Thursday, May 12, 2005

Somali Warlords to Withdraw Mogadishu Fighters

Warlords controlling thousands of militia fighters in the Somali capital will begin pulling their troops out of Mogadishu by the end of the week in an effort to beef up security there, four key warlords said today.

The powerful warlords will pull their fighters back to four camps outside Mogadishu starting on Saturday, to guarantee the security of the transitional government when it returns home from exile in neighbouring Kenya, according to the statement.

Freelance militia fighters and those controlled by businessmen and Islamic courts, however, will not pull out under the initiative.

This may undermine efforts to restore order in the city where an estimated 10,500 armed fighters operate.

The commitment was signed by warlords-turned-politicians, including National Security Minister Mohamed Qanyare Afrah, Trade Minister Musa Sudi Yahalow, Works Minister Osman Atto and lawmaker Botaan Issa Alin.

Somalia has been without a central government since clan-based warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. Warlords then turned on each other, plunging the Horn of Africa nation of 7 million into anarchy.

Somalia’s government has been based in neighbouring Kenya since it was formed in 2004 because Mogadishu is considered unsafe. It is opposed by Islamic extremists and some of the dozens of warlords in the country.

Efforts to relocate to Mogadishu have been undermined by government divisions over proposed participation of peacekeepers from neighbouring Ethiopia.

Ethiopia supported Somali factions with money and weapons in the civil war, and some Somali lawmakers fear its troops could seek to advance Ethiopian interests if deployed in the Horn of Africa nation.

Somalis also remember the war they lost in 1977 over control of Ethiopia’s south-eastern Ogaden region, largely inhabited by ethnic Somalis. The Somali army never recovered from the defeat, a fact that eventually helped warlords overthrow Barre in 1991.


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