Ethiopia’s prime minister has said he wants to withdraw all his troops from neighbouring Somalia, where they helped oust Islamists last year. Meles Zenawi told the BBC that he hoped African Union peacekeepers would deploy soon to relieve his troops.
One of the AU leaders says it would be a “catastrophe” if Ethiopia pulled out before the AU troops arrived. Up to a third of the population fled recent fighting in the capital, Mogadishu, and badly need aid.
Less than 40% of the estimated 300,00 displaced Somalis are receiving any help, according to UN humanitarian relief chief John Holmes. After a visit to Mogadishu, he said Somalia now represents a worse displacement crisis than Sudan’s Darfur region.
Mr Meles said he wanted to end the “onerous” financial burden of having Ethiopian troops, estimated to be several thousand in number, in Somalia. “Things have improved significantly in Mogadishu, making it possible for peacekeeping troops to do their job,” he said. “I very much hope and expect that those African countries that have promised to send troops will do so.”