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Somali Government Calls for Mogadishu Residents Return

Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) is calling for the return of residents of the capital, Mogadishu displaced by recent Islamic insurgents' attack. The call received a boost Wednesday after over five thousand Mogadishu residents returned home despite ongoing attacks by Islamic insurgents. The Islamists have been launching attacks on the capital after last week's withdrawal of Ethiopian troops. Some political analysts believe the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops would lead to a power vacuum, which they said could encourage insurgent attacks to take control of the capital. Ahmed Abdusalam is Somalia's deputy prime minister. He tells reporter Peter Clottey from the capital, Mogadishu that the government intends to protect the returnees from further violence.

"As you know following the discussions in Djibouti and the peace agreement that was reached in Djibouti between the Somali government and the ARS (Alliance for the Re-liberalization of Somalia) our partners in the peace process, one of the steps that was taken was the withdrawal of the Ethiopian troops to create space for the returnees to come back, and to find a way to stop the conflict and the hostilities that was happening in Somalia," Abdusalam noted.

He said there has been a steady decline of violence in the capital, Mogadishu since Ethiopian troops withdrew from their bases last week.

"After the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops, there was a sharp reduction in the violence for the last few weeks or so for Somalis particularly those who have been part of the peace process. So, as a result we were asking the Somali displaced communities outside Mogadishu to get back to the neighborhood. This was an effort that we expected would be one of the positive outcomes of the Djibouti agreement that people would come back to their homes," he said.

Abdusalam said the government is encouraged by what he described as the enormous response from Somalis displaced by Islamic insurgents attacks.

"Very, very positive both publicly and practically on their own free will and many Somalis have come back to their homes and are cleaning up their homes. Some are rehabilitating their homes. And many Somalis particularly those in some of the other regions in near the capital have started coming together as communities to discourage the situation of the violence and so in the last week they were clearly in a positive mood in this community and hopefully establish true peace," Abdusalam pointed out.

He said the government is determined to protect the ordinary Somalis despite the challenges ongoing ever increasing insurgent attacks.

"First of all we do recognize that there are some people who are determined to continue violence. I think the first step is for the community to reject violence and to make to make clear for them that the continuation of violence is not acceptable and so the publicly is decidedly against that. Secondly, is that both the ARS and TFG are reorganizing collectively the security forces and hopefully they will join and will create the necessary force to maintain peace and order," he said.

Abdusalam reassured returning Somalis that the African Union (AU) peacekeeping (AMISOM) is determined to support the effort of both the TFG and the ARS to bring back stability in the capital and other surrounding areas.

"There is also AMISOM, which is already on the ground and who are assisting with this peace and security we are fighting for. So, there are a number of elements that are underway to protect the citizens from this violence," Abdusalam noted.

He said the government has a reason to be hopeful with the level of enthusiasm so far displayed by the returnees.

"We were very optimistic from the day we started the whole peace process that was a year ago in January when we started this journey towards peace. It has taken us five months to work and to start discussions with those Somalis who are against the government and we want to discuss among Somalis the way forward politically. As you know, we have now achieved a milestone where there is a consensus to expand the parliament and elect a new leadership of the Somali government," he said.

Some political analysts say Islamic insurgents who are sharply opposed to the Federal Transitional Government and the African Union (AU) peacekeepers are seeking to exploit a power vacuum after thousands of Ethiopian soldiers supporting the U.N.-backed interim administration left their basis last week in the capital Mogadishu.

There is hope however that the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops last week would encourage the fragmented opposition insurgents to join a soon to be named unity government under the ongoing Djibouti negotiations.