Aug 17, 2006

Somalia Update

On Thursday, Kenya announced African peacekeeping troupes will be sent to Somalia in few weeks or months. This comes as a surprise as the Transitional Government was asking for foreign peacekeepers since its formation in 2004. The UIC and most of the Somalis are opposed to any peacekeeping force that includes Ethiopia, Kenya or Djibouti for historical reasons (the UIC is opposed to all foreign troupes). Any such deployment will require the approval of the U.N. Security Council and certainly the main factions in Southern Somalia.

The transitional government finally agreed to continue talks with the UIC (United Islamic Courts). Earlier, talks were held in Sudan 22nd of June but the Transitional Government withdrew from the talks because of fears the UIC were going attack their headquarters in Baidao. But the actual reason, it turns out was there disagreements between the President and the Prime Minister. The former wanted to negotiate with the UIC while the later was not keen on the idea. Subsequently, there were mass resignations from the cabinet to force a no-confidence vote and impeach the Prime Minister. It seems the government finally settled their disagreements and realized their was no other way but to negotiate with the UIC.

It was evident this week the conditions in Mogadishu have improved a great. The international airport received flights for the first time in 16 years. Our correspondent in Mogadishu who is a Somali told me how the people in Mogadishu saw the opening of the airport as a new beginning. There was also the initiative to cleanup the city. The city had piles of rubbish and dump site everywhere in the city, a reminisce of the 16 years of lawlessness. The UIC asked the city residents to cleanup “their” city, the UIC supplied the tools and the residents did the work. It’s symbolic of the grass root support the UIC has in Mogadishu.

There were reports of the UIC militia reaching the port city of Hobyo in Central Somalia. The UIC denied capturing the city but the smaller ports between Mogadishu and Hobyo are already under their control. The self-governing state of Puntland in just on the north of Hobyo. The UIC and Puntland are from two different tribe bases that had violent clashes in the early 1990s (Puntland and UIC did not exist then). It’s unlikely the UIC will want a confrontation of this sort. I don’t think they will (can) move anywhere north of the divided city of Galkayo which marks the borders of Puntland.

In another development, the UIC leader Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed announced the UIC will grant amnesty to the worlds they chased from Mogadishu if they wished to return. A number of these warlords are part of the Government which agreed to hold talks with the UIC. I doubt whether these warlords will want to return to Mogadishu as mere civilians.

Meanwhile the UN is warning of severe humanitarian crisis in Somali due to droughts and insecurity. The number of Somalis in need of humanitarian aid is estimated at 1.8 million, the UN says that number may double in the coming few months.

There are reports of Ethiopian army moving deeper into Somalia, again. As usual, the Ethiopian government denies that it’s army had crossed the border. It will be dangerous if they come into contact with the UIC militia, but surely Ethiopia will be careful of that.

African troops set for Somalia role (Reuters)
Islamist militia take key Somali port (Reuters )
مطار مقديشو وقصة إعادة بناء الصومال - الجزيرة

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