Center for Peace and Democracy (CPD)

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Aden Agreement could signal end of Somalia's warlord era

Can you imagine Somalia’s Transitional Federal President, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, hugging the Speaker of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Parliament, Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan, an unlikely event only a week ago.

It happened, however, in early January when the two top officials met in Sana, Yemen, following an invitation from Yemeni President Ali Abdallah Salah.

What surprised many and delighted others was the speed at which the two Somali politicians sorted out their differences, moved to the coastal city of Aden and concluded a landmark deal – it all took just three days. They stayed in the same hotel, dined together and at all times maintained the most cordial relations, in stark contrast to the bitter words they had been exchanging ever since they were respectively elected head of state and Speaker of the House.

To many Somalis, it was an unexpected Idd-el-Adha gift because when the two men met in Yemen mid last year, they agreed to disagree on every national issue they discussed, between the so-called Ministers in Mogadishu Group led by the speaker and the main government body that opted to make Jowhar town, 90 km north of the capital, the temporary base of the government.

JUST THREE days after the signing on January 5 of the now popular Aden Agreement, the residents of a neighbourhood in Mogadishu decided to confront an armed group that had established a roadblock at Adan Adde junction in Wardhighley district. Youngsters from the area volunteered to challenge the dozen men who were demanding leejo, an unlawful payment, from passing vehicles at gunpoint.

The confrontation between the volunteer youngsters and the armed group took place on January 7; it marked the first time communities in Mogadishu had opted to challenge the city's heavily armed militias. For days afterwards, many city dwellers were visiting the area to confirm for themselves that the area was truly free from armed groups.

ON JANUARY 6, a roadblock was re installed at Bakara crossroads, a strategic section of the heavily used Wadnaha Street. A group of armed militia claiming to be loyal to the Minister of Internal Security, Mohamed Qanyare Afrah, manned the roadblock, demanding leejo.

The public reaction was one of outrage, as people could not believe that someone claiming to be a government minister could allow armed youth to harass people, especially motorists and their passengers. The "Minister in Mogadishu" did not issue a statement disassociating himself from the youngsters’ acts, further infuriating the city’s residents.

In Karan district, a stronghold of Al-Hajji Muse Sudi Yalahow, the Minister of Commerce, the situation is even worse. There are armed youth everywhere and gunfire is frequent, giving the lie to the minister's claim that he would make the city completely free from violence.

The growing expression of opposition to warlords in Mogadishu is an obvious reaction to their obstruction of the president and the prime minister. Their promises to disarm their forces have not materialised and the militia they assembled at two camps outside the capital have long been disbanded.

The "Ministers in Mogadishu" promised to set up an administration for the capital, despite being warned against doing something they where not mandated for, because the premier and his executive Cabinet were not involved. They set up a 64-member council in December 2005, but the warlords now appear to be unhappy with the city council whose formation they masterminded.

City residents are little sure that the new council is going to be effective because its architects are already squabbling over how to control it. Each warlord wanted to have influence over the council, but local assembly members have begun to follow more independent lines.

The "Ministers in Mogadishu" know that their failure to control the council they initiated is likely to cost them a lot of political capital.

Soon after the formation of the TFG in Nairobi, the tsunami hit the Somali coast. No real state response took place since an internal rift immediately paralysed the new governmnt.

SECURITY IN Somalia, especially in Mogadishu, has never been assured as disarmament plans were not allowed to be implemented. Igadsom, a mission to deploy forces from the Igad states to help the disarmament of the armed groups in the country, was made impossible by the "Ministers in Mogadishu" causing a hullabaloo about foreign intervention.

Abdulkadir Khalif is freelance journalist based in Mogadishu
The opinions contained in this article are solely those of the writer, and in no way, form or shape represent the editorial opinions of "the Center for Peace and Democracy in Somalia (CPD)"

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