Somalia: Rice Calls for Withdrawal of Ethiopian Troops Lauds Joint Communique for Great Lakes Region
The Daily Monitor (Addis Ababa)
6 December 2007
Posted to the web 6 December 2007
Visiting US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday reaffirmed US’s stand for immediate withdrawal of Ethiopian forces from the war-torn Somalia, for the benefit of peace and security in the region.
“The Ethiopian soldiers should not stay there in Somalia”, Rice told a press conference at the Sheraton Hotel following discussions with some of the leaders of the African Great Lakes region also on a visit here for region’s crisis talks.
Recalling a recent discussion she had with the UN Secretary General Ban Ki- Moon, Rice said her government still believed other forces should play their part in peace keeping efforts in that country by replacing the Ethiopian force as soon as possible.
Rice said she was set to assure Somalia’s new Prime Minister of her government’s commitment for peace and security in Somalia and continued support to the transitional government.
She said she would encourage the PM to go ahead with forming an all inclusive cabinet.
It was not clear as to where and when exactly she is to meet the Prime Minister.
Ethiopia on Tuesday called on the international community to step up its support for an African-led peacekeeping mission in Somalia, where Ethiopian troops have been mired in an Islamist insurgency since last December.
“Ethiopia has single-handedly been playing its role by bearing the huge responsibility that the international community and countries failed to accomplish in collaboration or individually,” a statement from Ethiopia’s Information Ministry read.
Ethiopia had been counting on the deployment of peacekeepers to allow its troops to leave Somalia.
So far, only Uganda has contributed peacekeepers to the U.N.-backed African Union Mission in Somalia, and Prime Minister Meles Zenawi told his parliament in November that Ethiopian forces were stuck there in the middle, “for the time being.” The Secretary on her two-day visit to the capital said she has had “extensive” discussions with four of the African Great Lakes leaders on the long running conflicts.
After she met the presidents of Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi and a minister from Democratic Republic of Congo, Rice sought to get leaders of the region to defuse tensions in eastern DRC but made no major breakthrough.
Rice said they had agreed to “recommit” themselves to ending the lengthy conflict.
The talks came as Congo’s army fought on Wednesday with a renegade Tutsi general’s forces, the latest in a series of battles this week.
After about two hours of talks in Addis Ababa, there were no signs of any concrete steps and all sides appeared to reiterate previous commitments on trying to end the conflict.
“The three-point plan which the Secretary of State summarized is a good restatement of what we have talked about before,” Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said at the press conference with Rice.
“But this time, with more vigor,” he added.
Rice was set to have dinner with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to discuss Ethiopia’s role in Somalia and the escalating border dispute with neighboring Eritrea.