Somalia has moved to a new stage
TFG is Transitional Federal Government
When the Ethiopian and TFG troops departed Jowhar town, 90 kms South of the capital city, Mogadishu was struck by a wind of fear, not actually from confronting with the Ethiopians but largely from the havoc a war might wreak upon them if war broke out inside the city.
The business life of the city has come to a standstill as the main Bakaraha market was shut off completely for the first time in the history of its inception more than three decades ago. And the situation was aggravated by the Ethiopian fighter planes which had destroyed the Mogadishu airport few days before the forces covered a large swathe of central Somalia, evoking mixed thoughts in the minds of the people.
And things went out of hand when the leadership of the Islamic Courts declared that they quit the services they rendered to the people with immediate effect, giving their weapons back to the respective tribes that had originally contributed to the courts. With the approach of the Ethiopian and TFG forces the Union of Islamic Courtrs have fallen apart like like a piece of cake crumbling over itself on a cemented floor.
A woman in my neighborhood in the outskirts of Mogadishu has expressed her feelings in a gut-wrenching manner when she heard that the joint forces, whom she knew as Ethiopians were approaching with a faster pace. I tried to explain to her that there were also TFG forces going with the Ethiopians but she did not listen to me. While having her four-year old daughter, Fahma, sitting beside her, Mariam said:
"The tanks are coming closer
The city shall be attacked soon
All the routes are blocked
All borders are sealed off
Air and sea travel banned
The enemy will shoot us
What shall we do?”
But poor Fahma quite oblivious of what war or soldiers mean spoke with sincere innocence by saying:
“Mom Is the bullet painful?”
I nearly cried when I heard what the little poor girl has said. What does Fahma know about intervention and Islamic courts. She does not even know how it feels to have a gunshot in her body. I appeal to the TFG leaders to refrain from war and give utmost protection to the children in conflict zones. Fahma and other millions in the Horn of Africa deserve a better future.
But Thank God, the Islamic courts have left the city and retreated to as far away locations as Lower Jubba where they had a presence of Islamic militia controlling the strategic town of Kismayo. The Ethiopians, like a heat-seeking missile, just kept on chasing the Islamic courts with a huge military arsenal which looks more superior to that of the Islamic courts.
Though the Islamic Courts have shown some resistance to the Ethiopian and TFG forces around the town of Jilib, they were defeated and forced to flee to their temporary base of Kismayo and then left their stronghold, heading to unknown destinations. Some say they were last seen taking the route leading to the Kenyan-Somali border but rumors say that they are holing up in Raskamboni, a dangerous enclave which is an ideal place for guerilla warfare just like the Tora Bora in Afghanistan.
Out from these murky waters, sensitive news is being leaked into the information stream as it is reported that some fugitives of Eritrean, Oromo and Arab origin have been caught at the border post between Kenya and Somalia and were being questioned by the Kenyan Police. If that is true , then the cat seems to have come out of the bag, meaning that the usual denials of foreign presence on the side of the courts have been false.
The government of Eritrea, too, has repeatedly dismissed such accusations as mere fabrications of the Ethiopian government but finally when the leaders of the Islamic courts have lost their bastion in the strategic port town of Kismayo, the tide has turned to the other side in favor of Meles Zenawi, the Ethiopian Prime Minister.
The ugly part of the joint operation, however, is that they brought back the ruthless warlords who have destroyed the country with inter-clan wars. This has saddened many Somalis who expected that a new page has been opened for Somalia but, much to their disappointment, found that the Ethiopians have simply touched the undo button to return to previous story. That was quite disheartening.
A shining part of the operation is that the government has declared amnesty to all the fighters of the Islamic courts who took part in the war but were abandoned by their leaders upon their hasty exit. There were a good number of patients who were left behind in the hospitals but out of fear, their relatives took them to their houses.
The Prime Minister of the TFG has made it clear to the public that no revenge shall be taken against the remnants of the Islamic militia, appealing them to bring the sick and the wounded back to the hospitals for further treatment.
As the Joint Somali- Ethiopian forces took control of the seaport and airport the government has announced that the flight and docking restrictions have been lifted in which case business activities related to these facilities shall be resumed.
A spectacular move made by the government is the arms collection exercise in which all the residents of Mogadishu have been requested to submit their weapons in three days, giving them instructions as to where the weapons should be taken to. Many people are in the opinion that this project will not take off given the fact that three days is too short a notice to comply with.
Others believe that prior to gearing up measures of weapons collection, several things should be discussed. Some militia are requesting to join rehabilitation centers after surrendering their weapons while some others demand payment before they toss their gun to the government.
To the Somali militia the gun is their life, without it they don’t know how to live. So their argument holds water.
In short, Somalia has been a nation prison in the past 16 years and this prison has changed hands several times over. Will the TFG free Somalis this time or is it just a new guard of this nation prison?