Ethiopia must withdraw its troops from Somalia immediately or face
an all-out war that “no army” could resist, three senior Somali
leaders warned on Wednesday.
The three, including top Islamist leader Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed
and Hussein Aidid, who holds a post in Somalia’s government, were meeting
in the Eritrean capital for talks.
Aidid said Somalis will unite against the “brutal occupation”
of Ethiopian forces, who earlier this year helped the government’s armed forces
wrest control of much of Somalia from an Islamist movement.
“Up until now we [have used] dialogue to remove them but if they refuse
to cooperate … we will set everything aside to remove the Ethiopians ourselves,”
Aidid told reporters.
Sporadic fighting has continued between Ethiopian troops and insurgents in
Mogadishu since government troops returned to the capital.
The three leaders, who shared a stage under a Somali map emblazoned with a
dove and the logo “Somalia for Somalis”, warned that the situation
in the war-torn nation would deteriorate if Ethiopia failed to withdraw.
“Less than 10% of our forces are on the ground against the Ethiopians.
No army, I can tell you that, can stop what is coming up,” Aidid said.
Aidid, who holds the post of deputy prime minister and housing minister and
is a member of the Hawiye clan that holds sway in the capital, Mogadishu,
said the three leaders only wanted to work for peace in Somalia.
“The aim is to create dialogue among our people after 16 years of civil
war to act as a platform for reconciliation,” he said.
Despite his government posts, Aidid has openly opposed the presence of Ethiopian
troops in Somalia.
The third leader, Sheikh Sharif Hassan Aden, was ousted from his post as Parliament
speaker in January. He was accused of being too close to the Islamists.
Eritrea, which has been accused of backing the Islamists, has called for Ethiopia
to withdraw its troops. Asmara rejects the accusations.
Analysts have expressed fears that Ethiopia and Eritrea, still at odds over
their unresolved 1998 to 2000 border conflict, may fight a proxy war in Somalia.
Somalia has lacked an effective central government since the ousting of former
dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 touched off a bloody power struggle that
exploded into inter-clan warfare.
More than 14 attempts to restore a functional government in Somalia have since
failed. — AFP