April 23, 2013 (Reuters) – Ethiopia will withdraw its troops from Somalia soon, its prime minister said on Tuesday, voicing frustration with the Mogadishu government and African Union peacekeeping forces that are also battling Islamist militants there.
After waging an ill-fated war in Somalia in 2006-2009, Ethiopia in 2011 once again rolled troops into Somalia to fight al Qaeda-allied al Shabaab, opening a third front alongside Kenyan troops and an African Union mission.
Hailemariam Desalegn, who replaced Ethiopia’s long-serving Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in September, stopped short of announcing a full withdrawal but voiced concern with the pace of progress in Somalia, recovering from two decades of civil war.
“It has taken them (African peacekeepers and Somalia) a year already and they repeatedly assure us each month but fail to deliver so we pulled out,” said Hailemariam, referring to pledges by African Union’s Amisom force to replace Ethiopian troops.
“The main issue now is to accelerate our complete withdrawal towards our border. This is what we are fulfilling,” he told Ethiopia’s parliament.
Hailemariam said Addis Ababa was paying for its military mission in Somalia from its own coffers and Western diplomats say financial issues are one of the main reasons behind Ethiopia’s discontent, along with strained relations with Mogadishu and Amisom.
Al Shabaab has been greatly weakened since late September when Kenyan troops forced it to withdraw from the port of Kismayu, its last major urban stronghold.