Islamic militias have reportedly gained the backing of influential clan elders to set up a new system of governance for Jowhar and other areas of southern Somalia. This comes as several warlords switch camps, abandoning the anti-terrorist alliance and pledging allegiance to the Islamic Courts Union. Meanwhile, the Islamists have reached agreement with the Baidoa-based interim government to accept Yemeni mediation for peace talks.
Somaliland-born Abdallah Haji is a member of Somalia’s transitional parliament. In an interview with English to Africa reporter Ashenafi Abedje, Haji commented on the emergence of the Islamic militants as a potent political force in Somalia. “This is very important and it’s a very strong force politically. In fact, it has replaced the warlords in many parts of the country. It is there and it is very strong.” A number of warlords have switched their allegiance and now support the Islamic Courts. The parliamentarian says it’s unlikely the warlords’ move will threaten the integrity of the interim government. “The warlords who now support the Courts were in fact supporters of the Court for a long time. They were not considered major warlords in Mogadishu, but they emerged as very powerful elements. It depends how this government handles the situation.”
Haji says advancing Somali’s best interests requires close cooperation between his government and the Islamic Courts. “They (the Islamic militias) can be very professionalized if we work with them instead of alienating them. We should negotiate with them. I think it’s good for the country and good for the government.”
Yemen is reportedly trying to mediate talks between the government and Islamic militias. Abdallah Haji says despite strong differences on the question of foreign peacekeepers, the government and the Islamic Courts should continue to negotiate. “The Islamic Courts are undeniably a major force who control a large part of the country. As a government, we need to talk to them in a way they work with us, bring them into the government system and work together. We should do this in a way which benefits Somali people and not alienate anybody.”