How Ethiopia Prevents Terror Attacks Despite Involvement In Somalia Peacekeeping
By Kevin Mwanza Published: September 21, 2015, 7:51 am
Ethiopian Soldiers (image: wikipedia.org)
Ethiopia has managed to remained unscathed by Somali-based Al Qaeda-linked Alshabab Islamic militants since it joined an African Union force to restore peace in the horn of Africa nation nearly a decade ago.
All other east African countries, including Kenya, Uganda and Burundi that have invaded war-torn Somalia to try and neutralize the Alshabab menace have been attacked by the militants.
Ethiopia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tewolde Mulugeta, says that the secret to the country’s clean sheet is mostly due to its close public involvement in ensuring community security.
“We know what lack of peace means, so the importance is well understood by our people,” Mulugeta told Voice of America.
“They don’t want anybody to distract that. Whenever they are going to come across any anti-peace element, any anti-peace force, terrorist force, they are going to expose them, they are going to fight them head on.”
There was only been one bomb explosion in a house in central Addis Ababa in 2013 that killed two operatives. Security forces attributed it to a failed attempt by Alshabab attackers to build an improvised explosive device.
Ethiopia’s security force, which is one of the strongest in Africa, also claims to have foiled numerous Al Shabab attacks.
In neighboring Kenya, which only joined the fight in Somalia four years ago, several attacks have taken place including the Westgate mall attack that killed 72 people in September 2013 and the Garissa University attacked that left 149 people (mostly students) dead.
Security analysts, Sunday Okello, told Voice of America that unlike Kenya that has for a long time been a den of peace, Ethiopia is used to being on a constant alert to fight any attacks from countries like Somalia, Eritrea and even South Sudan.
“And from that effect, Ethiopia has managed to build its security network very strongly,” Okello said.
The blanket of peace in Ethiopia has however not been without concerns.
The country has been accused of violeting human rights by using a controverisial 2009 anti-terrorism law to round up Alshabab suspects. The same law has been used to prosecute journalists and political opponents.
“There is absolutely no space in Ethiopia today for citizens to express themselves peacefully,” Leslie Lefkow, Deputy Africa Director at Human Rights Watch, told Voice of America in December.
“Whether in print or in protests and I think one of the concerns that we have is that this kind of iron grip is not a recipe for long-term stability.”