Dozens of Somali MPs quit govt seat
Reuters, Mogadisu | Oct 5, 2006 - A group of Somali lawmakers met powerful Islamists in their Mogadishu stronghold after quitting the temporary capital because of growing security fears since last month’s assassination attempt on the president.
The Islamists’ most influential leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys welcomed the 36 legislators late on Wednesday, saying the movement was ready to work with them.The comments are likely to irk the interim government struggling to assert its authority over the divided Horn of Africa country.
A September 18 car bomb attack targeting President Abdullahi Yusuf in Baidoa further exposed the vulnerability of the administration, which was too divided to prevent the Islamists from seizing Mogadishu in June and other parts of Somalia.
“The lack of security is what brought us to Mogadishu. Where the president’s life is in danger, no one else is safe,” said lawmaker Abdalla Haji Ali, who also heads the parliamentary finance committee.
“The Islamists are open to everything including power-sharing and bringing law and order through negotiations without any foreign intervention,” he added.
Senior Islamist Ibrahim Hassan Adou described the meeting — in which the two sides ended a day of religious fasting by dining together — as a “confidence building” measure.
He said the Islamists were still committed to another round of peace talks with the government due to be held under Arab League mediation in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on October 30.
“We will continue with the Khartoum meeting as well as holding meetings inside the country,” he said.
It was not clear how long the legislators would stay in Mogadishu.
But, Ali said he would not return to Baidoa until security issues were addressed and Ethiopian troops had left Somali soil, indicating deepening dissent within the government over the deployment of foreign peacekeepers to Somalia.
The Islamists reject such a move and have vowed to wage holy war against foreign forces.
Witnesses say Ethiopia — the Horn’s dominant power — has already sent troops to Baidoa to protect the government. Addis Ababa denies this, but last week Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said Ethiopia was helping to train Somali security staff.
Government spokesman Abdirahman Dinari dismissed the Mogadishu meeting.
“The MPs were not representing the government. They went there on their own so they cannot talk on behalf of the government,” he said, adding that Baidoa was safe.
In another development, the Islamists formed a new Islamic “Banadir” court to administer justice in Mogadishu and its surrounding areas, taking over from clan-based courts.
Hassan Osman Ahmed, head of the judiciary committee of Islamic courts, said each of Mogadishu’s 21 districts will have a police station and a court, which will report to the Banadir.
The Banadir will include a court of appeal and a court to deal with restoration of property.
Banadir refers to Mogadishu and its surrounding areas. The significance of the new court is that the Islamists are centralising their justice system and control of the area.
Despite Western fears the Islamists want to impose a Taliban-style hardline system, many residents in Mogadishu credit them with bringing relative security after 15 years of anarchy since warlords ousted a dictator in 1991.