[dehai-news] Garoweonline.com: Uncertainty in Mogadishu, 'unity govt' talks in Djibouti

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From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Mon Jan 19 2009 - 07:58:47 EST

Uncertainty in Mogadishu, 'unity govt' talks in Djibouti
Jan 19, 2009 - 7:57:54 AM

MOGADISHU, Somalia Jan 19 (Garowe Online) - Somalia's war-battered capital
Mogadishu has been gripped by uncertain following the withdrawal of
Ethiopian forces, even as the interim government and an opposition faction
continue talks in Djibouti to create a 'unity government,' Radio Garowe

Militias loyal to the now-fractured Islamic Courts Union (ICU) have seized
military bases vacated by the withdrawing Ethiopian army, which spent two
years in Mogadishu that incited one of the bloodiest rebellions in Somali

Thousands of civilians thronged to city streets in jubilation after Friday
prayers, walking up and down roads that had been previously cordoned off by
Ethiopian soldiers, who always stood guard against Islamist guerrilla

Mogadishu residents remained hopeful that hundreds of thousands of people
who fled the insurgency could return to their homes and start life anew.

But many people fear that lingering disagreements within Mogadishu's new
power structure could lead to the eruption of a new war.

Thousands of people gathered at Mogadishu Stadium to mark the withdrawal of
Ethiopian troops, where the audience listened to speeches delivered by
prominent ICU officials, traditional elders and members of a self-appointed
Islamic mediation committee.

Sheikh Bashir Ahmed Salad, who chairs the Islamic mediation committee,
called on the Somali people to mark the day of victory by remembering Allah
(God) and discouraged factions from claiming victory alone.

The Islamic mediation committee's spokesman, Sheikh Nur Barud Gurhan, told
the crowd that today [Friday Jan. 16] marks "Victory Day" and urged Somalis
to repent to Allah.

He remarked that the Somali people have been attacked because of their
desire for Islamic rule, noting the continued foreign interference in
Somalia' s crises.

The self-appointed committee, comprised of Muslim religious personalities,
has been attempting to resolve differences among ICU factions for months to
no avail.

Mohamed Hassan Haad, who spoke on behalf of the Hawiye Unity and Tradition
Council, warned against dictatorship as the "root of all Somali problems"
and called for consultation and the creation of an Islamic government.

Well-known poet Abshir Ba'adle read a short poem to the cheering crowd while
calling on the ICU to restore security to boost the local economy. Mr.
Ba'adle was speaking on behalf of Mogadishu's business community.

A top ICU commander, Sheikh Abdulkadir Ali Omar, rejected speculation that
war would erupt among the Islamists, while promising to correct mistakes the
ICU made during the 2006 Islamic revolution.

Islamist hardliners like Al Shabaab, a breakaway ICU faction, have rejected
the peace process and attacked African Union peacekeepers on Saturday.

'Unity Government'

A Joint Political Committee comprised of officials from the Transitional
Federal Government (TFG) and the exiled opposition group, the Alliance for
the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS), have been continuing discussions on the
formation of a 'unity government' in neighboring Djibouti.

Inside sources said the talks hit a brief snag when TFG representatives
argued against doubling the current Somali parliament to 550 MPs, saying
that such a huge parliament is logistically impossible since Somalia lacks
proper facilities.

But the ARS representatives have repeatedly demanded an expanded parliament,
which was agreed to under the terms of the Djibouti Agreement that helped
facilitate the orderly withdrawal of Ethiopian forces from Mogadishu last

Emerging reports said the ARS faction, whose leadership is dominated by
members of a single clan-family, have decided to select parliament
representatives based on the 4.5 power-sharing formula on which the TFG is
founded on.

Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, the ICU leader who heads the ARS, returned to
Mogadishu on Sunday in a bid to bolster the reconciliation effort on the

He was transported to Hotel Lafweyn under the armed escort of AU tanks,
witnesses said.

The AU issued a press statement rejecting media reports that Al Shabaab
guerrillas seized control of facilities vacated by the Ethiopian army.

"The African Union therefore wishes to highlight this as a successful
coordination process of TFG and ARS forces now occupying areas vacated by
ENDF [Ethiopian army] as a major achievement," the statement read.

The situation in Mogadishu remains uncertain, even though ICU moderates have
gained control of strategic areas and are willing to compromise with the
Western-backed TFG in an effort to create a government of national unity.

But Islamist hardliners, like Al Shabaab, have rejected peace talks as long
as foreign troops are on Somali soil.

It remains to be seen if Al Shabaab can continue attacks against the AU
peacekeeping mission in Mogadishu, given that the local population is not
particularly hostile to AU peacekeepers compared to Ethiopian troops, who
were seen as historical enemies and military occupiers.


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