new government will offer thousands of militiamen food, vocational training and
cash in exchange for their guns, a government official said Tuesday.
the fighting between rival clansmen and militias over the last decade, Somalia
was flooded with more than 1 million small arms like assault rifles and rocket-propelled
Ali Ahmed, a member of a Somali government committee set up to organize the demobilization
program, said the goal is convince at least 75,000 gunmen to hand in their guns
over the next three years. In exchange for the guns, militiamen would enroll in
camps where they would be given a basic education, vocational training and a salary
of $60 per month.
The government would also buy back guns from the militiamen, Ahmed said. Details
and funding have yet to be worked out, he said. "The demobilization of militia
is the key to all activities, to recreate the socio-economic structure which has
collapsed during the civil strife," Ahmed said.
new initiative will create a good environment through which we can rebuild the
collapsed infrastructure." Somalia has been synonymous with chaos and violence
since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted in January 1991 by rival opposition
leaders, who then turned on each other. In August, a national reconciliation conference
in neighboring Djibouti elected President Abdiqasim Salad Hassan and a 245-member
national assembly to rule the country for a three-year transitional period.
Somalia had no central government for 10 years, and the country of 7 million remains
divided into fiefdoms defended by clan-based militias. Hassan and his legislators,
who returned to the Somali capital, Mogadishu, in October, now face the daunting
task of establishing order by disarming thousands of militiamen, some loyal to
faction leaders and others no more than bandits. Ahmed said the key was providing
the gunmen with incentives to give up their arms.
"It is compulsory to create other opportunities for the militia who together with
their families are dependent on what they earn from the gun," he said. "We need
to raise the awareness of the militia and inform them they can get a better and
more secure life.
If the international community genuinely wants to support the new government,
Ahmed said, it has to supply technical and financial assistance for the programs.
"Failure to support the government at this crucial stage may well have very serious
consequences," he said.
The U.N. Development Program estimates there are 20,000 gunmen in the capital
alone, of which 35 percent are loyal to businessmen, 35 percent are employed by
faction leaders, 16 percent work for Islamic courts and 14 percent are freelancers.
In a recent survey of 500 gunmen loyal to faction leaders, UNDP found 493 would
be willing to give up their arms if a suitable alternative could be found. Ahmed
said the demobilization process would be the government's priority for 2001.
He said the government
would also continue to try to convince wary faction leaders to support the peace