Apr 6, 2007

Somalia: renewed conflict

One of many overdue posts, luckily I met a journalist friend of mine from Mogadishu in Qatar about a week ago, he give me insight into the current situation there. There was relative calm in Mogadishu for the past few days, most of the bodies laying in the streets were buried. It's estimated that more than 380 people died in the recent fighting in Mogadishu while thousands have fled the city.

The government and their Ethiopian allies have never fully captured Mogadishu, and the militias never left the city. Before the fighting began, there were tensions between the government and some branches of Hawiye - mainly Habar Gidir,which most ICU leaders come from. They objected to the governments' initiative to disarm the militias in Mogadishu, they also objected to Ethiopian troops, the "Somali Army" who're mainly from Puntland , and to the person of president Abdullah Yusuf whom they regard as anti-Hawiye. But Abgaal, another powerful branch of Hawiye, have made it clear that they fully support the government, Prime Minister Ali M. Gedi is from this branch.

The government have, so far, failed to disarm the militias or to fully take control of Mogadishu. To make matters worse, the Ethiopians seem to be calling the shots deciding who to fought and when. Ethiopian officers are having their own discussions with clan elders and reaching ceasefire agreements without the involvement of the government. In an interview with BBCSomali, a Hawiye elder presenting himself as "Hawiye spokesman", though many Hawiye leaders disputed this, have said that they have reached a cease-fire agreement with the Ethiopians without the government being even present at the meeting.

The governments' incompetence seems to have no limits, they have been hustling journalists and trying to censor what was reported, often coming up with ridiculous and laughable "rules". Recently, some journalists were jailed and Aljazeera bureau was closed. The media isn't exactly innocent either. Local radios often beat the drums of tribalism while Aljazeera comes across as pro-Islamic Courts. BBC Somali is even worse, they're still calling those representing the militias as "Hawiye spokesman" or "Hawiye elders", though other Hawiye elders have contacted the BBC to make it clear that they fully support the government and rejected anyone to claim to represent them. In an interview PM Gedi accused the BBC of bias and rejected any such a thing as "Hawiye elders". My point is that BBC should at least have made it clear that while they call themselves "Hawiye elders", they don't necessarily represent the whole tribe.

So what's next? the opposition to the government is growing, just recently Hussein Aideed, a minister in the government had a meeting with Sheikh Sharif of UIC and the former speaker of the house in Eritrea. There's a well-publicized meeting in London later this month attended by many prominent Somalis, all opposing the presence of Ethiopian troops in Mogadishu, former Somali prime ministers Abdirazaq Haji Hussein and Ali Khalif Galaydh are attending.

There's also a reconciliation conference in Mogadishu which scheduled for later this month, but it's still unclear whether it can go ahead as planned. Certainly the government needs to change its tactics but there's no sign that it will. Also Ethiopian forces must leave Somalia but instead they're increasing their forces. The militia in Mogadishu have to be disarmed but they've proved that they won't be giving up their guns easily.

1 comment:

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