Somalia: Mogadishu security tightened before conference

News and Press Release
Originally published
NAIROBI, 22 June 2007 (IRIN) - Barely three weeks before the Somali national reconciliation conference opens, the government has tightened security in the capital, Mogadishu, to ensure the meeting is not disrupted, a spokesman said.

The conference, scheduled for 15 July, is expected to mark a turning point for the war-ravaged country and will be attended by various political and clan groups.

"The National Security Council has decided to impose a curfew on Mogadishu, starting on Friday [22 June] evening," said Abdi Haji Gobdon, the government's spokesman, adding that the decision had been taken by the head of intelligence services, Mohamed Warsame Darawiish, after recent violence.

But as the government announced the curfew, eight people, including two policemen, were killed on 21 June when suspected insurgents threw a grenade at a police patrol in the Bakara market area [south Mogadishu], according to local residents.

"The government wants to make sure that the security situation is such that it is conducive to holding a successful conference," Gobdon added.

A regional analyst, however, told IRIN the problem in the city was political "and addressing it solely with security measures is not going to succeed". He said large-scale arrests, especially of civil society leaders, would mean the curfew would be seen "more as a measure of repression than one of reassurance".

Meanwhile, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) on 22 June appealed to the Kenyan government to allow 140 trucks carrying food designed to assist more than 100,000 people through the border.

"The Kenyan overland route was chosen because of major problems with sea routes to Somalia plagued by pirate attacks," said WFP Somalia country director, Peter Goossens. "Delays in distributing food this month to 108,000 people in Gedo district risks further aggravating the alarming rates of malnutrition that are already reported there."