News / Africa

Somalis in Baidoa Expect More from New Government

Ethiopian forces cleared Baidoa town of al-Shabaab militants in February of this year, August 24, 2012
Ethiopian forces cleared Baidoa town of al-Shabaab militants in February of this year, August 24, 2012
TEXT SIZE - +
Roopa Gogineni
BAIDOA — Earlier this week, a new parliament was installed in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu. Meanwhile in the smaller city of Baidoa, a city liberated from al-Shabab militants in February, Ethiopian forces are handing over control to African Union and Somali forces. In Baidoa, residents are grateful for the security, but wonder why aid has been so slow to follow.   
    
Sangaba Sheikh is a mother of ten. For the past 20 years she has sold miraa, a plant narcotic popular in Somalia, in the community of Baidoa. These days, business is slow.

“Miraa is very expensive and people are not able to buy because people do not have any income," she said. "We are hungry because we are not getting any money from business.”

Before February of this year, Baidoa was under the control of al-Shabab. The Islamist militants drove the miraa trade underground. Since the Ethiopians liberated Baidoa in February, Sheikh has been able to sell openly on the streets again, but she makes meager profits.

Residents of Baidoa expected aid from Mogadishu and beyond would arrive once they were free of al-Shabab. The city had been under siege for three years. No humanitarian aid was allowed in during this time - al-Shabab even stopped polio vaccines sent by the World Health Organization.

Abdifatah Mohamed Ibrahim, known as "Gesey," is the governor of Bay region, of which Baidoa is the capital. Speaking through a translator, he described his frustration with Somalia's Transitional Federal Government, or TFG.
 
“When the TFG took over Afgoye or Balade, immediately the president and the PM visited to show that the central government was supporting," said Ibrahim. "They took control of Baidoa around February. From then until now, it is six months down the line and no support has come.”

Getting aid to Baidoa is a challenge. Two hundred forty kilometers separate Mogadishu from Baidoa. Approximately 150 of these are still under al-Shabab control. This basically cuts off the city from government help.

Ali Hassan Abdi drives a truck between Mogadishu and Baidoa. He keeps his truck in a state of disrepair to avoid heavier taxes at al- Shabaab checkpoints, August 24, 2012.Ali Hassan Abdi drives a truck between Mogadishu and Baidoa. He keeps his truck in a state of disrepair to avoid heavier taxes at al- Shabaab checkpoints, August 24, 2012.
x
Ali Hassan Abdi drives a truck between Mogadishu and Baidoa. He keeps his truck in a state of disrepair to avoid heavier taxes at al- Shabaab checkpoints, August 24, 2012.
Ali Hassan Abdi drives a truck between Mogadishu and Baidoa. He keeps his truck in a state of disrepair to avoid heavier taxes at al- Shabaab checkpoints, August 24, 2012.
Ali Hassan Abdi drives a truck between Mogadishu and Baidoa. He described an al-Shabab checkpoint at Buurhakaba, a town along the road.

“They take miraa from you, they torture you, they point guns at you, they take the cigarettes, they blindfold and torture you and then release you after five hours or so,” said Abdi.
 
Al-Shabab militias off-load all trucks and search through the cargo. If they find food aid, the bags of rice and sorghum are promptly burnt. Items that are not confiscated are taxed. Abdi estimates he pays 400 US dollars for every 1,000 dollars of cargo.
 
Despite the challenges, "Gesey" is cautiously optimistic about the new government’s potential. He explained, through a translator.
 
“The trend of the way things are happening is not bad," Ibrahim said. "Selecting individuals who are educated into the parliament and stopping people who have caused problems, warlords, from becoming part of this new parliament, we're going to at least improve the situation.”

One of the new government's main tasks will be to clear al-Shabab from the areas still under the militant group's control. The group has lost much of territory to a multi-nation offensive in the past two years but still controls the port city of Kismayo and other areas, including lands around Baidoa.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid