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Ethiopia and Uganda have set up a joint ministerial commission aimed at supporting the new state of South Sudan and expanding joint security activities in volatile Somalia.
The agreement was reached during a weekend joint consultative meeting between Ethiopia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Ato Hailemariam Desalegn and his Ugandan counterpart Sam Kutesa in Addis Ababa.
“We have made considerable progress, but the challenge Somalia poses for our region and the continent at large remains centered on the activities of Al Shabaab, supported by various actors both in the region and beyond,” Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Tuesday.
Ethiopia has been supporting the Transitional Government of Somalia (TFG) and has been deploying its troops to fight Al Shabaab.
It took the Ethiopian troops two weeks to dismantle the rule of the Union of Islamic Courts (now Al Shabab), which had ruled the lawless country for a few months.
Al Shabab has not been able to regain control of the country although it still controls sizeable territory.
Following the withdrawal of the Ethiopian troops from Somalia, the African union (AU) Commission deployed a peacekeeping force made up of troops from Ugandan and Burundi.
“We need to expand our joint activities because the situation in Somalia still requires serious and close attention.
“Somalia indeed would certainly be one of the issues that a strategic partnership would deal with,” the statement added.
The two sides also expressed their readiness to help South Sudan, which became independent on July 9.
“Viable peace and security for South Sudan is critical to Ethiopia, Uganda and the whole region at large.
“Any setback to its stability will have a real impact on the region.”
Ethiopia has already deployed 4,200 peacekeepers in the Sudanese region of Abyie to help the two Sudans reach an amicable solution to their dispute over the region.
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