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Somalia's Joint Security Committee and African Union (AU) announced on Wednesday they would be sending AU peacekeeping forces, known as AMISOM, to replace the Ethiopian troops currently in control of Baidoa in Somalia's Bay region, sparking concern from local officials and residents who fear AMISOM is incapable of securing the city. Ethiopian and Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) troops seized control of Baidoa from the al-Shabaab militant group on February 22 of this year.
The deployment would be extended to other regions in central and southern Somalia, currently controlled by the Ethiopians, including Beledweyne, the capital of in Hiran region, which was seized by Ethiopian and TFG troops at the end of last year.
Parliamentarians from Bay region strongly opposed the withdrawal of Ethiopian forces, stating that they are alarmed by this decision indicating the insurgent group may easily invade the town if the experienced Ethiopian troops vacate the area.
“We are worried that Ethiopian forces will leave because AMISOM alone cannot guarantee security in the town, since al-Shabaab have not yet been fully uprooted,” said Abdullahi Mohamed Idris, a local member of parliament (MP) from the region.
Local residents echoed the statements of the MP.
“I think it is unwise to ask the Ethiopian forces to withdraw because AMISOM alone cannot combat al-Shabaab,” said Aliyow Ibrahim, a resident of Baidoa.
AMISOM spokesman, Colonel Paddy Ankunda confirmed the deployment to Somalia Report.
“We will send at least 2,500 soldiers from Burundi and Uganda to Baidoa by the end of April. They will seek to ensure security in the regions of Bay and Bakol,” said Colonel Ankunda.
He also expressed his regret regarding the MP's reaction to the decision.
“The MP's outbursts are unfortunate. AMISOM's ability to provide security is well tested. We chased away al-Shabaab from Mogadishu. Uganda first came to Mogadishu with just 1600 soldiers. When the Ethiopians left in 2009, we were able to hold the city until we finally defeated al-Shabaab in August 2011. So, we are capable and we have proved it to everyone,” he asserted in an email.
To learn more about the sensitivities of this deployment and the fight for control of Beledweyne, Somalia Report interviewed Daahir Amin Jesow, a parliamentarian from Hiran region. There is a four way fight over control of the city between the Ethiopians, TFG, Shabelle Valley Administration (SVA), and the pro-government Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaa (ASWJ) militia, complicating the AMISOM deployment.
Thank you for giving us this exclusive interview. Can you please tell us about your opinion towards the rising insecurity in Beledweyne?
Thank you. It is true that there is immense insecurity in the town and so far we know the SVA is trying to cause the problems. We talked to them and I hope they will improve. We urged them to avoid such kind of acts.
The president of the SVA appointed C'fatah Hasan Afrah to be the chairman for the region. What are your thoughts on this?
I think the time of injustice and tribalism has ended. We need a balanced administration that can really represent the interests of the people so I can say that I am not satisfied with new appointment.
Besides your view, are the people of Hiran satisfied with the new chairman of the region?
Absolutely not because the SVA has been causing a wave of violence and I doubt whether they would be able to regain public confidence once more.
What tangible step or action have you taken as parliamentarians from the region who have opposed the appointment of this new chairman?
We have communicated to the president and expressed our unwillingness to accept this appointment and we are waiting for a response from him, which will determine our next step.
AMISOM armies are about to come Beledweyne and take over from Ethiopian forces. What do you think of this?
Although I don't want to comment the arrival of AMISOM in the region due to sensitivity of the matter, I am a strong supporter of any party that wishes to achieve both short and long term economic, political and social cohesion of the region. AMISOM had a good record in eliminating al-Shabaab insurgents.
Where do you think the solution of a stable region lies?
Since al-Shabaab has been eliminated from this area, I strongly believe that the creation of a balanced regional administration is the way forward. The region needs political leaders free from impunity who can meet the desired standards of a responsible and innovative leader capable of improving the economic status of the region.
Do you have a message for the people in Hiran?
I would like to urge them to stand up for their rights. The time of tribalism, corruption, dictatorship and impunity has come to end. Let your voice be heard and don't allow yourself to be suffocated anymore. Come together and discuss matters affecting your lives in equal measures, irrespective of your clan and economic status.