AFRICANGLOBE – Ethiopia is considering the establishment of a buffer zone inside Somalia to deter cross-border attacks from Al-Shabaab with high caution, a senior government official said.
Media reports indicated this week that Ethiopia and its southern neighbor Kenya are in discussions to create a buffer zone inside Somalia along their respective borders.
Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs declined to officially comment on the issue. However, sources within the ministry said that the country is cautiously approaching the matter due to the “sensitivity” of the issue.
“The move could lead to wrong interpretations by some groups. We do not wish to see a repeat of the 2006,” the source said.
In July 2006, Ethiopian forces entered Somalia claiming that it has faced direct threat posed by the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), which was in control of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu at the time. Ethiopian defense forces eventually drove away the ICU and the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia took control. The decision to enter stirred controversy with some accusing Ethiopia of meddling in the internal affairs of Somalia.
Following recent attacks by Al-Shabaab inside its territory, the Kenyan government disclosed this week plans to setup buffers zones inside Somalia along the 800km-long border it shares with the country.
“Kenya is holding talks with Ethiopia to likewise create their buffer zone inside Somalia to police their common border against insurgency from the militants,” William Ruto, deputy president of Kenya, said in a talk show to a local television station.
Ruto’s remarks came after an Al-Shabaab attack in the border town of Mandera on Tuesday in which 36 quarry workers were killed. Ten days earlier, Kenya witnessed another massacre by Al-Shabaab 50kms from Mandera that left 28 people dead.
Although Ethiopia shares a 68 km-long border with Somalia, the terrorist groups never succeeded in mounting such cross-border attacks in Ethiopia. A senior official at MoFA said that Ethiopian government has been strengthening its bilateral and multilateral security agreements in the region to quash the threats posed by Al-Shabaab.
Following repeated attacks, Ali Robi, the governor of Mandera county of Kenyan, said that his country should draw lessons from Ethiopia’s community policing experience to combat insecurity.
“We have a serious problem in the way security is functioning in the country. We should look at what other countries like Ethiopia are doing,” Roba said.
By: Yonas Abiye