[dehai-news] Aljazeera.net: Somali president fears militia rule

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From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Sun Dec 21 2008 - 15:58:58 EST

Somali president fears militia rule


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7A5Ujp67lg&feature=channel_page

The withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from Somalia will leave the country in
the hands of Islamist militias, Somalia's president says.

Abdullahi Yusuf, who leads Somalia's transitional government, told Al
Jazeera: "The al-Shabab are a threat to the whole of Somalia."

For the past two years the interim government has relied on the military
support of Ethiopian troops in its battle against opposition forces
including al-Shabab.

"Unless they are stopped, Somalia will cease to exist," Yusuf said.

"It looks apparent that, with the Ethiopian announcement that they are
withdrawing from Somalia, there is nothing in the way of al-Shabab and other
Islamist militias taking over the whole country."

Ethiopia had announced on Saturday that it would be pulling its forces out
of the country by the end of the year.

An Ethiopian foreign ministry statement said: "This week, Ethiopian troops
have begun to make preparations for their withdrawal. This has not, however,
prevented continuing clashes with al-Shabab forces."

Battles have raged between Ethiopian forces and Islamist fighters for the
past two years.

Fighters with al-Shabab, the armed group that has taken control of much of
Somalia, told Al Jazeera that they planned to enforce Islamic law across the

Security vacuum

In depth




Somali arms ban 'repeatedly broken'


Somali fighters warn the West


Profile: Somalia's al-Shabab



Al-Shabab's crackdown questioned


Somali rebels gaining ground


Graves and churches destroyed


Al-Shabab controls port city

Mohammed Adow, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Nairobi, said: "The president
is echoing the frustrations of his government and the fears of millions of

Yusuf said in an exclusive interview: "This is no peace. The al-Shabab kill
anyone who speaks out. They are killers who behead innocent civilians at
will. People are quiet because they fear them. They are living in terror
under the Shabab.

"I don't blame Ethiopia for wanting to withdraw its troops, but if they
leave, and are not quickly replaced with adequate peacekeepers; if the
African Union and the United Nations do not unite to strengthen the
peacekeepers in Somalia, there is no doubt al-Shabab will take over Somalia.

"And when they do, they will jeopardise the security of the whole region and

Adow reported that Yusuf's view is not supported by many Somalis, especially
those living in areas under al-Shabab control - areas that used to be "where
the gun was the order of the day".

"Today, they can go about their business without any fear. One such place is
Kismayu, Somalia's third-largest city. Today, it is a safe place," he

Kismayu model

Relative calm has been restored to Kismayu after al-Shabab and one of its
allies, the Raaskambooni Camp Mujahideen, seized control of the city from
local clans three months ago.

Abu Ayman, the leader of the Raaskambooni Camp Mujahideen, told Al Jazeera:
"We want to use Kismayu as an example and a model of our rule to the rest of

"Our aim is to get residents in faraway towns inviting us to come and govern
them according to the way of Allah. The calm in Kismayu has benefited its
down-trodden most."

Most of Kismayu's residents agree with Abu Ayman, saying they are now able
to go about normal life without fear of attacks by marauding gangs of armed
men who had terrorised them periodically for nearly 18 years.

"I remember times when young boys with knives used to rob us of our daily
earnings. Now we can carry lots of money without any fear of being robbed,"
Mohammed Fundi, a porter and Kismayu resident, said.

Seyyid Ali, also a porter in the city, said: "We used to be sort of
enslaved. When we load six lorries, we used to be paid for just one or two.
Today we get wages equal to our output. We have justice here."

Peace, at a price

But our correspondent said the apparent peace had come at a price.

"International aid agencies, the lifeline of Somalia's poor, fled the town
because of the fighting.

"They have still not returned as the Islamists have little tolerance for
anything - or anyone - foreign," he said.

"The suffering is huge as the poor are largely left to fend for themselves."

Kismayu has been left with one hospital to serve the needs of nearly one
million people from the city and surrounding areas.

The hospital used to be run by Medecins Sans Frontieres, which was forced to
abandon the centre eight months ago after members of staff were killed by

Now, it is common for only one doctor to be on duty at a time, and medical
supplies are dwindling.

Adow described the people of Kismayu as "numb to the myriad problems
surrounding them".

"They [residents] have survived the vagaries of war. They have weathered the
almost 20 changes in Kismayu's administrations over the past 18 years and
its people have learned to live with and obey any group that has the upper
hand," he said.

Somalia has had no effective government since a coup removed Siad Barre from
power in 1991, leading to an almost total breakdown in law and order across
most of the country.

The only relative stability experienced by some parts of the country came
during the brief six-month rule of the Islamic Courts Union in 2006.

However, they were driven out of the capital, Mogadishu, and other areas, by
Ethiopian and government troops - sparking an upsurge in fighting.

Ethiopia is due to remove its troops from war-torn Somalia by the end of the



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