Somalia: Ethiopia-backed forces pledge “iron hand”; Islamists pledge resistance from Kismayo

Anti-Ethiopia riots erupted in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, Dec. 29, a day after Ethiopian troops and allied Somali militias took the city from Islamist forces. Hundreds took to the streets to hurl rocks at Ethiopian soldiers, set tires on fire and erect barricades at intersections to cries of “Get out of our country!” and “We hate you, Ethiopians!” The first armed resistance also emerged, with masked gunmen appeating on the streets in northern Mogadishu. “We’re going to turn this place into another Iraq,” said one man, a construction worker who said he was part of a new underground movement to fight the Ethiopians. Ali Mohammed Gedi, the prime minister of the Ethiopia-backed transitional government, spoke to reporters from just outside the capital: “This country has been through a lot of anarchy, so to re-establish order we will have to have an iron hand.”

The Islamist leadership, meanwhile, pledged resistance from the southern port of Kismayo where they have taken refuge. “We will not leave Somalia,” Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, a top Islamist leader, told the AP. “We will not run away from our enemies. We will never depart from Somalia. We will stay in our homeland.” Kismayo residents said Ethiopian fighter jets were circling the skies above the city. (NYT, Dec. 30)

The Somali news agency Garowe Online noted further details of Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed’s public speech, which marked the Muslim festival of Eid-ul-Adhaa: “There are many excuses… Saddam was accused of having nuclear weapons…Did he have nuclear weapons? No! What was the excuse they used against us? Osama [bin Laden]. We don’t have nuclear weapons and Osama is not with us and we don’t even know him. We see him on television. What they are against is Islam.” Supporters responded with cheers of “Allahu Akbar!”

Sheikh Sharif charged that the world does not want Somalia to unite and rise up from the ashes of destruction, and noted the fact that the territory of the Somali-speaking peoples in the Horn of Africa was divided among different countries by the colonial powers. “Out of all countries in the world, there is no country that has been divided into five parts, but Somalia was divided into five parts,” he said.

The Islamist militia remains in control of Kismayo and the surrounding Lower Jubba region. Ethiopian and allied Somali forces have already penetrated the Middle Jubba region, and Kismayo residents believe a battle for their city is imminent. (Garowe Online, Dec. 30)

See our last post on the Horn of Africa.