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How Ethiopia's Tigray war is likely to affect Somalia

By East Africa Correspondent , Garowe Online

MOGADISHU, Somalia - The ongoing military actions in the Tigray region in Ethiopia could substantially affect the situation in Somalia, a country which has been in political turmoil for almost four decades, a top security scholar has said, just a month before Mogadishu goes for elections.

Ethiopian National Defense Forces [ENDF] is on a charm offensive against Tigray People's Liberation Front [TPLF], a political outfit that had been in power for decades, following claims that the regional forces in Tigray descended on an ENDF base.

Since then, the ENDF and TPLF have been firing gunshots at each other, leading to the death of a couple of security officers. Also, over 40,000 Tigrayans have crossed over to Sudan where they are being hosted as refugees.

But Vanda Felbab-Brown believes that the Ethiopian crisis could have negative ripple effects in Somalia which could eventually erode the country's ongoing rebuilding efforts. Ethiopia has close to 4,000 security officers working under AMISOM in Somalia.

“With many around the world focused on the dangerous military confrontation in Ethiopia, Somalia is facing a triple security crisis that can jeopardize the country’s halting progress," she said in her long analysis article on the current status of Ethiopia.

According to her, the upcoming elections in Somalia could raise a storm over succession, adding that Ethiopia has for far too long been meddling in Somalia's internal politics. Elections are scheduled from December this year.

“Somalia’s upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections are the second component of the emerging security storm," the analyst said.

“While the formation of the new states and a new constitution are incomplete and halting, Somalia’s current government of President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (known as “Farmajo”), which is backed by Ethiopia, wants to decentralize power," read the article.

In 2018, Ethiopia's non-Amisom troops were accused of influencing Southwest elections where former Al-Shabaab deputy leader Mukhtaar Robow was arrested and jailed after he declared interest in the seat. To date, Robow is still in jail.

Already, Ethiopia has withdrawn a number of troops from Somalia following the Tigray war and even disarmed her troops serving in AMISOM who are from Tigray ethnicity. This, Vanda Felbab-Brown said, could compromise security in the region.

“Ethiopian forces were essential for Robow’s arrest and were implicated in the bloody repression of Robow’s supporters. Yet without Ethiopian forces, al-Shabab’s reach across the South West State, including its capital of Baidoa, would be even more pronounced”."

“Somalia could easily topple into a complex civil war involving al-Shabab, clans, the federal member states, and Mogadishu. Years of state-building efforts could be rapidly wiped out.”

The absence of Ethiopia in Somalia's actions might work against Farmajo, but the president has been working to tighten his grip on power by allegedly picking NISA agents to the charge of elections. This has irked opposition leaders who are currently going on with a conference in Mogadishu.


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