By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
October 29, 2016 (ADDIS ABABA) – Ethiopia says its move to withdraw its troops from Somalia has nothing to do with the recently declared state of emergency.
Earlier this month, the Ethiopian government imposed a state of emergency in the wake of continued anti-government protests across its Oromia region.
The country’s information and communication minister, Getachew Reda told journalists that the withdrawal has nothing to do with the state decree, but was related with the “financial burden” and “lack of support” rather than the need for more troops at home.
“It has nothing to do with the state of emergency,” said Getachew.
“We have been making a very conscious and responsible decision to evacuate our forces from many parts of Somalia. We cannot remain there indefinitely,” he added.
The minister blamed the international community for the withdrawal of troops from Somalia.
“The international community also has a responsibility either to train or to support the Somali national army in whatever way they promised, and if they do not make good on that promise and [the] Somali national army fails to discharge their responsibilities then of course, as they say, nature – and al-Shabaab – abhors a vacuum, so they’ll just move in”, said the minister.
He said the violence at home was not “enormous enough for us to shift our policy in Somalia”.
Ethiopia, the official said, was only withdrawing troops from Somalia, but not the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
He underscored that Ethiopia was not withdrawing troops from the 4,400-strong Ethiopian contingent of the internationally-funded AU peace-enforcement mission.
Those being pulled out he said are those few thousands deployed in Somalia unilaterally for which his government is paying all the expenses.
“These troops are not under AMISOM and unfortunately are not being helped in their efforts to assist the Somali national army,” said Getachew.
Ethiopia began withdrawing thousands of its forces from central Somalia and since Al-Shabaab militants have reportedly managed to recapture three towns.
Getachew, however, said AMISOM troops were not affected and neither were all non-AMISOM forces being withdrawn.
He added that Ethiopian troops under AMISOM are on their regular duties, and the country will continue to step up its effort to bring about peace and stability in Somalia.
The minister also said the state of emergency declared recently has enabled the government to control the violence; and stability has been restored in many parts of the country, adding that many investments are back in business.
Ethiopia’s state emergency was imposed for first time after over quarter a century.
The rules within the state emergency include travel restrictions on diplomats.
Accordingly, diplomats are not permitted to travel beyond 40 kilometers of the radius outside the capital, Addis Ababa. A dusk-to-dawn curfew has also been imposed around areas where factories and major projects are based.
As per the directive, security personnel can search suspects, search homes or arrest anyone who violates the rules without court authorization.
The new directive also grants the police and all security forces a power to defend themselves from any threat or attack.
Publishing news and distributing documents or republishing reports of anti-peace elements or opposition movements branded as terrorist entities is prohibited.
The six-month state of emergency also bans terrorist-leaning groups such as the Ethiopian Satellite Radio and Television (ESAT) and Oromo Media Network.
Access to internet services and social media was still impossible in Ethiopia.