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Sudan Tribune

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Somali warlords pose a threat to relief work – UN

Feb 14, 2007 (MOGADISHU) — Somalia’s infamous warlords are re-emerging and once again pose a threat to humanitarian aid deliveries to the needy, the U.N. warned Wednesday, as the government struggles to quell growing unrest.

Rising violence and a power vacuum caused by the ousting of Islamic forces by the transitional government backed by Ethiopia could lead to renewed anarchy and chaos that plagued Somalia for 16 years, the U.N. said in a monthly report.

The spiraling violence is also likely to undermine any attempts to deploy an African Union peacekeeping mission designed to protect the country’s weak government and train a new army in the lawless nation.

“The re-emergence of warlords also raises serious concerns about the need to ensure principled humanitarian action and a do no harm approach,” the U.N said, warning it was critical to avoid the “coercion and violence” perpetrated by warlords and their militias in the past who hoped to cash in on aid flowing into the country.

The U.N. estimates around 1 million Somalis need humanitarian aid and that flooding and the recent conflict in the war-ravaged country had worsened conditions.

Meanwhile in the restive capital, Mogadishu, Gunmen are being hired for $2 a day as vigilantes to help quell unrest that has killed at least 25 people in the last two weeks, businessmen and residents said Wednesday.

“The government has to take responsibility for security, before they get help from African peacekeepers,” said Abdi Mo’ali Husein, a resident who organized private security because of the worsening security situation in the city of 2 million.

So far around 15 private checkpoints have been set up to prevent attacks on residential areas and armed militia are being employed at businesses to prevent attack, according to Mogadishu deputy mayor Ibrahim Omar Sabriye.

The city’s police chief Ali Sa’id Abdi said they were working to contain the violence.

Mogadishu has been hit by daily violence where Islamic extremists opposed to the government have attacked official buildings and Ethiopian troops currently in the country. In December, Ethiopia sent thousands of soldiers into Somalia to help the U.N.-recognized government defeat an Islamic movement trying to take over the country.

The AU peacekeeping force would replace the Ethiopian soldiers that are widely despised by Mogadishu residents. However, it isn’t clear the peacekeepers would be any more welcome after demonstrations against their deployment over the weekend.

The U.N. Security Council is currently discussing in New York a draft resolution on Somalia, giving its blessing to an initial six-month long AU peacekeeping force.

Ethiopia had planned to withdraw its forces after a matter of weeks, although the growing unrest makes a full withdrawal unlikely until at least the AU arrive.

Ethiopian Foreign Affairs Minister Seyoum Mesfin met with Somalia’s President Abdullahi Yusuf in the southern town of Baidoa, the temporary capital of the Somali government Tuesday where they discussed the worsening security situation and the resurgence of resistance groups, said a government official.

Somalia hasn’t had an effective national government since 1991, when warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on one another, throwing the country into anarchy. A transitional government was formed in 2004 with U.N. help, but has little authority across the country because it has no real army or police force.