Saturday, 8 June 2013

Kismayo - The Somali Tinderbox?

This is a report I did for the BBC about the fighting in Kismayo, which erupted on 7 June 2103:

At least ten people have been killed in a second day of fighting in the southern Somali city of Kismayo, which is a crucial economic and strategic hub. African Union forces are trying to mediate between the rival militias, which are led by two self-declared presidents of the region, known as Jubaland. The Somali president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, has appealed for an immediate ceasefire. Mary Harper reports:

Residents of Kismayo say the fighting is intense. Militiamen are firing continuously from pick up trucks mounted with heavy weaponry. Hundreds of people are fleeing the city. The Somali defence minister is in Kismayo trying to resolve the crisis. He faces a near impossible task. Kismayo is a complex city, inhabited by some thirty different clans. All compete for lucrative port revenues, and access to land, the most fertile in Somalia. The fear is that more clans will start fighting, plunging the country back into civil war and giving the Al Qaeda linked group Al Shabaab an opportunity to retake territory lost in recent months. At least four men have declared themselves president of the region, none of them recognised by the Somali federal government. The situation is further complicated by the involvement of Kenya. There are more than four-thousand Kenyan troops in Kismayo as part of the African Union force, which provides security in some parts of Somalia. Kenya has been accused of following its own agenda in southern Somalia, supporting local militia leaders in order to set up a buffer zone between the two countries. This has led to tensions with the Somali federal government, which fears it is losing the region to a Kenyan backed group which does not respect central authority.

Events in Kismayo sparked a Twitter storm. You can read some of the Tweets here.

This report on Kismayo by the Mogadishu-based Heritage Institute for Policy Studies provides useful background: The Kismaayo Crisis: Options for Compromise

Kismayo-bound plane belching smoke from its back end

If you are planning on taking a trip from Mogadishu to Kismayo, it's probably best not to read this brilliant article by the Somali journalist, Hamza Mohamed: Pray before, during and after your flight.


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