Somalias Flee By the Thousands as Fighting Worsens
| Amsterdam News | 11/2007
(GIN)”“Hundreds of thousands of Somalis are fleeing Mogadishu, the capital city, as heavy fighting between Ethiopian troops and Islamist fighters intensifies.
The worst fighting in more than 15 years was triggered by an Ethiopian offensive last week against fighters from the Islamist movement ousted from the capital in late December and clan gunmen.
Mogadishu is currently the headquarters of the U.S.-backed Transitional Federal Government. Dozens of rotting bodies have been seen in the streets, and many houses are empty.
The United Nations refugee agency says about 10,000 people have left Mogadishu over the past three days alone, bringing the total displaced to nearly 100,000 since February.
An editorial in The Nation newspaper of Nairobi, Kenya, predicted failure of peacekeeping efforts unless Ethiopia withdrew.
“As long as the Transitional Government is seen to be in office only courtesy of the Ethiopian military machine, seen as foreign interlopers, it will not be able to secure support of the majority.”?
It continues, “And as long as African Union troops … are seen to have been sent principally to prop up the Transitional Government, they will not succeed in their mission.”?
Criticism of the Transitional Government appeared on several Somali news sites. ”Clearly, the feeble Transitional Government has departed from its original reconciliation path,” wrote the Somali online news site Hiiraan.
”By doing so, it is making short term tactical errors and long term strategic lapses. The TFG has already lost moral control of the most populous, most important city in the country, all the while forfeiting a much-needed confidence to govern the nation…We know for sure that carpet-bombing Mogadishu isn’t the answer. Genuine dialogue that leads to an all-inclusive system was, is and will be the only answer.”
Ethiopia claims to have killed 200 insurgents but denies deploying any new troops to the region. The African Union has only deployed 1,500 Ugandans so far, and a first Ugandan peacekeeper was killed on the weekend.
Meanwhile, former U.N. spokesman Salim Lone, in an interview on the daily Democracy Now news show, said: ”This is not only a terrible war, but also the most lawless war. It violates clearly — with the invasion by Ethiopia — the UN Charter… The UN Security Council resolution in December said there should be no troops from regional neighboring countries going into Somalia as part of a peacekeeping force. And yet we have Ethiopian troops there, not as part of a peacekeeping force.
”It’s also turned the whole region into a giant Guantanamo (prison camp),” he continued. Kenya, he reported, ”has been kidnapping suspected supporters of the insurgent Islamic Courts as part of its cooperation with the U.S. war on terror, handing these suspects over to Somalia, which in turn hands most of them over to Ethiopia, where they have disappeared. So this is really a terrible war.”
Human Rights Watch reports that at least 85 of 150 individuals arrested in recent months at the Liboi and Kiunga border crossings have been secretly sent to Somalia ”in what appears to be a joint rendition operation” by Kenya, the United States, Ethiopia and Somalia’s transitional government.
”Each of these governments has played a shameful role in mistreating people fleeing a war zone,” declared Georgette Gagnon, deputy Africa director of Human Rights Watch. ”Kenya has secretly expelled people, the Ethiopians have caused dozens to ‘disappear,’ and US security agents have routinely interrogated people held incommunicado.”
A national reconciliation conference is scheduled for April 16 in Mogadishu, although there are doubts the government can secure the city by then.