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


ANC set for two-thirds majority - poll

The ANC is on course to win nearly a two-thirds majority in 7 May elections, a poll has showed, confounding analysts who had predicted a fall in support for the ruling party.


Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
  • Thursday Sir Lowry's Pass - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Old Sir Lowrys Pass Road
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Bezweni Road
  • Thursday Cape Town - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Buitengracht Street
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Waterkant Street
More traffic reports...

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now! - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid 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

BlackBerry Curve 3G 9300

Keep it together Text. Email. Social. With all the different ways to...

From R1399.00

I'm shopping for:


You may be good at organising events but they do take their toll on your energy levels. You may need some time out today just 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.