Horn of Aftica: Monthly Review

This update covers the Month of February 1998
Re-activated Islamic court bans arms in North Moqdishu: Sheik Musa Agaweine, chairman of North Moqdishu's re-activated Islamic courts, banned all technicals and the carrying of arms by individuals in areas under its jurisdiction, an order that would be enforced by Sharia court militiamen. North Moqdishu strongman, Ali Mahdi Mohammed, said that differences between the courts and politicians "have been sorted out and no one can sabotage our harmonious relationship." The Islamic courts were first established in 1994 but lost power in October 1996, after its former powerful chairman clashed with Ali Mahdi. (AFP, February 3)

USAID/UNICEF bring water to Hargeisa: The water system for Hargeisa, capital of "Somaliland", was largely destroyed in the fighting of 1988-91. Originally installed by the Chinese government in the 1970's and 1980's at a cost of US $80 million, the system could pump and deliver up to 60,000 litres an hour. Rehabilitation of the system began in 1991 at a cost of US $1 million. With funds provided by USAID and technical works undertaken by UNICEF the system was again supplying limited clean water to several thousands of people by 1994. Six wells have been rehabilitated and pumps and turbines installed to deliver the water to five public water points on a north-south line through the city. Much of the water is bought by donkey-cart owners or tanker operators for retailing throughout the city. At a cost of US $300,000 a further 20 water points are now under construction with the expectation that when completed the entire population, estimated to be presently half the pre-war figure of 600,000, will have access to clean water. (The Reporter/UNICEF, February 4)

Somaliland accuses Egypt, looks for partial recognition: The government of Egypt has denied accusations by the president of "Somaliland", Mohamed Ibrahim Egal, that Cairo is intending to arm southern factions planning to undertake military operations against the break-away republic. Egal has also criticised Egypt's sponsorship of the Cairo peace talks, accusing the Egyptian Government of interference in Somalia's internal affairs. Egal has recently returned from a diplomatic tour that took him to Ethiopia, Italy and France. While in Paris he told reporters "We still want full international recognition (of Somaliland) but we will be content provisionally with recognised autonomy similar to the Palestinian Authority". While in Italy, the Somaliland delegations had lively discussions with the Italian foreign minister, Rino Serri, and Italy's representative in Moqdishu, Giuseppe Cassini, regarding the Cairo accord and Baidoa reconciliation conference in which Somaliland refuses to participate. According to a report in the Indian Ocean Newsletter, Cassini argued strongly for Somalilands support of both the Sodere and Cairo processes. It is now expected that he will be re-assigned to Beirut and the Italians have since indicated that they would be willing to back a proposal with the European Union for "semi-diplomatic recognition". Meanwhile, Egal is likely to be granted "observer" status with both the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and United Nations. Somaliland unilaterally declared independence following the overthrow of Siad Barre in 1991. (AFP, February 6 & 12; ION, February 14)

Cholera update: WHO reported the number of cholera cases in southern Somalia had risen to over 5,000 by the first week of February with 224 deaths (with a fatality rate of around 4 percent).Though most cases are from Moqdishu, cholera has also been reported from Baidoa, Belet Weyne and Luuq. By the end of the month the total number of recorded cases had risen to 6,557 with 269 deaths and new reports of cases in Kismayo and Garbahare. By this time, however, there were indications that the rate of infection was generally beginning to decline. In the meantime, WHO have confirmed that all human blood samples from Erigavo in the northeast taken earlier in January have tested negative for Rift Valley Fever (RVF) and the joint UN team investigating reports of haemorrhagic infections in Somalia have reported that conditions for the breeding of aedes mosquitoes (the prime vector implicated in the transmission of RVF) in the northeast are not favourable. (UNCT Humanitarian Update, February 10 & 16, March 3)

WFP warn of further heavy rain: The WFP said further heavy rain expected locally and in the Ethiopian highlands in March could severely set back the little progress some farmers have made in the areas where flood waters have receded and planting had begun. A spokesperson for WFP warned that if there is another storm surge, "with rivers already full, embankments broken and surrounding ground saturated, there will be no outlet for the extra rain water and not enough dry areas available for cultivation". The agency said that thousands of farmers have already lost most of their January harvest and some 200,000 people in the riverine areas could be devastated by further flooding. Since the beginning of the emergency operation last November, WFP has delivered some 5,377 tons of food aid to 450,000 people in Somalia's flood-affected areas. (AFP, February 14; WFP, February 16)

Taiwanese fishing captain faces Islamic court: The prosecutor in an Islamic court in north-eastern Somalia has demanded that the captain of a Taiwanese trawler accused of poaching in Somali waters have his right hand and left foot amputated. He also demanded that the vessel's 27 crewmen each pay a fine of US $10,000. The court is also pursuing charges against the Shu Hen Bin fishing company, said to own the vessel impounded and more than three other trawlers that escaped. The district commissioner for the local ruling Somali Salvation Democratic Front, Abdi Said Al-Surian, said that he hoped that the court would strictly apply the full force of the law. (AFP, February 16)

Somalis show solidarity with Iraq: A big demonstration was organized in Moqdishu by the radical Moslem group Al-Itihad Al-Islam, to denounce the United States and show their support for Iraq. Most of the demonstrators were supporters of south Moqdishu warlord Hussein Aideed, an American citizen and former US marine reservist corporal. The demonstrators, who included several well-known Islamic clergymen, set the American flag and portraits of US President Bill Clinton on fire as they shouted anti-US slogans. (AFP, February 20)

Baidoa conference postponed indefinitely: Hopes for a quick peace in Somalia were dashed with the announcement from Moqdishu that the long-awaited national reconciliation conference in the southern town of Baidoa had again been postponed "for logistical reasons". First slated for February 15 and then postponed to March 31. No new date has yet been set following the latest postponement. Baidoa, situated 250 km north-west of Moqdishu, had been identified as the location for the conference in the December Cairo Agreement. Some observers see the cancellation as a serious setback to the Somali peace process; for others, however, the Baidoa conference is considered as a mechanism solely for the reconciliation of the Hawiye clan and the establishment of their economic and political hegemony. The Cairo Agreement has had the effect of bringing together clans in the Darod family (Harti, Majerteine, Marehan and Ogaden) who closed ranks against the Hawiya "allies" Osman Ato, Ali Mahdi and Hussein Aideed. Moreover, Baidoa has been the scene of violent armed fighting, with supporters of Aideed continuing to occupy the town in contravention to calls to withdraw ahead of the conference. Aideed pointed out that the Cairo accord did not ask factions to stop claiming to be a government before a new national government is formed at the national peace conference. Aideed pledged to withdraw his forces from Baidoa 10 days before the conference but said he was waiting for a "national co-ordination team" to organize the terms of the pullout. Also, on February 15 and 16 in Moqdishu, serious disputes broke out between Saleban and Ayr factions of Ali Mahdi's Habr Gediir sub-clan leading to the death of twelve people. Meanwhile, the Arab League has recalled its special envoy to Somalia, Samir Husni, for consultations over the political setbacks delaying the Baidoa conference. He will also explain the position of the self-declared "Republic of Somaliland" which has refused to take part in the conference but has said it will open talks when the south has a viable government. According to Husni, Arab League member states should be ready to come to the rescue of the conference if the real problem is "logistics" as some factions have consistently claimed. (ION, February 21 and 28; AFP February 12, 18-23 and 25; Economist, February 14)

Rahanwein continue to fight: Fighting between the Rahanwein Resistance Army (RRA) and forces loyal to Hussein Aideed on and about February 25 left 37 people dead and 54 wounded. The clashes took place in Baidoa and Xudur, close to the Ethiopian border. A spokesman said that the RRA is now in full control of Xudur after several months of sporadic fighting. The RRA appeared to have faired less well in Baidoa where their militiamen were forced to withdraw to a position 5 kilometers south of the town after several hours of skirmishes. Aideed has pledged to withdraw his forces from the town 10 days before the planned national reconciliation conference but the Rahanwein have no faith in this claim. The RRA have stated repeatedly it would boycott the conference, vowing to win back the town from Aideed by force. (AFP, February 25)


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