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Sudan Tribune

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Somalia starts implementing martial law

Jan 31, 2007 (MOGADISHU) — Somalia’s interim government has begun imposing martial law, the prime minister said, saying that remnants of an ousted Islamic movement have returned to some areas and were planning to try to further destabilize an already lawless country.

A curfew was imposed Tuesday night on the southern town of Baidoa under a three-month emergency law that was announced Jan. 13 but not implemented then.

“From now on martial law would be implemented across government-controlled areas, starting with Baidoa tonight,” Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi told government-controlled radio late Tuesday.

Wednesday, Sheik Adan Mohamed Nor was elected speaker of parliament. The former speaker, Sharif Hassan Sheik Aden, was voted out of office on Jan. 17 because of his close ties with the Islamist movement. His replacement is a government loyalist.

Both the European Union and U.S. had called on the Somali government to reinstate the popular Aden as speaker, saying he could play an important role in promoting reconciliation and peace.

Since the Islamist movement was ousted last month by Somalian government troops backed by Ethiopian soldiers, tanks and war planes, factional violence has again become a feature of life in the capital, Mogadishu.

Ethiopia says it doesn’t have the resources to stay as a peacekeeping force and already has begun withdrawing, presenting the possibility of a dangerous power vacuum.

Three battalions of peacekeepers from Uganda and Nigeria are ready to be deployed in Somalia and will be airlifted in as soon as possible, a senior African Union official said Wednesday. The African Union was pressing ahead with its peacekeeping mission to Somalia despite securing only half the 8,000 troops needed at a key summit of African leaders that ended Tuesday in Ethiopia.

So far five nations – Uganda, Nigeria, Malawi, Burundi and Ghana – have pledged around 4,000 troops.

Somalia has not had an effective national government since 1991, when warlords overthrew dictator Mohammed Siad Barre and then turned on one another, throwing the country into anarchy.

A transitional government was formed in 2004 with U.N. help in hopes of restoring order. But it has struggled to assert authority.