Home | News    Sunday 19 November 2006

Regions in Ethiopia, Kenya should be part of Somalia - Islamist

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Nov 18, 2006 (MOGADISHU) — Somalia’s Islamic leader wants the Somali regions of Kenya and Ethiopia to be part of Somalia, he said in a radio interview, reviving the idea of a "Greater Somalia," which caused tensions in the 1970s and was a cause of the war with Ethiopia.

Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys, chairman of the Council of Islamic Courts, told Shabelle Radio in a live call-in interview late Friday that his group will work to unite Somali peoples, but he did not say how they proposed to achieve what he referred to as "Greater Somalia."

This is the first time that Aweys has spoken about expanding the influence of the Islamic courts outside Somalia since his group seized control of the capital, Mogadishu, in June and has since been consolidating its control of most of southern Somalia.

"We will leave no stone unturned to integrate our Somali brothers in Kenya and Ethiopia and restore their freedom to live with their ancestors in Somalia," he said.

When Italian Somaliland and British Somaliland united soon after independence in 1960 to form present-day Somalia, Somali leaders began pushing for the unity of all Somali-speaking peoples, who have a large presence in neighboring countries. They live in Kenya’s Northeastern Province, Ethiopia’s eastern region of Ogaden and what was French Somaliland, which became the independent Republic of Djibouti in 1977.

Despite a disastrous and short-lived invasion of Ethiopia in 1977 and political anarchy since 1992, Somali nationalists and Islamic fundamentalists have continued to advocate the idea of Greater Somalia. An ethnic-Somali insurgency continues in eastern Ethiopia, led by the Ogaden Liberation Front, a small group that mostly uses pipe bombs or small-scale attacks to advance their cause.

On Nov. 2, the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, issued a travel warning saying Somali extremists were threatening suicide attacks in Kenya and Ethiopia. Somalia’s Islamic courts’ denied they planned any such attacks.

Somalia plunged into chaos in the early 1990s after warlords overthrew dictator Mohammed Siad Barre and turned on each other. The government was formed with U.N. help in 2004 as a transitional body, but it has struggled to assert authority.

The Islamic movement, meanwhile, has been steadily expanding its influence throughout southern Somalia.

Experts have warned that the country has become a proxy battleground for its neighbors, Eritrea and Ethiopia. Eritrea, a nation that broke away from Ethiopia in a 1961-1991 civil war and fought a 1998-2000 border war with its rival, supports the Islamic militia.

A confidential Oct. 26 U.N. report obtained by The Associated Press said 6,000-8,000 Ethiopian troops are in or near Somalia’s border with Ethiopia. The report also said 2,000 troops from Eritrea are inside Somalia supporting the Islamic courts.

Eritrea denied having any troops in Somalia, and Ethiopia says it sent only a few hundred advisers.

(AP)

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