The departure of Ethiopian forces from Somalia ended a two-year occupation meant to support the Transitional Federal Government. Earlier, with Ethiopia’s help, the TMG had overthrown a government run by the Islamic Courts Union. Over one million people are estimated to have left Mogadishu because of fighting between Ethiopian troops and Islamic militias. But with the departure of the Ethiopians, some families are beginning to move back to the capital. From Mogadishu, Jamaal Osman reports.
Islamic insurgents have taken the place of the departed Ethiopians. Many displaced Somali families were hopeful this would ease the way for their return home. But some are disappointed.
The return of Islamic fighters has not brought stability to Mogadishu. The radical Islamic group Al Shabab has said it would not stop fighting government and international forces in the city.
They say they will continue targeting African Union troops – who are there to protect government installations like the presidential palace, the airport and sea port. slamic scholars and traditional elders have denounced the radicals.
The Islamic scholars known as Ulima-owdin and traditional elders asked the Islamic fighters to allow the displaced families to return to their homes. They want Al-Shabab to negotiate a withdrawal of AU forces from the city, and an end to the fighting between Islamic factions, saying the Muslim holy book, the Korean, forbids fighting between Muslims.
Many Somalis hailed the statement although the Al Shabab hasnot responded.
Asho Noor Mohammed is a 55-year-old mother of six and one grandchild. Her husband died during political violence in 1991. She is one of the few people who dared to return to their homes near Mogadishu Stadium, a former Ethiopian military base. Her house showed signs of fighting: a collapsed roof let in enough light to nourish small trees growing where the family once ate and slept; bullet-marked walls enclosed rooms of destroyed furniture. Ethiopian forces had looted the home of mattresses, beds and sheets.
Asho, who is wearing a dress with a worn veil, carries a sack of belongings on her back. She told VOA that she returned because she had a lot of problems with her make-shift home in Elasha Biyaha. It’s a camp, a safe zone full of make-shift homes, about 15 km south of Mogadishu.
Asho says earned barely enough money to feed her children by doing laundry and receiving support from international NGOs.She also said she had problems getting clean drinking water. The resulting poor sanitation led to skin disease -- just one of the problems of living in the camp.
“We preferred to stay in our home whether we were hungry or not," she said. "Now, my family and I are [back] home after two years [in a camp].”
Asho fears that there may be more fighting.
She said, “I call upon my fellow Somalis who made it us possible to return to our homes not to fight one another and that you end your differences in the negotiating table because we are liberated from the occupying forces. No need to fight one another.”
The people coming back to their homes are poor and their livelihoods depend on help from relatives abroad. Others are porters who carry goods like sugar, flour and maize bought by other Somalis.
Hussein Ali Farah is a father of three who lived on the outskirts of Mogadishu. Hussein, wearing a green T-shirt with holes and torn blue-jeans, says he is happy to come back to the city. His home is located on one of Mogadishu’s main roads, Industrial Street. Most of its former residents have fled.
In the early morning he used to go to Bakara Market – the main market in the city. He worked as a porter, making little money, not even enough to feed his family. He had no money for the bus ride home.
“I could earn a day [about $1.40] or less, which could not be divided for family bill and the bus fare. Thank to God now I don’t have to pay the bus fare, and I am happy to take all I earn to my family."
Some have returned, but others are still watching to see if it is also go home. They fear they could be caught in a cross-fire between Islamic factions or between radicals and government forces.
Some in Mogadishu are still fleeing their homes. Darkenly district, in the western part of the city, is almost a ghost town – except the 150 or so families who live in the 15 camps located in the area. Residents fled their homes when an Islamic insurgent group known as Jabal Islamiatook control of parts of the district in January.
Over 30 people were killed and around 60 others were injured in bloody violence that lasted for two days.
The UN estimates that there are over one million internally displaced people in Somalia and fewer than 35% of those who left Mogadishu have returned home.