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Ethiopian PM and Eritrea leader linked to alleged plot to kidnap Jubaland president

By Abuga Makori in Nairobi , Garowe Online
Getachew Reda, an executive committee member of the TPLF party

ADDIS ABABA - A top official from Ethiopia's Tigray People's Liberation Front [TPLF] has linked Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki to an alleged scheme to have Jubaland leader Ahmed Madobe abducted, in a statement which could further elicit sharp political reactions in Somalia.

Getachew Reda, an executive committee member of the TPLF party, told Tigray TV on Wednesday that the two leaders "conspired" to have Sheikh Ahmed Madobe kidnapped and deported to Ethiopia, where he was set to face "criminal" proceedings.

While it's not clear when such a plan was mooted, the regional leader has been at loggerheads with President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, leading to persistent clashes in the Gedo region between Somali National Army [SNA] and Jubaland forces, something that has attracted retribution from the international community.

In the plan, he said, Ethiopian commandos were dispatched to Kismayo, the interim administrative capital of Jubaland, but their plan "failed to materialize" due to logical challenges. However, the official did not disclose the exact date or time when such a plan was to be executed.

"He's been notorious for regional stability," he said in reference to the Ethiopian PM, adding that, "together with Afwerki, they planned to kidnap Madobe from Kismayo, this is how dangerous these people are for democracy."

"They dispatched commandos to Kismayo but their plans didn't materialize. As we speak, Madobe could have been somewhere incarcerated. We can't allow dictators to pretend to be democrats wherein the real sense, they are out to ruin others," he noted during the interview.

Although he did not specify the dates, Ethiopia has been facing criticism in Somalia over the deployment of non-AMISOM troops, who are said to be actively involved in helping SNA troops in sections of Gedo and parts of Southwest regions. They've even erected camps in the region, reports indicate.

In a fierce letter copied to Abiy Ahmed and the UN, Madobe had in November last year termed ENDF presence in Gedo a "violation of territorial integrity" and demanded "immediate" withdrawal. At that time, he noted, the troops had "abducted" two local officials and forced them to "surrender" jurisdictional integrity.

Earlier this week, about four opposition parties led by former President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed called for the withdrawal of the ENDF non-AMISOM contingent in Somalia, arguing that it had unjustifiably started calling shots in Somalia's local political affairs.

The troops, the statement claimed, were part of "failed mission" to influence Jubaland polls in August 2019. The opposition team also linked the Ethiopian contingent to controversial Southwest polls in December 2018 where at least 11 protestors were shot dead when former Al-Shabaab deputy commander Mukhtaar Robow was arrested by ENDF and transferred to Mogadishu from Baidoa.

During the Jubaland polls, the local Jubaland forces with the help of Kenya Defense Forces [KDF] blocked an Ethiopian plane from landing in Kismayo. It's this plane which observers believe was carrying Ethiopian commandos and senior government officials from Mogadishu will the sole aim of manipulating the outcome to Madobe's detriment, and subsequently, have him arrested.

Will over 48 hours after Getachew's statement, no formal response has been given by Mogadishu, Addis Ababa and Asmara. It's however clear that the leaders from the three nations have been working closely together, a move which was revived by Ethiopia's unprecedented reconciliation with Eritrea in recent months.

But so thorny has been the Jubaland crisis that it has threatened to disintegrate the cooperation between ENDF and KDF, who man Sectors II and VI of AMISOM jurisdictions, due to their conflicting interests within the war-torn nation, Garowe Online has learned.

A fortnight ago, the ENDF non-AMISOM contingent shot down a Kenyan plane in Bardale within Southwest, claiming that it was "mistaken identity". But the matter has been taken as an "offense" by KDF despite the fact that Farmajo invited President Uhuru Kenyatta to dispatch a team of aviation investigators to handle the matter.

The battlefield recently shifted to Gedo where SNA and Jubaland forces are tussling for control, leading to deaths and displacements of people between Balad-Hawo and Mandera towns. While ENDF supports FGS, the Kenyan troops have close ties with Madobe administration because KDF uses Jubaland as a buffer zone in the fight against Al-Shabaab.

In recent weeks, KDF has been launching airstrikes within Gedo targeting suspected Al-Shabaab militants, leading to protests by SNA, who accuse the Kenyan troops of indiscriminately "bombing our people". Through northeastern regional administrator Nicodemus Ndalana, Kenya warned that "KDF will be forced to retaliate".

The US and other international partners dismissed the deployment of SNA in Gedo as "unnecessary", arguing that the move could trigger Al-Shabaab resurgence. Similar sentiments were echoed by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last week, who termed the Gedo clashes as "unfortunate" and called for an immediate ceasefire.

But in an interview with Universal TV earlier this year, Farmajo insisted that deployment of SNA was in order, adding that "it's their mandate to protect our borders from external aggression even if we don't have that capacity". Farmajo added: "Kenya has nothing to do with Jubaland, it's not in their territory."

Gedo region is mostly occupied by Farmajo's clansmen thus the spirited battle to curtain the influence of Madobe, an Ogaden whose roots are traced in the Somali region of Ethiopia. In a statement recently, Madobe accused Farmajo of a plot to "topple me by establishing a parallel administration in Gedo".

However, the attempts to scuttle Madobe's administration may after all not yield fruits following a recent deal signed in Nairobi by his three main opponents. The three agreed to recognize his August victory and urged for the formation of unitary government, a move seen as Farmajo's setback.

In Ethiopia, TPLF is at loggerheads with PM Ahmed following the decision to fold up the legendary Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front [EPRDF], a coalition that had been ruling the country since 1991. Ahmed, who won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, has since formed Prosperity Party, an idea which TPLF rejected.

The standoff has put the two parties in a major tussle for leadership, which has been escalated following the recent postponement of national elections which were scheduled for August. The NEBE cited the Coronavirus pandemic as the reason behind postponement, a move that TPLF opposed.

"Abiy wants to install a one-man rule where whatever he says goes. That will of course presupposes a unitary state the PP PM can lord over," Getachew said in a statement on Facebook, in reference to Abiy's administration.

"He also needs a total victory over all of the regional states so he can comfortably serve his treasonous agenda such as selling the Rennaisance Dam while masquerading as the most patriotic leader Ethiopia has ever seen."

Madobe is yet to issue a statement over the alleged attempts to have him kidnapped by the two senior leaders from the Horn of Africa. However, he called for the resignation of AMISOM chief Francisco Madeira who he accused of "undermining" Jubaland political deal due to his alleged ties with Farmajo.


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