Somali parties call for removal of Ethiopian troops, blast “colluding” AU envoy

A group of Somali opposition parties have accused Ethiopia of meddling in the internal affairs of Somalia and called for the withdrawal of non-AMISOM Ethiopian troops in the country.

In a strongly-worded statement, the Forum for National Parties led by former President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, the Wadajir Party led by prominent opposition leader, Abdirahman Abdishakur Warsame, Hiigsi Coalition of Political Parties and the 1st July Alliance for Change accused the Ethiopian troops of meddling in the political affairs of Somalia.

“We, the undersigned political parties, are gravely concerned about the increasing presence of non-AMISOM troops of the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF) in several parts of Somalia. This unilateral action by Ethiopia constitutes a blatant disregard for the longstanding agreement between the Federal Republic of Somalia and the AMISOM troop contributing countries (TCC), which clearly defines the scope of the African Union peacekeeping mission in our country,” the opposition parties’statement read in part.

The parties added that they would consider all foreign troops in Somalia who are not under the AMISOM mandate as “occupiers”.

The parties cited the recent shooting down by the ENDF of a civilian plane carrying humanitarian medical supplies to Berdale town.

“We are particularly appalled by the May 4th downing of a civilian plane carrying medical supplies for Berdale residents (in the South West State) and by the cavalier attitude with which the ENDF officials responded to the tragic loss of life by maligning the integrity of the professional crew of the plane.”

The Somali political parties warned that the goal of the non-Ethiopian troops in some parts of the country was to meddle in the regional elections in Somalia and destabilise some state governments at the behest of leaders of the current federal government. Their statement cited the events in Gedo region in Jubbaland state as an example.

“Over the past few years, a pattern was becoming all too apparent for all to observe the wanton and frightening callousness with which the ENDF was interfering in the internal political affairs of Somalia, often with the intention of swaying local elections. In the last few weeks alone, the ENDF has deployed additional troops armed with heavy weaponry to the Gedo region of Jubbaland State in violation of both AMISOM rules of engagement and the UN arms embargo on Somalia. The goal of the current Gedo mission is to fracture and destabilise the Jubbaland State after the ENDF had failed to sway the elections there in 2019 in favour of Villa Somalia,” the statement said.

The main goal behind the political interference, the parties further said, was to “intervene in the upcoming federal parliamentary and presidential elections, and to intimidate opposition groups all across the country.”

The opposition parties also accused the AU special envoy in the country, Ambassador Francisco Madeira, of turning a blind eye to the presence of the non-AMISOM Ethiopian troops in the country and went as far as blaming him for colluding with these troops in interfering in Somalia regional elections in both South West and Jubbaland states.

“The ENDF’s unchecked violation of Somalia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is due, in part, to the failure of the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia, Ambassador Francisco Madeira, who was supposed to ensure that the reputation of the AMISOM is not tainted by the geopolitical ambition of a member state. And his conduct has been deeply troubling since 2018 when he uncharacteristically helped remove the former speaker of the federal parliament, Hon. Mohamed Osman Jawari. Further, Ambassador Madeira worked in collussion with ENDF to interfere in the South West election in 2018 and Jubbaland election in August 2019, therefore, the neutrality of the AU special representative is questionable as is the integrity of AMISOM from then on and in the light of the upcoming national election,” the parties said in their statement.

The parties called on both Houses of the Federal Parliament of Somalia to investigate and “take necessary actions against ENDF’s unwarranted intervention in Somalia, its egregious actions, including the May 4 downing of a plane carrying medical supplies for Covid-19 patients in Berdale.”

The parties also urged the AU chief to replace Ambassador Madeira with “a neutral and experienced diplomat who discharges his duties faithfully.”