Somalia’s Neighbors Are Warned by U.S.
KINSHASA, Congo, July 29 — The United States warned Eritrea and Ethiopia on Saturday to stay out of the escalating crisis in Somalia, where they are believed to be backing rival sides.
« There are many foreign elements in Somalia right now, » said Jendayi Frazer, assistant secretary of state for African affairs, citing reports that Ethiopia had sent troops to back the interim government and that Eritrea has given weapons to an Islamic militia that controls the capital.
Neither the interim government nor the Islamic militia « can take the high ground by saying the other is violating Somali sovereignty, » she said. « They’ve all invited in foreigners, all been backed by foreign forces. »
On a visit to Congo, where she will monitor elections, Frazer said other countries must remain focused on supporting Somalia’s interim government.
If the government is undermined, she said, « it will set the Somali people back many, many years and probably ensure a future of chaos. »
Diplomats say that Ethiopia and Eritrea, which fought a 1998-2000 war and continue to argue over their border, are using the situation in Somalia as a proxy for their feud.
Witnesses say Ethiopia has sent several thousand troops to back the interim government, which is based in Baidoa, 150 miles northwest of Mogadishu.
Eritrea has armed the Islamic militia in the past, according to the United Nations, and many analysts say the country continues to provide them weapons.
Somalia has been without an effective central government since warlords toppled dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 and then turned on one another, carving much of the country into armed camps. The interim government was set up in 2004 as part of a peace deal but has failed to assert control over the country.
Last month, the Islamic militia seized control of Mogadishu and much of southern Somalia from an alliance of secular warlords backed by the U.S. government.