This week, powerful rival clan leaders in Somalia announced they would join forces to make the capital, Mogadishu, safer.
The announcement comes at a time when the government, now based in Nairobi, is making plans to return to the country. It also follows last weekend’s visit to the city by the Somali prime minister.
Mathew Bryden is the Horn of Africa project director for the International Crisis Group. From Nairobi, he spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the Somali clan leaders’ attempt to bring security to the capital.
He says, “First, it’s a step in the right direction. If they’re serious about it, then this is one of the prerequisites for restoring any kind of law and order to the city of Mogadishu. And it’s part of a plan that has been in the works now for a couple of months. They’ve been raising funds for it among the business community, building up support for among the public in Mogadishu. And so, it really does look like a positive step.”
But the Crisis Group analyst says there’s something else to consider in the clan leaders’ move.
“On the other hand,” he says, ”one of the motives that’s probably driving them is to establish Mogadishu as the seat of government. And to prevent the president and prime minister from considering other places as interim seats of government, such as the towns of Baidoa and Johar. This is an attempt to establish facts on the ground that would make Mogadishu de facto the place for the government to relocate to (from Nairobi).”
Asked whether this alliance could last very long, Mr. Bryden replies, “Well, good question, given we’ve seen moves of this kind in the past. Mogadishu’s leaders have tried to establish administrations and joint security arrangements at various times over the past few years and they’ve never managed to bring it together to make it stick. I think in a vacuum this kind of plan has very little chance of success. They might be able to pull it together for a short time. But unless it is situated in a broader framework of demobilization or disarmament for the rest of southern Somalia and it is then rooted in the establishment of government institutions, then it’s probably going to have a fairly short life span. If the government endorses this plan, lends its political support to it, and if the international community provides some inputs then I think this could be a first step in a stabilization of Mogadishu and its environs.”