But the Ethiopians can't afford to stay much longer, and their repressive tactics have lost Somali hearts and minds, allowing the Islamists to regain social as well as military traction. Earlier this month, in a brutally populist application of sharia law, a 13-year old girl was stoned to death in the southern Somali city of Kismayu for alleged adultery in a stadium packed with 1,000 spectators. -Jonathan StevensonIt seems the author is unable to see the contradiction between the two sentences. He claims that the Ethiopians are losing to the "Islamists" because of their violent and repressive ways, yet in the next sentence he gives an example of even worse brutality by the Islamists -- the stoning of a young girl because she had been raped by three men, as well as the shooting of unharmed civilians who tried to help her. But nowhere in the article does he seem to believe that this brutality might be a problem for Islamists.
In fact, Ethiopians were hated because they are widely seen as infidel foreigners. They're also seen as century long occupiers of the Ogaden, which Somalis claim as belonging to them and where 7 millions Somalis live. Somalis have fought Ethiopians in 1977-78 over this land (and lost badly). They are afraid that Ethiopia wishes to continue its eastward expansion and assimilation.
But more importantly, Ethiopia failed in Somalia because it associated itself closely with the transitional government which was almost exclusively controlled by the Darood clan who lives mainly in the northeast. They used Ethiopian support to increase their influence at the expense of the other clans, especially in and around the capital, Mogadishu. That led the clans controlling Mogadishu and southern Somalia to throw its weight in support of the Islamists, the only organized alternative to the Darood/Ethiopian alliance. They found themselves sucked in clan warfare with no end in sight; and with the political winds changing in Washington, Zenawi decided he had nothing to gain by fighting forever. That is what caused Ethiopia to fail.