Somalia’s hardline Shebab Group took over the
southern port of Merka, giving Islamist militants control of most of Somalia.
The Shebab is the resurgent
military and youth wing of the Islamist Courts Union that in 2006 took over
most of the country before being ousted by Ethiopian forces.
President Abdullahi Yusuf said Sunday the government now controls only
Mogadishu and the parliament seat, Baidoa. The government, he said is close to collapse.
Rashid Abdi is an
analyst with the International Crisis Group (ICG). On Saturday, he told VOA’s
Akwei Thompson that it was unclear whether the goal of the Islamists was to
take over control of the capital Mogadishu, which he said was a “different
kettle of fish”.
“It is really difficult
to predict what the Islamists want, but the most I can say is that they look
like they have an ambition to wrestle control of the country from the
Transitional Federal Government. And I think they’re determined to take a
sizable part of the country. Whether they want to take Mogadishu in particular
is, I think, difficult to know at this stage.”
Abdi said he did not
think the take over of the strategic southern port of Merka would exacerbate
the already dire humanitarian situation in the country.
“The take over of Merka
which is the hub of the aid operation to the south… is really difficult to
access what kind of an impact it will have, but I think just from media reports
the Islamists say the will facilitate the provision of aid to the needy, and I
think the WFP and the other international aid agencies are also not sounding
the alarm…they think they can negotiate some kind of a safe passage for relief
supplies,” Abdi said.
Abdi also said he did
not think the current insurgencies would have a negative impact on the Djibouti
“Well, I think the
Djibouti talks have been going on irrespective of what’s happening on the
ground. Recently the head of the ARS (Alliance for the Rel-liberation of
Somalia) faction which signed the peace treaty with the government, that is
Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed went to Somalia and visited a couple of towns and so
probably the calculation on the part of the ARS faction which is to engae in
the Djibouti process is that they will
be able to, somehow, negotiate with the militants and eventually bring them on
board,” Abdi explained.
Abdi said a recent
simmering row between the president and prime minister of Somalia which,
reportedly, has led to a break down of communication between the two leaders
underlines “the serious problem” which the transitional government has, which
is doing very little to advance the peace process and take care of the
situation in Somalia.