Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN)
NAIROBI, 21 January (IRIN) - Ever since the outbreak of fighting in the southwestern town of Baidoa last July, humanitarian agencies have been unable to access the town, humanitarian sources told IRIN on Tuesday.
The fighting that engulfed the town - which had enjoyed relative peace and stability since it was captured by the Rahanwayn Resistance Army in 1998 - was caused by a split within the senior ranks of the RRA, which controls much of the Bay and Bakol regions of southwestern Somalia.
The split originated from a power struggle between the RRA chairman, Hasan Muhammad Nur Shatigadud, and his two deputies, Shaykh Adan Madobe and Muhammad Ibrahim Habsade. Baidoa changed hands at least three time between July and December last year.
In recent days the situation has deteriorated, with the conflict taking on an intra-clan fighting, a business source in Baidoa told IRIN on Tuesday.
"In the last two weeks at least 12 people were killed in and around Baidoa because of their clan affiliations," he said. According to this source, both sides seem to be gearing up for fresh confrontations.
"There has been an increase in the number of four wheel drive vehicles being hijacked by both sides," he noted. Four wheel drive vehicles are used by Somali militias to mount heavy machine guns.
Recent clashes between the Shatigadud faction and the Madobe/Habsade faction have claimed the lives of dozens of people and displaced many more. "There are many people moving around looking for a safe haven all over Bay region," said the business source. "One day they are in Baidoa, and next they are gone."
The continued insecurity is likely to prevent farmers in Qansadheere and Bur Hakaba districts -which bore the brunt of the recent clashes - from harvesting crops from the recent Deyr season [short rains], humanitarian sources said.
The head of the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA) for Somalia (mandated to ensure humanitarian access), Calum McLean, told IRIN that much of the fighting has occurred after the 27 October 'Eldoret Declaration', in which Somali groups pledged to cease hostilities and allow the international community enhanced access to people in need of assistance.
McLean said he was particularly concerned by the escalation of violence in Bay Region and the lack of humanitarian access to people in need. The conflict in Baidoa and other areas in southern Somalia had increasingly disrupted humanitarian activities over recent months, he said.
"The international humanitarian community is ready to respond to the crisis in Bay Region, but without safe and unhindered access to the area we are unable to deliver assistance to those most in need," he pointed out.
"I call upon the conflicting parties to honour the declaration made in Eldoret and in particular to allow the international agencies access to the affected areas."
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