Africa Notes: Ethiopia: Coping with Islamic Fundamentalism before and after September 11 - February 2002
February 1, 2002
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi commented in the mid-1990s that the most significant long-term threat to Ethiopia’s security is Islamic fundamentalism. At that time, the principal external threats emanated from Somalia and, especially, Sudan. The concern with Sudan has, at least for the time being, dissipated. On the other hand, the events of September 11, 2001, have caused Ethiopia to focus on the situation in Somalia, particularly the threat posed by hostile Islamic groups such as Al Itihaad al Islami (Unity of Islam). Ethiopia is the linchpin to the Horn of Africa. What happens there impacts the rest of the region. The importance of Islam in Ethiopia is not well appreciated by the United States, and U.S. officials are well advised to pay attention to Ethiopian Islam and the way in which Ethiopia interacts with its Islamic neighbors.