Marauding Militias Remain a Thorn in Somalia’s Flesh
As Somalia inches closer
to peace, a new parliament, which sat in neighbouring Kenya this week, is
faced with a daunting task of disarming the marauding militias, responsible
for the chaos in the Horn of African nation.
NAIROBI, Sep 4 (IPS) -
As Somalia inches closer to peace, a new parliament, which sat in
neighbouring Kenya this week, is faced with a daunting task of disarming the
marauding militias, responsible for the chaos in the Horn of African nation.
Somalia, a former Italian colony, has been engulfed in a civil war for
the past 13 years, resulting into an influx of small arms such as AK-47
assault weapons from neighbouring countries.
things will be very difficult. The peace will be jeopardised. This process has
to be done throughout the country, from corner to corner. No loopholes should
be left,’’ Ali Basha, a member of parliament, told IPS.
event held at Bomas of Kenya, a cultural complex in the outskirts of Nairobi,
witnessed 261 parliamentarians elect Hirsi Bulhan Farah as interim chairman.
The sitting, the first to be held in 13 years, followed the inauguration of
the members of parliament in Kenya’s capital Nairobi on Aug. 22.
is expected to lead the House in electing a new speaker by next week. In turn,
the speaker will preside over the selection of a cabinet, which will elect the
president, giving Somalia a new transitional government that will rule for
Somalia, with a population of 9.7 million, is the only
country without a central government.
It plunged into anarchy
immediately after President Mohammed Siad Barre’s overthrow in 1991.
Since then, the country, which is now fragmented, has been ruled by
warlords. Puntland, Somalia’s north-west province, for example, declared
autonomy in 1998. And northern Somaliland, a former British colony which was
annexed to Somalia in 1960, broke away in 1991.
All the Somali
factions, fighting each other, belong to rival Hawiye, Digle-Mirifle, Dir and
Darod clans. The fifth clan is a conglomeration of 14 minority groups.
The inter-clan fighting, say aid agencies, has left more than 300,000
people dead, prompting military and humanitarian intervention by the United
Nations from 1992 to 1995.
‘’Because of the war, each clan has armed
itself with weapons from neighbouring countries such as Ethiopia and Yemen,’’
Basha said. ‘’We need help from the international community. Disarmament is a
complex process and we are starting from the scratch.’’
have also found their way into some neighbouring countries. Kenya’s former
foreign affairs minister Kalonzo Musyoka remarked in April that some 60,000
illegal arms had been smuggled into the country from Somalia. He was speaking
in Nairobi during a regional meeting on small arms.
lawlessness, local human rights groups say it’s almost impossible to quantify
the number of weapons in circulation in Somalia.
It remains to be seen
whether the new administration will succeed in disarming the militias, a risky
business that the defunct transitional government had failed to achieve.
Established in Arta, Djibouti, in 2002, the transitional government
was not recognised by sections of the Somali population. Its president,
Abdulkassim Salat Hassan, failed to exert control beyond Mogadishu, the
capital. Its term ended in Aug. 2003.
‘’We are appealing to countries
both from Africa and outside to support the new government financially and by
deploying peace-keeping forces to monitor ceasefire,’’ Xaawa Abdillahi Qayaad,
a legislator, told IPS in an interview at Bomas of Kenya, venue of the Somalia
She was referring to a ceasefire signed in
Oct. 2002 by delegates to the Somalia peace process. The process, which seeks
to end the Somali conflict, opened in Kenya in 2002. It involves 366 delegates
among them warlords, civil society groups, as well as political, traditional
and religious leaders.
It’s being held under the auspices of a
regional body, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which
comprises Kenya, Uganda, Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti. The
facilitators include Norway, Britain and Italy.
In preparation for a
new government and a post-war Somalia, women legislators are mobilising civil
society groups to engage grassroots in spreading peace messages across the
One of the legislators, Asha Abdullahi Isse says they
have commissioned civil society organisations to begin holding talks with
‘’We want to be at the centre of it because women and
children have been worst affected by the war. Women and girls have been raped
and some even killed by the militia,’’ she said. ‘’It’s important that women
parliamentarians take the mantle in looking for a lasting peace, to create a
safe environment for our women and children to live in.’’
Of the 275
legislators, only 16 are women (END/2004)