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Sudan Tribune

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Somalis protest foreign peacekeeping plan

June 16, 2006 (MOGADISHU, Somalia) — About 10,000 people demonstrated Friday against a proposal for a peacekeeping mission in the Somali capital, now controlled by militia who also hold most of the country’s south.

Somalis_hold.jpg“We can form a government on our own!” they chanted, and: “No Ethiopia, No Ethiopian government!” in the second public protest in as many days against the Somali transitional parliament’s vote Wednesday in favor of a plan for the deployment of Ugandan and Sudanese peacekeepers to help the government try to establish stability and its authority.

All the Islamic leaders from the Abgal clan attended the rally in central Mogadishu, where protesters also chanted, “America, open your eyes and ears” and “Allah Akbar!”

About one-third of the crowd were women, in veils covering their faces and standing in a separate area from the men.

Late Thursday, residents said unidentified gunmen shot a militiaman loyal to President Abdullahi Yusuf and wounded another when they drove through a checkpoint in Baidoa, which is the only major town Yusuf’s government controls in southern Somalia.

In the past two weeks, Islamists have been consolidating their hold on the region, chasing secular warlords from their former strongholds.. On Thursday, three more members of the warlord-led Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counterterrorism said they had resigned. One of them, Mohamed Qanyare Afrah, told the station HornAfrik that he and the Islamic militia shared a common enemy because both of them opposed proposals for peacekeepers in Somalia. He also said that he apologized for any mistakes he may have made as a leader of the alliance.

Thursday’s resignations brings to seven the number of people who have left the alliance, which now has only four members.

The Islamic group’s control over southern Somalia is a feat unmatched since the fall of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. The country has had no effective central government since then.

The Islamic group, accused by the U.S. of harboring al-Qaida, portrays itself as free of links to Somalia’s past turmoil and capable of bringing order and unity. Yet the future of a country accustomed to moderate Islam would be uncertain under hard-line Islamic rulers.

Somalia’s south has seen the worst violence in the country over the past 15 years. Northern and central Somalia, in contrast, have experienced only sporadic violence. Northeastern Somalia is run by an autonomous government allied to the president, and central Somalia, where some warlords have fled, is controlled by several groups.

U.S. officials have acknowledged backing the warlords against the Islamic group. In response to the Islamic militia’s growing power, the U.S. convened a meeting on Somalia in New York Thursday.

The New York meeting concluded with the U.S.-organized group of nations lending its support to Somalia’s transitional government and demanding unfettered access so aid groups can help Somalia’s impoverished people.

(ST/AP)

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