Ethiopia: Looking For The Exit In Somalia


August 28, 2012: Kenyan forces in Somalia still say they intend to launch an assault on the port of Kismayo. August, however, is almost over and August was supposed to be the month of the big attack on the Al Shabaab-held seaport. Kenyan naval forces have launched several gunfire attacks over the last three weeks. The attacks appear to be little more than raids intended to rattle the militiamen defending the port. One attack, however, allegedly killed several civilians. This past spring Kenyan government officials and military commanders began meeting with clan leaders in southern Somalia with the intent of getting the clans help to hammer out a political agreement for governing Kismayo and southern Somalia after Al Shabaab is evicted from the area. Kenya doesn’t want Blackhawk Down Mogadishu type chaos in Kismayo and southern Somalia after the big attack. The code phrase for chaos the Kenyans are using is an administrative vacuum. Some of the talks have taken place in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital. At least three major clans were involved in the discussions in Nairobi: the Marhan, Ogden, and Harti. If a power-sharing arrangement with the southern Somali clans has been made, no one is talking about it. In July Ethiopian officers indicated that Ethiopian Army units would participate in the assault on Kismayo. The speculation then was that Ethiopian armor would be valuable in the assault. There is another column marching toward Kismayo from the north, however, official reports do not mention Ethiopian forces as being part of the column, only Ugandan and Burundian military forces. A composite force consisting of African Union peacekeeping troops and Somalia Transitional National Government (TNG) troops took the fishing town of Merca on August 27. Merca is about 70 kilometers north of Kismayo.

August 27, 2012: One person was killed in the Kenyan port of Mombasa as rioting Moslems fought with police in the wake of Moslem cleric Sheik Aboud Rogo being murdered in Mtwapa (a suburb of Mombasa) when the van he was traveling in was ambushed and sprayed with automatic weapons fire. Rogo had been accused of recruiting fighters for Somalia’s Al Shabaab Islamist group and Kenyan courts had charged Rogo with terrorism. Kenyan officials reported that Moslem rioters had attacked four churches in the Mombasa area.

August 22, 2012: Kenya reported that 52 people died in tribal fighting in the Tana River district (Coast province, southeastern Kenya). Members of the Orma and Pokomo ethnic groups fought over cattle grazing rights. Most of the slain died from machete wounds, though several people were burned alive when their huts were set on fire. In 2001, around 130 people died in tribal fighting between the Orma and Pokomo.

August 21, 2012: Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi died in Belgium at the age of 57. Meles had been ill for almost a year and was in Belgium receiving treatment for his illness. The government has yet to reveal what the illness was, though one obituary indicated he was suffering from an infection associated with the illness. Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn was quickly sworn in as acting prime minister. Hailemariam is Meles designated successor. Meles had led Ethiopia since 1991 (first as president then as prime minister), and was in charge during the war with Eritrea (1998-2000). He emphasized economic development. According to the World Bank, Ethiopia’s GDP growth from 2000 to 2010 averaged around 8.5 percent a year – solid growth for any nation anywhere but superb for the chaotic Horn of Africa. However, he was also a tough autocrat who jailed, physically intimidated, and systematically repressed his domestic political opponents. He was regarded as a staunch enemy of Islamist militants and a reliable ally of the U.S. Ethiopian government officials emphasized that there would be no change in Ethiopian policy despite Meles’ death. However, when strong men do die, the possibility of a power vacuum and subsequent power struggle is very real.

August 20, 2012: Five people were killed and three wounded when gunmen raided a village in Kenya’s Mandera West District (Kenya-Ethiopia border), while 17 people were also kidnapped and at least 70 head of cattle were stolen. The area attacked is predominantly Moslem. Many of its inhabitants are ethnic Somalis. The Mandera region (East, Central, and West) sits in the angle formed by Kenya’s borders with Somalia and Ethiopia, and both the Ethiopian and Kenyan governments regard the area as being subject to attacks by Al Shabaab. However, one report indicated that the clash may involve a feud between two clans.

Ethiopia agreed to a peace deal with the Benishangul People's Liberation Movement (BPLM) rebel group. The government said that it hoped the agreement would end an insurgency that has lasted over 17 years. The BPLM maintained base camps inside Sudan across the border from Ethiopia’s Benishangul Gumuz state. Ethiopia claimed that the Sudanese government supported the BPLM. The government and the BPLM reached a peace agreement in 2005 but that deal fell apart in 2006.

August 19, 2012: The Kenyan government acknowledged that talks with southern Somali clans continue. The East African Inter-Governmental Agency for Development (IGAD) is sponsoring the talks.

August 17, 2012: The Ethiopian government confirmed that Ethiopian security forces attacked a South Sudanese rebel group operating inside Ethiopia (Gambela region) on August 13. At least 18 rebels were killed in the attack while three Ethiopian soldiers were wounded. The rebel group fled from South Sudan in June after its former leader, George Athor, was killed.

August 16, 2012: The Kenyan military (Kenyan Defense Forces, KDF) reported that its soldiers killed 73 Al Shabaab rebels in a battle in Somalia's Fafadun region. Two Kenyan soldiers died and three were wounded in the battle. The KDF also captured 40 automatic rifles.

August 15, 2012: Kenyan paramilitary police killed three suspected al-Shabaab infiltrators along the Kenya-Somalia border (Lamu East district). Four infiltrators were wounded but escaped. The police also recovered three AK-47 automatic rifles.

August 14, 2012: Kenyan forces have been moving closer to Kismayo. Kenya and Ethiopia have both said that they intend to attack the Somali seaport in August. It is August. Kenyan naval and air forces reportedly attacked Kismayo on August 12 and August 13. Al Shabaab claimed that five civilians died in the naval gunfire attack of August 12.

August 8, 2012: Kenyan jet fighter-bombers attacked an Al Shabaab position in the village of Birta-Dheer north of Kismayo.

August 7, 2012: Kenyan military forces will participate in a disaster response field training exercise to be held in Rwanda in October. Some 1,800 troops from East African nations will participate in the exercise.

August 6, 2012: Ethiopian and Somali Transitional National Government (TNG) forces are operating near the towns of Buurhakaba and Diinsoor. Buurhakaba is about 60 kilometers southeast of Baidoa. The composite group is attacking Al Shabaab positions near the town. TNG troops backed by other Ethiopian Army units are also nearing the town of Diinsoor. Diinsoor is 100 kilometers west of Baidoa. The TNG-Ethiopian Army force reportedly engaged an Al Shabaab militia force near Diinnsoor on August 4.

August 3, 2012: One person was killed and six were wounded in a bomb attack in Nairobi, Kenya. The attack occurred outside the Moi Air Base, where the headquarters of Kenya’s air force is located. Police indicated that the real target may have been a supermarket located near the air base and that the suicide bomber accidentally detonated the device early. The attack is still under investigation.

August 1, 2012: Kenyan forces killed 30 Al Shabaab fighters in a battle in the Somali town of Harbole. Two Kenyan soldiers were wounded. The KDF reported that it also destroyed three Al Shabaab technical vehicles (pick-up trucks mounting machine guns). Harbole is located near the town of Afmadhow (south of Kismayo).

July 26, 2012: The Kenyan government said that it will appeal a Kenyan High Court ruling that ended the government’s ban on the Mombasa Republic Council (MRC), a separatist group advocating the independence of the Mombasa region. The government regards the MRC as an outlaw organization.

July 25, 2012: An Ethiopian opposition party announced that it had formed an alliance with three rebel groups. The Alliance for Freedom and Democracy (AFD) said it will pursue peaceful political change but the rebel groups will continue to fight. The new alliance includes the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), and the Sidama Liberation Front (SLF). The Sidama region is located in southern Ethiopia near the Kenyan border. 

July 18, 2012: Djibouti acknowledged that political opponents who argue that the French and U.S. bases in Djibouti make the country a terrorist target have a case. However, the government said that the terror threat is limited and can be dealt with. The Djiboutian government has said that its relationships with France and the U.S. actually provide long-term stability.

July 15, 2012: Egypt's new president, Mohammed Morsi, visited Ethiopia to discuss political relations. Egypt and Ethiopia remain at odds over use of Nile River water. Egyptian officials continue to argue that Ethiopia’s new Grand Renaissance Dam will sharply reduce the amount of water flowing downstream.

July 12, 2012: The Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) claimed that an Oromo militia force killed five Ethiopian federal police officers in the Gidda Ayana area. The OLF statement suggested a battle erupted when the police officers tried to disarm the local militia.

July 10, 2012: Ethiopian Army soldiers serving with the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) reported that they had ended a riot in Abyei that involved members of the Dinka Ngok tribe. The Dinka Ngok were celebrating South Sudan’s first year of independence. The tribesmen encountered two members of the Misseriya tribe (a pro-Sudan, predominantly Moslem tribe). 

July 6, 2012: Kenyan Defense Forces soldiers fighting in Somalia formally joined the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) peacekeeping force. The KDF expeditionary force in Somalia will now operate as part of AMISOM.


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