Somali residents welcome Ethiopian troops

2012-03-04 22:39

Baidoa - After three years of killings and violence under the rule of al-Shabaab rebels, residents of the Somali city of Baidoa said they were happy to see the arrival of Ethiopian soldiers, whose presence they once resented.

Under al-Shabaab's control, Baidoa's leaders say the city's people became poorer, conditions worsened and many were forced to flee. The return of Ethiopian troops, once seen as Christian invaders in a Muslim country, was a welcome relief.

Ethiopian and Somali troops seized the city from al-Shabaab insurgents last month, in a major blow to the militants battling Somalia's weak interim government.

Somalia has been in turmoil since warlords toppled dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. Fighting has killed more than 21 000 people since al-Shabaab launched its insurgency in 2007.

"Al-Shabaab colonised us for three years and 12 days. Many of us were killed, many of us were displaced and many have migrated. So we are the survivors," Mohammed Ma'alim Barhi, a clan leader, told reporters in the city 250km northwest of Mogadishu.

"They [Ethiopian troops] have entered here three times before. Now we like them, we support them and we are with them."

Al-Shabaab, which announced in February that it was merging with al-Qaeda, imposed a harsh interpretation of Islamic shari'ah law. In areas under its control, music, movies and soccer were banned and people were beheaded or had limbs amputated as punishments.

"Before, there was a strong propaganda against the Ethiopians but these three years there are many things the people saw. There was over-taxation, they are killing people," Abdifatah Mohamed Gesey, governor for Bay region, said of the insurgents.

"After we arrived here we held discussions with the elders, business people and the women's associations. They have asked us to liberate nearby towns just as we liberated Baidoa."

Gesey, who fled after al-Shabaab took over the region, said people were now returning to the city to reopen businesses.

Shabaab incapable

Ethiopian and Somali troops said they were welcomed by residents who volunteered to show them where al-Shabaab fighters were hiding, and found abandoned ordnance everywhere, from government offices to mosques, police stations to main roads.

"The enemy forces were disoriented and disintegrated. They were incapable," said General Yohannes Gebre-Giorgis, Commander of the Ethiopian Forces in Somalia.

"The people have now deserted them. So there is no way they can survive here. It is almost game over for al-Shabaab."

Baidoa residents said their most immediate priority was meeting basic needs like food. "We need international help. Our people are very angry. Our people are hungry and we don't have medicine," Barhi said.

Baidoa Palace, a bullet-riddled building once the main seat of Somalia's interim government until 2009, is now a command centre for Ethiopian troops.

Its windows have been shattered by gunfire and graffiti scrawled on its walls. The rest of the town is dotted with abandoned houses and destroyed shops.

Ethiopia's military presence in Somalia between late 2006 and early 2009, when it routed another Islamist administration from power, provoked massive resentment among Somalis and galvanized support for the militant Islamists.

Ethiopia sent troops across the border again in November to open up a third front against the militants, who are also fighting 9 000 Ugandan and Burundian troops under the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) and Kenyan forces.

Last week, the UN Security Council voted to expand Amisom, which supports the shaky Western-backed government, to nearly 18 000 soldiers, and will include Kenyan troops.

African political and military leaders will meet in Ethiopia next week to iron out the details of how the expanded force will operate, Kenyan army colonel Cyrus Oguna told reporters in Nairobi.

Read more on:    amisom  |  somalia  |  ethiopia  |  east africa

Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24


3 sports games you have to watch this weekend

Whether it’s date night or a braai with buddies, plan around these three exciting sporting games!

Everyday struggles of naturally skinny guys
And this year's Miss Bumbum title goes to...
How to maintain your mo, bro
Hottie of the day: Colette

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now! - shop online today

20% off ALL TV Series

Choose from 1000’s of the hottest TV Series . While stocks last. Shop now!

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R2200 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at While stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 35% off books

Save up to 35% on the latest page-turners. While stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25


“To infinity and beyond”….. As the Sun and the Moon move into Sagittarius you are able to let go of the emotional intensity of more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.