Ethiopian troops have begun a staged withdrawal from their two bases in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.
Opinion is divided over the pull-out – while some are overjoyed and say it will pave the way for peace, others fear the creation of an unstable power vacuum. The troops are leaving as part of a power-sharing deal signed in October between the transitional Somali government and a faction of moderate Islamists. The Ethiopian commander, Colonel Gabre Yohanes said: “The international community will also help the Somali people to resolve their differences. We did our best, better than any of Somalia’s other neighbours, and now we are leaving the country.” It has been reported that a group of militants opposed to the peace deal have already taken over one of the military bases vacated by the Ethiopians. A small African Union peacekeeping force will remain in the country but funding is an issue. Potential donors have been invited to a meeting in Addis Abbaba on Saturday. The Ethiopian troops have been in Somalia for two years to help counter a ferocious islamic insurgency that has killed thousands of civilians. The President resigned in December, claiming he had lost control of the country. The lawlessness has also fostered piracy off Somalia’s coast.