battle wagons rolled through the Somali capital this weekend
to the national stadium, young militiamen spilling from them
with assault rifles in hand.
war-scarred capital, such a convoy might normally signal yet
another battle in a decade of clan-based fighting and anarchy.
militiamen convoyed in hope of restoring peace and stability
to their country.
want jobs in a new Somalia police force. With a new president
and parliament named last month, many Somalis believe they
will soon have a central government for the first time in
almost a decade.
be the first since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown
in early 1991 and rival clans carved the nation into fiefdoms.
leaders have offered Mogadishu's militiamen the chance to
join a new force that would initially provide security for
the new government. But the aim is then to train those guards
for police duties.
in small groups outside Mogadishu's stadium this weekend,
the first recruits said they were joining up because they
wanted a decent job and a steady salary, as well as peace
for the country.
is where the future lies. We want to work for the new government,"
said Sharif Mohamed Ahmed, a skinny 25-year-old who joined
one of the city's militias in 1996.
expecting the government to employ us and give us some education
so we can have a better future," he said, an AK-47 assault
rifle slung over his right shoulder and surrounded by a dozen
KEY TO PEACE
stood around heavy anti-aircraft guns mounted on their "technicals"
-- the local name for the battle wagons -- or sat in the shade
of the stadium, which has a huge shellhole in its front facade.
300 militiamen showed up here and at another "demobilisation
camp" on the northern side of the city on Saturday, and more
were expected on Sunday. It was a steady start to the demobilisation
the first recruits had previously worked for private businesses
that back the government, so their participation came as no
test will come this week when businessmen hope that many militiamen
working for the clan faction leaders, or warlords, will simply
desert their bosses, bringing their "technicals" with them.
Mogadishu's five warlords have vowed to prevent President
Abdiqassim Salad Hassan from taking office and warn of a new
round of heavy fighting for control of the city.
Salad was elected by a meeting of Somali clan and community
leaders in neighbouring Djibouti last month.
militiamen change sides, the warlords may find themselves
too weak to resist the new government. If they do not, the
warlords' resolve could be strengthened.
crucial factor is the clan militiamen," said General Mohamed
Nor Galal, who served in the Somali army under Siad Barre
and now leads the demobilisation plan.
WARN OF NEW FIGHTING
businessmen have put up $750,000 to finance the new police
force for its first three months, hoping that the government
will by then be firmly established. But the warlords warn
it may be a very bad investment.
be throwing their money away," said Muse Sudi Yalahow, claiming
that the new force will be no match for his militia or those
of the other clan leaders.
can manage is a little conflict, and they will lose. Many
people will be killed," he told Reuters.
anti-government warlords are all outside Somalia at the moment,
either trying to drum up support from foreign allies or planning
their next moves.
residents of the capital back the new government -- and Abdiqassim
Salad's supporters hope the warlords are beating the drums
of war simply as a negotiating ploy before agreeing to allow
him to take office.
rejected the idea of any deal."We
will not accept him. There is no point in talking to him,"
people celebrated at Mogadishu stadium when Abdiqassim Salad
briefly visited the city after being elected by the parliament-in-exile
late last month. .