NAIROBI — The Somali government and the United Nations have called on clan militias fighting in the port city of Kismayo to halt the violence and to solve their differences through dialogue.
The latest violence erupted Friday evening when a top government military commander was arrested and beaten allegedly by Kenyan forces. Militia commanders say at least five people have died in Kismayo in the past two days of fighting.
Somali local media say the latest clash started when one group was angered over the arrest of a top military commander.
Witnesses say confrontations between rival militias continued into Saturday and there was no sign of a letup in fighting.
Somali government spokesman Abdirahman Omar Osman says the central government in Mogadishu has called for an immediate ceasefire, insisting that no group can win through armed confrontation.
"The president has been saying that no group can win through their own political agenda or gains through violence," Osman said. "Violence breeds violence, so that’s why we believe the best option is through negotiations and reconciliation.”
In a statement, the U.N. Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, Nicholas Kay, has also called for an immediate cessation of hostilities.
For weeks now, Kismayo has witnessed deadly clashes in the city between rival clan militias fighting over the control of the lucrative port.
The city has been simmering with tension since last month, after three different clan leaders said they were president of the newly created Jubaland region.
According to U.N. reports in Kismayo, the weeks of clashes in Kismayo have resulted in a large number of casualties including civilians.
Kay said the U.N. is trying to reach out to the parties involved in the fighting to defuse the tensions.
Osman says the government is ready to convene a peace process for all groups and stakeholders.
“We hope a solution will be found which can lead us to a reconciliation conference to be held for all parties, groups in the area," Osman said. "We don’t want any group to be left behind in the reconciliation. We believe all the Somalis have a stake in taking part on the call of the government to own the reconciliation.”
Meanwhile, Somali government officials and Ahmed Madobe, leader of the Ras Kamboni militia and one of the men who claims to be president of Jubaland, met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to discuss ways to end the violence and the deadlock.
The Somali federal government has refused to recognize any leadership appointments in Jubaland, deeming the process unconstitutional.