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UN accuses Ethiopia of meddling in Somalia Affairs

By Staff reporter , Garowe Online

NEW YORK - Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed is facing accusations of interfering with the affairs of neighboring countries, fuelling fires of instability in Somalia and being lukewarm in the South Sudan peace process.

Two successive reports by the United Nations Panel of Experts in November have linked Ahmed to unending chaos in the long-chaotic East Africa nations struggling to recover from bloody conflict. 

The allegations came just weeks after the PM won the lucrative Nobel Peace Prize for peace with Eritrea. Seen as reformist par excellence, Ahmed's foreign policy has been subjected to scrutiny, dividing opinions among his critics and supporters.

Until Friday, Abiy Ahmed was the chair of IGAD, which regulates regional policies that cut across development, security, and democracy.

“Over the past year, the Igad and member states neighboring South Sudan – specifically Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, and Uganda – have not demonstrated full and consistent engagement in the peace process,” a UN report said.

South Sudan failed to form a transitional unitary government by November 12th, forcing the United States to recall her ambassador to Juba last week.

But the situation in Somalia could further injure Abiy's international reputation, with persistent interference of the country's 'domestic' politics raising questions.

In the middle of the controversy is the deployment of Ethiopian non-AMISOM troops to various states in Somalia. The troops, reports indicate, have been working with FGS to 'antagonize' regional leaders.

For instance, Jubaland state accused Ethiopia of abducting three senior officials in Gedo, 'forcing them to surrender territorial integrity'.

Jubaland Vice President Sayid Adan, reports showed, was blocked by Ethiopian non-AMISOM troops from accessing Belet Hawo, forcing him to take refuge in Mandera.

Somalia's opposition FNP has already written to Abiy Ahmed, demanding an immediate withdrawal of non AMISOM troops, who are accused of 'gross violation of AMISOM treaty'.

“The Ethiopian National Defence Forces have been repeatedly involved in illegal activities whose outcome could at best undermine the fragile state-building and nascent democratic processes in Somalia,” the opposition said.

Jubaland state, whose leader is Ahmed Madobe, had also accused the Ethiopian government of attempts to use commandos to rig August polls.

On Friday, FNP under the stewardship of Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, also claimed that Ethiopian troops have been 'spotted with weapons' in Gulmadug state, which is set for polls this month.

But Ethiopian envoy to Nairobi Meles Alem, told Kenya's Sunday Nation that Addis Ababa has no interest in meddling in the affairs of neighbors.

“One of the pillars of Ethiopian foreign policy is non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries. That is our track record,” the envoy said.

The envoy further said: “We have played a constructive role under the auspices of Igad to bring peace and stability in the two countries."

According to him, 'Ethiopia hosts a million refugees and we treat them as our citizens'.

Earlier in November, another UN Panel of Experts report linked Ethiopian troops to the interference of South West state's polls, which led to violent protests in December 2018.

Mukhtar Robow, a former Al-Shabaab spokesman, was blocked from contesting for the presidency by FGS and Ethiopian troops. At least 11 people were killed in Baidoa.

With FGS keen to install a close ally, the report noted, the Ethiopian non AMISOM troops in collaboration with President Mohamed Farmajo's government ferried Robow to Mogadishu where he was sentenced.

“The role of the Ethiopian forces in the arrest of Rubow has the potential to inflame anti-Ethiopian sentiment among communities in the region, who were previously known to share information on al-Shabaab movements with them,” the panel said.

Despite the diplomat defending Addis Ababa, Abiy is yet to respond to the latest serious accusations on the interference of Somalia's domestic politics.

At home, Ahmed is facing ethnic violence which has led to the death of over 100 people since 2018, a move that further risks tainting his international reputation.