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: 382

Full Length Research Paper

Ethiopia’s armed entry into Somalia in 2006: Projection of its foreign policy or aspiration for hegemony?

Yohannes Gebeyehu Alebachew
  • Yohannes Gebeyehu Alebachew
  • School of Diplomacy and International Relations, Ethiopian Civil Service University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
  • Google Scholar

  •  Received: 25 October 2016
  •  Accepted: 15 November 2016
  •  Published: 30 April 2017


Ethiopia’s armed entry into Somalia in 2006 has been subjected to heated academic and policy debate. Some take it as part of the effort of Ethiopia’s aspiration to hegemony in the Horn of Africa region, while others link it to the old-fashioned thinking of Christian Ethiopia’s animosity to Islamic Somalia. The Ethiopian government defended it in terms of protecting its national interest. Ethiopia also justifies its intervention in Somalia as something that it did as per the will and the invitation of the Transitional Federal Government. This paper juxtaposed Ethiopia’s entry into Somalia in 2006 against theories of hegemony, and Ethiopia’s foreign policy. This piece used the foreign policy analysis of neoclassical realism and realist explanation of hegemony to see the situation all together and analyzed the data collected through document and text analysis and empirical literature review. This piece prefers to use realism because the paper is about what is called ‘intervention’ which includes, needless to say, conflict and elements of power which are currency to realist thought and narrative. Ethiopia in the process of protecting its national interest may have been involved into activities that deemed hegemonic. But given the policy direction and principles that concentrate on activities at home, it is difficult and beyond imagination to conclude that Ethiopia entered into Somalia aspiring for hegemony. It definitely went there only following line of its national interest as articulated in the policy document. So, Ethiopia ‘s entry into somalia in 2006, according to this paper’s reach, was projection of its foreign policy and indeed projection of its national security and survival.

Key words: Hegemony, Ethiopia's Foreign policy, armed intervetion.


Historical background of Ethio -Somalia relations
Since Somalia in 1960 came to be state and independent, its policy towards Ethiopia in particular and its neighbors as whole had been dominated by irredentism. Somalia invaded Ethiopia two times since independence and those invasions were part of the effort to materialize the five stars Greater Somalia Republic. The 1977/78 Somalia invasion was a turning point in the history of Somalia. It was a suicide that Somalia committed to only end up being stateless. War is destructive to whichever side of the warring party, be it to the victor or to the defeated. That holds true to the Ethio-Somalia war of 1977 too. According to Samatar the 1977 war ‘’ set Somalia on long course of crisis, climaxing in its collapse in 1991, thus marking the end of Somalia as a state’’ (2007). It particularly brought political, social and economic mess. The Said Barre regime which was at the last breathes of its life failed to rectify and correct the mess. That created resentment among the Somalia people. Said Barre determined to retain power at all costs despite popular dissent. Finally, his popular political power dwindled to be restricted to his clan. That all grew to bring him down in 1991. That was the declaration of state collapse in Somalia.
Since then Somalia is nonexistent. ‘’Going through any checklist of successful state building, be it in normative, realist, institutionalism or constructivism, Somalia appears the biggest failure. Somalia as a state is neither fragile nor weak-it simply is nonexistent’’ (Weber, 2008). The attempts by different warlords to establish a central government failed to come to be true. Between 1991 and 2006, there were over a dozen unsuccessful attempts by Somali warlords and clan leaders to establish a central government in Somalia. In 2006 the Transitional Federal Government, an Ethiopia-backed assembly of former warlords, was unified in the city of Baidoa. (Civins, 2012).
Ethiopia made armed and invited entry into Somalia in 2006, when it became clear that the internationally recognized Transitional Federal Government (TFG) would soon befallen to the mercy of the extremist Union of Islamic Court (UIC).  ‘’Ethiopia, at the request of the TFG, deployed an unspecified number of ENDF soldiers to Baidoa in July 2006 following the capture of a nearby city by militias loyal to the Islamic Court Union (ICU)’’ (Civins, 2012). That entrance of Ethiopia has been subjected to heated academic and policy debate.
This short piece looks into Ethiopia’s role in Somalia particularly its intervention in 2006. Some evaluated it as part of the effort of Ethiopia’s aspiration to hegemony in the Horn of Africa region. The Ethiopian government defended it in terms of protecting its national interest. Ethiopia also justifies its intervention in Somalia as something that it did as per the will and the invitation of the Transitional Federal Government. This paper juxtaposes Ethiopia’s entry into Somalia in 2006 against theories of hegemony, and Ethiopia’s foreign policy.


This section lies out theoretical settings of hegemony in international relations and empirical review of hegemony in the Horn of Africa. Accordingly, the conventional approach, the neoliberal approach, the Gramscian approach and the radical approach to hegemony are used as theoretical perspective for investigating Ethiopia’s intervention in Somalia. Empirical literatures on the Ethiopia’s regional diplomacy is also used to put the general policy setting in looking into this specific episode.
Hegemony in international relations
Hegemony as an important concept of international relations is known to be introduced by Antonio Gramsci. Gramsci defined hegemony as ‘’intellectual and moral leadership (direzione) whose principal constituting elements are consent and persuasion’’ (Fontana, 1993).  The concept of hegemony emphasizes on consent against the reliance on the use of force.  In the parlance of Joseph ‘’the concept of hegemony is normally understood as emphasizing consent in contrast to reliance on the use of force’’ (2002). The understanding of hegemony passes intellectual fatigue from Gramsci through classical Marxism to historical, structuralist and post-structuralist analysis.
It has both simplistic and complex forms. In its simplistic form, it is concerned with the construction of consent and the exercise of leadership by any dominant group over the subordinate group (Joseph, 2002).
But in its complex sense hegemony goes far to deal with issues such as the elaboration of political projects, the articulation of interests, the construction of social alliances, the development of historical blocs, the deployment of state strategies and the initiating of passive revolutions (Joseph, 2002). Thus, the definition of hegemony lacks precision. As result it give rise to different academic and theoretical interpretations.
There are four approaches in international relations to define hegemony, according to Antoniades (2008). These are the conventional approach, the neoliberal approach, the Gramscian approach and the radical approach to hegemony. Conventionally, hegemony has been used to signify a condition of disequilibrium of power in which one state becomes powerful to dominate or take leadership over another (Antoniades, 2008). Antoniades (2008) also pointed out that hegemony is required for open and liberal economy which is at the crux of neoliberal hegemony. The Gramscian approach argues that ‘’hegemony equals the establishment within the sphere of the international of universally accepted values – a commonsense’’ (Antoniades, 2008).  The radical approach to hegemony ‘’understands hegemony as the moment that a specific particularity /project acquires universal signification’’ (Antoniades, 2008).
Contemporary usage of the concept ‘hegemony’ is, thus, far cry from the original meaning given by Gramsci. It is currently used to mean influence of whatever nature, be it economic, political or possibly military. Related to today’s conception of hegemony is a definition by Destradi (2008) and Dehez (2008) who define hegemony as:
A form of power exercised through strategies which are subtler than those employed by states behaving as imperial powers. The means through which power is exercised – and here the distinction between hegemony and empire becomes evident – can vary from the exertion of pressure to the provision of material incentives, up to the discursive propagation of the hegemon's  norms  and values. The end of hegemonic behavior is always primarily the realization of the hegemon's own goal. Hegemony, as has more or less been defined in all the aforementioned definitions, signifies the projection of one’s influence and presence out of one’s territorial boundary and border.  Hegemony thus defined is used in the course of this writing, because it is this definition of hegemony that has been gaining theoretical and practical currency.
Hegemony in the horn of Africa
Before what should have to be written and said about the potential regional hegemons in the Horn of Africa, it is indispensible to say a little about regional hegemony and what it precisely means. Regional hegemony is a concept in international relations which refers to the influence exercised over neighboring countries by an independently powerful nation, the regional hegemon.
Elman (2007) points out ‘’Regional hegemony is the dominance of the area in which the great power is located’’. Mearsheimer (2001) also articulates ‘’regional hegemons dominate distinct geographical areas’’. Global hegemony is unattainable due to Mearsheimer’s ‘the stopping power of water’. The stopping power of water means ‘‘the difficulty of projecting power across large bodies of water, which makes it impossible for any great power to conquer and dominate regions separated from it by oceans’’ (Mearsheimer, 2001).  States are as a result keen at aspiring for regional hegemony.
In international relations, hegemony is favored by offensive structural realists who are ardent proponents of power maximization in international relations. They believe that ‘’power maximization is not necessarily self-defeating and hence states can rationally aim for regional hegemony’’ (Elman, 2007). They rather assert that ‘’hegemony is the best way for any state to guarantee its own survival’’ (Mearsheimer, 2001). Do we have regional hegemon in Africa and in particular in the horn of Africa? let us look at what Dehez (2008) and Herbst (2000) write about in response to questions like these.
Dehez (2008) believes that there are potential regional hegemons in Africa. The big African countries that have the potential to be regional superpowers or hegemons are Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Nigeria and South Africa. In his own words, ‘’Conventional wisdom has it that there are only four countries in Sub Sahara Africa that potentially could act as regional hegemons: Nigeria, South Africa, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo’’.  Population size and territorial largeness seem to be at the center of his definition of regional hegemony. These countries comprise, according to him, large populations in Africa and command the largest and with South Africa the most effective armies in the continent.
Consolidating and corroborating the idea of the importance of population in  building  great  power  and hegemony is Mearsheimer (2001), who articulates ‘’population size matters a lot, because great powers require big armies, which can be raised only in countries with large populations. States with small populations cannot be great powers’’. Dehez (2008) seemed to suggest that Ethiopia is a hegemon in the Horn of Africa. Samatar (2007) also parenthetically commented on the presence of hegemony in the Horn of Africa and Ethiopia’s aspiration for hegemony. This is what he had to comment ‘’ It could be said that the history of the Horn of Africa, throughout the ages, has been the story of a struggle between Egypt and Ethiopia for regional hegemony’’.
But another scholar who has extensively been writing on African politics, Herbst (2000), casts doubt about the possibility of Ethiopia and DRC being potential hegemons. According to Herbst and Greg (2006) ‘’hegemons are by definition large and capable of projecting power beyond their own borders in unbiased or disinterested way’’. Theoretically, big and hegemon states provide economic opportunities and stability to the group they dominate. Ethiopia and DRC seen in this light are not hegemons. Deheze (2008) also quoted Herbst (2000) as asserting that, DRC cannot project power all over its territory let alone any projection of power outside its territory. With regard to Ethiopia Herbst (2000) pointed out as quoted from Deheze that ‘’given its profound poverty and ethnic division, Ethiopia also cannot play the disinterested big brother role in Africa’’.   
Any reference to Ethiopian history in the past and Ethiopian policy including foreign policy documents show that Ethiopia adopts defensive realism or if it is stretched neoclassical realism in its long history of engagement with the outside world. Ethiopia does not have any record of aspiration for hegemony in its history. Today, as we will see, Ethiopia define every policy of hers in light of sustainable economic development, democratic system building, mutual benefit   and reciprocity all of which are not or little known in the vocabulary of hegemony.
Ethiopia’s regional diplomacy:  the “camera obscura” of reality
Observers, commentators, and peoples of the region alike frequently misunderstand Ethiopia’s regional diplomacy and its peacekeeping activities. They often tend to think that the reality is hidden, and take a “camera obscura” view of Ethiopia’s role in the region, claiming that Ethiopia’s increasing presence in the name of peacekeeping and peace-making operations and missions is hardly innocent and conceals covert aims.
But even the most superficial reference to the Foreign Affairs and National Security Policy Strategy (FANSPS) document reveals that the current government has laid down its firm convictions of the necessity of good neighborliness in its conduct of foreign relations. It bases its relationships on mutual benefits and its belief in reciprocity. In sum, it underlines that  Ethiopia’s  regional diplomacy should be guided by principles of good neighborliness, non-interference, mutual respect, win-win formulation, collective security and responsibility. At the epicenter of Ethiopia’s foreign policy are development and democratization, and not just for Ethiopia. “Ethiopia’s foreign policy should understand that the success of Ethiopia’s development and democratization has a positive contribution not only to Ethiopia but to all neighbors as well; and that a policy that is free of arrogance and greed would contribute to changing the entire region. These are the premises on which Ethiopia’s policy is based’’. (Ministry of Information of FDRE, 2002: 62).
While Ethiopia’s regional diplomacy is premised on a strong commitment to mutual development and cooperation, it is also, certainly in part, based on the view from Ethiopia itself. The foreign policy document makes this quite clear: “the external environment is viewed from the prism of the country’s national situation and condition, and this ensures that the policy and strategy have relevance to our national security and survival.’’ (Ministry of information of FDRE, 2002).
That doesn’t mean Ethiopia’s foreign policy towards countries of the region is merely the outcome of consideration of domestic conditions. Closer reading of the FANSPS makes clear that foreign policy should also be considered in the light of how domestic conditions and situations are seen through the wider the prism of the global situation or globalization. In this connection, FANSPS reiterates that “the efforts in our country to bring about rapid development, democracy and good governance cannot be seen outside the regional and global contexts’’ (Ministry of information of FDRE, 2002).
These policy statements in face demonstrate that Ethiopia has synthesized domestic and international factors in its relations with neighboring countries and with other entities with which it has relations. It remains very careful to take into account the international distribution of power in relation to its own capability to effectively pursue its national interests. This is an excellent example of neo-classical realism in foreign policy theory: ‘‘neo-classical realists argue that domestic factors are needed to explain how systemic factors are actually translated into foreign policy decisions’’ according to Schmidt (2008). Ethiopia’s regional diplomacy certainly falls into the purview of careful consideration of domestic capabilities and their relation to regional and international distribution of power. Ethiopia’s regional diplomacy has to work to maximize its desire for security, which lies at the center of defensive or neo-classical realism, in the midst of unpredictable behavior of regional actors and a highly complex regional insecurity.
The Foreign Policy document also lays down the regional parameters of Ethiopia’s economic-centered foreign policy. In the short and medium term, this involves a whole series of promising and incremental economic and trade relations associated with infrastructure links such as the new railway to Djibouti, highways to Sudan and Kenya, the sale of hydropower across the region and use of  port services.
The longer-term possibilities are even more important in many respects. The region of the Horn is endowed with an exceptionally long coastline. It is strategically important to Ethiopia, even though Ethiopia no longer has a coastline, but the more so to the rest of the world with the Red Sea being one of the world’s major trade arteries, linking Europe to much of the Middle East and Asia.
Certainly, various aspects of neighboring developments could have been very useful for Ethiopia if there had been no conflicts, no state collapses or failures. Ethiopia could have freely used “no less than seven ports” in Somalia, as well as ports in the Sudan, Eritrea or Kenya (Ministry of information of FDRE, 2002).  These countries could all have benefitted substantially from the service payment that Ethiopia would have made. The problems of the region have made this largely impossible. This has been underlined by the way the region has been a safe haven for terrorists for much of the last two decades. Somalia’s disintegration, Eritrea’s role in sponsoring terrorists, the Sudan a center of political Islam, Kenya threatened by terrorist activity from Somalia, the deteriorating situation in South Sudan have all provided ever-growing dangers to Ethiopia, and indeed to the Horn of Africa in general.
Ethiopia’s regional diplomacy for centuries has been guided by defensive realism and the principle of maximization of security under which it maintains the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of its neighbors on the one hand and also ensures Ethiopia’s right to safeguard its peace and stability on the other. As part of this effort, together with the carrying out its UN responsibilities, Ethiopia has been much involved in the region’s peacekeeping and peace-making missions. Disregarding all the theoretical and practical facts and figures noted above, some commentators accuse Ethiopia of working to realize regional hegemony. This is the inverted view of reality, the “camera obscura”.
Ethiopia is working in collaboration with international and regional organizations and with the peoples of Somalia to help provide for peaceful solutions in Somalia. It has been working there with the AU and the UN, in AMISOM   in the international efforts to build strong and effective governments to provide for the sustainable stability, peace and development. 


This part of the piece juxtaposes Ethiopia’s 2006 entry into Somalia against the theory and concept of hegemony and its foreign policy. Hegemony presupposes the entry of a country into another or the domination of country over another last up to what the dominant group wants to achieve. Was what Ethiopia did, has resonance to this presupposition? Ethiopian foreign policy has non- interference at the center of its principle.  It  also  makes ‘doing activities at home first’ at the crux of the whole foreign policy direction. Therefore, is Ethiopia contradicting its own principle and direction when it made armed entry in to Somalia in 2006?   This paper puts head to head the foreign policy principle and what Ethiopia practically did to see if that was contradiction.
Ethiopia’s Intervention in Light of the Concept of Hegemony
Hegemony, which is at the center of offensive realism, strongly asserts that ‘’a hegemon is a state that is so powerful that it dominates all the other states in the system’’ (Mearsheimer, 2001). In light of which Ethiopia is not hegemon because it is not the unrivalled and unchallenged state dominating other states in the Horn of Africa.  Hegemons have building and keeping hegemonic status as their goal in international relations. By Mearshimer’s standard Ethiopia cannot be hegemon because it does not have the material preconditions to qualify hegemony. ‘’To qualify as a potential hegemon, a state must be considerably wealthier than its local rivals and must possess the mightiest army in the region’’ (Mearshimer, 2001).  Ethiopia though does have effective army, it is not wealthier than its local rivals, and indeed it is one of the poorest nations in the region. Samatar (2007) indicated how mighty Ethiopia‘s army is when he commented ‘’Ethiopia boasts a battle-hardened professional army that can probably defeat in a conventional war the combined forces of Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia and Kenya’’.
A state that is substantially more powerful than the other great powers in the system is not a hegemon, because it faces, by definition, other great powers.  To apply the concept of a system more narrowly and use it to describe particular regions, such as the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia is not a hegemon because there are Kenya, Djibouti, the Sudan and Uganda in the Horn of Africa region. Ethiopia cannot dominate these powers in any meaningful way. So, in the conventional and euro-centric standard of hegemony Ethiopia is not hegemon and did not enter into Somalia aspiring for hegemony. It has no material and other qualifications for aspiring for hegemony.
Dehez (2008) believes that Ethiopia is a strong candidate of potential hegemon due to its sheer size and large population. This is what he had to write‘’ The Ethiopian case is particularly revealing, because the country is undoubtedly a candidate for regional hegemony, simply because of its sheer size and its large population’’. He went to write Ethiopia has been strong, independent and imperial power well into the twentieth century. Also, according to report by Duke University (2007). ‘’Ethiopia has always been a hegemon within the East African region; its strong military tradition is rooted in a strong sense of national pride’’. Ethiopia’s entry into Somalia in 2006 would be a projection of that hegemonic behavior and maintain power in its favor.  ‘’Zenawi’s  (1991-2012) use of preventive warfare amounts to nothing more than a forceful demonstration of Ethiopian hegemony in the region’’ (Duke University, 2007).
Information made public at different times and by different means assert that Ethiopia did not enter into Somalia to promote any goal of hegemony. Ethiopia did not enter to prevent the coming into being of united Somalia that would challenge hegemony for Ethiopia. Reasons for its entrance had to do with national interest and national security. The late Ethiopian prime minister Melese Zenawi in his discussion with Senator Feingold and in his answer to the question ‘what kind of Somalia the Ethiopian government wanted to see’, he stated the motive of Ethiopian government.
Meles (2006) answered that the government of Ethiopia (GOE) did not have the means to pursue the kind of reconstruction and reform agenda that the U.S. had pursued in Iraq. "Ethiopia must tailor its agenda to its means." That agenda would be limited to 1) proving that Jihadists could not rule Somalia; and 2) redressing the current military imbalance to encourage dialogue between moderate members of the CIC and the TFG. The PM stated that although Ethiopia did not like the idea of Sharia Law, Somalis had the right to implement it. What they did not have the right to do was promote Jihadist expansionism. Meles (2006) said that the GOE had no problem with a united Somalia. He noted that Puntland favored a loose confederation, while Somaliland made an argument for independence based on the principles of espoused by the African Union. Resolving these questions was not part of Ethiopia’s agenda, however (Daniel Berhane, 2011).
Ethiopia’s intervention was not, according to evidences close to government officials of Ethiopia, therefore, to promote hegemony but was made in self-defense. It was made to hold terrorists and extremists in check. In various discussions with USA government officials of Ethiopia made it clear that ‘’ If the extremists are not dealt with immediately, both politically and militarily, they will further consolidate their control over the CIC (Council of Islamic Court), overthrow the TFG and threaten the security of the neighboring states’’ (wiki leaks from Daneil Berhane’s blog, 2011). According to the then minister of foreign affairs of Ethiopia, Seyoum Mesifen ‘’ Somalia is in absolute chaos with between 50,000 to 80,000-armed militia, even if the estimate is only having this figure there is problem. Additionally, the Somalia coast is open thus giving free access to extremists’’ (wiki leaks from Daneil Berhane’s blog, 2011). So, it is crystal clear that Ethiopia acted in self-defense than in pursuance of hegemony according to the assertion of evidences close to the Ethiopian government.
Ethiopia‘s intervention in light of its foreign policy document
Important foreign policy and external relations  principles that have constitutional articulation are at the center of Ethiopia’s relations with other countries including its relations with Somalia. FDRE constitution had this to provide that ‘’to promote policies of foreign relations based on the protection of national interests and respect for the sovereignty of the country’’ (Art89 (1)).
Another important constitutional provision in guiding Ethiopia’s relations is ‘’to promote mutual respect for national sovereignty and equality of states and non- interference in the internal affairs of other states’’ (Art89 (2)). Mutual benefits, reciprocity, non-interference etc are guiding principles to Ethiopia’s foreign policy. Building democracy and democratic system, promoting peace and stability and materializing sustainable economic development are the goals. What Ethiopia has been doing is guided by these principles and directed at realizing the above-mentioned goals. If that is the general direction, let us now look at Ethiopia’s foreign policy towards Somalia and more particularly Ethiopia’s entry in 2006 in Somalia.
Ethiopia’s fundamental policy remains to persistently work towards the birth of a peaceful and democratic Somalia. But in light of the continuing instability, the policy it pursues should essentially be a damage-limitation policy to ensure that the instability does not further harm the country, the region and the people of Somalia. If the instability is not stopped, the only option left is to limit the damage that may be caused. (Ministry of Information, 2002)
According to the Foreign Affairs and National Security Policy and Strategy (henceforth FANSPS) of Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, there are three main options to limit the damage. These are, helping relatively peaceful and stable regions of Somalia, creating capability to defend Ethiopia and foil any attacks from terrorist, extremists and anti- peace elements originating from Somalia and working in cooperation with the Somalia people and international communities to weaken and neutralize any force coming from any part of Somalia to perpetrate attacks against Ethiopia.
‘’First, Ethiopia’s decision makers have to try to help those regions which are comparatively stable and do not shelter extremists and terrorists in order that the relative peace they enjoy is maintained and even strengthened’’ (Ministry of Information ,2002). Ethiopia believes that it is in the interest of Somalia land and Punt land and Ethiopia to strengthen links with these regions in such areas as trade, transport, and the like. Ethiopia also articulates that assisting these regions in maintaining peace and stability is to its advantage and benefits peoples living in the area.
‘’Secondly, Ethiopia shall certainly continue to be exposed to various dangers as long as peace and stability elude Somalia as a whole. In recognition of this, it must create the capability to defend itself and foil any attack by forces of extremism, terrorism and other anti-peace elements originating in Somalia. In this regard, it must always be vigilant’’ (Ministry of Information, 2002).
‘’Thirdly, Ethiopia has to work in cooperation  with  the Somali people in the region, and the international community as a whole, to weaken and neutralize those forces coming from any part of Somalia to perpetrate attacks against the country’’ (Ministry of Information, 2002). Ethiopia in 2006 entered into Somalia as per the request of the internationally recognized Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia. ‘’Ethiopia, at the request of the TFG, deployed an unspecified number of ENDF soldiers to Baidoa in July 2006 following the capture of a nearby city by militias loyal to the Islamic Court Union (ICU)‘’ (Civins, 2012; Samatar,2007). So, Ethiopia’s entrance emanated from its policy direction, not from its aspiration to hegemony.
‘’While maintaining the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of Somalia, Ethiopia has to ensure its right to safeguard its peace and defend itself’’ (Ministry of Information, 2002). Ethiopia’s armed entry into Somalia was in response to defending itself from the war declared by Union of Islamic Court (UIC).
On 21 December 2006, Sheik Hassen Dahir Aweys, one of the UIC leaders declared from Mogadishu that Somalia was in a state of war against Ethiopia, and that all Somalis should take part in this struggle against Ethiopia. This was just what the Ethiopian leadership had been waiting for as it provided them with a legitimate reason to officially confront the UIC in Somalia. Thus, on the 24 December 2006 the Ethiopian government could recognize the implication of its troops by declaring that "The Ethiopian government has taken self-defensive measures and started counter-attacking the aggressive extremist forces of the Islamic Courts and foreign terrorist groups" (Fanta, 2007).
Arguments that follow the aforementioned line of reasoning believes that Ethiopia intervene to protect its national sovereignty, security and interest. Indeed, it acted in self-defense. Also, Samatar (2007) corroborated this when he commented ‘’Islamists made …self-destructive blunders in the run-up to the Ethiopian invasion. One was their idle, shrill banter of threats of Jihad against the instinctively jihad fearing Ethiopian state’’.  That urged Ethiopia to act in defense of its national security and survival which is at the center of its foreign policy as is in other countries, that made-up Ethiopia to take a drastic action in self-defense against the mullahs.
But others criticize Ethiopia for the blundering of its foreign policy principles when it made intervention. ‘‘One has to say that Ethiopia’s decision to intervene in Somalia remains to be its biggest national security and foreign policy blunder, though it is hard to deny that she has had legitimate national security concerns in Somalia’’ ((Alemayehu, 2011). (Alemayehu, (2011) commented that Ethiopia could have dealt the security issue with other means and ways short of resort to force. One way was to keep the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF) on high alert by assuming defensive military posture. Given the easy possibility of subverting Jehadist war waged by the Mullahs against Ethiopia with the Transitional Federal Government, what Ethiopia did seem cost-effective, in line with what is stated in its foreign policy and timely because the UIC had already waged war and made outcry.
‘’A further strategy was for Ethiopia, in cooperation with the US, IGAD, and AU, to mediate between the UIC and the TFG so that they can reach a comprehensive peace agreement acceptable to both sides’’ (Alemayehu, 2011). But according to cable communication ‘’Melese (2006) observed that it will take time for IGASOM to become established’’ (Daniel Berhane Blog quoted wiki leaks). And it was important according to Melese (2006) to take short military action by Ethiopia and other countries to keep the extremists ‘off-balance’. As to the role of AU same wiki leaked cable communication quoted AU Chairman Konare as remarking that ‘’too many leaders recognized the threat of extremism in Somalia but have been silent. Their voices will be important in supporting the TFG and moderation within the CIC’’ (Daniel Berhane Blog quoted wiki leaks). In light of such alarming situations, the feasibilities of both of the ways suggested by (Alemayehu (2011) are doubtful. All that go down to show how controversial Ethiopia’s entry into Somalia was. 


The study makes use of qualitative methods of data collection and analysis. Qualitative design is selected because it is important to understand the difference between stated policies and implemented policies, theories and realities. It better helps understand process, which is the unit of analysis in this study, than quantitative design does. The study used exploratory research design which is also called formulative research studies (Kothari, 2004). ‘‘The major emphasis in such studies is on the discovery of new ideas and insights’’ (Kothari, 2004: 36). Flexible design is recommended in which the broadly defined research problem will be transformed into a precise one in due course of the research (Kothari, 2004). This study, thus, employs this design. The research uses inductive analysis whereby conclusions are only be made from data that would be collected in due course of the research process. Document review and analysis are important techniques employed in this study.
This piece is assumed to be a droplet in the ocean of knowledge of international relations, foreign policy and particularly Ethio-Somalia relations. But it may be important to a range of stockholders like policy makers, researchers, educationalists who are concerned with the Ethio –Somalia relations.  This tinny study would serve as a spring board for further research on the subject.
This study only covers the 2006 Ethiopia’s intervention in Somalia in light of Ethiopia’s foreign policy and the concept of hegemony. Was Ethiopia’s entrance into Somalia by the will of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) an intervention, was that politically correct seen in light of the foreign  policy  document  of  Ethiopia  and questions of these kind would be looked into in due course of this study.
Prior researches and literatures on the subject at hand are hardly available. Those available are highly skewed to political motivation.  This may possibly compromise the quality of the paper. It limits any possibility of triangulation there by reducing the problem of construct validity. 
This study used the foreign policy analysis of neoclassical realism and realist explanation of hegemony to see the situation all together. This piece prefers to use realism because the paper is about what is called ‘intervention’ which includes, needless to say, conflict and elements of power which are currency to realist thought and narrative. 


Ethiopia’s entry in 2006 in Somalia has been subjected to different academic and policy interpretations. The interpretation of the motive for Ethiopia’s entrance has been ranged from the desire for hegemony to the inherent right to self-defense.
Ethiopia, with a visible national security stake, has been justifying its entrance in terms of self-defense. Ethiopia entered into Somalia to ward off the already declared Jihad against it by the Union of Islamic Court. It is this study conclusion that, in the process of protecting national interest Ethiopia may be involved into activities that made her seem work for hegemony. But given the policy direction and principles that concentrate on activities at home, it is difficult and beyond imagination to conclude that Ethiopia entered into Somalia aspiring for hegemony. It definitely went there only following line of its national interest as articulated in the policy document.
So, Ethiopia ‘s entry into Somalia in 2006, according to this paper’s reach, was projection of its foreign policy and indeed projection of its national security and survival. 


The authors have not declared any conflict of interests.


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