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Zenawi urges Ethiopian MPS to take position against Somali courts

Nov 23, 2006 (ADDIS ABABA) — The Ethiopian premier, Meles Zenawi, has urged the country’s parliament to “officially state” its stance in regards to Somalia’s Union of Islamic Courts, who he said present a “clear and imminent” danger to his country.

Zenawi_PM.jpgHe said his government was taking the “necessary” preparations to confront the Islamists.
Nonetheless, he stressed the need to negotiate first with the Islamic courts before turning to other options.

Zenawi disclosed that his government tried to engage talks with the Somali courts but all these attempts had failed. Because of this impasse the government has taken all the necessary preparation to defend the country, he added.

The prime minister, who was answering questions in parliament on Thursday, claimed that Eritrea was supporting the Islamists. He pledged that Ethiopia was committed to peaceful resolution of its dispute with the Islamists.

The following is an excerpt from Zenawi’s presentation broadcast in Amharic live by Ethiopian TV on 23 November and translated by the BBCM.

Asked by the MPs about the resolution of the dispute among the Somalis, and the attacks and threats being directed by Somali Islamists against Ethiopia, Meles said if the Islamists opt for peaceful resolution of the inter-Somali crisis then the problem with Ethiopia would be resolved.

“Although the two issues are intertwined, they have their own distinctive characteristics. The reason we are saying they are intertwined is because if the Union of Islamic Courts [UIC] changes its warmongering policy and manages to resolve its problems with the transitional government [of Somalia] through dialogue, then there is hope that the threats or attacks being directed towards Ethiopia by the Islamic Courts will end or become meaningless. This is why the two issues are intertwined”.

He further said “However, viewed from another prospective, the two issues are different. The issue of resolving the dispute among Somalis is the responsibility of the Somali people. Although other countries can support the Somali people, they must not try to replace the Somali people in resolving these problems.”

“The threats being directed to our country from Somalia affect the Ethiopian government and people. The two issues [Somalia’s internal crisis and threats against Ethiopia] are both intertwined and different. This is the foremost issue that we must consider when reviewing the Somali issue;” he concluded.


The second point is the clear and current danger being directed against Ethiopia by the jihadist group heading the union. We say this for several reasons:

First, this group has already declared a jihad on Ethiopia. It declared the jihad publicly and not secretly. It has made the declaration not once but several times. By publicly and regularly declaring this jihad, it presents clear and imminent danger to Ethiopia.

Secondly, this group has declared that it will unite all Somali-speaking people found in the Horn of Africa under its jihadist government. This declaration does not concern Ethiopia alone. It also concerns Kenya and Djibouti, in addition to Ethiopia. The Ethiopian people have the right to decide their destiny as enshrined in the constitution. However, if a group from a neighbouring country vows to forcefully annex parts of Ethiopia into its territory, this is not only a violation of international rules but also presents a clear and imminent danger to the peace and sovereignty of Ethiopia. This declaration was not made in secret but in public. It was also not issued once but several times.

Thirdly, this group is also carrying out direct attacks on our country by giving shelter, training and arming anti-Ethiopian elements. It has also helping them cross into our country. We are not the only ones saying that this action, this crime, is being committed. A report by the UN envoy [to Somalia] has also stated it clearly.

Fourthly, it is known that this jihadist group is not only carrying out its dangerous attacks on Ethiopia relying on its own resources, but is doing so in collaboration with the Eritrean government and other anti-Ethiopian forces. This is not being done secretly but in public, and every body is aware of this. This was stated in a recent report by the UN. By attacking Ethiopia, in collaboration with other anti-Ethiopia forces, this force is increasing the danger being posed to Ethiopia.

Based on these four points, this group therefore presents a clear and imminent danger to Ethiopia. The first and main policy the government is pursuing to deal with this clear and present danger is to advise, dialogue and negotiate with this group in a bid to end the threat it poses to Ethiopia. This is from the fact that any problem must first be resolved through dialogue and negotiations with any group, even jihadist ones. It requires dialogue and negotiations to resolve problems. You can only think of other options if the peace option is closed.


An Ethiopian government delegation has made several efforts to meet these jihadists, who have declared a jihad on our country, in a bid to explain and caution them on their stand [on Ethiopia], and also stop launching attacks on Ethiopia.

However, these attempts have not succeeded. I will repeat it, even though it looks as if the 11th hour has passed – we are not going to relent from trying to tell these people to stop their attacks against Ethiopia. This is the foremost and best option for the Ethiopian government.

We should also carefully review what we would do if the government’s option to peacefully resolve this problem does not succeed. As it is evident to all, and according to international law, any country has the inalienable right to defend itself without seeking permission from another. This is in the face of clear and present danger. It has the right to take any reasonable action. It cannot use excessive force, but any country has the right to take reasonable action which cannot be given or denied by another country.

The second option is to make the necessary preparations in order to implement this right. In this regard, the government is undertaking the required preparations. Even now, the government’s option is to stop the attacks posed to our country by the jihadists through dialogue. We do not believe that the option of peace has been exhausted, even if the 11th hour is over. We believe and must push to the end until the peace option is totally exhausted.

However, we cannot sit and watch with our hands folded hands and legs crossed hoping that the problem will be solved through advise or dialogue. We have, therefore, made the necessary preparations. Hence, the future policy of the government will be to take reasonable action in line with international law so as to combat the clear and present danger being posed to our country and safeguard the peace and stability of Ethiopia.


This issue concerns relations between Ethiopia and the jihadists, and Ethiopia’s stance with regard to the relations between the [Somali] transitional government and the jihadists is not different from that taken by the rest of the international community.

We support the AU and UN-recognized transitional government. Second, we back the transitional government in its bid to resolve the dispute with the Islamic Courts through dialogue and negotiations. Third, we believe that the dialogue between the transitional government and the Islamic Courts must be conducted under the principle of give and take, and also in line with the [Somali] transitional charter and transitional institutions. This is the action taken by the government in regards to the Somalia issue.

At this juncture, I have a strong belief that it will be of great benefit if this parliament officially decides on whether to support the line of using all peaceful avenues in resolving the problem, or taking the necessary and reasonable legal action if the attacks continue.

I, therefore, urge this parliament to officially state its stance in regards to this issue.