Nov. 22 (GIN) – Fighters from more than four countries are pouring into Somalia supposedly to prop up its besieged government against militants from the Al Shabab Islamist group.
Neighboring Burundi has sent about 4,000 ‘peacekeeping’ troops. Some 5,000 have come from Uganda. Other countries which have pledged or sent troops are Djibouti, Guinea, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and Ethiopia.
But the heavily armed forces are a bitter blessing for the Somalis who have suffered high civilian casualties from U.S. drones based in Ethiopia, armored tanks and small arms fire. Somali President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed criticized the military build-up: “There are things we see as inappropriate,” he said during a tour of a Mogadishu neighborhood, “such as Kenyan troops crossing the border into Somalia.”
U.S. officials are also reportedly at odds over the build-up. The Pentagon and CIA favor the tough Ethiopian troops but the U.S. State Dept. cites the catastrophic invasion by Ethiopia of Somalia in 2006 that left thousands dead and injured and the government in tatters.
“The last time Ethiopia entered Somalia did not see a very successful outcome in stabilizing the country,” said U.S. Asst Secy Johnnie Carson in a recent teleconference with Kenyan journalists. “In fact, it is their presence that spawned Al Shabab.”
Meanwhile, preparations are underway for the 4-day long Lamu Cultural Festival that usually attracts thousands of visitors from Kenya and around the world. Lamu is the oldest Swahili settlement in East Africa and an independent state of Kenya. Due to the presence of pirates from neighboring Somalia and the recent kidnapping of a French tourist, its beaches are off limits to British citizens.