Before terrorism had been declared a global challenge, Ethiopia was already grappling with it in the early 90s and 2000s. However, it has managed to deal with the problem due to vigilance from the public.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Star, Ethiopian Ambassador Meles Alem explained how comes his country now suffers fewer attacks than Kenya, despite also neighbouring Somalia and having a strong military presence there.
He also discussed the border conflicts with Kenya, the dam row with Egypt, Kenya’s bid for the UN Security Council and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s award-winning leadership that has ruffled some feathers.
Under the Amisom peacekeeping mission, Ethiopia has between 9,000 and 15,000 troops manning sector 3, which comprises Bay, Bakool and Gedo. Kenya, on the other hand, has about 2,400 troops manning sector 2.
Global terrorism database compiled by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Response to Terrorism (better known as Start) classifies the risk of terrorism in Ethiopia over the past years as low, compared to other countries.
Both Kenya and Ethiopia battle with the militia group al Shabaab, but Kenya has proved more vulnerable.
Start said over the past five years, 46 terrorist incidents have been reported in Ethiopia, in which 361 people have been killed and 160 injured. In the same period between 2013 and 2017, Kenya has suffered 373 terror attacks, leaving 929 people dead, 1,149 injured and 666 taken hostage.
“Ours is a success story from the members of the public. Our vibrant Nyumba Kumi model has played a key role in the detection and prevention of these attacks,” Alem said.
“Security should not be the preserve of security agencies. It should be an all-collective effort aimed at weeding out terror elements.”
“An Ethiopian knows not only who is living next door but also who else is living in the neighbourhood. This awareness isn’t security-oriented. Rather, it is the product of a social fabric that is based on good neighbourliness,” he said.