By Hudda Ibrahim
Sierra Leone has become the center of the worst-ever outbreak of Ebola, in which about 19,000 people have been affected and more than 7,300 have died, according to the World Health Organization. Sierra Leone is among five African countries contributing peacekeeping contingency to Somalia.
In August 2014, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud opposed to the new replacement troops of Sierra Leone. Such an epidemic proportion in Sierra Leone has instilled fear across Somalia as its peacekeeping troops stationed in Somalia. Even thought the Sierra Leon government claimed on October 8, 2014 they screened and cleared the new contingent that was supposed to replace those in Somalia of Ebola virus, Somali activists crusading to block the new rotation forced Sierra Leone to withdraw its 850 soldiers from the African Union’s peacekeeping mission in Somalia. As pressure ratcheted up, the African Union finally reassured no new troops from Sierra Leone would be deployed to Somalia.
According to AFP, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn stated that his country was willing to replace departing 850 soldiers from Sierra Leone. Mr. Desalegn underlined that the new Ethiopian troops, if permitted, would eradicate Al-Shabab. The call of Desalegn to contribute more troops to AMISOM has as well created a similar fear compared to that of the Sierra Leone’s Ebola outbreak.
Repercussion of Ethiopian Troop Contribution
Most Somalis are not yet oblivious of the 2006 invasion of Ethiopia into Somali territory. Such incursion brought the worst record of brutality as the soldiers ruthlessly slaughtered thousands of innocent civilians, committed rape, torture, arbitrary detentions and disappearances and displaced residents from their homes.
From the perspective of academics and intellectuals, the new deployment of Ethiopian troops will create a setback of the Somali Vision of free and fair elections in 2016. This deployment of Somalia’s erstwhile arch rival neighboring Ethiopia will appeal popular nationalistic sentiments among Somalis and breed new fear of massive radicalization in peaceful areas removed from Al-Shabab two years ago. For instance, the 2006 invasion led to the rise of a powerful insurgency of new Islamic militants and foreign Jihadists. During 2006 and 2008, the radicals indoctrinated the youth by encouraging them to fight against an enemy that had occupied the country. However, the latest statement of the Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn will reignite the dormant resentment of the people and generate a new war against Ethiopian force.
The Ethiopian troop commitment request created uproar among Somali people inside and outside of the country. A few people with whom I talked were diametrically opposed to Ethiopia’s new troops being deployed to Somalia at this juncture. Omar was among of those who voiced their concern. “The Ethiopian military is far worse than the Ebola virus
Deployment of foreign troops is not a key solution to the country’s protracted conflict. In order to prevent future disruption of security and revival of new waves of radicalism, the Somali government should prioritize training well-fed, well-disciplined and well-armed Somali army. A recruitment of strong Somali armies is crucial as they emanate from the conflict setting, and are thus knowledgeable of the people, language, religion and terrain. Instead of funding and offering hefty salaries to those foreign troops, the Somali National Army should be trained and equipped better to maintain the security of the country. In an effort to assure a more capable Somali government and armed forces, the United Nations should support training programs for Somali soldiers.
In a nutshell, authorizing an increase of AMISOM strength is not an answer other than escalating the situation. Instead of pledging further support for a foreign troop increase, the International Community can support Somali-led military army to defeat Al-Shabab.
– See more at: http://www.somalicurrent.com/2014/12/23/military-intervention-ignites-dormant-nationalism/#sthash.gAWI4eL3.dpuf
Hudda Ibrahim is an MA International Peace Studies, Policy Analysis and Political Change at the Kroc Institute, Notre Dame University. She also holds B.A. Degrees in Peace Studies and English from the College of Saint Benedict and University of Saint John’s. She is a political analyst, an independent researcher and writer stationed in Indiana.