As soon as their allied Ethiopian troops snatched the capital Mogadishu, the interim Somali government said it will declare martial law in Somalia to wrestle control of the country. “This country has experienced anarchy and in order to restore security we need a strong hand, especially with freelance militias,” Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohamad Gedi reportedly said.
Gedi said that parliament would declare martial law on Saturday, December 30, for a period of three months. Somali government soldiers backed by thousands of Ethiopian troops equipped with tanks, heavy artillery and MiG fighters have controlled Mogadishu after routing the Supreme Islamic Courts of Somalia (SICS) forces.
Gunfire and outbreaks of looting marked the end of months of relative stability that began when the SICS chased US-backed warlords from the city in June.
Ethiopian tanks and hundreds of soldiers are now camped in the heart of Mogadishu amid fears of renewed street anarchy.
Government spokesman Abdirahman Dinari said that Mogadishu’s elders have assured the government of their support. However, uncertainty still clouded the capital, known for its spontaneous bursts of violence.
“Mogadishu is clearly an unpredictable city. It can be quiet now, but you can’t tell what will happen next.”
Many in the capital of 2 million people feared a return to widespread violence as militia loyal to the warlords resurfaced on the streets in their pick-up trucks bristling with heavy weaponry.
For years, Mogadishu residents suffered clan-based fighting and extortion at a myriad of checkpoints manned by rifle-toting warlord militiamen. Many Somalis have expressed uneasiness at the presence of Ethiopian troops in their capital.
The Somalia conflict erupted on December 20, a date set by the SICS for Ethiopian troops supporting the government to withdraw from the Somali territory. But Ethiopia, Somalia’s mainly Christian neighbour, ignored the demand, claiming that the SICS threatens Ethiopia’s security.