The latest from Mogadishu
Correspondent Massimo A. Alberizzi of Corriere della Sera reports:
PORT HARCOURT (Nigeria) – An advance Ugandan army logistical unit arrived Thursday in Baidoa, the provisional seat of the transitional government. Its job is to organize the deployment of the African Union military contingent. In the next few days, 1,500 Ugandan troops are to arrive, to be followed by a least 850 Nigerian troops in April. Units from Ghana and Burundi are also expected. A total deployment of 8,000 men is planned but this goal is far from being realized.
DUTIES – However, the Ugandan President, Yoweri Musaveni, declared on Thursday that his army will not disarm the militias but will limit itself to defending the Somali government and its institutions, which, although internationally recognized, have virtually no power on the ground. The Ugandans will then build and train the Somali army and police. They are to arrive in Mogadishu next week. Men, weapons and armored vehicles are to be sent by special trains from Kampala to Mombasa. From this Kenyan port, all will be embarked for the sail to the Somali capital. Ethiopian troops already in Somalia will provide the defense necessary for their arrival.
In Mogadishu, the permanent capital, where the government intends to transfer itself as well as its institutions, the situation is extremely chaotic. Not a day goes by without gunmen shooting down “collaborators”, i.e., anyone working for the government. Another target of the gunmen are the Ethiopian troops that in December routed the government of the Islamic courts
THE FUNDAMENTALISTS – The fundamentalists had controlled Mogadishu and most of the country since June. Every day, Addis Abeba’s troops come under artillery or mortar fire. The air and sea ports also targeted. Many analysts have strong doubts concerning the ability of the African forces to restore peace and security.
FINANCING – Moreover, the African Union has warned that its coffers are empty. There is no money for the mission and so the Africans have requested money from the West. The Americans and the Italians will contribute something, but will it be sufficient to guarantee a mission for which no one really knows the duration? In any case, a peace and reconciliation conference is to start in early March in which all parts of Somali society have been invited to participate, except those whom the Americans have labeled “terrorists”. But an independent observer could not say who is a "terrorist" and who is not. On Wednesday evening, Somali President Abdullahi Yussuf discussed the conference behind closed doors with his Prime Minister, Ali Gedi. There was complete agreement –it was leaked– except on where to hold the conference. For security reasons, Abdullah believes it is better to hold the conference in the Puntland, in the north of the former Italian colony. Gedi, however, is pushing for Mogadishu, which would make the event more meaningful, prestigious and acceptable to those who, as of now, reject the idea.