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Somalia: Kismayo Eye Witness

This week, the Union of Islamic Courts in Somalia took control of the southern port city of Kismayo, completing the militia’s control of southern and central Somalia and isolating the transitional government in Baidoa. At the same time, the take over has resulted in a sharp increase in refugees into neighboring Kenya, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. Mohammed Amin Osman is chairman of the Somali-UK Activist Group. Ousman says he has just returned from Kismayo. From London, he tells VOA English to Africa reporter James Butty that reports of thousands of refugees fleeing Kismayo is part of a propaganda against the Islamic Courts Union.

“What happened is that from the beginning when the Union Courts militias coming from Mogadishu on the way to Kismayo, people thought fighting will take place. Therefore some people fled the area because they were scared of the fighting. But now it’s not any problem and it doesn’t take any fighting. Before Union arrived in the town, the warlord [Barre Hiraale] fled to go to neighboring region where originally he came from.”

Ousman says the people of Kismayo have welcomed the Islamic Court militias because they have brought peace and security to the area.

“As you know I myself and my organization I’m working with the local people for some years. What we were always campaigning about was to establish an administration and law and order through grassroots in this area of Somalia. But since warlords controlled the town, they refused people to come together and to discuss the establishment of an administration. But now the Union, before they reached the area, we talked to their leaders and they promised to cooperate with the local people to allow local people to come together to establish an administration. And that what they are doing.”

Ousman says allegations that the Islamic militia’s seizure of Kismayo would undermine the peace process was all propaganda by neighboring countries like Ethiopia or the interim Somali transitional government in Baidoa. He says the local people have welcomed the Islamic Court militia.

“So this is propaganda I can say…What we have been expecting was the government after it was formed in Nairobi 2004, it has been failing to clean the area, to make the security and law and order in the area, and establishment of an administration. So now who’s doing this job? It’s the Union, and people are happy.”

Ousman describes as propaganda fears expressed by some, especially in the West, that Somalia could become a haven for terrorists. In stead he says the Islamic Union Courts have brought peace and stability to areas under its control. Ousman says the international community should support the Islamic Courts.