[Dehai-WN] (IRIN): Analysis: Mogadishu after Al-Shabab

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From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Wed Sep 07 2011 - 16:47:42 EDT

Analysis: Mogadishu after Al-Shabab

NAIROBI, 7 September 2011 (IRIN) - After the Al-Shabab insurgency announced
on 6 August that it was pulling out of Mogadishu, the hope was that the
Transitional Federal Government (TFG) would fill the vacuum, but doubts are
emerging about its capacity to stamp its
<http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=93581> authority on the

A government minister, however, told IRIN the TFG was slowly regaining
control of the city.

"There is no doubt that the government is now in control of all the areas
that were previously under their [Al-Shabab] control," Abdisamad Moalim
Mahamud, Minister for the Interior and Security, said, adding that it had
appointed officials to run those districts.

Mahamud said the government may not have moved as quickly as many people had
wanted, "but we are there and we are strengthening the administrations every
day, with the appointment of district officials and security personnel".

He said the fact that people were returning to those areas "was indeed a
testament that we are doing something about the security situation".

The government is in the process of deploying more security personnel, not
only in areas Al-Shabab left but throughout the city, Mahamud added.

"We are well aware that the job is not yet done until we can comfortably say
that Mogadishu is totally safe from them [Al-Shabab] and from opportunistic
criminals," he said.

Mahamud said critics who questioned the government's efforts were not being

Danger remains

Ambassador Abdullahi Sheikh Isma'il, a member of parliament and the
parliamentary committee on reconciliation, warned the government not to
create a false sense of optimism: "It is too early to say Al-Shabab is
defeated and declare victory. They still pose a very serious danger and have
not left the city completely."

He cautioned that Al-Shabab could try to start a guerilla war. "There is the
real danger of increased targeted assassinations and remote-controlled

Isma'il said the government needed to move with speed and take advantage of
the situation created by the withdrawal and splits within Al-Shabab, not
only through military means but also through dialogue.

Ken Menkhaus, a professor at Davidson University, North Carolina, and Horn
of Africa specialist, said Al-Shabab's partial withdrawal allowed it to
redeploy forces to the south, thereby avoiding "direct fights with AMISOM
[the African Union mission supporting the government], shore up [its]
southern flank, and place the spotlight on the TFG to manage aid flows into

He said Al-Shabab's already bad reputation was further damaged by "its
criminally negligent handling of the famine. Blocking aid into famine zones,
denial of the famine itself, and preventing famine victims from fleeing for
help appalled Somalis and the world," he said, adding that debate over how
to handle the famine "was one of the issues that split Al-Shabab leadership

"This is the TFG's best and probably last chance to do something right, and
capitalize on Al-Shabab's weakness by showing that it can and will govern
well. I wish I could say I'm hopeful it will, but the TFG's track record so
far points to the opposite conclusion - it has never missed the opportunity
to miss an opportunity," Menkhaus said.


An aid worker, who requested anonymity, told IRIN that immediately after the
insurgents pulled out, roadblocks emerged in parts of the city. "We saw
roadblocks around Bakara market, Hawl-Wadag district and Boondheere."

He said there was also fear that warlords - who controlled parts of the city
from the 1990s to 2006 - or people associated with them, were trying to take
control of the areas formerly occupied by Al-Shabab.

He said most of the roadblocks were manned by militias under the control of
district commissioners. "The government must unify control of the various
armed groups under one command," he said. Otherwise, "we will have serious
problems delivering aid to those most in need".

Al-Shabab pockets

"They are definitely still in control of Huriwa and Suuqa Hoolaha [north of
the city]," said a local journalist, adding that on 5 September, the group
attacked units of government forces in the city. "They may have been
weakened considerably but they are still here."

Another problem hampering government control was the fear of landmines in
the vacated areas. "I think they want to make sure that the area is free of
mines before sending anyone there."

Abdi Yasin, a resident of Hamar Jadid area of Wardhigley district, however,
told IRIN that residents were not waiting for the all-clear. He said in the
past two weeks many former residents had started returning to their homes
and started repairing them.

"There is no doubt as to who is in control; government forces are here and
they are in control," Yasin said. "There is hope and life is returning to
the area. People are very optimistic but how long that will last is anyone's

The area has been one of the most contested in the city.

Ahmed Bile fled his home in the Abdul-Aziz district of north Mogadishu three
years ago and returned on 2 September. "We fled to Medina [southwest]
because it became too dangerous but now I have returned and we are very

Bile said that since the beginning of this week, "between 15 and 20 families
were returning to the area. We are very optimistic that things will get
better," said the former trader, who wants to start his business again.

Impact of famine

Minister Mahamud said the government would do all it could to assist aid
agencies to deliver food to the famine-displaced pouring into the city.

"We have created a task-force of 300 to make sure that aid is neither
hindered nor looted. We have also established special military courts to
deal with errant members of the security forces."

He said the government was determined to make sure that Al-Shabab "does not
return to Mogadishu and that it is defeated in other parts of the country. I
think this is the beginning of the end for this group. They don't have any
support anywhere."

However, Al-Shabab continues to control most of south-central regions,
including the famine-hit regions of Bay, Bakool, Lower Shabelle, Middle
Shabelle and Lower Juba, and Gedo, where more than half the famine-hit live.

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