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Insurgency Spreading, Warns African Union
Nairobi, January 21, 2008 – Forces opposed to the Somali government have expanded their insurgent activities to areas that were previously peaceful and could be planning attacks in the Middle and Lower Juba regions, the African Union (AU) has warned.
"Their strategy seems to be to further weaken the TFG [Transitional Federal Government] by destabilizing as many areas as possible, fully aware that the government does not, at the moment, have the capacity to deploy significant numbers of troops in all the regions," according to a report by AU Commission Chairman Alpha Konare on 18 January.
"In the Middle and Lower Juba regions, the al-Shabaab [military wing of the deposed Union of Islamic Courts] are reported to be training new recruits and planning attacks, taking advantage of the instability created by clashes between clans, especially over revenue collected from the Kismayo port."
Armed elements, it added, were also reported to be using the Lower Shabelle region to ferry arms. "Recently, the TFG forces in the area were attacked and forced to withdraw to Bardoogle. In the Bay region, there have also been stepped-up attacks on TFG and Ethiopian positions."
Prevailing insecurity has resulted in civilian casualties, massive displacements and constrained the delivery of assistance to needy people.
More than 240,000 people left Mogadishu since end-October, according to the UN, while the total number of civilians who fled the city in 2007 is estimated at 600,000.
"While most of the [displaced] went to the Lower Shabelle region, especially Afgoye, large numbers of people fled even further to Bay, Mudug and Hiiraan regions," the AU said. "These movements of population constitute an additional burden for host communities that are already facing an acute humanitarian situation, compounded by the disruption of the livestock and agricultural markets in Mogadishu.
"It should also be noted that the fighting in the Sool region between Puntland and Somaliland forces has also led to large-scale displacement. About 30,000 displaced people are reported to be vulnerable and in need of assistance."
Incidents targeting humanitarian organizations and workers continue to be reported while ad hoc roadblocks, including on the Mogadishu-Afgoye road, hinder relief efforts.
"Despite exemptions granted by the TFG, humanitarian workers indicate that they are often requested to pay taxes at these roadblocks, whose number reached 336 in November," the report said. "As a result, the cost of transportation has increased, while the delivery of much needed humanitarian assistance is being further delayed."
The report also highlighted incidents involving the African Union mission (AMISOM), including a mortar attack on 8 October at Kilometer 4; a grenade attack on 24 October and another attack on 19 December.
AMISOM has about 1,600 Ugandan peacekeeping troops deployed in Mogadishu, while Burundi has started deploying 800 - out of an AU force that is supposed to number 8,000 men.
"While the TFG and Ethiopian forces have continued to make sustained efforts to improve security in the country, the overall situation remains precarious," the AU said. "In Mogadishu, there is an average of five to six incidents per day."
More than 15 years after the onset of the civil war and nearly four years after the Inter-governmental Authority on Development-sponsored Reconciliation Conference in Kenya, progress towards lasting peace and reconciliation in Somalia had remained extremely limited, the AU stated.
"Somalia continues to be plagued by persistent violence and insecurity, the absence of effective governance structures capable of performing their functions, including delivering basic social services, an acute humanitarian crisis, and economic collapse," the AU said.