As troops retreat from Somalia, terrorists move in
Terrorism | Ethiopia’s withdrawal from the country bolsters al-Shabaab
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 4/04/17, 11:47 am
Ethiopian forces are withdrawing from Somali towns, and the terror group al-Shabaab is moving in to fill the vacuum. Al-Shabaab fighters on Monday recaptured a key military base town in central Somalia after Ethiopian troops and some Somali soldiers with the African Union mission pulled out.
Somalian Garowe Online said the soldiers left the town of El Bur for Dhusamareb, the region’s capital, with their tanks and armored vehicles. Ethiopian troops had seized El Bur from al-Shabaab’s control in 2013.
“The Ethiopians and our troops withdrew from the town and now it is under the control of the militants,” Gutale told VOA. “The Ethiopians did not inform us about their withdrawal plan, and once we saw them abandoning, our troops also abandoned.”
Residents of the town of El Bur told VOA the extremists came into the town with weapons and raised their flags above some of the town’s buildings. Nur Hassan Gutale, the district commissioner, said the African Union troops had not informed the region’s officials of the reason for their withdrawal.
Ethiopia’s move to withdraw its troops from Somalia could partly be influenced by the country’s own crisis, said Ebrahim Deen, a researcher with the Afro Middle East Center in South Africa. Ethiopia has faced increased protests for more than a year and a half as the country’s largest ethnic group decries marginalization. The country declared a state of emergency, which it has extended for another four months..
“All these troops are coming back most probably to consolidate the government control over dissent societies, which means there’ll be more tension in the country,” Deen said.
Ethiopia’s ongoing withdrawal could help strengthen al-Shabaab. Stratfor, a U.S.-based global intelligence company, mentioned in a report last month that Ethiopia’s withdrawal from the town of Ceelbur would most likely create a vacancy for al-Shabaab to fill since the group already operates in the area.
The African Union’s solely militarized approach to fighting al-Shabaab has not proved sufficient, Deen said, noting that the group has grown from the country’s lack of governance: “Shabaab had a functioning structure, so it’s seen by many as an alternative government.”
Onize is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Abuja, Nigeria.