Somali’s protest against the Islamic Council in Kismayo
By Sahra Abdi Ahmed
October 7, 2006
KISMAYO, Somalia, Oct 7 (Reuters) – Somali Islamists arrested dozens of people and shot in the air to disperse a protest in Kismayo against the new administration at the key port it seized last month, witnesses said on Saturday.
Scores of people took to the streets on Friday night, burning tyres and throwing stones, after the Islamists appointed a new governor, mayor and heads of the airport, port and the city’s overall security.
The protesters said the Islamists, who captured Somalia’s third city on Sept. 25, had not shared power fairly among various clans when picking the port’s new leadership.
“We are angry about how this administration has been set up,” said Barre Ahmed, an official of the Juba Valley Alliance, an independent authority that controlled the region around Kismayo before the Islamists took it over.
The Islamists said the protests were illegal and organised by political trouble-makers.
“These were not regular demonstrators, they have a political agenda to undermine our administration,” said Abdul Kadir Jibril, one of the Islamist Court officials charged with security in Kismayo.
The Islamists newly appointed top security man Abdullahi Warsame said about 100 people had been arrested but promised to free those found to be innocent.
“We will not allow anyone to disturb peace,” he said.
The protests were the fourth since the Islamists seized the port. Past demonstrations have also been against the Islamists’ ban on the popular leafy stimulant khat and on cinemas.
The Islamists have prohibited the mild stimulant, usually traded by women and mostly chewed by men in Somalia.
Pro-Islamist supporters have also held demonstrations in solidarity with the new leadership.
The Islamists, who control the capital Mogadishu, seized Kismayo without firing a shot, expanding their control over southern Somalia and effectively flanking the interim government, based in the provincial town of Baidoa, on three sides.
The United Nations refugee agency said on Friday more than 2,000 Somalis had fled across the border to Kenya over the last two days after reports of advances by Islamist forces on several southern towns this week.
Some 30,000 people from Somalia have sought refuge in Kenya since the beginning of the year. The U.N. agency said their continued arrivals could soon overwhelm existing refugee camps.
The interim government, the 14th attempt at effective central rule since the 1991 ouster of a dictator, regards Kismayo’s capture as breaching a ceasefire agreement reached at peace talks in Sudan.
The two sides have differed on whether foreign peacekeepers should be sent to Somalia. The Islamists regularly accuses neighbouring Ethiopia of sending troops to Somalia to defend the fragile interim government, a charge that Ethiopia denies.
On Friday, Islamist officials said they had closed a border with Ethiopia near the town of Balatweyne and that troops from both sides were facing one another in two Somali border villages. Ethiopia dismissed the reports as propaganda.
(Additional reporting by Sahal Abdulle in Mogadishu)