Monday, April 16, 2007

A member of Somalia's transitional government has accused Ethiopian troops in the capital Mogadishu of committing genocide since arriving in December

Robert Walker:

The accusations came from Hussein Aideed - a former Somali warlord who is the deputy prime minister of the transitional government.

Ethiopia dismissed Mr Aideed's comments as an absolute fabrication.

Hundreds of people have been killed and thousands forced to flee since Ethiopian troops arrived in Mogadishu.

The Ethiopians arrived at the request of the transitional government, to oust the Islamist militia that was then in control.

The comments of Hussein Aideed underline not only the deep divisions within Somalia's transitional government but also the strength of opposition in the Somali capital to the Ethiopian forces backing it.

Mr Aideed is a former warlord and an influential member of the Hawiye clan - the dominant clan in Mogadishu.

His comments calling on the Ethiopians to leave signal his effective defection from the government to join the swelling ranks of the opposition.

Ethiopia sent its troops into Somalia last year to help the interim government drive out the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) - the Islamist movement that had taken control of the capital and much of the south of Somalia.

But the armed opposition to Ethiopian forces now goes beyond the remnants of the UIC.

It includes militias from the Hawiye clan - and they are supported by a groundswell of popular anger towards the Ethiopians.

Many in Mogadishu are opposed to any foreign military presence - and view neighbouring Ethiopia in particular as a longstanding rival.

An offensive by Ethiopian troops in Mogadishu last month has only increased that opposition.

Hundreds were killed and tens of thousands more were forced to flee in some of the heaviest fighting since the central government collapsed 16 years ago.

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