Ethiopian Troops to Stay in Somalia Until Government Set Up

Ethiopian forces will stay in Somalia until an elected government is set up and takes over from the interim administration, State Communications Minister Shimeles Kemal told reporters in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital.

Ethiopia’s intervention in Somalia is its second since 2006. Its forces withdrew in January 2009 after pushing the Islamic Courts Union out of Mogadishu, and later becoming bogged down in a guerrilla war with Islamic militants.

Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed’s government is supposed to hold elections and finish its transitional rule by Aug. 20.

“Until the constituent assembly will ratify the constitution, and thereby the establishment of a new democratic and constitutional government will be ensured, Ethiopian forces will remain there,” Shimeles said today.

Ethiopian troops in the towns of Baidoa and Beledweyne were to be replaced by African Union peacekeepers from Uganda, Djibouti and Burundi by the end of April, the AU said on March 10. The continental bloc sent its first 100 peacekeepers to Baidoa on April 5, it said.

Ethiopian and AU forces, including troops from Kenya, are fighting to drive out al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda-linked militant group that has waged a five-year insurgency trying to topple the country’s United Nations-backed transitional government.

Peacekeepers will remain until a new Somali government can “control and secure the peace and stability of Somalia against any possible attacks by extremists forces,” Shimeles said.

Somalia has had no effective central government since rebels deposed former leader Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.

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