African Journal of
Political Science and International Relations

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Pol. Sci. Int. Relat.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 1996-0832
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJPSIR
  • Start Year: 2007
  • Published Articles: 389


Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia in 2006: Motives and lessons learned

Napoleon A. Bamfo
Department of Political Science, Valdosta State University, Valdosta, Ga 31698, U. S. A.
Email: [email protected], [email protected]

  •  Accepted: 21 December 2009
  •  Published: 28 February 2010


Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia in late 2006 may go down in history as one of the most daring if not imprudent strategic decision any African government has made on its neighbour. Ethiopia’s actions to invade Somalia gets more perplexing, considering it seemed unprovoked and should have been more circumspective given Ethiopia’s own history as a victim of unprovoked invasion by Italy and its myriad internal economic challenges. Even if Ethiopia's goal of going into Somalia had been purely humanitarian, the nearly two decades of instability there and the history of irredentism and distrust between the two countries should have given Ethiopia pause to be prudent. Although not without precedent, it is still unusual for one African country to invade another country on the scale Ethiopia did and fight a war that was guaranteed to be bloody. Self-defense, which Ethiopia claims as reason for its military action, raises doubt and compels an examination of the real motives for its actions in Somalia. This study explores what these motives could have been. Using historical evidence and those from contemporary sources, the study catalogs the violence that followed the invasion and how Ethiopia’s action aggravated Somalia’s endemic social and political ills. Ethiopia’s actions in Somalia could not have accomplished their objectives given the fact Somalia has plunged deeper into anarchy since the invading troops left its soil. It has also been costly both to the invader and the invaded. Other African countries can learn an invaluable lesson from Ethiopia’s experience not to start an audacious incursion into foreign territory without an unimpeachable reason.


Key words: Ogaden war, the Derg, Islamists, refugees, Horn of Africa, piracy, pan-Somalism.