By MALKHADIR M MUHUMED
The deep-rooted mistrust between Mogadishu and Kismayu is ruining chances for meaningful compromises between the two sides, analysts say.
The Kismayu issue, “is fixable through substantial trust building,” said Mr Mohamed Gaas, a researcher and Somali analyst.
Jubaland State President Ahmed Mohamed Islam (Ahmed Madobe), and Mogadishu’s Minister of State for Presidency Farah Sheik Abdiqadir recently held talks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. They are expected to meet again under the auspices of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, a regional body despised by Mogadishu, which sees it as an unfair broker.
Somalia’s government, which has opposed Madobe’s presidency terming it unilateral and unconstitutional, has in recent months grown increasingly belligerent towards Nairobi. Jubaland officials accuse Mogadishu of bankrolling militia opposed to it. They accuse the country’s defence minister, Abdihakin Haji Mohamud Fiqi, of being behind clashes in June.
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“There is no doubt about that, given the Government’s campaign to break up the (Jubaland) army and incite violence,” Jubaland president said. “I believe that it was a mission they put together.”
Fiqi denies any involvement in the bloodshed, which involved the Al-Qaeda linked Al-Shabaab insurgents.
“It is an outrageous accusation to say that the government coordinates with Al Shabaab,” he told The Standard On Saturday on telephone from Mogadishu. “We are enemies. They are the sole enemy of the Somali people.”
Still, members of an influential clan in Kismayu, Awr Male, have come out strongly to oppose an alleged government plan to destabilise the region.
“The Defence minister (Fiqi) was the instigator,” claims clan elder Ibrahim Mohamed Ali. “He rolled out money and khat (miraa) to militia and divided the city’s security forces along clan lines.” Ali claims members of his clan were persuaded to join the fight against the local administration.
Fiqi stayed in a Kismayu hotel for nearly two weeks last month working on plans to restructure the army and reconcile local communities.
He said the clashes would have occurred before June 7, were it not for his efforts to thwart the same.
“The aim of the government’s team in Kismayu was to reconcile communities and strengthen peace, there is no need to create animosity,” he said.
Jubaland officials and residents claimed that during his stay the Defence minister whipped up clan sentiments, used money to buy loyalties, weapons and goodies for militia under the pretext of reorganising the national army in the city.
In a Press conference in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, last month, a group of Somali lawmakers from the region also accused the government of being behind the Kismayu violence.
Security forces in Kismayu are composed of members of Ras Kamboni Brigade and Kenyan-trained Somali national forces as well as KDF troops. Mr Abdinasir Serar, the spokesman of the administration, said the aim of the Defence minister’s team was to finish off the new government.
“We knew all his subversive activities,” he said in a phone interview, revealing that the price of the AK-47 assault rifle has skyrocketed to $1,500 since Fiqi came to the city, a clear indication demand has shot up.
Madobe describes Mogadishu’s alleged ties to Al-Shaebaab in the region as “a case of the enemy of my enemy is my friend”.
Hiiraale recently told the local media that he would not mind enlisting the support of Al-Shabaab to remove KDF from Kismayu.
“Of course we have one enemy,” Hiiraale said of Al-Shabaab.
Despite Mogadishu’s denial, it is widely believed it helped Hiiraale’s entry into Kismayu in April. It is also believed that Mogadishu coerced others into declaring themselves president to foil Madobe’s rise in Jubaland.
But last week’s clashes exposed the inherent differences between Mogadishu and Kismayu, a subject that is keenly being followed by clans especially Hawiye and Darod. There are fears this is raising tensions between Kenya and Somalia.
“Kenya wants a stable border state (Jubaland),” said Faisal Roble, a Somali analyst. “Mogadishu, under the current president, does not want a Jubaland administration in the hands of locals.”
In a clear indication of hardening stance, Jubaland’s army chief, General Ismail Sahardid, said federal officials from the capital would not be allowed into the city “until their subversive roles in Kismayu are addressed.”
“Gone are the days when warlords were allowed to operate in Kismayu,” said Sahaerdid. “Only one army, our army, can operate in the city. We have done a lot to solve differences through dialogue. But we have also responsibility to protect civilians and provide them peace.”