 24, 2006: The government acknowledged that it is "technically at war" with Somali Islamists in the Islamic Courts (also called Islamic Courts Union). Ethiopia admitted to western journalists that it does have troops in Somalia, but described its troop contingent as "a few hundred trainers" assisting Somalia's legitimate government, the Transitional National Government. An Ethiopian spokesman said that the Islamic Courts intended to conduct "terrorist outrages" along the Ethiopia-Somalia border. These statements followed an Ethiopian government warning to the Islamic Courts (on October 23) that Ethiopia would intervene in Somalia if the Islamic Courts try to overthrow the TNG.

October 22, 2006: Somali Islamist militiamen belonging to the Islamic Courts have reportedly taken up positions outside the Somali town of Buur Hakaba (about 30 kilometers from the TNG's headquarters in Baidoa). A subsequent report said that the Islamic Courts fighters took control of Buur Hakaba. During the previous week, a Somali government force had driven a pro-Islamic Courts militia from the city. Buur Hakaba could be a "jumping off point" for an attack on Baidoa. Controlling it insures communications with Mogadishu, the Islamic Courts headquarters and logistical base.

October 21, 2006: Representatives of the Somaliland Republic (the separatist "statelet within Somalia") once again appealed for international recognition of their state. The statement was made in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. Ethiopia supports Somaliland separatism.

The government accused Eritrea of "jeopardizing regional stability" (jargon for inciting war in the Horn of Africa).

October 16, 2006: Some 1,500 Eritrean troops, supported by 14 tanks (a tank company) had entered the TSZ, which is a violation of the UN peace deal. Eritrea rejected the complaint and said that the troops were there to harvest crops growing in the zone. Eritrea claimed that it had to send troops because Eritrean civilians (ie, farmers) were threatened by Ethiopia's military presence. Eritrea then accused Ethiopia of being in violation of the 2000 peace agreement. That agreement required both Ethiopia and Eritrea accept the decision of the international demarcation committee as binding. The border demarcation committee gave the town of Badme to Eritrea. Ethiopia then said the binding agreement needed to be "adjusted."


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