President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed's new administration is expected to today (Monday) begin the process of ensuring the Somali capital is safe for ordinary Somali residents. The government Sunday urged all militant groups to lay down their weapons as it begins the process of restoring peace and security to the capital. Security in Mogadishu deteriorated after hard line insurgent groups including al-Shabaab seized control of several parts of the city soon after former President Mohammed Siad Barre was overthrown by a coup d'etat in 1991. Described by Washington as a terrorist organization with links to al Qaeda, al-Shabaab has refused to recognize the new administration, vowing to eventually take over the country. Abdisalam Guled is the spokesman for the Somali prime minister. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that ordinary Somalis demand the return of peace to the capital, Mogadishu.
"One of the top agendas since the government moved here to the capital, Mogadishu, was how to restore the law and order and to give assurance to the people of Mogadishu somewhere they can live peacefully. So, today (Monday) we are taking the first step to give some kind of peace and stability to take the first step of security issues to replace the existing armed soldiers on the streets with well disciplined and trained police personnel," Guled noted.
He said ordinary residents of Mogadishu expressed the need for the return of peace to the capital after being robbed and killed by various insurgent groups who have taken control of various parts of the city.
"You know the people were complaining so much about the situation where they have been robbed by armed groups wearing government uniforms. That has been going on for some time now which, were not addressed by previous governments and that has to change. So, today we are taking that mission and we are expecting that things will go smoothly and according to our plan," he said.
Guled expressed confidence that the government would soon restore peace in the city.
"Yes, one of the police commanders in a radio broadcast Sunday told the people and acknowledging the situation and the steps the government aims to take place and ordering that all the various armed groups and personnel in the streets both in uniform and not in uniform will be taken to a place where they would be prepared and trained and rehabilitated. That will take place today and I think this is one of the demands coming from the public and the residents of Mogadishu were demanding from the government. And this exercise has to be done because people have to feel safe," Guled pointed out.
He said hard line Islamic groups including al-Shabaab will soon be forced to join the government's peace efforts.
"We believe all the armed groups in Somalia were fighting for a reason. One of the reasons why they were fighting was against the Ethiopian troops when they were here. The Ethiopians are usually considered as the enemies of Somalis, so anybody who was fighting for that reason will not be fighting anymore since the Ethiopians have left… so we believe all the armed groups like al-Shabaab were fighting for this same reason so that government is taking all the necessary measures to ensure that everyone will have a common understanding. So, this is that reason why we think the government has to win the heart and mind of the people and has to show the citizens that it is capable of protecting them as the government is supposed to do," he said.
Meanwhile, 11 people were reportedly killed in overnight clashes between rival Islamist groups for control of a central Somalia region over the weekend. Al Shabaab, which is seeking to impose a stricter version of Islamic law, controls parts of central and the entire south except the capital, Mogadishu.
So far, fighters of the moderate Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca claimed it had captured Wabho town, 300 km (186 miles) north of the capital Mogadishu, from the more hard line al Shaabab group in clashes over the weekend.