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Somalia's President Wants Baidoa Residents to Hand in Their Weapons

Somalia’s president Abdullahi Yusuf is giving the residents of Baidoa a week to turn in their weapons or risk having them seized. The ultimatum came as the Islamic militia began expanding its influence into central Somalia. Reports say hundreds of Islamic militia in dozens of pick-up trucks mounted with machine guns have reached Adado District. The United Nations is urging the country's neighbors to exercise restraint to prevent the region from sliding into war.

Said Samatar is a professor of African history at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey. He says President Yusuf may have the capacity to enforce his ultimatum in Baidoa.

“I see the influence of Ethiopia in his comment. He knows that kind of force he controls and I suspect he has enough force to back up his threat to seize all weapons.”

Samatar says despite attempts by the Islamic Courts to extend its influence to other areas of the country apart from Mogadishu, it is unlikely to take Bialdoa by force.

“The Islamists do not want a confrontation with Ethiopia. They are trying not to provoke Ethiopia. Rather they will continue to reach out to disgruntled members of the transitional government in an attempt to weaken it and take over.”

He says neither the transitional government nor the Islamic court can control the country, which he says is doomed to experience several years of instability.

“No one can control the country effectively. Just like the transitional government is falling apart, sooner or later the Islamists will break into factions. The officials of the transitional government who resigned over disagreements with the prime minister did so for personal gains because rightly or wrongly, they perceive the Islamists are having the upper hand for now.”

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