Thursday, 29 January 2009

Somalia prepares for new leader

Somalia's parliament has sworn in new opposition members as it prepares to elect a new president.
The new members belong to the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS), a major opposition group.
Parliament, meeting in neighbouring Djibouti, also extended the mandate of the transitional federal government for another two years.
But the powerful Islamist al-Shabab militia says it will not recognise the new administration.
One-hundred-and-forty-nine ARS members were sworn in, including the group's leader Sheikh Sharif Ahmed who is standing for president.
He was first to take the oath. With his hand on the Koran, he swore to protect Somalia's constitution.
'Fruits of reconciliation'
The expanded administration is part of a United Nations-backed reconciliation process aimed at restoring stability to Somalia after nearly two decades of conflict.

'I'm not afraid of al-Shabab'
UN special envoy Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah said: "We are going to tell the Somalis to assume their responsibilities. I expect Somalia to form its government and return to the capital Mogadishu."
A number of people have announced their candidacy for the presidency, including Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein, former Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Ghedi, and former warlord Mohamed Qanyare Afrah.
Mr Hussein, who is considered one of the front-runners, appealed to groups opposed to the peace process to take part.
"I hope these people will join and see the fruits of reconciliation," he said.
But analysts say it is unlikely that peace will return soon to Somalia.
Al-Shabab has seized the town of Baidoa, which had been the seat of the Somali parliament.
The Islamist militia has declared Sharia law in the town, and parliament now works from Djibouti.
Some 16,000 civilians have been killed in the conflict and a million more have been forced from their homes.
The Horn of Africa country has not had an effective central government since 1991.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Ethiopia begins Somalia pullout

source http://news. 2/hi/africa/ 7808495.stm

Ethiopian military forces have begun pulling out of Somalia after two years helping the transitional government fight insurgents.Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's spokesman said the withdrawal would take several days.A convoy of about 30 Ethiopian vehicles loaded with troops and equipment left the Somali capital, Mogadishu.Hours earlier a roadside bomb killed two Ethiopian soldiers and a number of civilians died when troops opened fire."The withdrawal of our troops from Somalia has entered the implementation phase," Bereket Simon, special adviser to the Ethiopian premier, told Reuters news agency."The withdrawal is not an event that can be completed within a day. It will be finalised as quickly as possible."Ethiopia has suffered a steady drain on its resources and a constant trickle of casualties but has received much blame and scant praise for its deployment, the BBC's Elizabeth Blunt reports from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

Bomb attack

About 3,400 Ugandan and Burundian peacekeepers from the African Union in Somalia are taking up positions vacated by the Ethiopians. Witnesses say the start of Friday's withdrawal passed without incident as a convoy of trucks loaded with troops, mattresses and other equipment left Mogadishu.A long column of vehicles left the capital for the small town of Afgoye, south-west of the capital, on the road to Baidoa and the border.But at least four civilians died earlier in the day when Ethiopian troops on patrol opened fire after two of their number died in a roadside blast at a busy junction in the south of the capital."A bomb exploded near a group of Ethiopian soldiers at the K4 crossroads," Somali police colonel Ali Hasan told AFP news agency."There were many civilian victims."Addis Ababa announced late last year that it would fully withdraw from Somalia by the first days of 2009.There are fears the withdrawal of the 3,000-strong Ethiopian force could lead to a power vacuum and that violence will continue despite a peace deal between Somalia's transitional government and one of the main opposition factions.Others say the pullout, together with this week's resignation of President Abdullahi Yusuf, could make it easier for a new government to be formed, including moderate Islamist forces.The president's critics had accused him of obstructing of a peace deal with the Islamist-led armed opposition.One hard-line opposition group, al-Shabab, seen as key to any prospect of a lasting peace, is snubbing the idea of power-sharing and has said Somalia risks a new civil war.Our correspondent says its involvement in Somalia has not been a happy one for Ethiopia.The first push, at Christmas 2006, went like clockwork. Opposition melted away before the Ethiopians and the transitional government was saved from imminent collapse.But our correspondent says that the government has not managed to use the time the Ethiopians bought it to establish a soundly based administration while the insurgency has revived in a more extreme form.Government forces only control parts of Mogadishu and the town of Baidoa.Somalia has not had an effective national government since 1991.

posted by Amare Abebaw,Ethiopia

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Peacekeeper killed in Mogadishu

An African Union peacekeeper has been killed and another one injured by a roadside bomb in the Somali capital.

It comes days after the AU warned it may have no option but to leave Somalia unless its force was bolstered.
Ethiopia has begun withdrawing its 3,000-strong force from Somalia, two years after it helped the interim government oust Islamists in power.
In a separate attack, a man working for the UN was killed by three masked gunmen in south-west Gedo region.
Ethiopia's departure follows an agreement with the Somali transitional government and the more moderate wing of the Islamist-led political opposition during UN-sponsored reconciliation talks in Djibouti.
But government forces only control parts of capital, Mogadishu, and the town of Baidoa.
While Islamist and nationalist insurgents have vowed to overthrow what remains of the government, whose president resigned last month.

Battles with al-Shabab
The 3,600-strong AU force has faced frequent attacks from Islamist insurgents - especially the al-Shabab group - in the capital, Mogadishu.

The latest attack brings the number of AU troops killed in Somalia to nine, since the first Ugandan troops were deployed there in 2007.
A spokesman for the AU force said the incident took place on the outskirts of Mogadishu, when a convoy of peacekeepers was hit by an improvised explosive device.
The shooting in Gedo took place on Tuesday while Ibrahim Hussein Duale was monitoring a school feeding in a World Food Programme-supported school in Yubsan village.
Witnesses say the gunmen approached him while he was seated, ordered him to stand up and then shot him, the UN said in a statement.
The leader of a pro-government militia fighting al-Shabab in Gedo, Barre Hiraale, told the BBC's Somali Service that al-Shabab was behind the attack.
Mr Hiraale is a member of parliament and former warlord of Kismayo where he was ousted by al-Shabab fighters earlier this year.
On Tuesday his fighters took the town of Bardhere in Gedo from al-Shabab and fighting has been reported in neighbouring Bai region, considered one of the main bases for al-Shabab.
Observers say Mr Hiraale is being armed by the withdrawing Ethiopian troops, an allegation he denies.

UN criticised
Over the last year fighting has displaced roughly half of Mogadishu's population and half the country is dependent on food aid.
Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991 and in that time thousands have also fled to neighbouring Kenya.

Thousands of refugees have fled to neighbouring Kenya
Meanwhile, the UN's refugee agency has come in for criticism for saying recently that Somalis fleeing the civil war would be better off staying with relatives as the agency had no space in the main camp just over the border.
Dadaab camp on Kenya's eastern frontier with Somalia was designed for 90-000 refugees, but is now struggling to cope with three times that number, and hundreds more arrive every day.
The BBC's Peter Greste in Nairobi says that last year, more than 60,000 turned up at the gates after sneaking or bribing their way through the border that has been officially closed for most of the past two years.
But according to Judy Wakahiu of the Refugee Consortium of Kenya, not accepting refugees amounts to an abrogation of the UNHCR's responsibilities.
"I don't think its right to do that because according to the mandate of the UNHCR, they are supposed to receive and protect refugees regardless of the number," she told the BBC.
Kenya's immigration minister has admitted keeping the border closed has created problems, but has insisted that national security comes first.
Our reporter says the government has been negotiating with local communities for the past two years to acquire land for another camp near the border, but so far those communities have remained hostile.