In Ethiopia, the military leader, Lieutenant-Colonel Mengistu Haile Maraim, has claimed Somalia is resisting attempts to being peace to the Horn of Africa, but he said his government was eager to end wars in the region.
In Ethiopia, the military leader, Lieutenant-Colonel Mengistu Haile Maraim, has claimed Somalia is resisting attempts to being peace to the Horn of Africa, but he said his government was eager to end wars in the region. Colonel Mengistu was addressing army cadets at ta recent graduation ceremony in the mountain city of Harar, which last year saw some of the bitterest fighting against Somali forces. He also spoke about recent Ethiopian successes in the war against Eritrean guerrillas fighting for independence.
SYNOPSIS: Harar is now firmly in the control of Ethiopia, with Somalia's forces having been reduced to a few guerrillas operating in the disputed Ogaden desert. During the war, the city, situated on the only major route through the Ahmer Mountains, was of great strategic importance.
Colonel Mengistu had just returned from the Soviet Union when he attended this passing-out parade. While in Moscow, the Ethiopian leader signed a twenty-year friendship treaty, which has effectively made the Soviet Union the most influential foreign power in the Horn of Africa. Only two years ago, Ethiopia was allied to the United States, and Somalia was receiving Soviet support. The situation changed radically in 1977, when Moscow shifted its allegiance to Ethiopia.
With Soviet military aid, the Ethiopian government has quelled both Somali forces and the Eritrean guerrillas. During the last week of December, Eritrean liberation forces were driven back into northern Eritrea and neighbouring Sudan. They've fought a seventeen-year-war for independence.
During his speech, Colonel Mengistu told the cadets that, despite recent Ethiopian successes,they still had a tough task ahead of them. He said his government was anxious to live in peace with its neighbours, but claimed that all efforts towards a treaty had been misinterpreted and abused by Somalia. The defeat of Eritrean forces in the area of the two important towns of Keren and Msaaswa in December means that the Soviet Union has gained access to the vital Red Sea port of Massawa. Massawa's importance is that, through it, the Soviet Union could control the passage of oil from the Middle East.